Kudos for Commonweal’s array of assessments of the Synod on the Family. Above all, Christopher Ruddy’s contribution forced me to ponder aspects of the deliberations I had not considered; after reading, thinking, and rereading, I had to agree with some of what he wrote and disagree with perhaps more.

Two of my objections in particular need to be underscored.

First, I agree with Ruddy that Pope Francis’s rhetoric was harsh. Speaking of those who “‘indoctrinate’ in dead stones to be hurled at others” is indeed provocative. But Francis did not condemn all conservatives—Dr. Ruddy himself extended that indictment beyond what the pope’s words required. Undoubtedly many who disagree with Francis do so because of their implacable fidelity to tradition; I have personally experienced priests and other leaders having closed hearts who “frequently hide even behind the church’s teaching” to abandon those struggling in difficult circumstances. This means hard truths need to be spoken occasionally: Pope John XXIII, for example, called some who took part in the discussion at Vatican II “prophets of doom.”

Second, Ruddy’s judgment that Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to allow some remarried Catholics to receive Communion ignores the requirement to receive Communion in a state of grace misses the point entirely. What Kasper actually is addressing is that some Catholics who remarry without an annulment are in fact already in a state of grace. Many priests of my generation have found Christ’s spirit alive and sanctifying beyond the present laws and practices of the church. Indeed, refusing to see this may well be a mark of those who hide even behind the church’s teaching.

John Topel, S.J.
Port Townsend, Wash.



I wish to commend you for the December 4 issue of Commonweal. The five reflections on the recent Synod on the Family were nothing short of wonderful, each offering a different and fresh perspective. The authors helped me understand the synod and its processes. With them, I await the pope’s exhortation!

Keep up the good work.

Fr. Fred Kawka
Lake Isabella, Mich.



As someone who has worked with parishes on their liturgical efforts for many years, I agree with Rita Ferrone’s assessment in her column (“His Own Received Him Not,” December 18). Priests tend to want to give to people what they want to hear, and have their children hear, which is the Lucan narrative. In the hands of a good preacher, there’s more than enough paschal mystery content in Luke’s story to make people tremble in their seats. Unfortunately, such preachers are rare indeed.

Thank you for calling attention again to the beauty of John’s overture, which, in this Year of Mercy, should be a stunning proclamation, as it is intended to be, of “grace falling upon grace”—the leading edge of God’s imagination becoming flesh and pitching a tent in the midst of the world’s darkness.

Rory Cooney
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Published in the January 8, 2016 issue: View Contents
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