October 1996

Mindless

Since her voice has long been important in advocacy of a consistent life ethic, I’m sorry to see Juli Loesch Wiley, in her article “Time to Communicate What Catholicism Is & Is Not” (July-Aug.), making common cause with those smugly righteous contributors who too largely define the NOR.

I’m even sorrier to see in her writing a mindlessness I’ve never noticed before:

- For example her characterization of Ralph Reed’s Catholic Alliance as “Catholic laity doing exactly what Catholic laity are supposed to do: joining with other people of faith to work for good public policy.” Reed’s neighbors (as in “Love your…”) are exclusively the self-sufficient and righteous middle class.

- Likewise Juli’s lumping together all of Bishop Bruskewitz’s no-nos — abortion, women priests, assisted suicide, homosexuality, and contraception — as all “simply incompatible with Catholic truth.” Juli may be privy to revealed truths that I’m not, but an exclusively male priesthood is nowhere to be found in the deposit of faith. Pope Paul VI’s continuance of the birth control ban smacked far more of curial politics than any movement of the Holy Spirit. And, if Juli has read anything in the last 20 years, she would know that the current understanding of the nature of homosexuality requires abandonment of those hoary misreadings of supposed Old Testament prohibitions for a serious rethinking of that moral issue.

- Likewise her too facile dismissal of consequentialism. I have a lot of trouble imagining a real-life circumstance justifying an abortion, but I have to recognize the possibility that somewhere there is a woman controlled by and terrified of a brute who regularly abuses their children, who knows he will beat her to death if she becomes pregnant again or subject yet another child to his perversities. I would doubt that her abortion would be any more “intrinsically evil” than Hiroshima, which has never been characterized as such along the Tiber.

- Likewise, her characterization of worshipers of Genderblender gods. Yes, there are more important concerns than the Great Pronoun Reformation, but pronouns have been integral to the sexism that has afflicted the West, including the Church, for millennia, and the American bishops, whose largely gender-neutral translations fell victim to Fr. Joseph Fessio’s obsessions and the Curia’s presumptions, are hardly agents of Genderblender gods.

Too simple, too facile, too righteous, too unmerciful, Juli, by far.

William H. Slavick
Portland, Maine




Not Equivalent

Juli Loesch Wiley, in her article “Time to Communicate What Catholicism Is & Is Not” (July-Aug.), says that “having a Sister of Mercy running a massive abortion program” is “like having the Little Sisters of Jesus in charge of running the electric chair….” But would a Little Sister of Jesus running an electric chair be committing sin? No. If that Little Sister were involved in abortion, would she be committing sin? Yes.

Walter G. Perry
Hudson, Wisconsin






I admire the passion and devotion of Juli Loesch Wiley. However, I find her consistent ethic of life inconsistent. Abortion is intrinsically evil, but since capital punishment in its practical application admits of exceptions (see the Catechism and Evangelium Vitae), it is not intrinsically evil. Both aforementioned documents call upon civil authorities to exercise prudential judgment and try to restrict it as much as possible. But tossing all life — the innocent and the guilty — into one moral basket, as Wiley does, confuses the issue and sometimes hampers the prolife cause.

Fr. Patrick A. Carroll
Omaha, Nebraska




Abortion & Finance Capital

Juli Loesch Wiley’s article, “Time to Communicate What Catholicism Is & Is Not” (July-Aug.), was excellent. Like Wiley, I’m a long-term prolife activist, but I’d like to add something: We need to take a second look at immigration.

Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, a little over 30 million American children have been lost to abortion. Why aren’t these children and their labor potential missed in our capitalist labor market? Because in the same period we’ve received about the same number of immigrants.

We are replacing expensive American babies with immigrant workers who labor for about 33 percent less in wages, on average. This makes immigrants much more profitable to finance capital than American children, who are becoming quietly expendable.

Of course, no one wants to hear this, but if we are to save the babies, we must have a freeze on immigration. Then prolife forces will be able to enlist more capitalist support for the lives of the unborn, because the unborn will become useful to our master, finance capital.

Ed Price
New York, New York




Irish Myth & Baloney

The Irish love to blame the English for all their woes. Specifically, they relish reveling in the horror of the potato famine (see Francis Manion’s article in the July-Aug. NOR). In Irish myth, the famine was caused and prolonged by the English, who had the power to end it immediately. Manion says, “the sickening toll…was the direct result of deliberate and conscious omissions….” Baloney!

Certain factors caused the potato blight to have more dire consequences in Ireland than elsewhere. The population of Ireland had nearly doubled between 1800 and 1840. During this period, Irish political leaders rejected emigration — which would have relieved some pressure — and encouraged the subdivision of holdings, contrary to the policy of all British governments of that time.

That led to a steady reduction in the size of land holdings, and dependence on a single (easy to grow) crop. The primary subsistence crop was the potato, and when the potato blight reached Ireland, its effect was devastating.

Had landholdings been larger, some crop diversification would have been feasible, and the destruction of a single crop would not have had such devastating effects. The blight affected potatoes in many other countries without the same impact.

Moreover, it’s simply not true to imply that the British government stood back and watched the famine. The contrary is true. For example, the relief sent by Britain to Ireland was extraordinarily large in the context of the day.

Adrian Day
Annapolis, Maryland




Britain Still Doesn’t Get It

Regarding Francis Manion’s article on the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1849 (“Should Catholics Canonize Ebenezer Scrooge?,” July-Aug.): The potato blight also hit continental European countries, but their “autocratic” rulers took measures to stop shipment of food supplies out of the worst hit areas, and there was no famine. It was “democratic” Britain and its Whig government that showed a complete lack of common sense and charity. If the Czar of Russia, Emperor of Austria, and King of Prussia could see the problem and the obvious solution, the British could have too. It is the same today with Northern Ireland: British governments will not see the obvious solution, and do not wish to, in spite of the fact that polls of voters in Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) show that 70 percent want British troops and police to get out of the “Six Counties.”

Robert J. Gorman
Chicago, Illinois






Francis Manion’s article offered excellent insight into a dastardly episode in Britain’s 800-year occupation of Ireland. However, Manion did not go far enough. He should have called the colonizers’ brutal treatment of the Irish genocide. It is well known that the English Parliament privately held the view that the Famine would solve the “Irish problem.” Indeed, the Famine was welcomed by the English.

Recently the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin stated (surprisingly) that the British owe an apology to the Irish for centuries of oppression and for the genocide of the Famine. Of course, none has been forthcoming.

Denis Farrell
St. Petersburg, Florida






I am not pleased with Francis Manion’s attempt to use the terrible disaster of the Famine to denounce a particular economic viewpoint. It is true that laissez-faire capitalism played its part in the destruction of the Irish populace in the 19th century, as Manion says, but this does not explain the destruction of the Irish populace under Cromwell in the 17th century or the brutal repression of the Irish in the 18th century. The deep-rooted cause of this ongoing war against the Irish is found in the fanatical anti-Irish Catholicism that developed in the English psyche and still plays itself out every 12th of July in the streets of northeastern Ireland.

John Patrick O’Neill
Mt. Laurel, New Jersey




Endo & Apostasy

It isn’t surprising Shusako Endo’s Silence evokes such strong reactions (see the three letters in the July-Aug. issue responding to Robert Coles’s column [June]): Silence depicts the sufferings of the Body of Christ in Japan; but via its sympathetic portrayal of a Jesuit who loses his faith, it ultimately apologizes for apostasy. It’s like shifting from the tortured Jesus, crying out, “Why have You forsaken Me?,” to Judas, who could probably have made all sorts of plausible excuses for his betrayal. After all, the young Rabbi had been acting strangely with His talk of eating His flesh and destroying the Temple and so forth, and obviously He had not been behaving like the expected Messiah.

Christians today have much to learn from the faithfulness of their Japanese coreligionists through centuries of official terror. One excellent treatment is Japan’s Encounter With Christianity by Neil S. Fujita (Paulist Press, 1991). Modern sensibilities once again find the Faith repugnant, as it was to the Japanese government, so apostasy increases.

Austin Welsh, M.D.
Cherokee Village, Arkansas




For the Conversion of America

Catholics in the U.S., for many years, ended Mass with a prayer for the conversion of Russia. No one can explain the virtually bloodless overthrow of Communism there without taking those prayers into account.

We now have a greater threat to life and public morality: abortion-on-demand and galloping euthanasia.

The nationwide support for the recent Pro-Life Day of Prayer and Fasting, July 10-11, shows that Catholics are anxious to participate in formal, national prolife prayer.

If every Mass in the country were ended with the same prayer for respect for life, specifically mentioning abortion, pregnant women, and people with terminal illnesses and their families, it would serve two vital purposes. The prayers would rise and be answered. Also, each person would be reminded of what is happening and be moved to deeper thought and action.

Anne Fox
Needham, Massachusetts



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