National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
January 21, 2005

Letters A bit of peace

It was refreshing to read your article “Space for peace grows in village ravaged by war” (NCR, Dec. 24).

Thanks to Oblate Fr. Roberto Layson, “a small man with a big heart for peace,” the Muslims and the Christians in these villages in the Philippines are working together to rehabilitate communities and people after the government began its “all-out war” in March 2000. It is good to know someone is modeling community involvement in the peace process.

Chesterfield, Mo.

Fuzzy Marxism

In his Dec. 24 letter, August Tican accuses Yasser Arafat, Osama bin Laden and NCR of promoting Marxist ideas. What prompted Mr. Tican to say that “you will not be a great paper until you break out of this grotesque imitation of Christian drama, just as Muslims are doomed until they free Islam from petty Marxism”?

Yasser Arafat dedicated his life to the struggle against Jewish settlers who have taken over Palestinian land. Osama bin Laden is a wealthy Arab and faithful Muslim. Like it or not, he’s proud of his culture, his religion and his traditions. Not unlike his countrymen and coreligionists, he doesn’t appreciate efforts to impose Western culture on the Arab world.

By no means am I suggesting we should condone those individuals’ radical reactions. I am just pointing out that’s the way they perceive reality to be.

As for NCR, in the words of Sr. Joan Chittister, it has always been against the “pornography of nuclear weapons, the indecency of poverty, the lust for unjust wages, the debauchery of lower taxes for some and the loss of Social Security programs for others and the rape of the planet …” In short, while not always in consonance with the church’s rules and rigidity, NCR has constantly been faithful to the teachings of Jesus.

If standing for one’s country, wanting to preserve one’s culture and religious practices and encouraging others to imitate Christ’s life means being a Marxist, then one has to ask, what’s wrong with Marxism?

Bear, Del.

Halt the inauguration

As the Asian tsunami disaster of Dec. 26 unfolds with ever more gruesome statistics and dangers, the world community has gradually awakened to the horror and to its responsibility. President Bush could remove any doubts about his slow response by announcing that the $40 million earmarked for the Jan. 20 inauguration will be given immediately to the relief effort and that the inaugural festivities will be scaled back accordingly. Such leadership would undoubtedly challenge other nations, helping to create a demonstration of unparalleled humanitarian generosity. It would do more to diminish global terrorist activity than all the weaponry employed in Iraq and Afghanistan!


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We ask that President George W. Bush cancel the inauguration celebrations. The tragedy of the natural disaster in the Indian Ocean, in which over 155,000 persons have died (and more probably will), bars Americans from joining in expensive inauguration parties of dance and song.

Bush often refers to himself with terms like “leader,” “hard worker,” “compassionate.” This is the time to live up to those words, Mr. Bush. Walk your talk as a man, an authentic leader, with compassion. Take on the hard work of rebuilding half of Southeast Asia. If you are looking for a test to measure your mettle, that test is Southeast Asia. Please begin with mourning, especially for those of different faiths, particularly for Muslims, the ones who fear us the most. Enter into that mourning deeply, religiously.

Then, organize the relief. Give of yourself, your own fortune. Lead America in its greatest glory -- its compassion for others, especially the marginalized -- to bury the dead, to give water, food and shelter to the living. And stay with it until the area has been rebuilt and the people are safe, secure and able once again to resume their lives.

Now is not the time to dance. Parties would be horribly indecent. They would be inhuman. It is time for all of us to be a compassionate people and show that we care. We ask Mr. Bush to lead us. We will follow, gladly and proudly, even with gratitude that he is our elected president.

Pine Point, Maine

Quote not clear

In her otherwise excellent coverage of the November conference on sexual betrayal in the Roman Catholic church at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York (NCR, Dec. 17), Patricia Lefevere did not capture my remarks correctly. She quoted me as saying that the sexual abuse issue did not even come up at the convocation of priests.

The topic of sexual abuse was indeed raised by our bishop at the convocation for priests, but the reference was brief. The bishop made a careful distinction between the moral lapses of the priests and the legal issues associated with them. He asked for support for priests “on administrative leave.” With the exception of one priest who expressed concern about the priests’ pensions, which I assume was rooted in his fear of diocesan bankruptcy, there was no mention of victims or their families.

My advocacy for victim/survivors and their families has not lessened my concern for my brother priests on administrative leave. However, there can be no healing without justice, no justice without truth, no truth without full accountability. Many victims are still waiting for this mantra to be fulfilled.

The 97 percent of us priests who are not perpetrators might find our burdens lightened and our morale boosted if we were more willing to absorb the pain of those who have been hurt by the 3 percent. Is this not what is means to act in persona Christi? Victims and a number of lay folks are aware that despite the assurances of some bishops, there are still priests functioning who have not yet been held accountable for their sexual misdeeds. Many “active” priests also know who they are.

Morristown, N.J.

‘Invalid’ baptisms

Cardinal Pell of Australia furnished me my chuckle for the day as he declared that “hundreds of Australian children may have to be re-baptized after senior church figures in the country declared their baptisms invalid” (NCR, Dec. 24).

I guess he knows that God’s “hands” were indeed tied because the baptizing priest replaced “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” with “creator, liberator and sustainer.” Imagine that!

What arrogance! What pomposity! I wonder, now, if baptism by desire requires a certain set of words, too, in order to “take”?

Columbus, Miss.

Purple rainbows

In the Dec. 24 issue of NCR, there is a picture of two gay men who had been refused Communion. Previously, NCR reported on certain politicians being refused the Eucharist. Several years ago, a Coptic foreign student, not having a Coptic church available, had gone to the local Catholic church on Christmas and was denied Communion.

I question situations where a person is refused Communion because the minister of Communion has deemed the recipient “unworthy.” It is my belief that the Eucharist is the body of Christ and, therefore, a minister who denies Communion to anyone is coming between that person and God. No one has the right to that role.

Several years ago, I invited three other Catholic women for lunch. They argued that Communion should be denied to the stranger because one did not know if the stranger would misuse the host. I could not help but wonder how they defined God -- if, indeed, their God needed protection. I had always believed that it was God who was all-powerful and that we were in his protection.

Too often of late, so many of us have put God in a box, our box with our definition. In doing so, God ceases to be all-powerful, all knowing, all loving. No wonder, then, that we cannot begin to understand the beliefs of others and recognize our common brotherhood. God has been limited to our description and to our rules, and in the process has become very finite.

Manhattan, Kan.

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Regarding the photo on Page 2 of the Christmas issue, headed “Rainbow sashes at Mass”: NCR readers might be interested to know that the Women’s Ordination Conference had a presence at the bishops’ November meeting as well. At the Mass, the bishops announced, “The bishops have agreed that anyone wearing a sign of protest shall be denied Communion.” And they did, in fact, deny Communion to those men wearing rainbow sashes. But as it happened, the priest did not know that purple stoles stand for women’s ordination, and our two Women’s Ordination Conference representatives, Diana Wear and Janice Sevre-Duszynska, wore purple stoles and were given Communion. Still, both women felt compelled to stand with the men who had been denied Communion, and the picture in the Dec. 24 issue of NCR depicts this act of solidarity. Perhaps the heading should have read, “Rainbow sashes and purple stoles at Mass.”


Aisha Taylor is program director for the Women’s Ordination Conference.

Busy doing good

Near the end of his “Viewpoint” piece (NCR, Dec. 10), M.A. Muqtedar Khan decries the “aggressive anti-religiosity of the extreme left.” I don’t think it is anti-religious at all, but too busy doing good to notice the hand of God in it.

The driving force for attaining women’s right to vote was the agnostic Susan B. Anthony. The two atheist mayors of Milwaukee, brothers Frank and Carl Zeidler, had no homeless people in the city in the 1940s and 1950s. Milwaukee taxpayers willingly allowed the city to employ the marginally employable to rake leaves and shovel sidewalks. They earned enough to live in single-resident hotel rooms and to eat in cheap restaurants. The Zeidler brothers were so busy doing good they did not see the hand of God in it. And they treated the poor with utter respect, even walking to and from work or riding the streetcar to impress their constituents that they were not squandering the taxpayers’ money.

St. Louis

Hope’s daughters

Thank the Lord for Sr. Rita Larivee (as mentioned in the 40th anniversary edition) and Sr. Joan Chittister (NCR, Dec. 10). Each one of us is challenged by their prophetic voices to recognize and accept “the difference between knowledge and enlightenment” and then discern its presence in our lives.

Fairfield Glade, Tenn.

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Your editorial “Hope for the long haul” (NCR, Dec. 24) brought to mind a quote used by Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Amata Miller in a talk many years ago. The quote is attributed to St. Augustine, though for the life of me I haven’t been able to find where he said or wrote it: “Hope has two lovely daughters, anger and courage, anger so that what should not be is not, and courage so that what should be is.”

For me personally, this quote liberated me from some feelings of guilt about my own anger. I have also found that this quote is helpful for people who are struggling with anger. It is very consoling to know that anger can be an expression of hope. I find this quote more helpful than people referring to the just anger of Jesus in cleansing the temple. Anger at times is not Just anger, but just anger.

Lyford, Texas

Pat Robertson’s issues

I admire NCR editor Tom Roberts, who is brave, humane and gentle, a journalist like Davy Crockett and Joel Chandler Harris (author of the wise and beloved Uncle Remus tales). Thus I pray that Roberts’ well-meaning Dec. 17 editor’s note on Pat Robertson won’t strengthen an “either-or” misconception that I oppose: Either a person is primarily loyal to the 96 percent of fertile U.S. Catholic married couples who find the pope’s birth control ban unworkable or a person is primarily loyal to people who voted for a presidential candidate (Republican, Libertarian or Constitution Party) whose rhetoric was more conservative than John Kerry’s. My contention: A person can logically support some of conservative Pat Robertson’s civic agenda and also all of NCR’s church-reform ideas.

Robertson’s main civic policy was anti-Communist Republicanism. When Bush switched the party’s focus to aggressive anti-Arab and anti-Muslim policies, Robertson privately warned Bush that an Iraq invasion could be a long, bloody ordeal. I’m no expert on Robertson’s thousands of impromptu media comments, but I don’t think he can be blamed for what Bush does.

Robertson is allied with Baptist and Assembly of God churches, which groups ordained women pastors long before mainline Protestants did. He has no objection to artificial birth control in marriage or to a married Christian clergy. If Robertson were Catholic, he’d fit right in with many Catholic church-reform activists on many issues.


The years ahead

As 2004 came to an end, a year that no one would want to repeat -- wars and natural disasters of unprecedented force, an election that Bush took to mean an endorsement of his foreign and domestic policies, poor leadership in the church, as well as Tom Fox leaving NCR -- it would be easy to be discouraged. But I cannot be discouraged after having spent Christmas with my grandchildren. How can I feel sad after looking into their clear eyes full of hope and trust?

It seems that small children want two things of us: They want us to read or tell them stories and they want us to play games with them. They just want us to spend time with them.

We grandparents need to read everything, learn everything we can and remember it all. Some have compared old age to sunset or at least dusk (although some of my friends, my age, would claim it is still high noon). If this is dusk, it is time to read the stories, the scriptures, the daily newspapers. Maybe grandparents can help the little ones make some sense out of the world or at least make it less scary. After all, it all happened long ago and far away, as far as the children are concerned. But all ancient tales, including folk and fairy tales, have messages, and maybe now we have time to reflect on them.

Most especially, we can make life as full of love for them as we can so that they will be able to endure painful years ahead.

Salyersville, Ky.

Wandering thoughts

Tom Jablonski’s “Starting Point” article (NCR, Jan. 7) shows the dangers of daydreaming at Mass. How could any Catholic walk away from church saying things like Christ’s death was meaningless and that Christ died because of how he lived? Instead of the image of the Body of Christ in Tom’s hands, he gives us the image of a beetle in his hands, which he prefers. OK, what’s your point? How does he rate 10 square inches to say all that? Shouldn’t his article have been directed to the “Journal of Existentialism and Nihilism”?

Bay City, Mich.

Letters to the editor should be limited to 250 words and preferably typed. If a letter refers to a previous issue of NCR, please give us that issue’s date. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Letters, National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141. Fax: (816) 968-2280. E-mail: Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number.

National Catholic Reporter, January 21, 2005