Letters to the Editor
Faith in the classroom
As a devout 23-year-old Catholic who just graduated in May from Georgetown University and who has attended Catholic schools since kindergarten, I understand and respect the opinions of Sister Barbara McCarry, O.S.B. in the September Sounding Board ("Let's go public in support of education"), but I'm a disciple of Father Andrew Greeley on this issue. I am extremely averse to any idea that could possibly lead to anything but wholehearted devotion to the Catholic school system.
I believe that for education to be fully authentic, it must be permeated by religion, which for Catholics means Catholicism. True education cares for the whole person (cura personalis), and since our spiritual/religious dimension permeates our whole existence, body and soul, an education that is not religious is inherently incomplete. This doesn't mean that public schools aren't of value; certainly God's grace is at work in their students, and their teachers are doing God's work in building the kingdom as well. However, public schools operate on a reduced and qualitatively different level compared to Catholic schools, like a circle compared to a sphere. This would remain true even if all public schools were better academically than Catholic ones.
Public schools may have "character education," but Catholic schools have God and the Blessed Mother and so much more. Certainly there are numerous good reasons why parents send their children to non-Catholic schools, but we should work to minimize those reasons however we can. Catholic kids in public schools are really missing out.
Body of evidence
Having read Professor Susan Ross' reflection on artificial contraception ("Male and female God created them," September), I feel compelled to respond. As a married person, I applaud Ross' recognition of the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) in her statement that married couples do in fact offer the church "wisdom greatly worth hearing."
However, I respectfully disagree that the "many" married couples using contraception demonstrate such wisdom.
If the love that married couples share in sexual union is truly a reflection of God's love, certainly that love must be open to God's will to transmit life in addition to "sexual delight." Contraception is always anti-life by putting impediments in God's way. Not only that, but many contraceptives are abortive, killing the child if conception does take place, and pose serious health risks for women. This does not sound like a loving or wise option to me.
And I don't think we can discount Natural Family Planning, as if contraception were more effective. Studies show that NFP, if practiced correctly, is 99 percent effective. After taking an NFP class, my wife and I have had consistent success with this method of family planning that is open to life. Rather than being a burden to our marriage, NFP has helped us communicate better, accept shared responsibility, and cultivate chastity.
Furthermore, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council states that we must obey church authority regarding methods of regulating procreation. Since one of the indelible marks that makes us Catholic is our fidelity to the pope and bishops, how is choosing to disobey their teaching the "right" move?
In response to Ross' argument to "rethink" the late Pope John Paul II's theology of the body I'll start by saying I'm no professor of anything, but I'm in touch with my feminine side (as every Catholic male should be) and a father of two girls and one boy. I'm also a loving husband and a catechist at my Catholic church here in South Jersey.
I pray many times a day and read scripture along with other books. After reading Ross' arguments, it seems to me that she lacks a total understanding of the profound message of the theology of the body and needs to reread it. Her specific arguments stem from the fact that she is first a "lifelong feminist, a theologian, and a wife" and lastly a Catholic, since none of her arguments refer to theology but to mere socio-political rhetoric.
Thank you for Mark Graceffo's wonderful The Examined Life ("Teach in peace," September). I came late to Catholicism and Christianity, and I have never been able to understand how my fellow church members can support war with such enthusiasm. Just war-maybe, if there is such a thing; protecting ourselves if attacked-definitely. But any other kind of attack on our fellow human beings, no matter what their politics, just seems like a matter of not hearing or following Christ.
HUD not helping
Your August cover story "Trouble on the home front" by Kevin Clarke skipped one of the biggest problems with public housing: The corruption on the local level with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) personnel being appointed by the mayor and other powerful persons, who divert these funds to their political supporters or campaign contributors.
The good-old-boy system is well established in most cities, and the poor and low-income people whom these programs are designed to serve are not receiving near the funding that is being passed down from the federal level.
It is strange that Jane Walsh, the executive director of Louisville's Metropolitan Housing Coalition, was quoted in the article. She is complaining about family income being a big problem for the middle class when it was recently revealed that the Louisville metro area had 75,000 non-custodial parents not paying child support. I wonder what kind of financial stress that puts on a single parent trying to raise children and their chances of purchasing a home or paying rent.
The local HUD department heads need only look in the mirror when they wonder where the problems are.
The HUD program is no better in New Albany, Indiana, where I live, as it is more of a benevolent association for the slumlords. The Section 8 housing managers put people in housing that has such high utility bills they can't afford to live there. There are broken windows, crumbling foundations, siding falling off, no insulation, and terrible electrical wiring.
I have seen all these problems, but trying to get someone to do something about them is like beating your head against a brick wall. When I see news programs and newspaper articles about the homeless this winter, I know where a lot of the problems are-right with the Department of Housing.
I identified with Joan Ryan as I read the August The Examined Life ("A mother's anguish"). I, too, am the mother of a son who was sexually abused by our parish priest. The night my son was planning to commit suicide somehow he was deterred long enough to be hospitalized for suicidal depression and received treatment. He is still receiving treatment and taking medication, which is likely to continue for a long time to come.
My heart aches for Ms. Ryan at the loss of her son and for the pain she and her family have suffered and continue to experience.
I only found out about my son's abuse a little over a year ago. The abuse occurred 20 years ago when my son was barely 11 years old.
I continue to ask myself how something like this could have happened, and how I couldn't have known, and I agonize over what could still happen to my son. I cannot understand how those in power, the bishops and the priests who knew about the abuse, not only kept silent but allowed the abuse to go on.
When I went for help and counseling, I was told by the church-appointed "counselor" that she could not even tell the bishop about it unless I signed a waiver of some sort. That ended the counseling.
The night of my son's planned suicide, and the night I found out about my son's abuse, was the night my faith in the Catholic Church was completely destroyed.
I agree with Ms. Ryan that those involved in making decisions to allow pedophile priests to continue to serve should be held accountable and sanctioned. They are just as guilty as the pedophiles are.