I greatly appreciate Rita Ferrone’s recent article about the Amazon Synod (“A Hermeneutic of Suspicion,” December). It shed light on much of the Pachamama incident and helped balance the many negative comments and accusations of idolatry. However, one point I didn’t see addressed in Ferrone’s excellent article was the question of whether participants were prostrating themselves before the image, and if so, why this would be. Would it be possible to learn more about that aspect of the event?
RITA FERRONE REPLIES:
In the context of the service, the participants engaged in a circle dance. This included making gestures upward and outward; and, finally, they bowed down and together touched their foreheads to the ground in a gesture of humility before the God of all creation. These actions are consonant with worship of the Triune God. Yet some observers have obstinately insisted that the mementos and symbols of the Amazon in the center of the circle (rather than God himself) were the object of their worship. This is crude thinking and a calumny against these Amazonian Catholics, who profess the same creed that we do. If they were Hibernians singing the Breastplate of Saint Patrick (“Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left”) would we accuse them of pantheism? If they were Eastern Orthodox kissing icons would we accuse them of worshipping images? No. Intentions matter. There is simply no indication that idolatry was intended here.
THE LITTLE ROOM
The history of gay people finding a way to live with dignity and integrity has been a difficult story of coming out, individually and collectively. We still need a second coming out on our behalf by heterosexual people who understand our spiritual truth and have the courage to speak out for us. I am grateful for Mollie Wilson O’Reilly’s courage and support (“A Harmful Doctrine,” January). I believe Christ will find us at peace with his will when this issue and a few others like it become irrelevant to the point of no longer needing to be addressed. I still hold hope there will be something more affirming to come from Pope Francis on this topic.
I am grateful for the title of Ms. O’Reilly’s article, because the current teaching of the church is indeed a harmful doctrine that reinforces not just discrimination but a form of reductive dualistic thinking that is pervasively harmful. It does not bring peace. It does not protect the environment we call home from destruction. I believe that I would betray God by living a false life pretending not to be gay, causing spiritual and psychological damage to others and to myself.
I was moved by Ms. O’Reilly’s comment about LGBTQ people so drawn to Christ’s presence in the church that they look past all the dismissals and insults to fight for their place at the Eucharistic table. I was baptized by choice as a Southern Baptist at nine years of age. I identified strongly with the message of Christ, but I was also persecuted for who I was perceived to be long before I knew enough to identify myself as gay. In my twenties, I joined the Catholic Church and came out soon afterward, but I could not get past the integrity issues of being gay and trying to be Catholic, and I did not stay.
But last year, at the age of sixty-five, I visited Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Quebec, near where I now live. I entered the little room behind the altar and knelt to pray. I had never felt such a powerful, encompassing, affirming presence. At the time, I didn’t know that “the little room” I had visited contained the Blessed Sacrament.
My experiences at Saint Joseph Oratory led me to start attending Mass at Paroisse Saint-Pierre-Apôtre in the Gay Village of Montreal. It is an inclusive parish that serves the gay community, unconditionally extending its welcome regardless of sexual orientation. The parish also acknowledges respect for the spiritual experiences of people’s lives outside the church and is happy for them to bring the richness of their personal spiritual search to the community. I feel neither guilty nor resentful for the years I missed attending Mass (although I did discuss it at confession). I simply feel enormously grateful for being able to experience my spiritual connection in this manner, at this time, with these people.
Thomas Ray Stapleton
As Andrew Bacevich knows, I have a great deal of respect for his assessment of American foreign policy, and nowhere more than where American interventionism is concerned. His new Quincy Institute will no doubt be an important critical voice in foreign-policy discussion. His larger thesis about congressional dereliction regarding Presidents Bush and Obama, and now Trump, is certainly correct (“Beyond Impeachment,” February). But I do not agree with his plague-on-both-their-houses condemnation. Pelosi is right that a line had to be drawn, and the Ukrainian “drug deal” (how often can we thank John Bolton for anything?) was the place to do it. We needed to go on record regarding this rogue presidency. Politically speaking, impeachment may well backfire—that’s why I opposed it for the longest time. But no longer. Not often that I can say I’m proud of my political party. But I’m happy to own this one.
University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, Minn.
GENDER AND CHRISTIAN BELIEF
Thank you for Eve Tushnet’s beautifully written and challenging review of Andrea Long Chu’s Females (“Is Everyone Female?” February). At a time in which one-third of young Americans identify as something other than completely heterosexual, we in the church need to think deeply about the meaning of gender in the context of Christian belief. Tushnet’s assertion that the sacrificial lives of male Christian saints—and Christ himself—were in essence “female” is a wonderful place to begin.
Beth Barton Schweiger
THE IRISH ROSE
In arguing that January 21, 1919, be marked as the pivotal day in Irish history, John Rodden and John P. Rossi (“From Ireland to Israel, and Beyond,” October) never specify why. In fact, two events happened that day. The first session of an independent Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann, convened in Dublin, and two officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary were ambushed and killed by the IRA, the opening act in a bloody guerrilla war. The defining event in the formation of the modern Irish state, a stable, well-functioning democracy, might better be seen as the result of the election of December 14, 1918. The first held after the end of World War I, and the first in which women (over thirty) and working-class men were enfranchised, it was also the last pan-Irish parliamentary election involving all thirty-two counties. The results represented a victory of historic proportions for Sinn Féin, whose members refused to take their seats in Westminster. It was victory at the polls that set off the revolution, not the other way around.
Hastings-on-Hudson, N. Y.