Please let your readers with mental and/or emotional illness know that the Indepth column “Pick Your Elixir: Plato or Prozac” (Register, Oct. 3-9) was targeting only those who abuse medications to avoid all pain. The essay, written by philosophy professor Donald DeMarco, accomplished its goal mercilessly, never differentiating between abusers and those who have no choice but to take medication if they are to function.
Many devout, virtuous, desperately suffering and dignified Catholics must take their serotonin-reup-take-inhibitors or other medications for treatment of emotional and/or mental illness just as other Catholics must take medication for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and on and on. One of the multitudinous crosses they, unlike the others, bear is that the term “mental illness” is often inaccurately applied. Mental illness is a physical [infirmity] borne of structural differences in the brain and/or electrical and chemical processing problems; these produce symptoms that range from inner suffering to thought disturbances to unusual behaviors to trouble in relating to other people.
By the grace of God, my husband manages to get up and go 12-hour days (six days a week, most weeks!), suffering. This morning, I wept when he left for work because, last night, after reading this article, he turned his face to the wall and asked, “Why do they have to persecute the poor, suffering, depressed people?” He is a wonderful Catholic witness in his workplace, a holy man, a contemplative in the world-liest of worlds. He is a wonderful husband. He is the holy priest of our household. He takes Calan SR, Allegra, and Prozac.
Name withheld by request
Editor's Note: The commentary looked at the philosophical principles underlying our culture, where mood-altering medications are dispensed so readily to so many. In no way was it intended as a criticism of individuals with genuine medical needs. In the future, should we revisit this subject, your input will inform our sensitivity to the issues you raise.
Which Cardenal Jesuit?
In his otherwise excellent review of George Weigel's Witness to Hope, Raymond J. de Souza makes a factual error for which Weigel is not responsible. He states that the “Jesuit priest Ernesto Cardenal lied about what the Pope said to him at the Managua airport.” I do not know whether Ernesto Cardenal lied or not, but I am certain that he is not, and never was a Jesuit priest. Ernesto's brother Fernando Cardenal was and is a Jesuit.
Father Avery Dulles, SJ
Fordham University The Bronx, New York
I beg to differ with Rich McPherson (quoted in “ ‘ Bad Words’ in the U.S. Leave Few Speechless,”Register, Sept. 19-25) regarding the sinfulness of using four-letter words. The norm for Christian morality is not just a set of commandments, but Jesus himself, as Pope John Paul II said in Veritatis Splendor. This is not to say we must all do what Jesus did, but we may not do what Jesus would never do. The day Jesus Christ would speak a foul word would be a cold day in… Gehenna.
Father Thomas G. Morrow
St. Catherine Laboure Church
One practical means of dissolving the current block between U.S. bishops and the Catholic colleges and universities is to set up regional theological accrediting boards to certify theology teachers to receive mandates to teach or to judge complaints against a teacher's orthodox teaching. Members of these accrediting agencies would be appointed by bishops and universities of a given region. The board's judgment would have to be ratified by the individual bishop of the diocese concerned. Appeal of a negative judgment would be made to a doctrinal commission of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and further to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith..
This system has both universities and the bishops sharing responsibility for orthodoxy of Catholic theology and encourages their cooperation. Alocal bishop's theological ignorance or bias is overcome and the universities’ misguided individualism curtailed.
Father Jerome Treacy, SJ
Abortion and Contraception
Your [Sept. 13-25] issue (“Bill Gates to Hear from Pro-Lifers”) quoted American Life League president Judie Brown saying Bill Gates “who has the best of intentions … may have been misled by pro-choice groups” with regard to his foundation's donations.
I am positively certain that William and Melinda Gates and their staffs have not been misled at all and that their position is clearly well-informed and well-motivated to aid with donations the suffering countries and populations which press on existing resources in such a way as to create mass misery!
Let me once again put to you the same question:… How in the world does contraception increase the incidence of abortion?
Population control reduces misery and the well known figure of 20,000 child/infant deaths per day in the Third World countries attests to the fact that these miserable little creatures never should have been born, period. Hence: population control and contraception.
A. Douglas Russell
Editor's Note: The Supreme Court explained the correlation between abortion and contraception in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey: “In some critical respects, abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception. … For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”
Alan Guttmacher recognized the correlation as early as 1968, and Planned Parenthood statistician Dr. Christopher Tietze wrote in a 1981 book, “Ahigh correlation between abortion experience and contraceptive experience can be expected … Women who have practiced contraception are more likely to have had abortions than those who have not.” The evidence of the correlation was included in a 1978 Abortion Rights Action League debater's handbook.
Here's a good illustration of the correlation: Contraception became readily available in the 1960s and widely used in the 1970s in America. If contraception prevents it, abortion should have all but disappeared by now. But there are a reported 1.5 million abortions a year.
Finally, that there is more than enough food for everybody in the world is not in dispute. And the Register simply disagrees with your assessment of Third World populations. We believe that no one, of any race or income level, is a “miserable creature” that “ought not have been born.”
Saint Pius XII?
Regarding Pope Pius XII (“He was no ‘Hitler's Pope,’ Pius XII Experts Contend,” Sept. 19):
1) the Israeli government planted 800,000 trees in a forest near Jerusalem to commemorate the 800,000 Jews they estimated Pope Pius XII saved from Hitler;
2) the chief Rabbi of Rome became a Catholic and took Eugenio, the first name of Pius XII, as his Christian name because he was so impressed with the work the Pontiff did in saving Jews from the Nazis;
3) Dr. Jeno Levai, an eminent Jewish historian, said that during the 1930's Cardinal [Eugenio] Pacelli, while serving as Vatican secretary of state, lodged no less than 60 protests on behalf of the Jews, and as Pius XII “did more than anyone else to halt the crime (the Holocaust) and alleviate its consequences.”
Regarding John Cornwell [author of Hitler's Pope]:
1) in a previous book, Thief in the Night (1989), he ridiculed Pius XII as “an emaciated, large-eyed demigod.” He described the Pontiff as “somebody totally remote from experience”;
2) in The Hiding Places of God (1991), Mr. Cornwell wrote of his experience in the Catholic seminary he attended, “I took delight in attempting to undermine the beliefs of my fellow seminarians with what I regarded as clever arguments; I quarreled with the lecturers in class and flagrantly ignored the rules of the house.” He declared that human beings are “morally, psychologically, and materially better off without a belief in God.”
John Naughton Silver Spring, Md.
- October 17-23, 1999