In response to Robert Imbelli’s remark (“Drawing Boundaries,” June 2) on the anonymity of Fr. Nonomen’s contributions to Commonweal, I have personally experienced the destruction of a path of ministry I pursued anonymously, by way of accompaniment, when my name was publicly revealed. In our times there are too many self-righteous people with too many weapons of destruction, and some of them are in high ecclesiastic office. Were his name and parish revealed, I suspect his writings would cease, and perhaps also his ministry.

That would be a significant loss. He is fair game in reader response; that is enough.

Fr. Ken Smits, OFM
Fond du Lac, Wisc.


Charles Wilber’s article “Free Market Folly” (May 19) is excellent, thorough, and, sadly, a waste of time! Others have clearly articulated the dangers and results of “voodoo economics” and supply-side, trickle-down policies which Reagan, the Bushes, and now President Trump have presented and upheld as sacred and the solution to our problems. Yes, free-market policies and Trumponomics are opposed by Catholic social teaching and individual church leaders. As sound and just as the teaching is, nothing beneficial to the poor, helpless, powerless, and other victims of blatant greed, power, and arrogant entitlement will occur until we educate and energize Catholics to understand and embrace the social-justice message of Jesus and live it, working for the common good of all. This is not the case right now. Catholics have voted for advocates of free-market policies regularly.

Sadly, many Catholics are one-issue voters or enthralled by false promises enhanced by a prolife stance. The blasphemy of this approach is its near total indifference to the needs and hardships of the less fortunate of our society.

Unless and until the bishops lead, engage, and motivate the clergy to teach, preach, and live the social-justice message, which is truly the Good News, the majority of Catholics will continue to find comfort in opposing abortions as the sum of their dedication to the sacredness of life. Going no further than the womb leaves misery, injustice, and violence for all others en route to the tomb. Amen.

Mark Franceschini, OSM
Denver, Colo.


May I offer an addendum to Rita Ferrone’s excellent piece on the latest cardinals (“Cardinal Virtues,” June 16)? In addition to the three non-cardinalatial seeds cited—Bamaka, Stockholm, and Laos—special attention should be paid to the naming of Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador. Seminary rector Msgr. Rosa was the very close aide to Archbishop Romero during the darkest years when, among the bishops, only Arturo Rivera Damas sided with the constantly beleaguered archbishop. Since being ordained auxiliary bishop in 1982, Rosa has been as close to an ideal “Francis bishop” as one could imagine. A skilled administrator of the Central American bishops’ secretariat and of the Latin American Caritas organizations, he is, like Bergoglio was in Buenos Aires, un obispo callero, a street bishop.

A lasting image I have is seeing him at the national airport stopping to speak to every Salvadoran worker he encountered there, engaging each in lively chatter, with him knowing only that they shared a homeland together. And hearing him say, with a smile, after the divided Salvadoran episcopate voted unanimously in 1990 to send to Rome the documents for the martyred bishop’s beatification: “Well, that’s Romero’s first miracle.” Each time a Salvadoran diocese became open, friends wondered if, finally, Goya Rosa would be named, but most concluded sadly that he was destined to be an auxiliary for life. He still may not get a diocese, but I cannot imagine better news in this centenary year of Romero’s birth than the placing of a red biretta on the head of Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez.

Tom Quigley
Annandale, Va.


Whether it was editorial cleverness or accidental placement, I appreciated the juxtaposition of the articles on two American princes of the church, Cardinals Cupich and Burke (June 2). What contrasting visions of the church are presented!

The ICKSP presence came to my diocese when a church was made available due to pastoral planning. Its activities reflect the ecclesial dynamic described in the Brende article and it is uninvolved in the local church.

Of the two articles, I prefer Cupich’s vision and hope it is required reading at the upcoming June bishops’ meeting. And, besides, I don’t have a biretta.

Fr. Dennis J. Lynch
Diocese of La Crosse, Wisc.


Last November, our president’s election made the divisions and wounds of society obvious. Our brains were wired to light up to authority, snared by fear and hoping for love, without knowing him and seeing the big picture. Now the disease has spread—do you think of everyone as “Republican” or “Democrat,” instead of one complex individual? Do you ever see the two breeds talking and listening? We watch from the cheap seats in the theater and are lucky not to be congressmen. But we can get a taste of it by watching ourselves. The best way to heal society is to join a weekly discussion group. A “water cooler group”—that’s what our Commonweal Local Community has become for us.

Talking with people in the same room over time, and seeing the solidness of some, the blind spots of others, is the only way to build trust. Breaking the ice, listening to others and stating one’s views, seeing that the other person hears you and takes it in—these are the building blocks of civil society. A person writing emails or tweeting feels powerful, but seldom builds understanding. Those gimmicks lack the real-time, back-and-forth volley of tones, glances, facial expressions, the signaling of emotion that makes things clear. All real politics is local. (The busy senators may not do it, but the average citizen can.)

If you have a good breakroom, neighborhood porch gang, coffee shop or pub with a regular crew, then you’re lucky or wise, and know what I mean. If you don’t have something like that, then you may need to start the group yourself.

The group should be sloppy and inefficient, with no agenda or money at stake—so the effort to control doesn’t take over. The basic goal is to have a good conversation.

What is a good conversation? It’s a spontaneous, free-ranging talk, very much like play. One person tosses out the ball and others respond, till someone says “Okay if I switch topics?” Like a good country road, the course wanders from less personal topics (weather, movies, politics) to more personal ones (family, philosophy, life and death), and back again when folks need to lighten up. Of course everyone comes from a different place and won’t agree, but differences are expected and vital for growth. (It’s only later, driving home, I can think, “That was weird, but maybe he had something!”) It’s polite but not too polite, honest but not too hostile. Some humor is helpful but the serious thread remains. Brief statements, no lectures, a glance to check out how the other receives it, and asking, “What did you mean by that? Will you explain?” are all vital methods. It is fact-checking in a way that rarely happens online. Afterward, I think, “I didn’t know what I thought until after I said it. It turns out that stranger is more like me than I thought. I see myself better in the mirror of the other.”

Bill Houghton
Milwaukee, Wisc.


We continue to be pleased that our Commonweal Local Communities have helped foster meaningful conversations and community for our readers around the country—especially in an era in which civilized public discourse seems all but extinct. If you’re interested in forming a CLC in your area, or if you’d like to check out whether there’s already a group meeting, head over to to learn more or sign up. Email or call Ellen Koneck with any questions: [email protected] or 212-662-4200 ext. 7005.

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Published in the July 7, 2017 issue: View Contents
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