Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Our readersJune 18, 2001

But Hey, Who’s Counting?

Just wanted to call to your attention a figure from the last 10 issues of America. Eighty percent (8 out of 10) of the first letters in the letters column were from religious.

Oops: just received the May 28 issue. Now it’s 9 out of 11! Interesting?

Jim Cullather
South Bend, Ind.

Yet Another Friendly Reply

I am grateful to Cardinal Avery Dulles for his letter concerning the translation of Walter Kasper’s Friendly Reply (4/23) to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s article; it gives me an opportunity to offer some needed clarifications. A literal translation was never intended; a good deal of the original (which was a segment in a series of exchanges) would not have been fully intelligible to American readers without proper information about its context. For this reason, the permission to translate was requested from the editor of the original with the explicit proviso that it could not be a straight translation; some adaptation would be necessary. Accordingly, I prefaced the English text with a caution: it was a translation from the German, with some adaptation. This sentence was somehow omitted in the editorial process, in which I had no part.

The question is, therefore, whether or not the adaptations to help the American readers were reasonable. Kasper’s original text assumed what was of common knowledge in Germany but not in the United States, such as the repeated refusal on the part of the Vatican to admit to the Eucharist couples living in legally invalid marriages but deserving in faith and charity and to let the local bishops have greater discretion in matters of eucharistic hospitality, and so forth. The full meaning of the original text, its stance and strength, would have been lost on American readers without due contextualization. Nothing was added but bare historical facts; none of the facts was incorrect. The refusal by the Vatican was indeed adamant, it was applicable to all cases, and the rules concerning eucharistic hospitality were truly more restrictive than the aspirations of responsible local ecumenistspastors included.

This dispute about such textual matters, however, should not distract us from the substantive issue that is the theme of Kasper’s article. What did Vatican Council II profess when it declared that the universal church exists in and from the local churches? The question is far-reaching, and the answer is bound to affect the church’s government as well as the daily life of God’s people.

If ever there was an urgent need for dialogue, for faith seeking understanding, and for an intense process of inquiry, this is it. Would Cardinal Dulles be willing to partake in such a worthy dialogue—friendly, as well, as it must be?

Ladislas Orsy, S.J.
Washington, D.C.

Pyrrhic Exhaustion

My own attitude on Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the mandatum has long been that this document and its attendant juridical norms give both bishops and theologians a perfect opportunity for fighting a battle whose only outcome will be Pyrrhic exhaustion.

Judging from my own very limited experience, so far all the bishops whom I either know or have heard about have taken a very gingerly nay, even conciliatory attitude to the theologians in their diocese.

I have no way of judging how most theologians are reacting, but based on both the thesis and the tenor of Jon Nilson’s article The Impending Death of Catholic Higher Education (5/28), I am not sanguine.

As to Mr. Nilson’s prophet of doom scenario, I have only one question to ask: why ever would a Catholic theologian want to teach Catholic theology and not be in communion with the church? How did it ever come about that theologians have not assumed from the beginning of their academic training the value of a magisterial background to their discipline? As Hans Urs von Balthasar puts it so deftly, the more obediently one thinks, the more accurately one will see.

If Professor Nilson’s article proves to be typical of the reaction of most Catholic theologians to Ex Corde, then the situation is bleak indeed. The acerbic social commentator Midge Decter once spoke of America-bashers as the spoiled children of liberty. Perhaps that phrase has equal relevance inside Catholic academia.

Edward T. Oakes, S.J.
Denver, Colo.

Basic Courses

Jon Nilson worries that implementing Ex Corde Ecclesiae will doom Catholic higher education in the United States (5/28). Catholic institutions will have to choose to become secular or sectarian.

Perhaps some of his worries are justified with regard to faculty members who publicize views foreign to Christian tradition. But the nuclear annihilation of Catholic colleges looms more from the spiraling costs, excessive bureaucracy and the me-tooism of aping secular private institutions.

I recently read a brief history of the origins of the Jesuits in the midwestern United States. Along with their commitment to work with Native Americans, these Flemish pioneers had an obsession with higher education that led to excellent universities in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Detroit. But along with their insistence on high standards in the arts and sciences, these founders of Catholic colleges (and many others) promoted Catholic devotion and Catholic religion (not theology) courses among the sons of immigrants. Today’s young Catholics need these religion courses perhaps even more. As long as Catholic higher institutions prepare students with rigorous academic programs (sometimes resisting expensive and useless fads) and give them basic courses in Catholic history and catechism, they will survive. Maybe that will make them sectarian.

Despite the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ opposition to Reagan’s military build-up, the Doomsday Clock has stopped ticking. Long after dust has settled on Ex Corde Ecclesiae and its commentators, Catholic colleges and universities will be responding to the needs of students and the zeal of parents and those who years ago started these institutions.

Joseph Krastel, C.SS.R.
Grand Bay, Dominica

Who Counts?

The cover for the May 28 issue was delightful (Time to Dust Off the National Pastoral Council?). I noticed that there were five women and three men. I think that ratio rather accurately reflects the reality of the church in the United States. Somehow I seem to sense that there is a lesson in that.

Charles E. Miller, C.M.
Camarillo, Calif.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

The latest from america

The troubled Catholic outlet's fate was announced by a law firm representing a priest who had sued Church Militant for defamation.
The new recording of “How Great Thou Art” features a new verse, a different beat and a chance to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans in the midst of war.
Is our intense focus on the form of liturgical celebration placing a disproportionate emphasis upon the Eucharist as the summit of Christian life?
Michael OlsonMarch 04, 2024
In a speech read by an aide, Pope Francis told a group of grieving parents that the best response to grief is “to imitate the emotion and compassion of Jesus in the face of pain.”