Climate change, confession, contraception, etc.

But Why?

‘Global Suicide Pact’” (March 23) was a fine introduction to some of the basic data, facts and projections about climate change. This is valuable material. Still, I wish you had also published an article that delivered what the subtitle promised: an inquiry into why we don’t take climate change more seriously.

This is an important cultural, political, and theological issue. It presents a profound moral challenge to all of us. Consideration of such questions is exactly what I look to Commonweal for. I hope that you will return to this vitally important question in future issues, and bring the sophisticated, critical attention of your authors to bear on it.

Kevin J. O’Brien
Tacoma, Wash.

No Simple Sacrament

In contrast to occasional pleadings from the pulpit that simply urge us to go back to confession, the trio of articles titled “The Floating Sacrament” (April 6) reminds us of the larger picture. The authors’ insights resonated with my experience. I have found that a truly revitalizing confession depends substantially on the priest. Bringing people back to the sacrament of reconciliation is not a simple task; it won’t be solved by an encyclical or a pastoral letter from bishops. Rather, it is a process deeply conditioned by a disappearing secular and ecclesiastical culture. One only has to look at some of the motives contained in the various suggested acts of contrition. They are formulas that do not resonate in daily life. But it is more than a question of language. Penance is not just about personal reconciliation. The examination of conscience is also an obligation of ecclesial communities and the church as a whole. In particular, the ideal of forgiveness and its related virtues of humility and compassion need to find sacramental expressions that motivate young people.

J. Paul Martin
New York, N.Y.

The Maritains’ Marriage

Concerning the three letters responding to my article “On Good Authority?” (April 20):

Jacques and Raïssa Maritain lived eight years as husband and wife, two of those years before their baptism, during which they vowed to commit suicide if they did not find a reason to go on living. Given their personalities, their state of mind and the social actions they engaged in during those years, I find it difficult to believe they never lived as husband and wife.

Among Maritain’s papers there is a rough draft of a letter to Msgr. Pasquale Macchi, secretary to Pope Paul VI, during the time when contraception was under discussion. This was not included in my article, owing to limitations of space. In it Jacques wrote: “I have heard that the question of birth control is under study in Rome. I would like to take the liberty of submitting to you a few ideas that have come to me on this subject and about which I spoke some time ago to Msgr. Journet who did not seem to disapprove of them…. May I add that each method has its own inconveniences, and that psychologically the Ogino method and that of temperatures do not seem to be without notable inconveniences. When two spouses come together in the flesh, the reason is not simply the satisfaction of concupiscence. There are many far more complex psychological and moral factors involved: the desire to seal a reconciliation after a disagreement, the need for a remedy to some kind of anguish [illegible word], or against despair, or the sudden inrush of a wave of tenderness or pity, what do I know? Can it not be asked if the intervention of calculation hindering the satisfaction of such a desire or need at the moment when it rises naturally in the soul, does not risk a psychological or moral imbalance in the life of the spouses?”

I can’t imagine this being written by a man who never experienced the fullness of married life.

Bernard Doering
South Bend, Ind.

A Greater Good

In his letter of April 6, Christopher Roberts states that “NFP means, by definition, subordinating your desires to a pattern not of your own devising.”

Very often, there is no pattern. Hormonal changes, anxiety, illness, lack of sleep, nursing a baby, menopause, and perimenopause all disrupt that supposedly fixed pattern. Couples trying to use Natural Family Planning often experience not “moments of unfulfilled longing” but rather weeks and sometimes months without the physical intimacy that should grace their marriages. 

While the Creighton Method may work for some, many women do not have the discernible mucous discharge or reliable temperature variations that the method requires. Roberts says that “artificial contraception puts a couple at the liberty of their own appetites.” He makes it sound like they’re eating chocolates for fun, rather than experiencing the sacred intimacy that binds a couple together. 

A husband who has just lost his job needs the loving consolation of his wife, but cannot afford to support an additional child in his present financial state. A military spouse who returns to his wife, toddler, and infant after a six-month deployment should not have to be told that he has arrived home at the wrong time of the month. I believe that the greater good is the preservation and enrichment of a marriage in whatever way the couple’s consciences dictate.

Anonymous
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Really Not That Sexy

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at Christopher Roberts’s assumptions about the sex life of married parents (Letters, April 6). When I read the words of a writer, usually male, who speaks as if ordinary married life were some kind of sexual bacchanal, I wish I could transport him to my house for a week during the years when I had four children under the age of six. This experience of a pattern not of his own devising would, at the very least, cultivate his sense of humor. God kindly provided parents with means other than NFP of practicing patience, forbearance, and restraint.

Lyn C. Isbell
San Francisco, Calif.

Better Than The Status Quo

While we wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act to be released in June, it is most welcome to hear the Editors parse some of the obfuscating questions surrounding the decision and illustrate the relevant precedents (“Compromise or Stalemate?” April 6, and “Tyranny?” April 20). As a consumer health advocate who strains daily to find appropriate insurance coverage for and attend to the complex financial and medical needs of the chronically uninsured, I welcome support for the very imperfect Obamacare. If we truly want to provide health care for all and are unwilling politically to support a single-payer system at present, this solution is the best in accord with the humanistic and Catholic social-justice principles that so many say they value and espouse.

David E. Pasinski
Fayetteville, N.Y.

Not A Paid Advertisement

I received my copy of the April 20 issue yesterday and sat right down to read the whole issue, cover to cover. I think it’s the most satisfying, interesting and stimulating you’ve produced in some time. Jo McGowan’s column “Simplifying Sex” and the editorial “Tyranny?” are perfect answers to some of the inane arguments we’ve been flooded with in the ordinary press lately. The hypocritical piety of many on the right and the ignorance about sexuality among our clergy are appalling and disheartening to me. So I needed the responses you publish here.

Also, Dan Barry’s “Sunday Obligation” is bittersweet. I can identify with what he’s saying, but how sad that the church’s influence and importance has faded for him and for so many others. My husband and I hang on and hang in for the sacramental life; we try to vent our upset to one another and then put aside the poor behavior, lack of empathy, and dishonesty of some of our church’s leadership.

Miriam Curnin
Larchmont, N.Y.

Published in the 2012-05-04 issue: 
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