R. Scott Appleby’s article on the Modernist controversy (“American Idol,” September 14) reminds me of Hans Küng’s observation in his autobiography that the major reason we need a Vatican III is that at Vatican II the church did not have an historical-critical understanding of itself and its origins. A major issue from Pius IX to the present has been the painful process of coming to terms with historical consciousness, first through historical-critical interpretative methods, and then through hermeneutics as a theory of all interpretation.
The Modernist crisis was provoked by the development of historical-critical interpretation, especially of Scripture.
I think of Martin Heidegger’s remark that “language is the house of being.” For the Gospels this house of being is Greek, while the Jesus-event took shape in the house of being that is Aramaic. There are great differences between these two “houses.”
I would consider it one of the burdens of grace for Catholic universities to assist the church in negotiating the difficult, painful, and I hope finally fruitful, encounter with historical consciousness in both its historical-critical and hermeneutical dimensions. In a word, the Modernist crisis has not ended.
BERNARD J. LEE, SM
San Antonio, Tex.
AN OUTDATED OATH?
Thank you for the thorough article on Modernism. I was told years ago by a bishop in Minnesota that he had taken the Oath against Modernism three times in his career: at his ordination, when he was made monsignor, then again when was made bishop. And as recently as three years ago, while meeting with three priests in Connecticut, I asked them if they had taken the Oath against Modernism and they all said they had.
How pathetic that our priests are still taking an outmoded oath that was first imposed by Pius X over a century ago.
ANTHONY A. WIGGINS
GIFTS OF THE SISTERS
It was refreshing to read Kathleen Anderson’s warm recollections of the teaching sisters she had in elementary and high school (“The Reunion,” September 14). My three younger brothers and I also attended Catholic grade school in the 1970s and ’80s. With one exception, I remember the sisters as dedicated, intelligent women who were trying to cultivate the Catholic faith in young people during a time of great social and religious change. I was one of the shier students, and they gave me much encouragement and support. My brothers, who are no longer Catholic, have a far less positive appraisal, and I wonder how much of it is true and how much is simply post-Catholic internalization of the myth of the “wicked nun.”Certainly, there were bad sisters, just as there have been bad public-school teachers. But as religious sisters face a grim future in this country, more credit should be given to their contributions: establishing hospitals, schools, and universities, and tirelessly educating generations of children.
The September 14 letter from an adoptive father (“Unprecedented Experiment”) makes several unsupported assertions about the suitability of gay parents. Contrary to the opinions in the letter, there is a considerable body of research that strongly indicates that children raised by gay parents, including those who are adopted, are as emotionally healthy and well adjusted as those raised by parents in conventional families.
I am privileged to know quite a few young women and men who were raised by gay parents, and the greatest threat to their happiness and well-being may in fact be the continued ignorance and prejudice toward homosexuality that permeates our culture.
San Francisco, Calif.
VEGANISM IS HEALTHY
As a dietitian, I know that, contrary to Dr. Robert P. Heaney’s claims in his letter to the editor (“A Biological Approach,” September 14), meat and other animal products are not essential parts of the human diet. In fact, following a vegan diet is one of the best ways to stay slim, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and prevent diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer.
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans provides all the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals we need without the fat and cholesterol found in animal products. For people following a plant-based diet, vitamin B12 can easily be found in a variety of vegetarian foods, such as fortified breakfast cereals, soymilk, and meat analogues, or simply by taking a vitamin B12 pill or multivitamin.
This healthy way of eating offers a nutritious alternative to the greasy, artery-clogging cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets that have contributed to our country’s dramatic rise in obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related illnesses. People may follow a meatless diet for a variety of reasons, including religious belief, but everyone can reap the health benefits of a vegan diet.
The writer is a staff dietitian at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.