National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
October 12, 2007


With flag and cross

Regarding the article “A danger to democracy” (NCR, Sept. 21) on the menace posed by the Christian right: It is well to remember the warning by writer Sinclair Lewis: “When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”


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Gee, guys. Do we have to call each other names? Especially inflammatory names like “fascists”? If liberal Christians are free to promote their ideals of social justice on the political stage, why are more conservative Christians not allowed to do the same without such severe condemnation? I myself am a middle-of-the-road Catholic convert. I think God has a plan for my life and that I’m ultimately safe in God’s care. Am I a magical thinker? Didn’t Jesus preach about these things? I am no fan of Jerry Falwell and his ilk but I know many conservative Christians who would stop everything to help their neighbor or anyone else that was suffering. My sister and her husband are just two examples of this. So play nice now, please. No more name calling. Please let us reason together.

Maurice, La.

Catholic Spain

In her article “Defending the faith” (NCR, Sept. 14), Mary Ann Cejka condemns the Catholic hierarchy for defending Franco’s successful campaign to save Spain from falling under an atheistic communist government, which was the goal of the so-called “loyalist” side in the Spanish Civil War. The aim of the loyalist side was to outlaw all religious practice and impose the same kind of dictatorship that prevailed in the Soviet Union. Franco’s victory prevented this from happening. While fascism was and is deplorable, the fascist governments in Spain and in Italy allowed Catholics freedom to practice their religion. I hope and pray that the opinions she expressed are not those of NCR’s editors.

Claymont, Del.

The pope’s book on Jesus

Two points regarding Fr. Joseph O’Leary’s review of the pope’s book (NCR, Sept. 21). First, why does he, like so many other religious writers, use uncommon terms like “exegesis,” “patristics,” “Johannine” and “logos”? Do these writers realize such terminology renders their writings largely unreadable and thus irrelevant? And “concretized,” a word I never heard in 49 years as a highway engineer.

I find my favorite authors, Blaise Pascal and Reinhold Niebuhr, to be free of jargon and easy to read. Second, is the pope really unconcerned about justice and peace, about the survival of humankind? In 1932 Niebuhr wrote that pure religious idealism does not concern itself with social justice, but he also wrote that without justice there will be no peace, and without peace, humans may not survive. With today’s weapons, his point is even stronger. Can religion be separated from the social?

Jesus was not a monk. He was out among the people and he cried out against their oppression. I happen to believe that Jesus came to teach us to love one another, so we learn to live together, so we avoid extinction, so that we have life. It’s that simple. Of course I could be wrong.

White Bear Lake, Minn.

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Reviewing the pope’s new book Jesus of Nazareth (NCR, Sept. 21), Alan Rabbi Brill writes, “Benedict’s starting point for his vision of Jesus is Deuteronomy and the importance of Moses the lawgiver, as a prophet.” In our post-Sept. 11 world, where the focus on religiously motivated violence is so strong, this raises a disturbing question: Is the pope unaware of the fact that Deuteronomy teaches divinely commanded genocidal massacre? Before invading the territory of their neighbors, Moses instructs them: “You shall not let a soul remain alive.” The Book of Joshua claims great success in carrying out these genocidal massacres. In Chapter 13 we find that among the exhortations about “whether you really love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind” are three that require Taliban-type killing of apostates.

There was no great stir of appreciation when Prof. John Collins, in response to 9/11, devoted his 2002 presidential address to the professional Society of Biblical Literature to these texts of death. You can live a long life as a churchgoer without ever knowing that such texts are to be found at the heart of the Bible. However, Jews and Christians need to come together in honest recognition of the presence of these deadly flaws in their scriptures: texts where God is insulted by being portrayed as commanding his people to do to their enemies what Hitler tried to do to the Jews.

Madison, Wis.

Mother Teresa

The article by Eileen Markey about Mother Teresa’s “dark night” (NCR , Sept. 14) was good but the question put to her by Capuchin Fr. Benedict Groeschel, “When was the last time you felt a beautiful moment of God’s presence?” is confusing and misleading. Feeling a beautiful moment of God’s presence is not spiritual and certainly not mystical. It is emotional and sensual. True mystical experience transcends the intellect and senses. It is the direct communication by God to the innermost depths of one’s being. Extreme caution must be exercised by those who would venture into the field of mysticism.

Tucson, Ariz.

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Is anybody surprised or maybe even scandalized that a confessor should publish the letters he received from a penitent? Where is the secrecy of the confessional? This man was not just a spiritual adviser. I have read letters from a confessor to unnamed penitents, letters that might give general spiritual advice. But never were the names of the persons receiving the letters published. I understand that trained people can be spiritual advisers and as such they are not priests or confessors. Still one would expect professional discretion. Where did he draw the line between secrets of the heart and what could be made known?

Kansas City, Kan.


I have been reading NCR for more than 30 years and have never before felt the wave of gratitude I experienced on reading Penny Edman’s article about Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (NCR , Sept. 14). Ever since successive popes have abandoned Vatican II in order to be proclaimers of certainties, I have felt like one of the “seekers after truth ... feeling a sense of alienation, of being marginalized, of no longer quite belonging to the church.” Many times I have thought of leaving an organization I cannot recognize as Christ’s presence to me or our world. But where would I go?

I just published online “The Disputed Case for Clerical Celibacy” ( After examining the history of the church’s linking of priestly office with continence, considering the reasons for this and noting the abundant data about its non-observation, I can only conclude with Bishop Robinson that celibacy for diocesan priests must be made optional. Friends tell me I am wasting my time and effort. The episcopal halls of power remain willfully deaf and unwilling to hear the groans from the people of God. Bishop Robinson gives me hope and the will to persevere.

Hamden, Conn.

Small Christian communities

While your cover story, “Getting deeper, getting smaller,” was informative regarding U.S. base communities, it failed to utilize the one document that would have given it an authoritative base to ground it in Vatican Council II. In the Second General Conference of Latin American Bishops in Medellín, Colombia, in 1968, the base Christian community was defined in response to the documents of Vatican Council II, especially “The Church in the Modern World.” Chapter 10 of the documents of Medellín outlined the duties, responsibilities and priorities of the base Christian community. Pope Paul VI and all the representative bishops of Latin America signed the document, although some of the bishops later reneged, saying they did not know what they were signing.

Chapter 9 gives us a good sense of the document. “Let laymen [sic] not imagine that their pastors are always such experts that to every problem that arises, however complicated, they can readily give them a concrete solution, or even that such is their mission. Rather, enlightened by Christian wisdom and giving close attention to the teaching authority of the church, let the layman take on his own distinctive role ... it belongs to the layman, without waiting passively for orders and directives, to take the initiative freely and to infuse a Christian Spirit into the mentality, customs, laws and structures of the community in which they live.”

San Antonio


Thank you for Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s “Infinite spirits in a finite world” (NCR, Aug. 17). He is a marvelous diagnostician. I can resonate with his insight: “Truth and justice fuel gratitude, joy and softness.” There’s a spiritual program for a lifetime. I also appreciated his insights about restlessness, that “our spirit is restless because it’s divine and insatiable. ... How we direct that spirit is spirituality.” Please keep his insights coming in future issues. He is a great teacher, and absolutely on target when he says that the most important missionary work of the church is not in the world but with our young people. Our country and our church have abandoned youth.

Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Mexican immigrants

Regarding Paula Stone’s letter about illegal immigrants (NCR, Sept. 7): Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich says as president his first act would be to rescind the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexican agricultural tariffs were abolished by NAFTA while federally subsidized agricultural products were dumped on Mexican markets. Mexicans could buy Idaho potatoes cheaper than their own corn.

After the Republicans were defeated in the last elections and before they left office, they allowed the NAFTA provision to take effect that allows Mexican 18-wheelers to travel anywhere in the United States. Their drivers only have to be 18 years old, compared with 21 for U.S. drivers. Their trailers are much longer than ours. On the bright side, ethanol production has raised the price of Mexican corn so many may stay home to grow it.

Those immigrants who are here at least six years should get amnesty and be put on the road to citizenship. I call them our “Samaritan” neighbors that Jesus told us to love.

St. Louis

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, PO Box 411009, Kansas City, MO 64141-1009. Fax: (816) 968-2280. E-mail: (When sending a letter via e-mail, please indicate "NCR Letters" in the subject line. We've installed a new spam filter on our letters e-mail account. If it's not clear to us that yours is a letter, we might delete it.) Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number

National Catholic Reporter, October 12, 2007