National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
December 24, 2004

Letters Unfunny cartoon

I’m no Bush supporter, but I thought the Pat Oliphant cartoon chosen for your Nov. 19 editorial page was unfair. [The cartoon shows Jesus interviewing for a job in the Bush administration and finding he cannot meet their “right-wing standards.”] President Bush does not believe in merging church and state, he does not hate gays, he is only opposed to embryonic stem-cell research and of course he does not believe the earth is flat. By lumping “right-to-lifers” with “flat-earthers,” the cartoonist obviously intended to make pro-lifers seem stupid and out-of-touch with reality. While I get the jab at Attorney General John Ashcroft, I think the whole thing is mean-spirited and not up to your usual standards.

St. Louis

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What is the message coming from NCR regarding the Oliphant cartoon on the Nov. 19 editorial page? That Catholics who believe in the church’s teaching on homosexual conduct and the sacredness of human lives in the womb (and their right to legal protection) are rubes who believe the earth is flat?

The message I get is that an image of being “progressive” and “with it” regarding pop culture trends trumps faith at NCR.

Dubuque, Iowa

The post-Christian age

Regarding “Anglicans at the crossroads” by Austen Ivereigh (NCR, Oct. 1): The positions outlined in the article relating to the Anglican dilemma make clear the “crossroads” issue facing all organized churches at this historic juncture.

Ivereigh’s concluding paragraph represents one of the most significant signs of the times. We are not only living in a post-Christian world (not to be confused with anti-Christian), but we inhabit a post-organized religion world. To reinforce old structures or create new ones that require group conformity in this age of increasing individual differentiation is an exercise in futility.

Growing numbers of deeply spiritual people around the world are becoming aware that “you do not need to go through Canterbury (or Rome … or Cardinal Archbishop … or primate) to get to Jesus.”

Perhaps the discussion generated by this issue, as well as the discussion likely to follow the report of the Lambeth Commission, will include not only official hierarchies but all people of sincere faith. The highly educated masses communicating freely in our Web-connected world are increasingly competent at analyzing and synthesizing the messages contained in various sacred writings explicating divinity.

Can we risk relying on good exegesis, shared faith, serious conviction, personal integrity, informed judgment and committed discipleship among all believers? I hope so.

After all, among business and industry leaders, it’s long been acknowledged that “quality circles” far surpass the authoritarian, hierarchical management style of past organizations. The parallel approach within the churches would be base communities and processes that could promote dialogue among all members.

San Diego

Cardinal thinkers

I was interested to learn that the Vatican believes Cardinal Francis George is the “deepest thinker among the 13 American cardinals,” as reported by John L. Allen Jr. (NCR, Nov. 26). What does this say for Cardinal Avery Dulles?

North Windham, Maine

Men and women

Chris Roberts’ modern-day example “The Vatican combats today’s Manichaeans” (NCR, Dec. 10) stating that some arguments on behalf of gay marriage “miss Augustine’s point” deserves some clarification. Presumably, Augustine’s point is that the biology of sex matters and is a significant gift from God. Much more is known of biology than just someone’s sex. So it appears that arguments against gay marriage miss the Creator’s point that people are born not only male or female but also homosexual or heterosexual.

Carbondale, Ill.

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My one-year subscription to NCR winds down. I’ve been looking for an enlightened view of the role of women in the church, but I see that the paper serves up just more feminist whining (that is, Sr. Joan Chittister and Chris Roberts, in the Dec. 10 edition).

In the secular sphere, years ago, public universities took the enlightened view of placing nearly equal numbers of women and men in law school and medical school freshman classes.

It is that sort of results that I would expect NCR to be focused on, as that is the sort of results that the liberals and feminists might eventually want. But, instead, the paper focuses on nitpicking Vatican documents.

Bay City, Mich.

Prophetic voice

Thank you for the prophetic voice of Joan Chittister (NCR, Dec. 10). Now how do we go about making her pope?

Outstanding publishing. Congratulations on your 40th anniversary.

Fountain Hills, Ariz.

Global torture

Regarding “The U.S. and torture” by Linda Cooper and James Hodge, detailing the CIA involvement in methods of torture (NCR, Nov. 5):

Having lived for a decade in Hong Kong when it was a British colony, I thought of how Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld might have appeared in a historical setting there. Among the Chinese, the greatest curse that can be thrown at someone is to declare, “He/she has no sense of shame.” In a British setting, Mr. Rumsfeld would have been told to “stand down in a vote of no confidence.” The Japanese presence is felt throughout the Eastern and Western world. In their setting, Mr. Rumsfeld would have honorably taken his own life by committing hara-kiri following the prisoner abuse scandal.

It was Mr. Rumsfeld’s decision not to allow more photographs to be shown to the public, fearing a popular revolt by the citizens of the United States who do not want to be associated with such barbaric practices.

Page 8 in the same NCR issue pointed out that numbers of U.S. troops will soon double in Colombia.

Lafayette, La.

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Your Spanish-speaking readers interested in torture will profit from downloading the Chilean government’s just-published torture report, the work of a commission led by Catholic Bishop Sergio Valech Aldunate of Santiago. It is at and there are references to the impact of the military training that the United States provided to our Chilean troops.

Las Condes, Chile

Bin Laden message

So now Osama bin Laden is a columnist for NCR (Nov. 26). It makes perfect sense. He sounds remarkably similar to many of your other columnists. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic.

In the late 1960s, Yasser Arafat imported Marxist categories of class conflict into Arab politics. He was followed by bin Laden and a host of others. At about the same time, your paper started the same routine with Catholicism. You will not be a great paper until you break out of this grotesque imitation of the Christian drama, just as Muslims are doomed until they free Islam from petty Marxism.

San Diego

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I wish to thank the staff at NCR for printing and making available to us the most recent taped message from Osama bin Laden in the Nov. 26 issue. Your courage and integrity in deciding to inform us, from bin Laden’s perspective, of the deeper issues underlying the terrorist acts against us is extremely appreciated.

I suspect that the hope and prayer of many of us now is that our government will recognize a seeming invitation to dialogue and a grace-filled opportunity to respond with a spirit of listening and of reconciling the tragic atrocities committed on both ends of the spectrum. As one who embraces the spiritual tradition founded by St. Francis of Assisi, who approached as “Brother” and deeply befriended both the “terrifying” Wolf of Gubbio and the “fierce” Sultan al Malek of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade, I carry a deep hope for the potential of reconciliation, even in the most despairing of circumstances.

May God give us the grace to see this as opportunity to shift our perspective, to seize the moment and to respond with wisdom.


NCR’s reporting role

As I hear about such movements within the Catholic church as the Legionaries, Opus Dei, Franciscan University at Steubenville, EWTN, Ave Maria University and others, I wonder if NCR could report some facts and insights about them. I read editorials related to some of them, but I don’t know their histories and their real motives for operating (many very successfully). I think I’ve become reactionary to such movements without being truly informed.

Maybe I’m writing for this guidance as a result of the reelection of George W. Bush by a large conservative mass, including many of those in the Catholic church.

I believe NCR is a forum where we can learn more and become more understanding of the people who are so committed to these movements. I hope there is room for all of us.

I’m very grateful to NCR for keeping me informed and challenged. In particular, thanks to Tom Fox for his years of service.

Williams Bay, Wis.

Powell’s legacy

As Colin Powell enters the twilight of his public service career, we might ponder whether history will remember him as an outstanding leader who dedicated years of his life to our country or perhaps as a tragic figure whose later years compromised the earlier glory, one whose epitaph will be a discordant “what might have been” or, even more sadly, merely an echo of the repentant, dying Cardinal Wolsey of England (1530): “Would that I had served my God the way I served my King.”

Jersey City, N.J.

Don’t fence us in

The excellent “personal impressions” report on the Call to Action conference (NCR, Nov. 19) seemed to contain one popular misconception. The writer called the 3,000 CTA people “Catholics ideologically and theologically on the other end of the spectrum from the … ‘Christian right.’ ” Actually, I know people who donate to both movements, and logically so, in my opinion.

Genuine political conservatives (pre-Bush and current non-Bush conservatives) have consistently warned against unbalanced budgets, centralization of power and wrongful meddling in foreign quarrels. Catholic progressives often agree and warn against excessive centralization of power in Rome as well as in Washington. Also, “Christian right”-oriented conservative Protestants in Baptist and Pentecostal churches (for example, the Assemblies of God) joyfully ordained woman as pastors several decades before politically and theologically liberal mainline denominations did.

I consider it logical when my friends donate to anti-porn and anti-crime “Christian right” projects while donating to Catholic progressive attempts to open ordination to women and married men, to reconsider the Vatican birth control ban and legally to end bishops’ ability to cover up clergy sex abuse. A Catholic theological progressive can logically be either a political liberal or an ally of the “Christian right,” depending on what issue is being discussed.


Democrats and abortion

In “The Revenge of Bob Casey,” Francis Maier claims that the Democratic Party is on the wrong side of the abortion issue and out of touch with Catholics as a result (NCR, Nov. 26). I agree that pro-life and pro-social justice Gov. Bob Casey should have been allowed to speak at the 1992 Democratic Convention that nominated Bill Clinton. I think Casey may well have carried both the message of opposition to abortion and support for social justice, including opposition to the Iraq war. I don’t believe that it’s safe to assume Casey would have stood with the bishops in making the election a one-issue contest.

As far as I know, Casey was a realist. No way he would have failed to notice that abortions declined with Clinton in office and surged with Bush. I believe he also would have found an increase in infant mortality under the Republicans. I’m confident that these facts would have found their way into Casey’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention if he had been given room to address the assembly.

Catholics who support Democrats can, in the factual confines of the real world, contribute to a de facto reduction in abortion. Some Denver Catholics who supported Kerry also supported a pregnant and unwed diocesan employee fired by the superintendent of Catholic schools because of her illegitimate status. These Catholics, along with some of the young woman’s former colleagues, helped her pay for prenatal care, delivery and postnatal care.


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Mr. Maier’s description of his wife as “always a Democrat” rings rather hollow. The Democrat he describes is one who fought for “the poor, the homeless, racial and ethnic minorities and the unemployed” and “the unborn.” It seems to me when Mrs. Maier now votes for the radical right, she has given up on the poor, the homeless, the racial minorities, the unemployed -- and throw in the underpaid, those without health insurance and those sent to die in an unjust war.

What people like Mrs. Maier do not seem to understand is that they are being used by the radical right to get their vote. The “old” Catholic agenda can be ignored because the right wing knows it can ignore those issues and still get Mrs. Maier’s vote. She only votes for those who say they support the legal overturning of Roe v. Wade. Never mind that in the last 10 years (the time that the right wing has controlled Congress) they have not once brought to the floor of Congress a bill that would accomplish what they promise. They want the issue, not results.

What Catholic Democrats need to emphasize is that there is more than one way to fight abortion. They can reduce, possibly even end, abortion while at the same time vote for the poor, the homeless, the racial and ethnic minorities and all those issues that make up the social agenda of the Catholic church.

Huntingtown, Md.

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, December 24, 2004