National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
September 9, 2005

Letters Boston laity

Your cover story and accompanying editorial on the state of the church in Boston (NCR, Aug. 26) makes one proud to be a Catholic Bostonian. The laity are rising out of the pews in rebellion. As Capt. John Parker of the Lexington Minutemen said in 1775, “Let it begin here.”

Swampscott, Mass.

Irresponsible wealth?

After reading your special section on wealth and responsibility (NCR, Aug. 12), I would like to add another perspective on the topic.

In May I visited our sister parish in El Salvador. The nine of us spent the mornings working in a newly established community, some of us painting and others digging a trench using picks, shovels and machetes. People drew their water from a deep well they had dug by hand. The homes had dirt floors. The children, full of curiosity, admonished each other to stay away from the wet paint, even though their clothes were well worn. I realized later they likely had few others to wear. The cows were bony, and the dogs and cats looked like animals in an ad for famine relief.

A Filipino parishioner on the trip said that was how life is in the Philippines. A visiting priest from Uganda said that is the picture of life in his country. Certainly it’s like that in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica, where I once visited.

I began to feel uncomfortable. I read somewhere that we of the United States consume 40 to 50 percent of the world’s resources. Am I consuming four or five other people’s fair share of the world’s goods? Would Manuel and Elena have running water and enough food for their children if I didn’t require so many things? Would Mino and Transito be able to educate their children beyond the fifth grade?

Yet I’m frightened at the prospect of cutting back in some radical way. I don’t know where to begin. I’m hoping that God will grace me with some answers and, more important, with the courage to live out the answers when they come.

Longview, Wash.

* * *

The contrast between obese Americans and starving people in Niger and Mali is grotesque and disgusting. As of Aug. 11, the Federal Aviation Administration has raised the average weight guidelines for male passengers and carry-on bags 15 pounds up to 200, and for females, 34 pounds up to 179. Airlines are expected to use these figures to calculate airplane weight and center of gravity. My guess is that many human beings in sub-Sahara Africa weigh little more than the shocking increases of fat over here!

What can we do? Throw up our hands! Blame the two-year drought! Blame the governments! I say it is time to take action in solidarity with our sisters and brothers dying daily in these African deserts. I say let us, in the words of the prophet Joel, “sound the alarm, blow the trumpet, sanctify a fast.”

Let us, especially the overweight among us, commit to fast six meals a month, two full days of eats, in whatever combination our individual health requires, and send the money saved to an aid agency of our choice, earmarked for relief in Niger and Mali.

This ever-so-slight redistribution of Earth’s plenty would be a genuine movement in sister- and brotherhood, saving the lives of desperate humanity, those emaciated starving folk in far off Africa and those “super-sized” overeating Americans here at home.


Reader's profile
Editor’s note: When we have room
, NCR will from time to time offer offering profiles of some of our most frequent contributors to the Letters page.

(The Rev.) Martin Deppe
Age: 70
How long have you been reading NCR?

Periodically for many years.
How many of your letters have been published in NCR?

Ten since January 2003 (including the one in the paper today).
Do you have a favorite letter you’ve published?

Not really. I think the favorites did not get published! Such as the recent one I sent on military recruitment guidelines, which I believe is so very important for our young people.

Retired United Methodist pastor who served six churches in the Chicago area over a 39-year period. I was a founding member of SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference)-Operation Breadbasket, Chicago. I have written many social justice resolutions for my church on the local and general church level. I worked with Bob Hoyt before he started at NCR.
Tell us about your family life.

Walk my dog, Sandy, every day, enjoy the fruits of the good earth, care about my grandchildren and all God’s ‘chillen.’
What stirs you to write letters?

After 9-11, I began to have sleepless periods at night for the first time in my life. I would get up, jot down my thoughts and go back to bed and fall asleep. Someone suggested I share these concerns, and after a few letters were published I was in a rhythm. My wife says this is now my pulpit. I hope that’s not true.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?

I am most concerned about interfaith dialogue, within the Christian family and between Christians, Jews and Muslims. This is a critical need today.

Reactions to Fr. Cushing

Isn’t it the strangest phenomenon that Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Ga., punishes Fr. Robert Cushing for acting and speaking out on the most important moral issue of the 20th century: the use of nuclear weapons on human beings (NCR, Aug, 12)? I suppose the bishop is too busy raising money, condemning abortion, etc., to pay attention to the real American moral issue: the atomic bombing of human beings. The person who raises the moral issue is punished, and those Catholics who think it fine to firebomb 200,000 men, women and children are not rebuked or even told there is a moral issue here. What good is such a bishop who, as the Gospel puts it, complains about a speck in Fr. Cushing’s eye while not noticing the beam in his and his Catholics’ eyes?

Bishop Boland is so blind that he can’t even recognize the voice of a prophet in his own diocese who raises that fundamental moral issue. And like all the other prophets, Cushing must be put to death. The bishop wouldn’t know a real moral issue if it came up and bit him on his gluteus maximus.


* * *

What is wrong with those people of St. Teresa of Avila parish who seem to have a serious problem with the compassionate priest who risked apologizing to the Japanese for the United States’ terrible bombing of their cities, which Pope Paul VI called “butchery of untold magnitude”? Apologizing is always the Christian thing to do.

Christ has asked us to “turn the other cheek,” not to take revenge. Dialogue with our enemies, not retaliation, is the Christian thing to do. Only that kind of response will bring a peaceful solution. This holds true also for responding to the terrorists. Retaliation brings more retaliation.

Nashville, Tenn.

* * *

The story about Fr. Robert Cushing reminded me of my trip to Pearl Harbor, where I visited the memorial that has been built over the U.S.S. Arizona. The ship is still at the bottom of the sea, and the 1,132 bodies of American sailors and officers blasted to pieces that day were never retrieved.

A man on the tour was crying. His wife explained that several of his friends had been killed during World War II. He was a senior when he quit school so he could enlist. I put out my hand and said, “I want to thank you and all the other men and women who fought in that terrible war so we could have the freedom we enjoy today.” He was crying as he whispered, “Thank you.”

I was in the fourth grade in December 1941, and patriotism was high during the war. I am sorry that so many lives were lost when the atomic bombs destroyed the two Japanese cities. However, the Japanese started the war with their treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor. They could have surrendered after the first bomb, but they chose not to do so until after the second bomb was dropped, three days later. If the bombs had not been dropped, forcing the Japanese to surrender, World War II would have continued in a Vietnam-like way with continual loss of thousands of lives, both American and Japanese.

Thousands of brave men and women have made the supreme sacrifice for our freedom. I hope Fr. Cushing remembered them in his prayers while he was busy apologizing for the actions that the American president and his advisers took to halt to the World War II bloodshed that the Japanese government instigated.

Avon, Ind.

* * *

I wonder if Fr. Cushing’s Augusta pastor and Bishop Boland were aware that Pope John Paul II also went to Japan, where he said, “To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.”

Fr. Cushing had the audacity to use the parish pulpit to speak about his pilgrimage during liturgies that are rife with pleas for peace. The bishop of Savannah told the priest that he had no right “to push your agenda” by lamenting the dropping of bombs that destroyed more humans in a few moments than all the Americans killed in Korea and Vietnam put together. If it is a no-no for a preacher to voice regret for the horrors of nuclear weapons that can doom us all to extinction, just what part of Catholic social teaching can pass the test of orthodoxy on Sunday mornings?

Crofton, Md.

Middle-class woes

In these days of tax breaks for the wealthy and little or no help for the rest of us, the poor are getting poorer at a great rate and the middle class are struggling to keep from slipping down to that level.

Most families I know include two working parents, and even so are hard-pressed to feed and clothe themselves and their children, while hoping to put something aside toward their family’s higher education. There are only two to four children in most of these families. And still the parents struggle with their finances, as well as with their efforts to share some time as a family. In many such cases the father and mother work different shifts so that one of them can be at home with the children while the other works. These are no longer the years of a choice of jobs with good salaries and good hours, and with strong unions to fight for better pay and working conditions or good health benefits, or for pensions that will truly be paid when the time comes.

If you haven’t seen any of this happening, Brian Kantz (“What ‘crisis’ of the middle class?” NCR, July 1), take time to look out from your ivory tower -- or walk out from your gated suburban community -- to see the way that many who were middle-class working people are now living. Living in a home of their own, if they were fortunate enough to buy it before the “housing bubble” began to swell and prepare to burst.

Sonora, Calif

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, September 9, 2005