National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
February 20, 2004

LettersResponses to Ruether

It is a sad day when theologians of such stature as Rosemary Ruether and newspapers as respectable as NCR lend credence to conspiracy theories implicating the Bush administration with the tragedy of 9/11 (NCR, Jan. 30). In this article, we are asked to believe that another theologian (David Ray Griffin) is privy to all kinds of intelligence suggesting that “not only did the Bush administration have detailed information that such attacks were going to occur on Sept. 11 and failed to carry through protective responses in advance, but that they also obstructed the standard procedures to intervene in these events on the actual day it happened.” Dr. Ruether finds the information presented “convincing and chilling.” I find her review the latter.

Just from the little mentioned in Dr. Ruether’s review, one gets a hint of the kinds of inaccuracies and “linkages” being presented. We are told, for example, that “Flight 93 was the only plane shot down, although only after it appeared passengers were on the verge of taking control.” Umm, shot down? No, it seems to have crashed. Also, we learn that “eyewitnesses and on-site evidence suggests that a missile or guided fighter aircraft, not a large commercial plane, crashed into the Pentagon.” Courtesy of the Bush administration, no doubt! Amazing! Never mind that other eyewitnesses saw a passenger jet crash, and the black boxes of the Boeing 757 were found, along with the remains of most of the 64 passengers on Flight 77. All government propaganda, no doubt, including the grieving families of the victims of Flight 77, who were no doubt paid by Bush and Co. to contrive tears for the occasion.

For those interested in rebuttal beyond what is possible to post here, I recommend are other good sites on the Internet as well. Ruether and NCR might make note of such things next time such a controversial theory is being touted. Otherwise, you end up looking like yet more cheerleaders for anti-Bush hysteria.

Wichita, Kan.

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Thanks for “Was the Bush administration complicit in 9/11?” by Rosemary Ruether. Several months ago The Sacramento Bee published an article in its Sunday “Forum” telling of a group of 9/11 widows who came up with exactly the same questions. Personally, I find the evidence compelling. (My dad has a business associate who warned of Japanese attack two weeks prior to Pearl Harbor, which he learned of via a D.C. call.)

Sacramento, Calif.

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The article by Rosemary Ruether is about as close to a supermarket tabloid article as I have read in NCR. I guess we should expect to read something in a future article about the grassy knoll conspiracy, or the one about the moon landing being a conspiracy, or maybe even the one about FDR allowing Pearl Harbor to take place back in 1941. These conspiracy theories are so easy to concoct after the fact because it is easier to believe them than to accept that even our best federal employees make huge mistakes, overlook seemingly obvious clues and tend to just “blow it” sometimes. If all Rosemary Ruether can offer for an article is to pass off someone else’s theory that she happened to read, then I think you would better serve your readers by taking a pass on her submission and find something more original and edifying for your readers. I don’t recall your giving similar copy space to the better-documented fact of then-President Clinton selling the nuclear secrets of this nation to the Chinese government for a bundle of campaign contributions. That one was so obvious and blatant that it wasn’t something the tabloids would touch. They prefer gossip to facts. Spending an entire page on the rumors of what the pope said about the Mel Gibson movie is about as trashy as the Rosemary Ruether article. Please do a better job of selecting substance over gossip.

Morgan Hill, Calif.

Editor’s note: Once selected as a columnist, NCR columnists are given wide latitude to write on whatever topic they choose. Their opinions are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors.

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Rosemary Ruether’s many commentaries in NCR are of interest and appreciated. However, “Talking about the weather” (NCR, Nov. 21) was a mistake. Yes the big bad Bush administration opposed the Kyoto treaty relative to global warming, but the rest of the story needs telling.

The United States signed the binding treaty in 1998; Bill Clinton would not send it to the Senate for ratification; Russia, the third-leading carbon dioxide producer, did not ratify the treaty, and developing nations (a major segment of the world’s population) were exempt.

President Bush prefers a voluntary approach that calls for belief that all nations will morally reduce emissions without mandatory controls.

Global warming involves more than carbon dioxide. There are 12 major emissions that threaten human survival (six are by natural causes.) On the 1999 harmful particle scale (smoke, soot, etc.), pollution control by U.S. cities has excelled. Compare Beijing’s 106 and Delhi’s 187 to Los Angeles’ 37, Chicago’s 27 and New York City’s 23.

Conserving energy to reduce hazardous emissions is the responsibility of every human being on earth. It is easy to paranoically assume that Ms. Ruether’s “elites” of the West do not care about global warming because of greed. Who are these greedy people? In 2001, 56 percent of American families owned shares in companies, and there is an upward trend. Are these families the greedy elites?

The climate change was blamed on “the sins of greedy affluence.” Only the very affluent can afford to commute hundreds of miles between home and job weekly, as does Ms. Ruether. Her travel is made possible by enormous quantities of burning fossil fuel and deadly emissions. Are these elitist-type trips really necessary?

Kula, Hawaii

Iraq and Vietnam

Coleman McCarthy’s article (NCR, Jan. 30) comparing the war in Iraq with the war in Vietnam was very informative. However, I would like to point out that he was mistaken when he stated that no member of Congress had a son in Iraq. Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota had a son who was engaged in combat in Iraq.

Custer, S.D.

Pastoral priorities

Professor Richard McBrien writes in your Jan. 30 issue of my “implicit assumption that we have to choose between two pastoral priorities” (evangelization and reform). The assumption is, in fact, less implicit than nonexistent. My conviction is that a church that continues Christ’s mission to redeem the world should spend as much time talking about the conversion of the world as she does about her internal affairs. Both conversations are essential; each qualifies the other. In recent years, I believe the church’s conversation has become unbalanced because the demands of the mission Christ gave her have not been kept constantly in mind and heart. One cannot talk about the church without talking about Christ, and one cannot talk about Christ without talking about the world he died and rose to save. A call for greater balance is not a call for dividing the internal work of the church from her external mission. The Second Vatican Council’s agenda was set by this balance, which has become upset in recent years.


Religion and politics

Regarding the Jan. 23 article “Reigniting the religious left”: When I became of age to vote in 1959, I unhesitatingly declared myself to be a Democrat. However, for the past couple of decades, I have voted almost straight Republican. Why? Simple! The enshrinement of unrestricted abortion rights that the Democratic Party has come to represent has forced me, in conscience, to become a one-issue voter. I do not stand alone in this regard. If the Democratic Party could part with Planned Parenthood and, in turn, show a bit of sense regarding sexual and reproductive morality, it would almost instantaneously recapture the loyalty of millions of voters who have become “reluctant Republicans” in recent years. That is the winning strategy that the Democratic Party needs. The oft-cited quote, “It’s the economy, stupid!” needs to be rephrased: “It’s the abortion issue, stupid!” Then maybe the real party of my choice regarding most other issues would find itself in a better position to serve those whom it claims to represent.

Jerome, Idaho

Treatment of gays

I have read the letter from Thomas J. Van Etten of Palm Springs, Calif., published in the Jan. 30 NCR under the heading “Language about gays.” I cannot help but feel the anger expressed in that letter. Anger is corrosive and destructive. Let me suggest another approach. My partner in life of 48 years and I have experienced all of these things over the years and at one time thought about simply leaving the church. Knowing that we could not do that, we managed to rise above the cruel statements of “Holy Mother Church” and become quite involved in our parish. I would advise Mr. Van Etten to move on and become involved in his parish in any way possible. He would meet many wonderful people and would be surprised at the level of acceptance he might find.

Times are changing. We will eventually be rid of this generation of the Catholic hierarchy and, if the priesthood manages to survive, attitudes will change.

Arlington, Va.

O’Malley’s regret

Boston Bishop Sean O’Malley recently issued a “strongly worded” statement in which he expressed sincere regret about a priest having a sexual relationship with a parishioner and being involved in her death. He addressed only half of the story. O’Malley stunningly failed to mention that church leaders knew about Fr. James Foley’s behavior and kept quiet until his file was accidentally released.

Where is O’Malley’s outrage over the behavior of Cardinal Bernard Law and Bishop John B. McCormack in this case?

Where is his horror over the family having to learn the truth from a news report rather than from the church?

Where is O’Malley’s sincere regret that the Boston archdiocese did absolutely nothing to spare this family years of agonizing?

There is no reason to believe, given their history, that church leaders would have ever done the right thing by contacting the Perry family until they had no other option.

O’Malley’s apology now is far too little, far too late.

Cambridge, Mass.

Priests’ salaries

Comptrollers in dioceses know but are told to be quiet. But it doesn’t take a number cruncher to do the math. Protestant ministers start at $29,000 and with fringe benefits make $44,000 a year. Catholic priests’ salaries range from $12,936 to $15,483. At the top end, that’s only $3.25 over the minimum wage in states with $7.15 as their minimum wage, which states seem to be moving toward. In short, a careful examination would reveal that most priests are paid less than the minimum wage. Want vocations? Double priests’ salaries immediately -- no less than $30,000 annually with a decent benefit package. Pray for vocations? If you do nothing else, you’re demanding a miracle of God. Don’t ask Catholic parents to pay for eight years of college and then see their son collecting food stamps. Pray instead for the accountants that they will have the courage to speak up. Pray for the seminarians who are slowly awakening to the betrayal that is in store for them. Pray that Catholic laity and bishops will reread the encyclicals of Pope Leo on a living wage. And finally, pray that the Protestants, our best protesters, will come back with their gloves on and shape us up. God, how we need them today.

Naalehu, Hawaii

More on Burke

I am edified by Bishop (now Archbishop) Raymond Burke’s pronouncement that Catholic legislators may give scandal to others if they approach holy Communion with their grave public sin in tow (NCR, Jan. 23 and Feb. 13).

I wonder if His Excellency would counsel the bishops and cardinals who covered up for pedophiles to do the same? Perhaps the bishop ought to pen letters to those bishops and cardinals who are still not only receiving holy Communion but offering Mass on behalf of those to whom they give scandal by their very grave public sinfulness.

Ormond Beach, Fla.

Caryll Houselander

Thank you for Deborah Halter’s fine article on Caryll Houselander in the Dec. 12 issue of NCR. I have probably read everything that has been published about Houselander, and Halter’s was one of the finest articles I have read in a long time. Both she and the NCR are to be congratulated.

I am currently writing the first full-length biography of this astonishing writer and artist since the publication in 1961 of Maisie Ward’s Caryll Houselander: That Divine Eccentric. Much of her art work has been lost and I wondered if I might take this opportunity to ask any NCR reader who might have in their possession letters, photographs or art work to contact me.

17 Woodside Ave.
Toronto ON M6P 1L6 Canada
Phone: (416) 604-3111
Fax: (416) 604-7883

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National Catholic Reporter, February 20, 2004