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Beauty of Dance

Re “Pope Francis Calls for Solidarity and Dialogue” (Signs of the Times, 8/12): More than 10 years ago in America (“Shall We Dance,” 3/25/02) I asked whether we, as the people of God, would respond to the invitation to “praise God’s name in the festive dance” (Ps 149:3). When I saw millions of people, including bishops and priests, joining in a simple but lively dance at the closing liturgy of World Youth Day, I received an answer.

As a Jesuit priest, trained dancer and choreographer who for more than 40 years has been exploring the power and beauty of dance as a very human form of prayer, praise and worship, I was moved to tears and laughter when I saw so many people responding to the call to praise God with “timbrel and dance” (Ps 150:4). I was particularly moved to see many bishops enjoying themselves as they were taught the dance.

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The criticism we hear of using dance in a religious context is that dance in Western civilization is only used for “courtship” or “entertainment.” Yet this argument refuses to acknowledge the wonderful tradition of “folk” dance in Western culture. These are very simple dances, in which people join together to express their joy and the beauty of human community. We saw a wonderful example of such a “dance of the folk” on the Copacabana Beach. It does seem that the Holy Spirit was “taking the lead.”

Robert VerEecke, S.J.

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Our Blessing!

I was moved to tears as I read the wonderful article, “Everything I Can Do,” by Joey Kane (7/15). Joey was born in 1995, the year my son Peter, who also had Down syndrome, died at the age of 33. I marvel at Joey’s abilities.

I wrote an article for America titled, “Our Problem? Our Blessing!” (6/5/76), about Peter and what he meant to our family. I am very pleased that so many things have changed for the better over the years for persons with developmental disabilities—in how they are educated and the opportunities open to them. But I am also horrified that 60 to 90 percent of babies with Down syndrome are not allowed to be born; their abortion is so simply and usually recommended.

The world is a better place because of Joey and my Peter. It is sad that the world loses the contributions that could be made by all the other persons who are killed before they are born simply because they have Down syndrome.

Frances Grace

Fond du Lac, Wis.

Postpartum Perspective

Re “Cuomo’s Abortion Politics” (Current Comment, 7/1): The balancing of a woman’s privacy rights versus the rights of a fetus during the first trimester drove the decision in Roe v. Wade. Since then we have decided, through legislation and court decisions, to keep extending this protected privacy period and ignore medical advances that identify viable life at earlier stages of gestation.

Today even the most strident advocate of a woman’s privacy rights cannot possibly argue that any legitimate exercise of these rights can be directed at the termination of a fetus in the “24 weeks and beyond” stage, since experts now peg the minimum survival rate of infants at 23 weeks gestation—a number that will certainly continue to go down.

Maybe we need to restyle the debate. Let’s propose that a woman’s privacy rights extend to some period of time post-partum, especially if the child is born before 24 weeks. Then we can decide if there are any concerns that would make recognition of this new life an emotional or physical burden. Does anyone see any ethical or legal issues here that couldn’t be remedied with an innovative piece of legislation?

Daniel P. Cunningham

North Canton, Ohio

Interest of Children

Reading “Beyond the Fortnight,” by Archbishop William E. Lori (7/1), brought home the realization that his concept of religious freedom denies the most basic of human aspirations. The bishops have no convincing moral advice on what parents should do to care for children when their marriages break down or children no longer live with their two original parents.

According to church rules, Catholic heterosexuals can only remarry by proving that our original marriage was “not sacramental.” If we remarry without an annulment, we are forbidden Communion. If we do not remarry, our children are then brought up in a single-parent household. Similarly, those who divorce after one has discovered that he or she is homosexual cannot then marry another homosexual in the church to provide a two-parent household. 

In both cases, church rules that are supposed to defend children end up ensuring that parents are refused Communion if they remarry; or, if they remain single, that only one parent is available to bring up the children.

As Catholic parents, we teach our children that God wants all people—including those created homosexual—to be able to love and be loved, to be able to love and raise children, and for children to be brought up in stable, loving, two-parent households, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Charlie Davis

Fripp Island, S.C.

More Questions

“Beyond the Fortnight” raised more questions than it answered regarding “religious freedom.” Here’s one: If the state or the courts understand and define marriage differently from the Catholic Church, to which I belong, is my religious freedom being violated if I am an employer and refuse to apply the definition of the state or the court in determining who may be considered a dependent for coverage under my health care plan? If I am an employer, for example, who covers employees and dependents in my group health care plan but I do not believe in divorce, would my religious freedom be violated if I am required to include as a dependent under my health care plan a new spouse of a divorced employee?

Robert Stewart

Chantilly, Va.

Love Beyond Sex

In “The Sexual Devolution” (7/1), Bill McGarvey writes in a believable and concise manner that an epidemic of bad sex is flourishing among young adults. He quotes Rabbi Yonah Schiller: “Our need for intimacy comes from a spiritual desire to be connected to people; their bad feeling comes from that connection not being rooted in anything real.”

As teenagers we typically are overwrought with our sexual anxieties, a period that I personally found the most difficult in my young life. Having been grounded in the Catholic tradition, however, I gradually came to appreciate the meaning of sexual intimacy in the context of marriage.

The greatest need of all human beings is to love and be loved, to fulfill the need to belong. Yet this need can be fulfilled through many simple kindnesses that do not involve sexual intimacy or self-gratification.

Jack A. Artale

Lititz, Pa.

Gift of Reconciliation

I had just finished Donna Freitas’s book, The End of Sex, when I read Christina A. Astorga’s review of it (“Save Yourself,” 7/1). I was excited to know that the book is being discussed in Catholic circles. But I think the Catholic response to the hookup culture, especially any discussion of abstinence and virginity, needs to focus on the sacrament of reconciliation.

Catholics are blessed to know that God doesn’t care so much whether a person still has his or her “virginity,” only that we seek forgiveness. I say this not to downplay the beauty of saving sex for marriage, but to emphasize that one mistake early in your college career need not doom your entire future, which unfortunately seems to be the case for many students.

Freitas describes college students who are longing to reclaim their inner sense of purity. The catechism quotes Pope John Paul II in “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” where he says that through confession, “the forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth.” We college students need to hear that the church promises something better than “reclaimed virginity” or “temporary abstinence.” As often as we need it, God offers us the possibility of a saintly soul. It’s a second (or 70th) chance that can’t be found anywhere else.

Professor Astorga calls for an alternative, meaningful worldview to offer us students. It’s not any farther than the nearest campus chapel.

Tommy O’Donnell

Baltimore, Md.

The writer is a junior at Loyola University Maryland.

Status Update

Readers respond to “Everything I Can Do,” by Joey Kane (7/15).

Down syndrome is just another variation in the genetic code God gave us. I think it may actually be a gift from God to help us learn more about DNA and how our bodies work.

My son, who has 47 chromosomes, is as much a joy as his siblings—and as much a terror at 2 years of age. When he was first born, I used to say that I have just as many hopes and dreams for him as for my three other children, but then I would add: “We know he won’t be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, but….” After watching a man with no legs complete in track events at the Summer Olympics, I no longer add that. My son may very well be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon or the very first president of the United States with Down syndrome. Or he may bag your groceries. The future is his to make of it what he will.

What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.

Heather K. Peet 

I am a school psychologist, and among my students are some with autism, Down syndrome and so on. The joy that these children bring to all who meet them is a testament to God’s purpose for their lives. Although some days are challenging for the children, the staff and their families, even the smallest triumph is spirit-lifting. I am honored to work with these children and their families, and I am grateful that their parents chose life for their children. God has a plan for us all, and those who allow his plan to be fulfilled as he sees fit will reap benefits beyond our mortal comprehension.

Andrea Capolupo-Conyngham

I’m blessed to work with people, young and old, with “disabilities.” From the moment I set foot in the place I loved it. I’ve never looked at any of our folks as having a disability; I see a soul, who is like me, a child of God. We all have some type of a “disability” that we deal with and live with every day. Some are more obvious than others. The less obvious help the more obvious get through the day. That is life and what we do. We love our sisters and brothers and help them when they need it and live life!

Kim Hathaway Carriveau

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