Letters to the Editor

Unleash the Force of Catholic Fiction

First of all, I want to commend Barb Ernster for her Aug. 7-13 article, “What the Catholic Storytellers See.” Such stories calling attention to Catholic writers and their efforts as Catholics to engage the culture of today are much needed.

But I must make a correction. The article said my book The Longing was rejected by Catholic publishers. This was not the case. I didn't submit my book to Catholic publishers. Because my book is a work of fiction rather than theological, I wanted it exposed to more widespread readership — non-Catholic as well as Catholic. So I sent it to the secular publishing establishment. There I found it almost impossible for an unknown author to get a reading by an agent or traditional publishers. Therefore, I turned to self-publishing through AuthorHouse.

What I hope to do with my writing is to tell a good story that will bring the reader closer to God and present the truth and beauty of our faith — not heavy-handedly, but in a way that will increase the faith of the Catholic reader as well as, hopefully, attract others to it.

Another important aspect that is often overlooked in such writing is the opportunity to further understanding between religions. Such understanding is essential to building the foundation for the time when we fulfill Christ's will that we all be “one.” I have been happy that The Longing has gotten good response from both Protestant and Catholic readers.

JOAN MAHOWALD Crosslake, Minnesota

The authors cited in “What Catholic Storytellers See” (Aug. 7–13) are right on the mark. Catholics today are hungry for good fiction that doesn't denigrate their beliefs. For too long we have left storytelling in the hands of those who are indifferent or hostile to the faith. Yet Catholic publishers have neglected the fiction market, underestimating the power of stories to touch hearts. Think of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a novel about slavery that influenced the attitudes of an entire nation.

Like author Joan Mahowald, I couldn't find a publisher for my novel Windmill Gardens, which touches on the theme of Divine Mercy. After Catholic publishers told me they were not interested in fiction and “Christian” book publishers said “no Catholic stuff,” I too self-published and have found a ready market.

I do disagree with Flannery O'Connor's quote that fiction should not be evangelistic in nature. If it's a well-written story, why can't it evangelize too? There should be room in the Catholic fiction market for a wide variety of styles. Pope John Paul II called on us to redeem the culture, and presumably that includes contemporary fiction. Jesus taught by means of stories. Maybe it's time we do the same.


Troy, Michigan

Redistribution Is Wrong

The writer of the letter titled “The President Is Not Pro-Life” (Aug. 7–13) claims that President George Bush and Sen. Rick Santorum are not pro-life, revealing his liberal approach to solving society's problems: Let government redistribute more wealth.

When I grew up in the 1930s, institutions all supported the moral order and the traditional family — not only churches, but government, schools, unions, the media and entertainment. Now, 70 years of liberal social engineering have undermined the moral order and almost destroyed the family. Read Sen. Santorum's commonsense book It Takes a Family.

Adjusting taxes will have no measurable impact on abortion. The Supreme Court opened the floodgates and will have to close them.

But this will only happen when conservative senators approve the president's nominees for the Court over the resistance of liberal Democrats — the worst of whom are Catholic!

GREG SHINSKEY North Sandwich, New Hampshire

All Apologies

I have a bone to pick with Father Andrew McNair and his recent column, “The Case for the Senate's Apology” (July 24-Aug. 6). He takes up the case of the Senate apology for long ago not passing anti-lynching bills. They recently voted to apologize. Great!

What perplexes me is that he castigates Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott for not co-sponsoring the resolution. Did the other 98 senators co-sponsor the resolution? If not, why did he single out these two senators? Could it be that they are from the state of Mississippi? Having lived in that state for 16 years, and followed politics since the '70s, I can say that Sens. Lott and Cochran are two of the most morally ethical men in the Senate. The blacks appreciate them, and they are voted in easily every time, and I believe that Mississippi has percentage-wise more black voters than any state in the union. These men have both been in the Congress for more than 30 years.

If Father McNair will look at the voting records of these two men, he will find that they uphold the Catholic ideals — both men are Christians, though not Catholic — and lead exemplary personal lives. Hopefully, Father McNair will stick to religious matters in the future, not politics!


Naples, Florida

Morality and the Mushroom Cloud

I remember my father telling us kids that President Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was morally wrong, as the commentary “Effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Still Being Felt” (Aug. 7–13) stated.

As I studied this in college, it dawned on me that my father, who was 18 at the time and was on his way to the Philippines from Hawaii when the bombs were dropped, was part of the invasion force. The next time I talked to him I asked him if he would have been part of the invasion of Japan. His answer was that he was sure of it. Even though I may have never been born if Truman had not ordered the bombings, I know that what Truman ordered was a grave moral evil.

However, I also know that there is no way we can know if the act was a serious sin. Full knowledge and full consent of the will is needed for a sin to be serious. Perhaps the Pakaluks are not aware that there is no distinction in Catholic doctrine between serious sin, grave sin and mortal sin. No one has a window to look into another man's soul. Whether a serious sin was committed is for God to decide, not man.


Hampshire, Illinois

Solutions or Distractions?

Pertinent to “Church Has Paid Out Over $1 Billion Since 1950” (Media Watch, June 26-July 20:

As we reflect on what has happened in the last few years, and how we have met the clergy abuse scandals, some are now raising questions not about he decisions made or the programs created, but about the time and energy that were expended, perhaps at the expense of larger social problems. Intramural disputes within the Church have served as a distraction from efforts to change the world.

In our world, where abuse of children is endemic, the Church has in reality done a uniquely superb job in dealing with it, but within its own confines. In the meantime the world outside has largely ignored the problem and done nothing that compares with what the Church has accomplished. To bring our crisis under control we have created lay review boards, we have repeatedly done audits to meet the charter, we created the Virtus program to deal with local requirements and, with questionable legitimacy and usefulness, created Voice of the Faithful.

The point is that, in each program, there are meetings after meetings, endless discussions and speeches, time in communication with the Vatican and reams of reports. The danger is that we may not look out beyond the windows of our concern, and not see Christ walking in the streets in line with the unemployed, with the widowed, the divorced, the hungry, the lame, the blind, the imprisoned and the homeless.

What about them now, and those socially abused by the injustices of our society? Shall we begin anew to re-focus our attention and exert the same energy and creativity for the Kingdom that Christ promised?


Rocky River, Ohio

The Brain Can Amaze

It should be noted that the diagnosis of “persistent vegetative state” (PVS) is a clinical diagnosis; that is, it is made by examination of the patient at the bedside, and bears no predictable relationship to brain size (“Feeding-Tube Horrors,” Commentary, July 24–Aug. 6).

We also know that the brain has tremendous redundancy and that intensive therapy can recruit parts of the brain that were quiescent.

A medical examiner is a pathologist, not a clinician. He certainly is qualified to report on the extent of brain atrophy, but he cannot conclude that this confirms the diagnosis of PVS. I would certainly put more credence in the reports of family members and nurses who saw Terri Schiavo daily and observed her responsiveness than in a static description of brain atrophy.

The medical examiner's report resolves nothing.


Vienna, Virginia

The Story on Oratories

I read Father Groeschel's commentary titled “Following the Work of the Holy Spirit” (Aug. 7-13), about Catherine of Genoa and the oratory she began. I am extremely interested in this form of evangelization. I am in my mid-20s, and feel called to reach out to other people my age, searching for the truth in the Catholic faith. I would like to find out some information of how to go about setting up an oratory in my area. Thank you so much for your time and for encouraging the truth of our faith.


Lincoln, Nebraska

Editors note: Check out oratorydl.org and click on the link “Start an Oratory.”

Abuse Double Standard?

I very much enjoyed the interview of Teresa Kettelkamp (“Victims of Abuse Get a New Advocate,” May 22-28) and I also feel embarrassed as well as extremely disappointed that some of our priests committed these abuses.

In addition, I truly feel a great deal of empathy for the victims.

That said, I am also very upset with the settlements that have and are taking place. Unless the bishops or the parishes in which these priests reside have been involved somehow with a case, I do not see why the priests involved aren't the ones being sued, and not the Church.

Recently, in my own area, there was a coach and a teacher accused of abusing children under their care. From what I can gather from the media coverage, I do not see the school districts being sued in these situations.

I am glad my Church is willing to compensate the victims of abuse by priests, even though I feel the abuser is the one responsible (unless the bishop was complicit), and should be the only one held accountable. However, extracting huge amounts of money from the Church — even to the point of bankruptcy — is not fair if it is true that school districts are not sued when a teacher abuses a child in his/her school.


Campbell, California