The Right Direction
Re “Texas Bishops Cut Ties With Texas Right to Life,” by Paul Stinson (4/2): This is a small, positive step in the right direction. There are many pseudo-Catholic “pro-life” groups out there who are nothing but fronts for far-right political advocates. They falsely criticize anyone who doesn’t agree with their opinions, which have little if nothing to do with ending abortion. Groups like this make the pro-life movement look ridiculous and disingenuous.
The Income Gap
Re “Motels and the Modern Face of Homelessness,” by Jim McDermott (4/2): This is another example of the income gap and how the middle class is dead. It appears there are two types of people in the world: those who need not look at the prices on the menu and those who cannot even afford to sit in the restaurant. It will get worse. Basic universal income is very complicated, but let us at least discuss the proposal going forward. Not to do so would be at our peril.
Cradle Catholic and a Convert
Re “How Billy Graham Shaped American Catholicism,” by Jon M. Sweeney (4/2): It was 1964 at the Boston Garden when Billy Graham—with the blessing of Cardinal Cushing—preached to throngs of people seeking God. I was one of them. From that day to this I regularly describe myself as both a cradle Catholic and a convert. May Billy Graham be welcomed now to hobnob with his Lord and Savior as once he did with presidents and monarchs. God rest his soul.
Billy Graham and U.S. Catholics
I must demur from Jon Sweeney’s roseate view of Billy Graham's impact on American Catholicism and vice versa.
In the half century I covered Graham as a journalist, both he and American Catholicism changed in important ways. So we must ask, which Graham and when? Graham began his career as a fundamentalist, which meant not only Biblical inerrancy but also a separation from forms of Christianity such as Catholicism. As a Southerner, Graham lived mainly in areas of few, if any, Catholics and well into 1960 held the view that the United States is a Protestant country.
Sweeney fails to mention that Graham promised his friend and Democratic vice presidential nominee Lyndon Johnson that he would stay out of the 1960 election. We now know from several books—including my own, Getting Religion—that Graham secretly advised Richard Nixon on campaign strategy, including urging him to mobilize the Protestant vote.
Sweeney recalls how in 1950 Cardinal Cushing endorsed Graham—but that was news only because it was an anomaly. Again, Sweeney claims that Billy had “warm friendships with Catholic leaders,” though he mentions only Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s longtime president.
Graham had two audiences, one as (in my words) a television entertainer—evangelism being a performance art—and the other as a reclaimer of the backslid rather than a converter of the heathen. Catholics were a big part of that first audience, and if Graham had an influence on American Catholics it was most likely by lifting Catholics’ pulpit expectations, especially after the disappearance of Bishop Fulton Sheen from the tube.
Kenneth L. Woodward
The Evangelization You Call For
Re “When My Daughter Whispered to Me, ‘I Wish Girls Could Be Priests,’ I Didn’t Know What to Say,” by Barry Hudock (4/2): Mr. Hudock, this is a theologically well-balanced and nuanced article. Your reflections manifest the very evangelization you call for. I am confident this process of family evangelization will underscore the infinite dignity of each person in that universal Christian priesthood. Circumstances may prevent us from receiving particular gifts and ministries of God that touch our hearts, but the spirit of those gifts is never denied us and is within God’s providence.
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