National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
November 23, 2007


Unnecessary war?

In his column Colman McCarthy engages us in praise of conscientious objectors (NCR, Oct. 26). He nitpicks the Ken Burns extravaganza “The War” and generally deconstructs U.S. involvement in World War II. Then he quotes an Air Force veteran saying that World War II was not “necessary” at all, the premise of his column.

Mr. McCarthy hangs his argument on a statement by a veteran asking, “Can we try to imagine instead of a six-year war a 10-year or 20-year period of resistance -- of guerrilla warfare, strikes and noncooperation; of underground movements, sabotage and paralysis of vital communications ... ?”

Let me see if I have his argument right.

It’s Dec. 8, 1941. Franklin Roosevelt addresses the House and Senate. “My fellow Americans, even though we have received a stab in the back on this day of infamy, we will not make a massive commitment of our military might to defeat the Japanese. No, I prefer to seek a path of low-level harassing actions that through sabotage and destruction of communications will assure a minimum of U.S. casualties as well as a minimum of Japanese military and civilian casualties. This may take six, 10 or 20 years but I’m certain this is the strategy that will bring lasting peace. I will ask my secretary of state to open a conference with Gen. Tojo and the emperor in an effort to reach a peaceful solution.”

I guess Mr. McCarthy regrets the lost opportunity for all of us to learn Japanese or German.

Powell, Ohio

* * *

Colman McCarthy comments critically on Ken Burns’ PBS documentary about World War II and argues that were you to agree with its necessity, you would have to accept the necessity of firebombing various German and Japanese cities and dropping atomic bombs. He doesn’t seem to feel obliged to explain why resisting the malignant evils of Nazism and the rapacious conduct of the Japanese military would require these attacks against civilian populations.

Reasonable people argue against these actions, but virtually all reasonable people know that both dictatorships needed to be stopped. Not all methods employed in defeating these death-dealing armies and bureaucracies were defensible, and even those that are defensible find many rational critics.

Devastation began with the military arm of the dictatorships, with mass civilian bombing, mass murder and rape of civilian populations. Those governments were enthusiastically supported by their civilian populations. Though that does not justify our reciprocating their depredation, they certainly worked hard to earn our enmity. The horrors of that war prompted the cautious adventurism of the Soviet Union, which, faced with our promise of massive retaliation, kept the “Cold War” cold.

Bellevue, Wash.

Sensible transportation

Thank you for two very good editorials (NCR, Oct. 26). We really do need to “return to sensible transportation.” Travel is miserable in this country. Expressways are crowded and dangerous with traffic often traveling 10 miles or more over the speed limit. Flying is indeed becoming a major annoyance. Last year I flew to Prague and to Rome. It was far easier negotiating their airports than John F. Kennedy and Newark. One answer is the return of reliable passenger train service throughout the country. This will require a major upgrading of tracks. It would be a good investment. And we do not have to limit ourselves to trains that cruise at 50 mph. Contemporary trains are capable of going at much higher speeds. When will the United States join the 21st century regarding transportation?

As for the editorial on Mary, it was simply beautiful. It reminded me of one reason why I became a Catholic.

Fairport, N.Y.

An ‘unholy’ world

I was impressed and inspired by “A radical call” (NCR, Nov. 2), which described the values and lifestyle of a lay Catholic community, Agape, in Massachusetts. In fact the article would have been perfect with the exception of one word -- “unholy.” The writer refers to Christianity holding “a tension between withdrawal from the unholy world and engagement with it.” We dishonor God’s creation by thinking of the world as “unholy,” for indeed God created it and called it good. Surely we inhabitants of the earth have made many mistakes and there is much evil in the world, but the world itself is not “unholy,” nor are its people. Yes, we are in need of transformation and God’s loving grace, but we are not unholy. I hope this turn of phrase was merely the reporter’s misunderstanding and not the true view of the Agape Community.

Covington, Ky.

Gay Catholics

Upon reading and pondering the Minneapolis diocese’s response to Carol Curoe and her father (NCR, Nov. 2), I think the diocese had the right to prohibit use of St. Frances Cabrini Church for their talk. It’s part of the diocese’s property.

The events of last spring at the New Ways Ministry conference when the diocese refused permission to gay Catholics to celebrate the Eucharist in a local hotel brought those in attendance back to the Middle Ages. What nerve! As Franciscans we are called to “rebuild the church” within and outside of ourselves. This is a horrible message of tearing down the structure. May we all be instruments of peace.

Oakland Park, Fla.

* * *

At Mass this morning as I heard God’s Word proclaimed in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, I experienced a “split screen” of sorts: On one screen, the official church response to Carol Curoe and her father, Robert Curoe, as you reported in “Parish cancels talk by father and lesbian daughter” and on the other, these words from scripture proclaimed from the altar:

“For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things.”

San Francisco

* * *

John L. Allen Jr.’s article on the suspension of Msgr. Tommaso Stanico (NCR, Oct. 26) said that “his aim in pretending to be gay was to understand this world, not to participate in it.” In order to understand “this world” he went onto the Internet in order to meet potential “dates” that would lead to sexual encounters. The Vatican spokesperson is correct to say he couldn’t deny the facts in this case.

As a gay member of the Catholic community, I invite our church leaders to understand my world as a gay man. I am in a loving, committed relationship of 10 years. My partner and I are seriously researching adoption in order to give a child a supportive home, with two parents who love them. I met my partner online 12 years ago. This is the world our church continues to refuse to see. I can’t deny the facts.

Akron, Ohio

* * *

Thank you for your editorial lamenting the situation for homosexual Catholics under the present Vatican directives. The U.S. bishops’ document “Always Our Children” did hold some promise for some, for some time. However, recent Vatican decisions on this matter and local uncritical acceptance of the Vatican’s one-dimensional understanding of the issue have made the church as a community an unwelcoming place for many who are not heterosexual. To their credit, many have simply moved on to other venues, the secular being one, where they are welcomed as full human beings and called to holiness via the path of civil life. Not a bad path for sure.

However, the loss of the life, love and gifts of such individuals is a sad reality for Catholicism, which, at its best, is a meeting tent with no walls and under which all are able to mingle freely and without fear.


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National Catholic Reporter, November 23, 2007