Letters | Policing the Communion line, security theater, etc.



Do I sense an air of self-satisfaction as Fr. Nonomen totes his tomatoes home (“Policing the Communion Line,” May 5)? “Thank God I am not like those diocesan administrators, doctors of the law, ever-ready to sniff out some scandal in my advocacy of an open-door Communion policy.” There will definitely be “no policing” at Saint What’s-Her-Name! Ignore canonical requirements and diocesan directives—willfulness is all.

Fr. Nonomen’s article seems to presume that there is no alternative between “policing” and promiscuity. What about the pastoral responsibility to discern and counsel? Or is “accompaniment” reduced to a brief encounter at the head of the Communion line? If pastors are not called to dictate, neither are they called to abdicate. Perhaps a re-reading of Gregory the Great’s Regula pastoralis is in order.

In my years teaching at Maryknoll (a remarkably hospitable place), one learned to appreciate the wisdom of one of its founders: “It’s also a function of hospitality to draw boundaries.”

And is it not past time to do away with quaint anonymous submissions? A little transparency in the age of Trump would be salutary.

Rev. Robert Imbelli
New York, N.Y.


What an uplifting and inspiring article by Fr. Nonomen. I can’t tell you how many times I have been faced with the list of who may not come to the table at liturgy! I have written many letters to the pastors following such experiences—no one ever answered me, I might add. This article is definitely a keeper and so is “Fr. Nonomen.” We need more parishes like his. Please, God, surprise me!

Arline M. Schoenberger
Philadelphia, Pa.


As a former arts and sciences dean at a major Catholic university, Loyola University of Chicago, I too have had to deal with the issues raised by John Garvey and Mark Roche in their pair of articles, “Hiring for Mission” (February 10). Their proposals, while helpful, will prove inadequate for most Catholic institutions. Garvey prescribes a majority-Catholic faculty. That falters for two reasons: it raises the question of who is Catholic (e.g. does a baptized but lapsed Catholic meet the criterion?), and it encourages deception. Non-Catholic universities like Baylor and Brigham Young have applied such tests for years, and faculty at both institutions have told me how rampant deception can be, just as much by eager hiring bodies as by applicants. Roche avoids Garvey’s pitfalls with his recipe for mission-related application procedures and faculty seminars, but some of his proposals—postponing searches, raising the academic rank of the position you’re hiring for, encouraging competitions for hiring slots—may well work at Notre Dame, the nation’s wealthiest Catholic university, but are simply impossible at places where budgets are tighter.

Frank Fennell
Evanston, Ill.


Nice to see Panjak Mishra’s book, Age of Anger, recently reviewed (“Destructive Solidarity,” May 5). I haven’t read it yet and may not, but it’s certainly hit a nerve. It has come in for criticism at securely liberal venues (Adam Gopnick’s New Yorker review, Michael Ignatieff’s in the New York Review of Books). The anti-globalist revolt, if that’s what it is, recalls the fulminations of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man against the Crystal Palace in London. My fellow liberals and Democrats have to learn how to respond to this upsurge of ressentiment by some other means than condescension and censure.

Michael J. Hollerich
University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, Minn.


My heart goes out to Lubana Adi for her ordeal when traveling to and from the United States to see her mother and two brothers in Gaziantep, Turkey (“The Trump Touch,” May 19). The ignominy she was subjected to by U.S. agents at LAX airport when leaving the United States and again when she returned was cruel and demeaning. If the agents’ “intel” actually existed or was worth its salt it would be clear to them that she was no threat to national or international security, nor a terrorist.

Perhaps I can offer some solace to Lubana. I, too, have been subjected to ignominious treatment several times at U.S. airports—and I was born in America. I, too, have no criminal record and have made it my life’s career to work with nonprofits who serve disabled people, crime victims, and the economically disadvantaged. I have also served the communities in which I have lived as a volunteer on various municipal boards. However, having this service under my belt did not deter Newark, New Jersey, airport “officials” from pulling me from my travel group to Ireland and ordering me to spread eagle in front of a glass partition while using the wand in every crevice of my body. It didn’t matter that I watched my travel party getting smaller and smaller as they walked to the plane. It also didn’t matter that at the time my only child was serving in the Army in Iraq, and was later awarded the Bronze Star for his role in Saddam’s capture. It didn’t matter that I am a good person and believe in nonviolence.

My encounters with Homeland Security agents didn’t stop there. In Philadelphia I’ve had my travel packets of peanut butter confiscated (I’m diabetic) for being suspicious and my pocketbook containing personal products emptied in front of a cast of onlookers in Oklahoma City. I’ve been pulled aside in a Hawaii airport to have my chest patted down with latex gloves (I’ve had two mastectomies and I’m allergic to latex) without any explanation other than “I’m just following orders.” Huh? The next time I had a chest x-ray I asked the doctor to let me see it and there I found the “justification” for the pat-down: the staples my surgeon used for my second mastectomy. If airport security were properly trained to interpret what they see on airport x-ray machines, I would have been spared the latex pat-down in plain view of my fellow travelers. What did they think the staples were? Explosives? Radioactive isotopes?

Sadly, I’m sure there are many experiences like Lubana’s and mine. Some have even made headlines, but most never appear on the news. Until there is a discernible decline in these negative travel encounters, our claims to be a “democracy” ring hollow. This is no way for a self-governing people to live. Security measures need to be directed at those considered high-risk for terrorism because of their individual history, not fellow Americans with a particular skin color, heritage, or dress.

As Lubana noted, she understands the need for security measures. We all do. However, when those measures are used frivolously and without sound intel, it smacks of misuse of authority, incompetence, and indefensible bullying. And, even worse, the humiliation of innocent Americans. It’s unacceptable behavior, to say the least.

Mary H. Donohue
Wilmington, Del.


I am breaking the cardinal rule of letters to the editor: promptness. Yet I must express my admiration for the article by Luke Timothy Johnson on “The Church & Transgender Identity” (March 10, 2017). Though the discussion in David Cloutier’s accompanying piece was logical and articulate, Johnson’s approach was refreshing because it was based upon different premises and experiences.

While reading his article, I was reminded of a remark made by the Rev. Richard Gula that so much of what passes for Christian ethics seems to be ethics done by Christians: it has an angle of vision shaped by Christian faith, but the facts upon which the discussion is based are shared with non-believers. Johnson, though, calls for a broad-ranging examination of Scripture and for taking seriously the repeated New Testament statements that for baptized believers in Jesus there is “a new creation” in the Spirit.

After encountering too much outdated biology and the selective use of Scripture in the discussion of this and other topics during the past two decades of culture wars, I was heartened by a fresh and energizing perspective.

Michael Marchal
Cincinnati, Ohio

Published in the June 2, 2017 issue: 
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