The acclamations of James Martin, S.J., in support of women religious (1/8) and women in general in the church have lifted me right out of my chair. With a loud Amen! praise to you and to the Spirit that inspired and fired you up to speak a truth that needs to be spoken and heard and responded to.
If only all clergy were so inspired and courageous. What is it that hardens their hearts against women? What do they fear? Being overshadowed by the beauty of the Spirit that emanates from so many women in the church? Can the Spirit not be shared by all, men and women?
Thanks to James Martin, S.J., for his praise of women (1/8). The Second Vatican Council was taken seriously by most women religious, probably too seriously for many in the hierarchy.
Mary Legge, S.S.J.
Even a Slight Attempt
The several questions posited by William H. Slavick in his letter of Feb. 5 are a good illustration of the nonexistence of Roman Catholic intra-dialogue. Indeed, the header the magazine assigned to his letter, A Gulf War, appears to acknowledge an allegedly wide gap between the so-called orthodox and liberal Catholics that serves as a battleground for many an interpretational hairsplitting.
We Catholics are excellent at dialoguing with other religions. Our wonderfully learned theologians and academicians oftimes pride themselves on a healthy balanced diet of extra-Catholic knowledgefrom the beautiful poetry of the Koran to the lines of the Rig Veda. However, I have yet to witness one of our theologians or academicianslay or clerical, secular or regularmaking even a slight attempt at forming a genuine national dialogue between orthodox and liberal Catholics in the United States. Until someone does this, we are left to our own devices. I try to make the effort by reading a wide spectrum of Catholic publications. For example, I subscribe to America as well as to The New Oxford Reviewperhaps the most conservative/orthodox journal available. I read The National Catholic Register and The Wanderer as well as The National Catholic Reporter. I also talk with friends and fellow parishioners who do not have the exact same views as I do. Some of your readers might find this approach to be helpful. Indeed, it has immensely aided my understanding of intra-Catholic relations, which our highly celebrated American Catholic theological and academic communities seem to be avoiding like the plague. And God forbid that an orthodox Catholic and a liberal Catholic sit down over coffee to discuss the faith! But then, if we did that, what would we have left to yell about?
Joseph J. Valencino III
To Redeem Our Culture
There is no cause for John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., to be disillusioned with the answers John Ashcroft gave his inquisitors at the Senate confirmation hearing for the post of attorney general (The Costs of Commitment, 2/5).
Father Kavanaugh says what bothered him most is that abortion has been enshrined as the law of the land, and that John Ashcroft, a man of supposed impeccable integrity and high principle, is willing to enforce such a law.
Roe v. Wade, however, did not enshrine abortion as the law of the land. It struck down laws that either did or would outlaw abortion. Recognition of this crucial nuance allowed John Ashcroft to accept both nomination and confirmation as attorney general in the spirit of Thomas More, who took up the post of chancellor of Englandan office not unlike attorney general of the United Statesin a Zeitgeist as murderous as our own.
When asked why a man of impeccable integrity and high principle would be willing to enter the corrupt court of King Henry VIII, More said, If I cannot make it very good, then at least I can prevent it from becoming very bad.
If, as Father Kavanaugh wished, John Ashcroft had renounced the nomination because the ethical price of being attorney general is too high, from where would another fallible soul arise, as qualified and as worthy to redeem our laws, our institutions and our culture from their eight-year trashing by the Clintonistas?
Edward A. Burke
Regarding The Costs of Commitment by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., (2/5): It is understandable how John Ashcroft’s religious beliefs lead him to the conclusion that human life commences with conception and therefore abortion involves taking an innocent life. Also understandable is his opposition to abortion in the case of rape and incest on the grounds that any resulting fetus would be no less human. What is difficult to comprehend is why anyone holding these beliefs would want to be the chief enforcer of laws that protect those who are engaged in the abortion business and those who utilize their services. These positions are so in opposition to one another as to be irrational, just as someone opposed to the death penalty would be a strange candidate for chief executioner on death row. John Ashcroft has said that he will enforce all the laws of the United States, even those that he believes are immoral. This accommodation does not convey qualities evidencing integrity. On the contrary, it much better defines a person engaging in duplicity or even worse, someone willing to sell his or her soul for temporal power. We will soon learn what has driven John Ashcroft’s ambition to be attorney general. If he remains true to his beliefs, he must do all within his power to impede the implementation of Roe v. Wade. But if he remains true to his oath of office, he may be headed for a nervous breakdown.
John Patrick Rice
Monsignor Harry J. Byrne’s article A Pro-Life Strategy of Persuasion (1/22) should make everyone pause for serious reflection and substantial agreement with his suggestions. Unfortunately, I think that will not be the case. We will continue to receive an endless stream of ponderous and repetitious statements, particularly from ecclesiastical sources and their officially approved spokespersons. These seem to think that their words are so convincing that all further dialogue with those who disagree is unnecessary. Evidently, dialogic discourse for them means authoritative pronouncements that do not encourage open discussion about many of the important questions with which many Catholics and others disagree.
For a new strategy to succeed, it must not only address the important issues of the inviolability of the life of the unborn and the legitimate empowerment of women. It requires a substantial change of mind and heart that will welcome public dialogue with everyone whose disagreement on pro-life and other issues does not automatically make them enemies of the truth. Such an approach requires greater humility, charity and justice in relationships with those who disagree with the church on particular issues of doctrine or morality. It is time for everyone to admit that no one has the whole truth that renders all further dialogue unnecessary.
(Rev.) Aldo J. Tos
New York, N.Y.
I have struggled with the abortion issue for decades, not because I ever thought abortion was right, but because I could not bring myself to work with the anti-abortion groups I knew. I saw them as narrowly single-issue at best, with pro-life meaning only anti-abortion, never a commitment to all life issues. At worst, they seemed like wackos. I recall the speaker who segued from his prepared anti-abortion speech to tell his teenage audience that all use of contraception is murder, because God wants every sexual act to be completely open to conception. I was appalled by the theology of one group’s promotion of spiritual adoption and baptism of the unborn, sprinkling holy water and using the baptism formula so that the souls of aborted babies could be saved. Their attitude toward women often made Marabel Morgan look like a flaming liberal. It took Feminists for Life to persuade me that I could oppose abortion and retain my commitment to the equality of women.
The anti-abortionists also spent a great deal of time, money and energy trying to make abortion illegal, while spending none at all trying to create a world in which abortion would never be seen as the necessary choice. In the last few years, with the growth of post-abortion healing ministries and a strengthened commitment to practical support for problem pregnancies, my impression is that the pro-life movement has become somewhat more rooted in reality as well as more compassionate (see Wills and Byrne, 1/22). I hope that my impressions are correct.
Kristeen A. Bruun
Need for Forgiveness
I have just finished reading your pro-life issue (1/22). I understand the need and beauty of facing the facts and seeking God’s forgiveness to heal the lives of people suffering from post-abortion trauma. Unfortunately, what I have really been waiting to hear from our church is that the fathers of aborted children need to face their sin and need for forgiveness, also. Better yet, accepting their responsibility before the child is killed would prevent many abortions. Until I hear our church speak plainly of the sin and responsibility of both parents, I cannot truly believe we are sincerely trying to prevent abortions.
Faith in Reasoning
I would like to thank Charles Bouchard, O.P., and congratulate him on his article, How Could a Catholic Vote That Way? (2/12). His presentation restored my faith in Thomistic reasoning. As much as I am opposed to abortion on a moral level, I have always understood that a Catholic, in good conscience, may take the position that, in given circumstances, legalizing abortion is a lesser evil than criminalizing it. Father Bouchard skillfully provides the rationale for this view.
Those who take this more liberal position must not be intolerant, however, of those who make a different prudential judgment, who feel that legalization does more harm than good. These latter individuals have the perfect right to challenge political candidates regarding their stand on legalization. What they do not have the right to do, in my opinion, is to present their views as official church teaching, binding on all Catholics, and to condemn fellow Catholics who dare to vote for candidates who do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade.