In “The Greatness of a Nation” (2/15), Bishop Robert McElroy writes, “Voting for candidates is a complex moral action in which the voter must confront an entire array of competing candidates’ positions in a single act of voting.” It is not as complex as Bishop McElroy suggests. As today’s laws and institutions permit the killing of innocents, injustice grows. For nearly 40 years, the abortion mentality has poisoned our family life and our national debates, causing a deep divide in our political, religious and cultural institutions.
To sanction the legal killing of innocent persons has a price. This recurrent crime has hardened the collective heart of our nation, has created a social tolerance for other wrongs and crimes and has set us free from the safe harbor of truth and justice. All of the good sought through social justice work is for naught unless we first pursue the legal and actual protection of the most innocent persons among us. To change the cultural mindset about abortion is the first step in actually achieving true social justice.
And that is why voting for the right candidate is not so complex after all.
The graphic layout of the neighboring articles “Create in Me a Just Heart,” by Megan McCabe, and Gerald Schlabach’s “The Glamour of Evil” (2/8) caught my attention. “The Glamour of Evil” is introduced by an image of a young woman in a glitzy low-cut dress, tanned skin, champagne glass in hand, in the middle of a flirtatious laugh. “Create in Me a Just Heart” leads with a gray computer keyboard, one key of which shouts a sordid “XXX.”
The articles’ critiques of cultural values complement each other well: Ms. McCabe describes pornography as an imagined world teaching us that women do not (and should not) have choices and agency in the realm of sex and intimacy, and Mr. Schlabach describes evil as the void that results when we pursue happiness in appearances and objects rather than living relationships.
But with evil seemingly personified as a glamorous and sensuous young woman and the fantasy world of porn characterized as a computer keyboard rather than a worldview offered to men, we may unwittingly reinforce the long-held and limiting cultural belief that women’s sexual agency is unnatural (or even evil) and fail to offer a vision of men’s ability to be self-aware, engaged agents of intimate relationship.
Re “What Pilate Knew,” by Steven P. Millies (2/8): We need to be very careful about looking at Pontius Pilate as a victim. There are accounts of him being ruthless during a Samaritan uprising and also taunting the Jewish people in the Temple when he first arrived in Jerusalem. Pilate had too much Jewish blood on his hands before and after the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jewish people are not to be blamed, and we should not let Pilate off the hook. Jesus was Jewish and suffered along with his Jewish brothers and sisters. We must not historically rehabilitate a man like Pilate, who caused so much pain and suffering.
No to ‘Sinopolitik’
The title of Gerry O’Connell’s column (2/8) asks, “Will the Church Lose China?” It depends what it means to “lose China.” If it means accepting a puppet, patriotic church subservient to the regime in China—then yes, it is a real danger and it means the Holy See learned nothing from its original Ostpolitik. During the Communist era in Eastern Europe, the Vatican betrayed many martyrs in the name of dialogue. Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is a hero in the mold of Stefan Wyszyński, József Mindszenty and Aloysius Stepinac. He knows the Chinese regime’s mentality; he knows the situation of Christians. He should be listened to. Realpolitik is understanding the situation as it is, not as one would like it to be. The Ostpolitik/Sinopolitik dream world would yield a document not worth the paper it is written on.
A Christ-Centered Mission
I greatly appreciated the article, “Our Reason for Being,” by Don Briel, Kenneth E. Goodpaster and Michael Naughton (2/1), with its much-needed challenge regarding the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities. The authors rightly worry that 25 years after “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” (Saint John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities), signs of “mission drift” persist.
The authors write: “A vital, articulate Catholic vision of the school’s intellectual life is often missing from mission documents, convocation speeches, curriculum designs, research agendas and strategic plans.” To this end they appositely cite the trenchant remarks of Michael J. Buckley, S.J., in an article in America in the aftermath of “Ex Corde,” about the danger of reducing the “richness of the Creed” to “a morality or a general social ethic.”
In the light of Father Buckley’s remark, I only regret that the authors did not underline the distinctive Christo-logic of the Creed and, hence, of the Catholic university’s vision and mission. Perhaps they do so in the book from which their article was excerpted. But unless this rich Christ-centered vision and language is brought to the fore, the danger of an (at best) moralistic deism will remain. To further this crucial conversation, I recommend another article from the America archive that forthrightly confronts the challenge: “Christ and the Catholic University,” by Brian Daley, S.J. (9/11/93).
In my days as a Catholic high school teacher and administrator, I was constantly confronted by the amenities war, nowhere more evident than in athletics, as we all rushed to keep up with the Joneses with artificial turf fields, new gyms and the like. This is certainly evident at the college level as well. Where does it all fit in the context of Catholic education? What do we say to the student body when we alter admissions requirements, when we spend an inordinate amount of money to attract a coach, when we rely on athletic dollars to fund operations?
One question missing from the self-examination suggested by the authors is about whom exactly we are asking to be board members. How many board members would support the ultimate mission of the university when confronted with a conflict on the financial side between athletics and academics? How many board members embrace the social teaching of the Catholic Church? Finance committees tend to dominate boards and board meetings, and we have done little to alter that over the years. Of course, no Catholic college can function without financial stability at its core, but mission questions cannot always be answered or developed using the bottom line as the main guide.
Re Of Many Things, by Matt Malone, S.J. (2/1): One of the many things I admire about America is the tone and content of the published letters to the magazine. When people are seriously disagreeing with one point or another, as happens in some of the letters in the Feb. 1 issue, the writers are polite, constructively critical and charitable. What happened to Father Malone’s column in that same issue?
His criticism of the Republican Party is what we usually read in America and is not unexpected or offensive—until he insults the voting public with, “The electorate is anxious and afraid; their thirst for some sense of control is so great that they’ll drink the sand just because some would-be Moses tells them it’s water.” Thank you for telling us that we are so lacking in comprehension that we cannot eventually identify someone who is selling us a bill of goods.
“A Rooted Vision,” by Rafael Luciani and Félix Palazzi (2/1), is an excellent article that makes its point without labeling the views of modern popes as conservative or liberal. Pope Francis has much in common with Benedict XVI. In fact, when it comes to their positions, I often think that where one articulates, the other shows the action needed to put the belief into effect. We Americans get hung up on labels, which become blinders, and this makes it difficult to put the Gospel of life into action.
Re “Fugitives From Injustice,” by James T. Keane (2/1): Someone once said that the jail cell is the new monastery cell. There are still those who are willing to risk arrest and go to jail to confront an evil. Dorothy Day did it. Dan and Phil Berrigan, Kathy Kelly, Sr. Megan Rice and all those who have crossed the line at the School of the Americas did it. Or what about Alfred Delp, S.J., or Dietrich Bonhoeffer? The merry chase is only part of the story.
In his letter “Shocking Study?” (Reply All, 1/18), James Booth objects to the use of the phrase “battered by life” to describe those left behind in today’s economy, saying it implies “victimhood rather than resilience.” I disagree.
Victimhood is neither voluntary nor shameful. It is the result of being victimized, and has nothing to do with how resilient a person is. To be made incapacitated, physically, emotionally, financially or psychologically as the result of someone else’s brutal victimization should not be trivialized by people who consider themselves merciful and compassionate. In my experience, the church and Christians are still walking past those who have been brutalized by others.