I was not only disappointed in the editorial “Held to Account” (May 15)—about the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn—I was also angered at the tortured logic of the editors. How is it possible that they could argue that “the pope’s favored methods of listening and deliberation…are themselves instruments of justice”? Have they never heard that “justice delayed is justice denied”? The charges against Finn have been public knowledge for nearly five years. His conviction, albeit a misdemeanor, came over two years ago. While I am all in favor of “listening and deliberation” as pastoral strategies, common sense dictates that once the guilty verdict is reached consequences must follow immediately—particularly when it involves a bishop and his failure to report child pornography in the possession of one of his priests. If the bishop had been a teacher at the parish school or a catechist in a religious-education program, he would have been removed immediately. The delayed removal of Finn cannot be favorably interpreted as the result of “listening and deliberation.”
Is the pope listening and deliberating about newly installed Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile, who is tied to one of that country’s most notorious abusers? Is the pope listening and deliberating about Cardinal Bernard Law remaining a cardinal? And on and on.
The editors conclude that the pope “has given Catholics something that has been in short supply throughout this terrible crisis: hope.” If that opinion is true, then I can only despair.
David P. Dowdle
Western Springs, Ill.
One hates to contradict the response of someone as holy as Pope Francis, but the May 15 editorial raises a question for me. Regarding the sexual-abuse scandal, the pope has defended “the church as the only institution to address such crimes ‘with transparency and responsibility.’” Claiming that no one else has done more, his statement is akin to that of a petulant child defending his position, when he says that “the [Catholic] church is the only one to be attacked.” What’s more, the editors make a case for how busy Francis is, citing the five thousand bishops around the globe as a possible excuse for his apparent slowness in removing one bishop from a small diocese in the United States three years after the offending priest was laicized and sent to prison. Similarly, it is strange indeed, that a leader as astute as Francis, soon after he was elected pope, would canonize John Paul II—a pope who had failed “time and again, to take decisive action in response to clear evidence of a criminal underground in the priesthood, a subculture that sexually traumatized tens of thousands of youngsters” (the Nation, May 16, 2011). Granted, the dual canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II was underway before Francis became pope. But, as President Harry Truman used to say, “the buck stops here.” Francis could have declined sainthood for a pope who turned a blind eye to child victims and their parents. In the end, even with so humble and understanding a prelate, does it come down to politics as usual? One wonders.
The long view
Too bad that Agnes Howard and Thomas Albert Howard take so parochial and defensive a view of David Christian’s lectures, titled “Big History” (“A Theory of Everything,” May 1). They are concerned that Christian’s attempt “to cover a vast stretch of space and time obscures understanding of contingent human actions,” and that his course “minimizes the significance of human experience.” I suppose it does, but I listened to the two dozen lectures and found that they evoked a religious response in me. As Christian takes you through the slow, logical unfolding of the universe, it is hard not to imagine a creator of infinite intelligence launching this exquisite sequence developing over 14 billion years, with nothing added and yet moving inexorably from the initial Big Bang to the highly complex result we call man. Studying man, the highest organism in history, is, as the Howards suggest, a critical endeavor. But to limit one’s study to the period when man finally arrives on the scene is to miss the opportunity to reflect on God’s handiwork in launching the universe.
Sometime after I heard the lectures, I came across Leonardo Boff’s Christianity in a Nutshell. I was delighted to see that Boff begins his account of Christianity with the Big Bang and takes his readers through the same “history” that David Christian does. Then I came across Ilia Delio’s The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, which traces the thinking of Teilhard de Chardin and the centrality of evolution in the life of the universe as it moves to ever greater complexity and consciousness and expresses the overflowing love of the Creator.
Let’s hope the Howards’ article does not discourage people from listening to “Big History.” I think it does what education is meant to do—expand one’s mind.
John W. Weiser
Thanks to Jerry Ryan for his reflections on the challenge of “Knowing Jesus” (May 15). He’s quite right to suggest that any relationship with Jesus is initiated by Jesus himself (“I believe that Jesus has a relationship to me—but is this reciprocal?”). And I can identify with his concluding thought that this relationship is a mysterious journey, made up of many smaller steps. That said, I wonder if Ryan isn’t letting “thinking about” Jesus keep him from the more personal knowledge of the Lord that he apparently desires. All the attention here goes to what others have said about Jesus, but in my experience, the surest way to know Christ better is to address him directly in prayer.
Timothy P. Schilling
After reading the article by Jerry Ryan and also reading Elizabeth Johnson’s book Consider Jesus, the words in Peter’s confession (Matt. 16:13-20) have taken on another level of meaning. In previous years when I heard or read these words, I understood them as Jesus testing the disciples’ understanding of who he was. Now I think they reflect Jesus’ struggle to understand himself. When Jesus asks “But who do you say I am?” he asks the question not as a test but as one hoping to receive insight. When Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus gets the insight he was looking for. The truth of Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God must have struck a chord in the depths of Jesus’ heart and mind so that he joyfully says to Peter, “Blessed are you…flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
I am grateful to Jerry Ryan and Sr. John-son for helping me see this level of meaning. I’ll never again hear or read that part of Scripture without this better understanding of what it means.
Haddon Township, N.J.