The Humble Truth
Re “Doctrinal Challenges,” by Peter Folan, S.J. (10/12): I find it interesting that Jesus was able to launch all of Christianity in just a few years, an achievement beyond comparison in the Western world, without much if any reference to sophisticated intellectual theology. His genius seemed to be his ability to share profound truths about the human condition in a way that the humblest among us could grasp.
Perhaps there comes a point when being intelligent, educated and sophisticated becomes a liability instead of an asset when considering the message of love that Jesus shared. Perhaps we make it complicated to sidestep the ruthless simplicity of love, to give ourselves many hurdles that must be overcome before we can be who we already know we should be.
Every day each of us faces a series of ordinary life situations, in which we are called upon to choose between the tiny prison cell of “me” and love/God. When we love, we are with God. When we don’t love, we are on our own. The vast majority of the time, we already know which we have chosen.
The Cousins Carroll
It’s highly unusual for Matt Malone, S.J. to make a mistake in history, but he did so when he wrote in “Of Many Things” (10/12) that Charles Carroll was the brother of Archbishop John Carroll. They actually were cousins. John was born to Daniel and Eleanor Carroll at Upper Marlboro, Md., and Charles was born to Charles Carroll of Annapolis and Elizabeth Brooke, who were not married at the time of his birth. John and Charles were educated together, though, at St. Omer in France.
Archbishop Carroll did, however, have a brother, who was also one of our country’s founders. Daniel Carroll was a member of the Continental Congress from 1780 to 1784, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1789, one of the signers of the United States Constitution, a member of Congress from 1789 to 1791 and one of three commissioners appointed to lay out the site of the capital city of Washington. He himself donated the land for the capitol building.
The Sacred Progression
Thanks to John Paris, S.J., for his article “The Hour of Death” (10/5). Having done research on the spiritual dimension of hospice care, and having served in a parish both as a deacon and priest, the blessings I have received ministering to those in hospice care cannot be counted. So often I take note that I am the only person at a bedside who is not “family,” and yet I am invited to share that sacred, intimate time with someone on the threshold of passing from earth to heaven and with their loved ones, who feel the pain of being left behind even before death gently takes their mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife or child.
My hope and prayer, for each person at the hour of our death, is that we embrace the sacred progression from life on earth to life in heaven promised by our baptism. Father Paris’s article is a wise reminder that the ethical questions of proportionate care, within our Catholic tradition, help each person to consider our human dignity as we develop an informed conscience to apply science and medical treatment with gentleness and pastoral concern for the person and their family.
There surely was a lack of connection for me between the cover banner “Ministry in America” and the four articles in the Sept. 28 issue. Is ministry today about deacons? Is changing ministry landscape really about the pope’s changes in pallium protocol? Next was a pretty thin treatment of “mission work” by laypeople, and I never did figure out the connection between ministry in America and the poetry of Catholicism piece. All this says nothing about the huge lacunae for this topic—for example no mention of women who do most of the “Ministry in America”! How disappointing.
Expanding the Diaconate
Re “A Deacon’s Education,” by Jay Cormier (9/28): I was ordained to the diaconate in 1983. We were extremely fortunate in our formation to have down-to-earth, practical instruction and a strong emphasis on service to our parishes and outside world. I wish there were five to seven deacons in every parish; some of us are getting old and infirm. The ministries we get involved in all come from our liturgical presence directly serving our people. By becoming real ourselves, we make the vision and effects of our church real and present to others. The next step will be a movement to ordain to the diaconate women, who possess vast talents we do not yet understand or utilize. Their ministry will save the church.
Learning From Cuba
Thank you for your recent cover story by Miguel Díaz concerning the need for U.S.-Cuban reconciliation in response to the example of Pope Francis (“A Tale of Two Countries,” 9/21). I heartily agree with the importance of direct interchange between common people of the United States and Cuba. To that end we should encourage both the administration and especially Congress to repeal travel restrictions that have been in effect for some 50 years.
Having been to Cuba over a dozen times, on sister church, sister city, professional research and other types of trips, I do not share the view of Cuba today as being divided into two societies, with much of the population marginalized based on sexual orientation, race or religion. Cuba has many faults and weaknesses, some of which are aggravated by our continuing policy of economic blockade, but there is a sense of shared community there, based on both nationalism and internationalism, and above all based on sharing and generosity towards your neighbor. The people of each land have much to learn from each other, but this is one lesson that we can all take to heart.
A Rich Church
I appreciated very much the article “They Know the Suffering Christ” (9/21), by Stephen P. White. He articulates well what a church dedicated to the poor should be. He repeats what we all know about the need to care for the poor around us. And he acknowledges that the church has a pretty good record of charity but not so much of justice. And he goes on to encourage us to explore how we can learn from the poor.
But he failed to mention that Pope Francis, by his example and by statements, especially to some bishops, has deplored the way the church itself lives rich. Our churches are gorgeous and often richly endowed, and the higher one rises in church ministry the more one is likely to live in something like a palace and to be served by others, the way the wealthy of this world do and are. Jesus said that his followers are to be servants of others. Until this is taken seriously, the church will not be a poor church.
In “Of Many Things” (9/14), Matt Malone, S.J., writes of the decline of civil society in the United States, quoting William T. Cavanaugh, who said, “The rise of the state is the history of the atrophying of such [intermediate] associations.” The premise that an over-reaching state inevitably shrinks charitable activity by third-party actors (like churches) poses a false dilemma. Poverty has never been eliminated in this country. The idea that there is nothing left for the charitable impulse to expend itself on seems spiritually bankrupt.
While it may be handy for churches to complain that the government is undercutting them, the complaint is bogus, much like the assertion that a loss of government subsidy impinges on “religious freedom.” It seems somewhat duplicitous to pretend that we are restrained from doing the good we want, when in fact we are perfectly free to do so and pay for it ourselves. Jesus never asked that we fight for government tax exemptions or favored status. We are called to pick up our crosses and follow him. Is it a denial of religious freedom that we are asked to put our money where our mouths are?
On America’s blog In All Things, Jim McDermott, S.J., responded to the decision by Gov. Jerry Brown of California to sign assisted suicide legislation into law (“Compassion and Choices,” 10/6). Readers weigh in.
He did what is compassionate. There are so many safeguards in place to ensure there is no “slippery slope.” People who access this law do so because they are dying. What is more compassionate: slipping away peacefully or being tethered to machines that offer no miracle cure?
Many people across the country know little about this law other than its title. This law also requires all records of the termination proceedings to be held in secret, even against legal discovery. The records will be sealed to any and all relatives who want answers after the fact about how it happened and why. A lesson on how to make a truly bad law even worse.
My aunt had ALS. She couldn’t move for years. It was awful. She used Washington’s right-to-die law to end her nightmare with her family by her side. Hard to say it wasn’t the compassionate thing to do. I understand the worries over misuse but I’ve only seen assisted suicide used with compassion.
Why should this surprise us? The next stop on this slippery slope will be the termination of lives deemed useless—the elderly, the severely handicapped. We aborted the peers of a whole generation, why should we expect them to respect our lives?