It’s Engage in a Landslide

The editorial challenging us to engage in the world around us was one of the best explanations I have read of why we must think to grow in faith (“Cave, Flirt, Duck — or Engage,” April 2-8). I have passed it around to several colleagues.

I am an eighth-grade religion teacher, and this is exactly what I’ve tried to challenge my students to think about. When we studied virtue, I assigned a review of ordinary television shows. They were to look for one virtuous or vicious action corresponding to each of the theological and cardinal virtues, and explain how it was or was not virtuous.

The students and I were surprised at the number of virtuous actions they were able to find. There was certainly vice, which we talked about, but in almost every category (except perhaps faith and hope), the number of virtuous actions found was greater. The students learned to think critically about the messages they received from television, rather than dismiss the messages or embrace them without understanding.

Natalie Bickerton

Montgomery, Alabama

Your editorial in the April 2-8 issue (“Cave, Flirt, Duck — or Engage) contained much grist for reflection and discussion, and its main points were certainly valid, but there were a few less-than-valid statements along the way. A few brief points:

We who belong to the Church ought best to compare what we do with what Christ did and, while he certainly engaged both followers and enemies, he also did what you would describe as “ducking” (with regards to the Pharisees, for instance). Some “worldly” people are “wounded people in need of healing” but many others (Hitler and bin Laden are the most obvious examples) can and should be viewed as “threats.”

Regarding “the Church’s opposition to war and capital punishment”: The Church has never opposed war or capital punishment per se. This type of media spin on Church teaching is to be expected in secular publications, but it sure was unfortunate to see in the Register! The Catechism makes clear that capital punishment is licit under certain circumstances, and Church tradition has deemed it permissible for 20 centuries. The same is true for war. Not long before he became Pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger made clear that “there can be legitimate disagreement among Catholics about war or capital punishment.” Many people misled by the secular media now think that the Church “opposes war and capital punishment” (and therefore itself for 99.9% of its 2000 year history), but they are wrong.

As an addendum to the point above: It is widely and falsely claimed that the Holy Father “opposed” the Iraq War. While it is true that he tried to prevent it from starting, once it actually became a war (in April of 2003), neither he nor then-Cardinal Ratzinger made so much as one public statement against it. I know because I have challenged some of the most vocal proponents of this false view (e.g., the editor of New Oxford Review) to produce one quotation from the Holy Father from April 2003 or later that opposes or condemns the Iraq War, and my challenge has never been met.

Finally, regarding “God so loved the world”: This is true enough for God, but his followers are clearly called to be “against the world.” The Bible (especially, but not only, the Gospel of John) also describes Satan as the prince of this world, meaning that, until the Second Coming, the world is what C.S. Lewis aptly described as “enemy-occupied territory.” One could also state the theological truism that God loves Satan (as he loves all his creatures), but that doesn’t mean that we should.

It seemed as if your editorial proposed an “either/or” where as “both/and” would have been more correct. Christ established the Church to spread his faith to the world both by engaging the world and separating itself from the world. Remember the Scriptural injunction to be “in” the world but not “of” it?

Well, I’ve said my piece. I continue to enjoy the Register, even when I argue with it!

Larry A. Carstens

Castaic, California

Uphill Mothers

In her column titled “Malleable Motherhood” (Spirit & Life, April 2-8), Gina Giambrone argued that mothers should be applauded for nurturing their families and avoiding anything that threatens the duty and privilege of being a mother. I agree. The context of “Malleable Motherhood” was somewhat of an extension of her previous article “Mom Is Racing With God” (Feb. 5-11), in which she applauded Rebecca Dussault, an Olympic athlete who is also a Catholic mom.

Although I agree with Gina’s position on applauding mothers who put their families first while maintaining what Gina calls a “secondary vocation” (in this case Olympic skiing), I don’t necessarily agree with the overall context of the original article and Gina’s response. Applauding a mom for skiing while mothering (not mothering while skiing) is good, yet it seems to reinforce the current culture’s incorrect opinion: A mom with a “secondary vocation” is better than a mom without one.

Not letting a secondary vocation harm one’s family is praiseworthy, yet not extraordinarily so. It is what every mother should do. However, in today’s culture, raising a large Catholic family is outside the ordinary and therefore deserves extraordinary praise. One mother I know with five children was in the checkout line at the grocery store when another shopper sneered, “Haven’t you ever heard of contraception?” In this mother’s frustration, she sneered back “I like it natural” and finished checking out. Many women in this situation are rebuked instead of hailed as the heroes they truly are.

I maintain that Gina’s position is correct: Putting one’s family first deserves praise! Yet it is unfortunate that thousands of heroic mothers are rarely mentioned and, if they are, it is mostly by those who see them as fools.

 Peter Miller

 Venice, Florida

First, Assist No Abortion

I am a registered nurse who has faced [many moral and ethical] dilemmas. I am devoutly pro-life and always have been. I have been put into situations of beginning the paperwork process for women requesting an abortion. Even though this is not something I agreed with, I was respecting the rights of the patient because the law states that an abortion is legal and a right of the individual. However, in doing this, I did not stand up for my own rights and beliefs. I believed the patient’s right was superior to mine and that I did not have a right to deny helping the patient get what they desired.

Most of these women were in a state of crisis and did not know where to turn. I heard the fear and desperation in their voices while listening and talking with them about options available. We talked about community resources, such as the local crisis-pregnancy center and the services they offered. I encouraged, gave phone numbers and any other information available to me. I heard the relief and hope in their voices and yes, babies were saved.

However, when the woman was adamant about having her pregnancy terminated, I started the paperwork process at her request, because I believed her rights as a patient needed to be honored.

How did I get into this situation? I am not sure. I just know that I want to speak out so others do not compromise their beliefs as I did.

I am now appealing to each of you healthcare providers to honor your beliefs and values. I also encourage you to educate yourself and your patients about the options available and the resources in your community. Exercise your rights. Maybe the best Thank You you will ever receive will be for giving a young, desperate woman a choice that she did not know existed. Through this, you may help a woman in crisis to save her baby and begin to teach and share the preciousness of all life.

Bonnie Vanni

Boulder, Colorado

More Literature, Please

I am a fan of Tim Drake’s. I read everything he writes. I was most fascinated by his front-page story “Catholic Literary Revival?” (March 26 - April 1). I am sad to note from the piece that Catholic publishing houses do not plan to develop a line of faith-based fiction books. Do they realize what the consequences are?

The consequences are that we Catholics must depend on evangelical Protestants to satisfy our faith-based fiction needs. The popularity of the Left Behind series is in no small part a result of Catholics buying these books. (Just as the evangelical media ministries remain on the air in no small part due to the contributions sent in by Catholics — to the extent of 30% in many cases.)

Faith-based fiction is too important a subject to be left to the distortions of the secular media.

Egbert F. Bhatty

Ridgewood, New Jersey


Did Jesuit Father George Coyne really call the concept of intelligent design “absurd” and “part of a religious fundamentalist movement in the United States” (“Vatican Observatory Head Calls Intelligent Design ‘Absurd’ Concept,” April 9-15)?

The concept of intelligent design was taught by Aristotle, over 300 years before Christ, as a necessary conclusion based on the observed fact (scientific fact, if you will) of the order that governs the immense complexity found in nature. By carefully reasoned argument, Aristotle shows that chance cannot possibly be the cause of this observed order; that only intelligent design can account for it.

Father Coyne is quoted as having said, “Why evolution denies God, I can’t understand.” On the contrary, the immensely complex development of lower species into higher species envisioned by the theory of evolution would seem to require intelligent design, since the chance interaction of material particles cannot reasonably account for it, as Aristotle clearly demonstrates. It’s rather baffling that any competent scientist would deny the clear evidence that the order in nature is not the product of blind chance, whether or not he believes in the theory of evolution. Perhaps this is the result of overspecialization leading to a narrowness of perception.

In fact, the theory of evolution seems to be an article of faith for its adherents. To date, it has not been proved, one way or the other.

That’s why it’s the “theory” of evolution, not the “law” of evolution.

If it had been proved, the incontrovertible evidence would be there for all to inspect and competent scientists would not still be disagreeing about it.

William Sockey

Venus, Pennsylvania