Christopher Lasch; leaving the church


Regarding Casey Nelson Blake’s profile of Christopher Lasch (“Historian, Critic, Prophet,” October 22): I was born in 1936; Lasch in 1932. While I was in high school, Lasch was at Harvard. On Saturdays of those years, I worked as a copy boy at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. There, Robert Lasch was assistant chief of the editorial page, behind Irving Dillard. As I remember, Lasch rarely worked on Saturdays, but when he did, he usually arrived mid-morning and went straight to his desk with few “Good mornings.” On reflection, I think he exhibited the same personality Blake attributes to his son Christopher: a “melancholic yet hopeful disposition.” Sadly, Christopher died (1994) before his father did (1998).

W. E. Mueller
Chesterfield, Mo.


In “Long Goodbye” (October 22), Cathleen Kaveny notes the response of women she spoke with concerning the recent Vatican “PR gaffe” that seemed to link “as sacramental crimes the sexual abuse of minors and any attempt to ordain women”: they suspect that the hierarchy retains “a seemingly inexpungable disrespect for—and even fear of—women.”

The women’s response brings into question the justness and morality of the nineteen-hundred-year-old theological tradition that human males created in God’s image predominately possess the discernment of reason, while human females do not—thus the “natural” hierarchy. Aquinas allows that all humans are made in the image of God. But just as all of Orwell’s farm animals are equal but some are more equal than others, Aquinas thinks that “in a secondary sense the image of God is found in man, and not in woman; for man is the beginning and end of woman, just as God is the beginning and end of every creature.” Consequently, “woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discernment of reason predominates,” thus the male, not the female, “is most perfectly like God according as his intellectual nature can most imitate God.”

Seven centuries after Aquinas, that view prevails covertly in common practice and in words in Inter insigniores (1976): between Christ and his minister as priest, there must be a “natural resemblance,” a euphemistic term for what Dr. Freud believed females envy in males. It follows that while God’s grace is necessary for the priestly vocation, it is not sufficient: by the keen discernment of male reason, anatomy trumps even the Holy Spirit.

D. W. Odell
Altamont, N.Y.



Those Catholics who are deciding to worship in other Christian churches because of the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexual and gender issues may be acting in good faith, but the reasons they give Cathleen Kaveny do not seem sufficient to justify such a radical break. The acceptance of a teaching authority implies a willingness to live with some decisions that one cannot fully understand. I think that is the case with the sexual-ethics controversies. The ordination of women is a more difficult issue, but the refusal to accept women as priests is not evidence of a general contempt.

I am puzzled by Kaveny’s suggestion that there is a real dialogue going on with “other Catholics in the pews.” Most Catholics I encounter in parish life have no interest at all in any public questions that go beyond their preoccupation with matters of reproduction. And it is rare to find a pastor whose outlook is any broader or deeper.

Cornelius F. Murphy Jr.
Valencia, Pa.


To our brothers and sisters who must leave: We understand, but we will miss you. Our church is diminished by your leaving.

Anna Lanave
Burke, Va.

Published in the 2010-11-19 issue: 
Also by this author
Fasting, abortion, Pius XII

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