BETTER IN GREEK
I enjoyed Robert Kiely’s very interesting and thorough overview of the historical identity of Mary Magdalene and, in particular, of the various it has been saids about John 20:17, “noli me tangere” (“Picturing the Magdalene,” September 10). I did miss, however, one possible translation of the original Greek text. Since the Greek verb haptein also means “to hold back,” the original phrase mê mou haptou from the Gospel of John, which was written in Greek, is perhaps better translated as “cease holding me back.” Jesus says to Mary: “Stop holding me back, but go, tell the disciples…”
Larry N. Lorenzoni, SDB
San Francisco, Calif.
I have mixed feelings about your editorial “Groundless” (September 10). I support Islam’s right to religious tolerance and the protection of law. An American can do nothing else. But the Muslim plan to build a community center near Ground Zero inevitably arouses strong emotions. Is that truly necessary?
As a priest, I volunteered my spiritual services in the aftermath of 9/11. The cruel and vicious attacks on the Twin Towers were heart-rending. It was said in John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”: “If ye break faith with us who die…” Relatives, friends, Americans: in varying degrees, we all share the same response.
Couldn’t Park51 be built in a location well removed from Ground Zero? I hope it will be—and that doesn’t mean I’m cynical, or that my love for the bereaved has trumped my Christian love for Muslims.
(Msgr.) Gerald Ryan
Contemporary media reports regarding today’s Islamic societies read like accounts of medieval Christian Europe: jihads in place of crusades; sharia-imposed oppression in place of inquisitions; corrupt mullahs in place of corrupt cardinals and popes; mujahedeen in place of Templars; Islamic women veiled in chadors in place of medieval women used as little more than breeding chattel. I can hear historians shrieking at the liberties I am taking, but the parallels, while not perfect, are striking.
There seems to be a natural historical process going on, because Islam is roughly the same age now as Christianity was in medieval times. Is it possible that Islam is on the verge of cultural shifts leading eventually to renaissance? Perhaps the best thing Western societies can do to help Islamic societies avoid the worst of our historical mistakes is to engage with them culturally and intellectually. Both our cultures need education about the best values of the other. In the process, the now-secular West may relearn a few lessons about “the compassionate and merciful.”
CATHOLICS & GAY MARRIAGE
Regarding “Prop 8 & the Rule of Facts” (Robert K. Vischer, September 10): We American Catholics are used to living with multiple definitions of marriage. Marriage within the church is a sacrament, which overlaps with civil marriage. Civil marriage carries with it a variety of benefits, expectations, and obligations, and we’re used to that as well. We’re used to treating our married Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu friends and neighbors as, in fact, married—even though their marriages are not recognized as sacramental by our church. We’re used to interfaith marriages as well as marriages that are not religious at all, but solely civil.
So my question is: How would the recognition of gay marriage by civil authorities pose a greater problem to American Catholics than recognition of other nonsacramental marriages now does?