Credit Where It’s Due

Thank you so much for the wonderful article about EWTN in the Aug. 20-26 issue of the Register (“EWTN at 25”).

There is a small problem that I must resolve.

Photo credit was incorrectly given to Kevin McCarron/Maximus Group for the images used on the front page of your article, and one of the photographers who actually took two of the images called me about it. Our agreement with our photographers is that we will always give them a name credit, and we are now in breach of that.

The photo of our chapel in the evening is by Charles Beck/EWTN.

The photos of Father Mitch Pacwa and Marcus Grodi are by Bill Freeman/EWTN.

MaryAnn Plastino-Charles
Director, Creative Services
EWTN Global Catholic Network
Irondale, Alabama

Israel and Us

Ambassador Flynn’s characterization of “special interest politics … driving American policy” as “morally reprehensible” is code language implying that this country is exercising an unjust partiality by standing in solidarity with Israel (“Catholics Must Unite Behind the Pope for Peace,” Commentary & Opinion, Aug. 6-12). But we should be standing by our Israeli friends — and proudly so.

The inescapable truth of the matter is that the state of Israel is the only party that has acted honorably and responsibly in the present crisis in Lebanon and the Holy Land. It is altogether proper that we should favor them over their enemies.

Unlike Hezbollah (and Hamas), Israelis do not try to kill civilians. It’s not their style, and everybody knows it. There is no other military establishment on earth — including our own — that, while facing a comparable threat, has consistently gone so far out of its way to actively avoid civilian casualties in the performance of its duties, often at the conscious risk — and actual cost — of increased losses to itself.

The only reason that Israeli arms kill civilians is that the elements that Israel’s weapons are aimed at deliberately and calculatingly hide behind the tender flesh of their own women and children. Anybody who has a problem with Israeli killing of noncombatants is sending their complaint to the wrong address. If they really care about civilian casualties, the party accountable for the damages is Hezbollah and its patrons in Damascus and Tehran. That’s the proper address of the Complaint Department.

 Michael Zebulon

Cotati, California

Ambassador Flynn’s Exhortation

When Ambassador Raymond Flynn spoke with Pope John Paul II in 1993, the Holy Father told him that, “In any conflict, it is always the powerful that must give way to the weak if justice is to be achieved.” As his first conclusion, Ambassador Flynn judges Israel to have failed to give way to the weak (“Catholics Must Unite Behind the Pope for Peace,” Commentary & Opinion, Aug. 6-12).

Indeed, Israel alone is accused of “heavy pounding” of its enemy, and apparently alone engages in “senseless killing” that is disproportionate to the corresponding threat posed by Hezbollah and its 13,000 missiles provided by Iran and Syria. Because of Israel’s failure to give way to the weak, Ambassador Flynn thinks Catholics in America should urge their government to stop favoring Israel over other Middle East countries. 

Certainly the tactical judgments of the Israel Defense Forces are subject to ethical scrutiny. For its part, Israel has argued that its attacks on Lebanese infrastructure and apparent civilian targets were the legitimate prosecution of a war against an Islamist militia, which is often indistinguishable from its non-belligerent surroundings. At least Israel has expressed regret over its mistakes, as in the bombing at Qana on July 30. On the other hand, every missile launched by Hezbollah fails to discriminate between civilian and military targets, and thus fails to meet one of the main principles of just war teaching on jus in bello (what is just in the conduct of war).

More importantly, Hezbollah is not a government. Thus, its waging any war against Israel fails to meet the jus ad bellum (what is a just ground for going to war) principle that war may be conducted only by a legitimate political authority.

One can certainly agree with Ambassador Flynn that, “Only when the people of the region treat each other with dignity and respect will peace come to the Holy Land.” If only so many Muslim clerics in the region did not refer to Jews as the descendants of apes and monkeys in explaining the Koran 5:59-61.

 John R. Traffas

Wichita, Kansas

Good Thinking on Truth and War

I am responding in gratitude to two opinion columns published in the Aug. 6-11 issue: Donald DeMarco’s “Relativism: A Philosophy Without a Foundation” and Raymond Flynn’s “Catholics Must Unite Behind the Pope for Peace.”

As a new convert to the faith, I have been impressed by the quality of thinking in the Catholic tradition. I am appalled by the decline in reasoning power so evident in our society. I believe that a “ministry for thinking” might actually be a worthwhile project for Catholics to initiate. Morality depends upon the ability to think, and the decline of moral consciousness we see today is closely related to the reactive, cliché-ridden and superficial types of exchanges that have so degraded our public discourse.

On a closely related issue: Bravo to Raymond Flynn for his loyalty to the Pope and to Catholic just-war teachings. His voice is a much-needed change of direction from the “country club Catholics” who go along with the neoconservative program. Israel’s annihilating war on Lebanon is beyond the pale of human decency and cannot be justified by any sense of proportionality.

Thank you, Raymond Flynn, for telling it like it is. Catholic sober-mindedness and sense of limits acquired over centuries of cultivating reason, care and stewardship are desperately needed in the United States today.

Caryl Johnston


Truthful but Tin-Eared?

Let us be frank about Alan Keyes’ Illinois senatorial campaign: It was an embarrassment (“Alan Keyes: Why I Lost,” Aug. 6-12).

Obama whitewashed him, garnering 70% of the popular vote to Keyes’ 27% (which was a record margin of victory in an Illinois senatorial race). Why? I think the overwhelming defeat was largely due to the fact that a successful political campaign is more then just about words. It’s about attitude, image and getting the proper tone across to voters.

A successful Christian politician must incorporate these public-relations factors along with the proper integration of faith and morals into public policy. If a politician comes across as being pompous and self-righteous, it doesn’t matter how strong of a Christian they are or how morally right they are — they will have no chance of being taken seriously, much less winning.

I say it’s high time that Christian politicians such as Keyes dispense with the “I have the truth so I don’t care if I lose” attitude and start adopting a winning attitude — one that goes beyond accusations and presents the teachings of Christ charitably as universal truths that can be adopted by people of any creed. Otherwise, the downward slide of American politics will surely continue.

Dan Hart

Fairfield, Iowa

Brides of Christ or Worldly Workers? 

Regarding “Where Have All the Nuns Gone?” (Aug. 6-12):

There is almost nothing more seductive than the promise of power. I saw my contemporaries abandon their original vision of creating a sanctuary, a home, for the children God would give them. I watched as they streamed out of their homes, dropped their children off at daycare centers and enslaved themselves to a desk and a “career.”

By doing that, those millions of mothers were simply marching behind the same pied piper that lured so many religious sisters. They no longer could endure a “hidden” life because the only person who could possibly appreciate them would be God, and that just wouldn’t give them the kind of power they wanted. The evening news seemed to prove that marching for causes, not prayer, brought about social changes. Solidarity with human-rights causes slid almost imperceptibly into solidarity with the world’s values. I am aware of how harsh this sounds, but it was a harsh thing that happened, and it happened across all spectrums of society, not just in religious life.

And, of course, we are now reaping the whirlwind. The article suggests that one of the reasons there is a shortage of religious is that people simply aren’t having as many children. If that is true, those smaller families are at least partially a result of the same grab for worldly recognition and power.

I feel an odd combination of anger and compassion for the sisters who defend their dying orders. They apparently do not see how obvious — and how sad — their denial and rationalization is. When one says, “religious were always meant to be a very small, powerful laser-like focus of people,” can she possibly not see how blind she is? Is that really what the dying orders are? Can she really believe that the aged religious who live in apartments, work at regular jobs, and wear secular clothing are doing anything but blending in and disappearing into the secular morass? It is ironic that the very women who want to run the Church their way have succumbed to running their lives the world’s way. And has the world’s way of running a home and raising children truly helped society?

The new nuns who are faithful to the Church, who have a distinctive lifestyle, garb and mission, are, thanks be to God, thriving — even in a world of smaller families — and increasing numbers of faithful mothers are staying at home and even home-schooling their children. Their lives radiate the truth that love and service are the only powers worth pursuing.

The dying orders and dying families can squawk all the excuses and denials they want, but they simply can’t argue with the “new” traditional trends — which, God willing, will lead to John Paul II’s “new springtime of the Church.”


        Sue H. Sowden

Castro Valley, California

Mothers’ ‘Choice’

Regarding “Defending Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (July 23 - Aug. 5):

How can any woman who has children of her own have an abortion or be in favor of abortion? She should take a look at her own children and honestly ask herself: “Suppose I had snuffed out the life of my youngest son or my eldest daughter? Which one would I have picked?” If the child up for abortion is left to grow and develop, it too will turn out to be a beautiful son or daughter.

No matter how difficult or impossible a situation might seem, God is always there waiting for us to ask his help. Listen with your heart for his advice and he will help you work out a solution which will be best for this most precious little soul. You have an obligation to protect this gift of God.

We women have been given the most important challenge in the world: to help in procreation and to shape the face of the earth. Let’s act like the women we were meant to be and do the work only we can do!

                    Eleanor R. Kirschenheiter

Elwood, New York