National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
January 6, 2006

Letters Hunting and Hemingway

In “Ten clichés to make a hunter happy” (NCR, Dec. 16), Colman McCarthy has license to voice his polemic concerning hunting and hunters. People who live in the South where hunting is familial and traditional are accustomed to these points of view. What he may not do, however, is attempt to dignify his disdain for hunters by his scurrilous comment on the tragic death of Ernest Hemingway, that is, that Hemingway hunted wild game -- killed, to be blunt about it -- and therefore his death by his own hand by means of a firearm is somehow poetic justice.

While I have never been a fan of Hemingway’s spare prose, I am nevertheless appalled that McCarthy would find justification and satisfaction in the suicide of a human being to advance his anti-hunting agenda. Shame on him for such an uncivilized, uncharitable, utterly un-Christian comment, and shame on you for publishing it. You provided this forum; you may apologize along with Mr. McCarthy for his comment, since I am confident that you intended the letters column to be used responsibly and in keeping with the charity and compassion of our Catholic faith.

Brandon, Miss.

No reprieves from Bush

George Bush saved a couple of turkeys from Thanksgiving death a few weeks ago. Saving two turkeys may not be a big deal, but those two turkeys got a reprieve from Bush, which means two more acts of mercy than he was prepared to offer the 152 people who were executed when he was governor of Texas. Even those who support capital punishment would, you’d think, have been given pause by Bush’s apparent absolute certainty that not a single one of these 152 souls deserved to be spared death by lethal injection. People who see the world in black and white, as Bush does, are afraid to discover that they may be wrong. Little comfort to the soldiers and civilians who died and are dying in Iraq because of his black-and-white belief that “we are winning the war.”

Dubuque, Iowa

Tookie Williams

As an angry and violent young black man in Los Angeles, Stanley “Tookie” Williams worked to institutionalize violence. He cofounded the Crips gang; he may even have committed four murders. As a result, a quarter of a century later, he was put to death Dec. 13 (NCR, Dec. 23).

For many years, from a tiny cell in San Quentin State Prison, Tookie sought earnestly and effectively to make amends by dissuading young people from joining gangs and doing violence. In this way he hoped to achieve a kind of redemption.

We who countenanced his execution, for all of our blather about Christianity, are the most violent, least forgiving people on earth. Our principal achievement as a nation, indeed, has been to institutionalize violence in ever-multiplying forms. Millions have suffered premature death or lived miserable lives as a result of the exercise of our corporate and military power.

By what means shall we be redeemed?

Santa Cruz, Calif.

* * *

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we Christians put St. Paul on trial? After all, like Tookie Williams, St. Paul led two lives. In his earlier years, he was one of the most relentlessly effective persecutors of Christians. In those days, persecution was more than name-calling. Paul (then called by his Jewish name, Saul) worked to have innocent men and women expelled from their communities, imprisoned for no crime and even killed simply for following their faith in Christ.

Did such a sinner against innocent human beings deserve mercy and forgiveness? Would he find it from our countrymen today, as he found it from the apostles of Christ?

Where are the real followers of Christ today? Where are the Christians who believe in Christ’s message of redemption and mercy? Where are the Christians who are moved by the example of Jesus’ suffering and death for all of “us sinners,” or who remember that his last words were of forgiveness for his tormentors, his murderers? Not in the governor’s office in Sacramento, Calif. Not among the most powerful political leaders today, especially most of those who proclaim their Christianity. Not even, perhaps, among many of us who put these men and women in office.

Tookie Williams now rests in the bosom of Abraham, along with Carla Tucker and all the other redeemed souls executed in our “Christian nation.” And I can’t help feeling that a lot of us are going to have some serious explaining to do when we’re standing outside those Pearly Gates.

Groton, Mass.

Theology of the body

Why do we see almost nothing printed in your paper about Pope John Paul’s “theology of the body”? It is such a positive and inspiring remedy for all the problems in our society today.

Westphalia, Mich.

Elderly folks, beware

Robert Royal’s column about caring for an elderly society (NCR, Nov. 4) is insightful and challenging. Mr. Royal is either generous or naive in excusing his “own generation, the baby boomers … [as] too far gone in embourgeoisement.” I wrote this letter after listening to the evening news report of millions of consumers’ black Friday stampede to spend more than $27 billion -- while, as Fr. Robert Drinan pointed out in his column in the same issue, “every day 31,000 families gather for the burial of their children … [who] die needlessly every day from preventable diseases.”

Ours is the generation that argued for convenience in abortion and many other things, saying that morality is a matter of an individual’s convenience. Now, that argument is coming to judgment upon us as we grow old, weak and inconvenient. I am retired now, in poor health, and I have been experiencing in my society the lack of concern for the poor, the weak, the needy around the world. We are a people, a nation, a culture already dehumanized.

I think Mr. Royal is too optimistic in his assessment of the quality of our child rearing in light of the evidence of what values they learned from us. It is harvest time, the time for us aging gardeners to reap what we planted and nourished through the years. It will take more than our hoping if our progeny are to resist “the temptations to pressure the old into morally dubious solutions such as ‘getting out of the way when [we] are no longer socially useful.’ ”

Rochester, Minn.

Letter on women priests

My original reaction to Bruce Schulzetenberg’s letter on women priests was a hearty laugh (NCR, Dec. 9). I guess because I hadn’t expected to see its like in NCR. It’s the sort of diatribe I get from my fundamentalist Southern Baptist neighbors, the very people who are dumbing down our schools by forcing religious theory to be taught in science classes.

Which is why I finally realized this letter wasn’t funny. This man wrote it because he believed every word. I won’t respond but to ask if Mr. Schulzetenberg ever thought about humans having sprung up in a garden about 6,000 years ago. Doesn’t that belie everything we know about the world? Doesn’t Mr. Schulzetenberg know that the writers of this book were writing an allegory, not a history? That even the name “Adam” is Aramaic for “humankind”?

The rest of his argument is gobbledygook. Mr. Schulzetenberg recalls Paul’s picture of the church being the bride of Christ and comes to the convoluted conclusion that women cannot be priests because “then a priestess (female) would be spiritually wed to the church (female).”

Think about it, Mr. Schulzetenberg. If Christ is the groom and the church is the bride, then only females should be priests.

Anderson, S.C.

Patty Crowley, et al.

I just read Patty Crowley’s eulogy (NCR, Dec. 9). Wasn’t she a great lady? I knew Holy Cross Fr. Louis Putz, who is mentioned in the eulogy, since 1955. You might want to do a piece on him sometime -- he was one of the giants in birthing the lay movement of the U.S. church.

Tacoma, Wash.

* * *

Fr. Louis J. Putz, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross at the University of Notre Dame, helped set the Crowleys and thousands of others on their way -- through Young Christian Families, Young Christian Workers, Young Christian Students, Today, Fides Publishers, the Moreau Seminary, and later the South Bend senior college program, and more. His biography is underway.

Portland, Maine

* * *

Patty and Pat Crowley should be made saints. My wife and I had the privilege of knowing them as Christian Family Movement chair couple for the New York archdiocese, area couple for the Northeast region and members of the Christian Family Movement executive committee. When the movement’s foundation for international cooperation was established, the Crowleys picked us to be the foundation’s first president couple.

Many NCR readers know the life’s work of Pat and Patty better than we do, so we shall make no attempt to catalog it. We just believe they would be stunning examples for all us Catholics in the United States and throughout the world for now and for future generations.

Larchmont, N.Y.

Sinless memories

The piece by Fr. Leo Donovan on the Immaculate Conception (NCR, Dec. 9) brings back fond memories of some 50 years ago. There was security, warmth and certainty in those days. We said the litany of the names of Mary and believed each recital: “Tower of Ivory, House of Gold.”

I took out an old schoolbook to reminisce and re-found some of that warmth, and also the neatly argued theses that gave us that security: If Mary was the mother of God, then she had to be spotless … the question of sin could not possibly arise when one considered the attributes of Mary … being the second Eve, she had to be free of sin, just as Eve had been … and so on. It all seemed so logical, and of course we all had studied logic so that it was a natural progression for us. If A, then B had to follow. If Mary was pure, then Satan could not have any hold over her.

After I left school, this reasoning began to leave me; the assumptions behind it began to shake. I wondered why commentators referred to Augustine’s formulation of original sin with remarks such as “He could not consider it otherwise …” or “He was forced to conclude …” Sentences like these would seem to suggest that his logic was not holding up so well and that he had to resort to persuasion. Fifty years ago I had no problem submitting to such persuasion. But now? That is a very different matter.


Reactions to ‘condolences’

I am writing to you to express my deep gratitude for the stunning editorial “For what it’s worth, our condolences” (NCR, Dec. 9). The editorial rightly expressed sorrow for homosexuals who once again were forced by leaders of the Catholic church to hear their sexuality, “an element intrinsic to your humanity, described as an objective disorder.”

The entire editorial was excellent in every way, but I found that one of the most telling statements in it, which demonstrated an exquisite touch of irony that even the most obtuse church leader could not miss, was your description of the instruction from Rome regarding the admission of homosexuals to seminary and to holy orders as “a puzzling and unclear instruction because it is, in itself, fundamentally disordered.” In other words, an instruction as objectively and as intrinsically disordered as the homosexuals the document demeans.

Thank God for irony -- and even, sadly, for the fools who cause its creation and use.

St. Cloud, Minn.

* * *

For what it’s worth, my condolences. This editorial is more passionate than informative. There are many, both in the church and without, who have credible criticisms of the homosexual subculture in the Catholic clergy. Try again for an editorial that may add substance to the discussion.

Evergreen, Colo.

Vatican policy

Who but the Vatican could come up with a policy more intrusive, less tolerant and more perverse than the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell”?

Seminary officials are under a Vatican-imposed policy to inquire into each student’s sexual orientation. The policy is best described, “We will ask and you will tell.”

St. Paul, Minn.

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 6, 2006