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Faithfully departed

The January issue was excellent. I liked "faithful departures: How Catholics face the end of life" by Robert McClory. I find that people who are Christian and believe they're going to meet their God do not fear. Church support, family support, and support groups help the dying person. God helps us if we let him.

And regarding "Death needs no assistants," the editors' interview with M. Cathleen Kaveny in the same issue, I do not believe Dr. Kevorkian has the right to play God, but I do believe people have a right to stop life supports if there is no chance of recovery.

My mother suffered terribly with stomach cancer for a year, but she knew God would come for her in time. When our friends from the prayer groups and Bible studies came, she asked that they did not pray for her recovery because it was time for her to go. She did ask them to pray for a peaceful death. She died at home with family members present. In our Bible group, there were some members who had a difficult time talking about death at first, but, after years together, we now talk about death, life after death, and how to plan for it. It is comforting to know that we'll meet our Lord.

Shirley M. Noel Northbridge, Mass.

Soul music

I was reading the March Catholic Tastes column and had to respond to the part titled "Amazing Disgrace." First, I did an Internet search using the term "Missa Luba" and found that the Music Heritage Society has a CD-ROM with that and other ethnic Mass music.

Second, I've heard various criticisms about how poor post-Vatican II liturgical music is, and I can't help but wonder (being a post-Vatican II Catholic myself): What exactly are the critics doing about the situation? I've never seen a song composed by Don Wycliffe, but he seems to have the desire to comment on the situation. Is he doing something concrete to improve the liturgical music situation?

Sometimes I wish the critics would stop criticizing and start participating. Maybe, with their help, we all could work to improve the situation.

John MacLerran Pocatello, Idaho

I enjoyed seeing mention in the March issue of "Missa Luba," the recording of African voices singing the Latin liturgy and, on the flipside of the 33-rpm record, African-language hymns. In my early days during the '60s, being a new Catholic convert, I used to listen to a friend's copy of this recording nearly daily. It is indeed music that touches the soul.

Darlene Lister Quartz Hill, Calif.

As we forgive

I trust that R. Scott Appleby's article "How the church learned to say, `I'm sorry'" in the March issue is not the last in the series that deals with forgiveness and reconciliation. If it is, it typifies the institutional attitude of "Where we were was bad, where we are is good!" Public reconciliation is not all bad; private Confession is not all great. The overemphasis on obtaining God's forgiveness (which is available freely as a gift) to the exclusion of needing and offering forgiveness of each other--in community--is disaster. Where we are is where we are, but it is not where we can and should be.

Appleby's approach of looking at history solely to better understand how we got where we are--without looking at where it is we need to go--is useless. To take comfort in the fact that private Confession does not require sinners "to be doormats" without acknowledging that we need to forgive each other for making one another doormats ignores our essential communal nature.

John Chuchman Scottsdale, Ariz.

Fossilized thinking

In the March Margin Notes, Kevin Clarke has followed the general rule that nuclear power and greenhouse gas warming are never mentioned in the same article. If the nation's 100 nuclear-power plants close, they will almost certainly be replaced with fossil-fuel power plants. These replacement fossil-power plants will spew a billion additional tons of greenhouse gases a year directly into the atmosphere, hastening the day when low-lying countries like Bangladesh are inundated by rising seas.

I suspect the average Bangladeshi worries less about stored U.S. nuclear waste leaking sometime in the next 240,000 years than the near-term destruction of his homeland by unstored U.S. greenhouse gases.

Is it a Christian act to dump our energy problems on Third World countries?

R. J. Windgassen Venice, Fla.

Waiting in the wings

I am writing to commend U.S. CATHOLIC for the refreshing discussion in February's Sounding Board, "Let's welcome back married priests" by John Horan. You created awareness among American Catholics that there is a reserve of more than 20,000 married Roman Catholic priests available to work side by side with celibate priests to stop parish closures.

The Vatican's acceptance of almost 100 married Protestant ministers into the ranks of the priesthood is a pastoral implementation of Pope John Paul II's statement that celibacy is not essential to the priesthood. Such ecumenical openness sends a clear message about the acceptability of married priests and simultaneously creates a precedent for welcoming back the reserve of qualified priests who have enriched their reception of Holy Orders with the sacrament of Matrimony.

We must not forget that the married priesthood is the original and traditional priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church. Saint Peter and 39 popes after him were married and served our Roman Catholic tradition with distinction.

Despite our loss of clerical support and status, we married priests have not put our light under a bushel basket. We hold down full-time jobs, lovingly care for our families, and continue to actively minister to Roman Catholics who ask for our help. Twenty-one canon laws validate their request and justify our pastoral response.

John Shuster, Vice President Celibacy Is The Issue, Inc. Port Orchard, Wash.

Two thumbs up!

First, your February issue is great. Specifically, the cover article, "Rest assured: the Anointing of the Sick" by John Shea, was deeply touching and very meaningful, and it showed wonderful sensitivity. And a heartfelt thanks to John Horan for his thought-provoking article, "Let's welcome back married priests," highlighting the tragic loss of their gifts to us and the sinful wrong that is done them (and us) in having to choose one call over another.

Lisa Marcelletti Rochester, N.Y.

Interfaith options

The article "Two faiths are better than none" by Marianne Comfort in the January issue, is a positive and balanced presentation of the issues involved in interfaith marriages. I thought that it was especially insightful that you included even the broader issues of marriages between Catholics and Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims, as well as Jews. You're right! It's getting to be a more and more common occurrence. Only good can come from educating the public about it and about the options people have in considering it.

Nancy Nutting Cohen Minneapolis, Minn.

Catholics should be encouraged to marry within their own faith or not marry at all. Conversion to a spouse's religion for the sake of family unity is something which some might do without taking into account the gravity or consequences of such a move.

While such a conversion, in either direction, is fine when undertaken with sincere thought and prayer, and without duress or ulterior motive, one has to wonder if the neophyte's former religion ever really meant anything to them.

Craig S. Gottlieb El Centro, Calif.

I very much enjoyed reading Comfort's article because it illuminated better than anything I've read thus far where the fundamental difference lies between what I take to be the Catholic approach to such unions and the Jewish approach.

I suspect from a Jewish perspective it would be more accurate to say that "two faiths are worse than none." That is because the deep notion of "peoplehood" as an integral element of family and culture in Jewish life makes faith only one component of Jewishness. The sense of Jewish peoplehood can generally better abide an absence of faith in God than the presence of a "competing faith."

I believe these are profound and important issues not only for couples who are impelled to struggle with them by virtue of the choices of their hearts, but also for the great faith communities that are slowly awakening to the realization that theology is made daily in individual families' homes as much if not more than in seminaries.

Egon Mayer, Director Jewish Outreach Institute New York

Please address letters for publication to You May Be Right, 205 147. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60606. Or fax your comments to 312-236-8207. You can also e-mail us at We will withhold names upon request, but all letters must be signed. We regret that space limitations force us to condense letters and prevent us from publishing letters commenting on already published letters. --The editors
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Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:May 1, 1999
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