Religious freedom, prairie jewel, celibates’ sex advice

For the Defense

Thank you for criticizing the U.S. Catholic bishops’ misguided religious-freedom campaign (“Partisan Dangers,” May 4). In Geneva I teach a course that includes a module on Calvinism to an international group of university students. We discuss the theocracy Calvin established as well as contemporary expressions of theocracy in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. In response to the Republican primary debates, a few students asked me if the United States was mildly theocratic. I explained that the founders designed the U.S. government to be secular, but that there are a number of politically oriented Christian groups in the country that seek to enshrine their theology into policy and law.

I attended a 2009 talk given by Archbishop Charles Chaput in Detroit. The symposium was intended to focus on St. Paul and the spread of Christianity, but Chaput took the opportunity to strongly criticize President Barack Obama. I discreetly walked out. Chaput took issue with Obama’s statement, made in Turkey, that the United States is not “a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” That is precisely the message I give my students, with the hope that more voices like Commonweal’s will continue to defend those ideals and values.

Maryvelma S. O’Neil
Geneva, Switzerland


Which Reminds Me

I am a former longtime subscriber to Commonweal. Your response to the bishops’ latest statement on religious liberty (dotCommonweal, April 12) reminded me why I dropped my subscription. You state that “the USCCB’s statement vastly exaggerates the extent to which American freedoms of all sorts and of religious freedom in particular are threatened. Church-state relations are complicated, requiring the careful weighing of competing moral claims.” The bishops gave plenty of examples of political actions taken by federal and state government against the Catholic Church and religion in general.

Moreover, their statement is inclusive of Islam—and all religions. If you feel more specificity was needed, shouldn’t there have been more mention of increasing hostility to Jews and the public mocking of Christianity in general?

Cecily Surace
Tucson, Ariz.


‘Jewel on the prairie’

Thank you for Albert Eisele’s appreciative and insightful essay on St. John’s Abbey Church and the genius of Marcel Breuer (“The Monks & the Modernist,” April 6). Perhaps Commonweal can feature a review of another Breuer church: Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel at Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, North Dakota—often referred to as the “jewel on the prairie.” Just as Breuer honored the woodsy setting of St. John’s, he respected the prairie setting and the feminine presence of the Benedictine sisters in the design of the monastic and church buildings. Breuer’s architectural wedding of form and function has had significant historical, cultural, and religious influence in western North Dakota. It is worth a visit!

Marie D. Hoff
Bismarck, N. Dak.


Outside Observers

Jo McGowan (“Simplifying Sex,” April 20) says that the clerical view of contraception may reflect sexual inexperience and adolescent projection. In 1946 Raïssa Mari-tain wrote: “When one sees the number of celibate analysts who devote themselves to the problem of marriage, one has the feeling that it is the analysts most of all who would need to get married.”

Hilary Thimmesh, OSB
Collegeville, Minn.

Published in the 2012-05-18 issue: 
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