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A Journal of Mere Christianity J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2006
Anne Barbeau Gardi ner Jennirer Roback Morse
Russell D. Moore
Jtili Loescn W^iley
o A/ ^
Allan Carlson on me Future oj me Family in America Graeme Hunter on Immortality & Death
Dimitri Cavalli on A. Tale of Two Jesuits
he lived the life most of us would wish to live. That same day in the afternoon Rice went to another house of sorrow. He had to find words to comfort parents whose infant child had lived only a few days and then painfully died, without gaining any appreciation of the world into which it had been born, or the parents who had brought it here with such high hopes, or the joys of a life it would never know. "Mr. Rice," said the grieving father to the minister, "What is the use of having lived at all?" It was a heartfelt inquiry of the kind that puts our own life in question, exposing our usual excuses for living as threadbare. But as sometimes happens in such situations, a light flashed into the darkness of that question, a light that, Rice says, did not come from his own mind. "You are an engineer, and have learned a little calculus," he said spontaneously to the father,
You know therefore that when placed next to infinity any finite number is the equal of any other. It seems strange at first, but it is mathematically certain. The infinite member of the equation being incomparably great, whatever we compare with it has the same significance. Now let us do a little human calculus with your baby. Take him, or your 30-year-old self, or the old man I buried this morning and lay up against you all the immortality for which each of you was born. The result is the same. The real greatness of a human life is not how long it shall live on this earth, but the fact that it is an immortal life, destined to live forever with God.
A Tale of Two Jesuits
DIMITRI CAVALLI on Why the Media Celebrated One & Ignored the Other
N MAY 9, 2005, the Reverend Thomas Reese, S.J., announced that he would resign as the editor-in-chief of America, the highly respected Jesuit weekly magazine. Many liberal Catholics blamed the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI with forcing Reese out because he published articles questioning the church's teachings and the Vatican's policies on such topics as same-sex marriage, homosexual priests, and denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Several months later, many details about Reese's resignation still remain sketchy. It is known that Benedict XVI, when he headed the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, complained about certain articles that America had published. But did the new pope actually force Reese out? The Reverend Jose M. de Vera, S.J., a spokesman for the Society of Jesus in Rome, was quoted by the Catholic News Service as saying that Reese "tendered his resignation. It was not imposed, contrary to what was written." Reese's only statement on the controversy, which was posted on America's website, did not shed any light on why he decided to resign. "I am proud of what my colleagues and I did with the magazine, and I am grateful to them, our readers, and our benefactors for the support they gave me," Reese said. "I look forward to taking a sabbatical while my provincial and I determine the next phase of my Jesuit ministry." Father Reese is hardly a martyr, even if Cardinal Ratzinger did ask for his removal. Unlike some other Jesuits who have gotten into trouble with their superiors, he has not been barred from teaching, publishing, or even speaking to the media. Last July, Reese joined the faculty of the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University in California.
In his sudden illumination the pastor had seen a truth that can easily be forgotten. It is not our earthly lives but God's gift of immortality that defines our worth. Eternal life cannot be affected by the decisions of abortionists or euthanizers or the weak-willed adults who seek out their services. We adults, struggling through the middle of life's way, may destroy ourselves, if we spurn the lives God entrusts to us. But we will not be permitted to harm them. Their affairs are not neglected by God. God's perfect will is for us to struggle against evil wherever we find it, in an attempt to win back those who are attracted to the dark logic of death. But the babies they kill belong to God no less than do the lives of aged saints. The battle in the abortion mills that are, and in the euthanasia factories that are to come, is for the hearts of those who work there, who have been deceived by death's seductive simplicity.
Contributing editor Graeme Hunter teaches philosophy at the University of Ottawa.
RALLYING AROUND REESE
Whatever Reese's motivations for resigning are, his departure outraged many liberal Catholics, who expressed fears of a new Vatican crackdown on the free discussion of issues important to the future of the church. "As a consequence," Commonweal, the lay liberal Catholic magazine, warned in a May 20 editorial, "the first thing many Americans are now likely to associate with Pope Benedict XVFs papacy will be yet another act
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of Vatican repression. Does this mean that the zeal with which then-Cardinal Ratzinger harried theologians while head of the CDF will continue during his papacy?" Some critics argued that Reese did nothing wrong. In an interview with New York Newsday, the Reverend Richard McBrien, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame and a prominent dissident theologian, defended Reese. "[He] has been very careful to be evenhanded, fair-minded, and restrained in any comments he's ever made, either in the run-up to this papal election or in his books," McBrien asserted. "I would be astonished if anyone except extreme right-wingers would be offended by anything he's either written or said." He told the Associated Press that Reese's removal implied that the Vatican and its American allies "don't think it's possible to discuss both sides." Others spoke more dramatically. In a press release on its website published the same day as Reese's announcement, the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), a dissident organization led by long-time dissenting theologian Leonard Swidler, called on the pope to recall his childhood under a fascist regime that ruthlessly stifled freedom of the press and to use his authority to allow Jesuit superiors to reinstate Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., as Editor of America Magazine. . .. Unless and until this injustice has been officially rectified, ARCC calls on all truth-seeking Catholics to withhold their annual Peter's Pence contribution [a donation to the Vatican] and to put a note in the envelope, indicating why there is no donation and where the money is being sent instead. The media gave Reese's resignation extensive attention. The wire services such as the Associated Press and Reuters picked up the story. The New York Times published an article on the front page. The television networks, PBS, cable television stations, and National Public Radio (NPR) covered it. Not surprisingly, most of the media coverage was sympathetic to Reese. Many of the stories and segments quoted liberal Catholics, who criticized the Vatican for forcing Reese out and warning of a new wave of censorship coming from Rome. Tom Roberts, the editor-in-chief of the liberal National Catholic Reporter, told Newsday that Father Reese was "forced out" by the Vatican, and condemned the action as "an appalling affront to intelligent discourse."
Three years earlier, another prominent Jesuit priest was disciplined for voicing controversial opinions. A theologian who studied for his doctorate under then-Father
Ratzinger in Germany, the Reverend Joseph Fessio, S.J., co-founded Ignatius Press in 1978 to publish translations of the works of European Catholic theologians, philosophers, and authors. Under his leadership, it has become one of the top publishers of Catholic literature in the United States, including Catholic World Report, a monthly news magazine, and a journal called the Homiletic and Pastoral Review. Several years ago, Fessio became disillusioned with the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco, where he taught theology and founded a great books program called the St. Ignatius Institute. He publicly criticized the university for overhauling the institute and taking "unCatholic" actions such as hiring an openly homosexual dean and staging Eve Ensler's sexually explicit play, The Vagina Monologues, during Lent. In March 2002, Fessio announced the formation of Campion College, a two-year Catholic institution that would provide an alternative to the University of San Francisco. Fessio's actions immediately brought down the wrath of his Jesuit superiors. On March 11, 2002, the Reverend Thomas Smolich, S.J., the provincial of the California Jesuits, sent Fessio a letter telling him that "Campion College was not and is not part of your assignment from the Society of Jesus, as determined by me as your provincial." Smolich continued, "You are to have no role, public or private, in Campion College, just as Campion has no relationship with the Society of Jesus." In what was clearly a punishment, Smolich assigned Fessio to serve as chaplain of Santa Teresita Hospital in Duarte, a small town in southern California. Smolich allowed Fessio to continue running Ignatius Press, but warned him that it could be taken away from him if it
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was not kept separate from Campion College. Fessio complained that his superiors were trying to silence him and get him out of the way. How much media attention did the exile of one of the most prominent Catholic publishers in the United States receive? The wire services ignored it. There was nothing in the New York Times. In fact, the only mainstream newspaper that covered Father Fessio's "reassignment" was the San Jose Mercury News. The television networks, PBS, the cable news shows, and NPR showed no interest. What about liberal Catholics who have rallied to Reese's defense? Both Commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter were silent on Fessio's exile. One would think that Reese would have come to the aid of his fellow Jesuit, but America passed on the story as well. (It might have been problematic for America even to discuss the Fessio case, since Smolich is also Reese's superior within the order.) The often-quoted Richard McBrien made no statement. The ARCC, which was established by Catholic dissidents in 1980 in response to the Vatican's removal of Father Hans Kiing's license to teach Catholic theology, issued no press releases. After a public outcry from many conservative Catholics, in June 2002 Smolich allowed Fessio to accept an offer to serve as the chancellor of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, where he is today.
Friends, Foes & Countrymen
MICHAEL E. BAILEY on the Problem of Patriotism
A DOUBLE STANDARD
Why was the liberal Reese portrayed as a martyr for his alleged dismissal, while the real exile of the conservative Fessio was practically ignored? Unlike Reese, Fessio has never been popular with liberal Catholics, including some of his fellow Jesuits, who resent his influence and unapologetic defense of the church's teachings. A Vatican loyalist, he does not fit the mainstream media's image of a contemporary martyr. By contrast, the Reese episode gives liberal Catholics and their allies in the secular media another opportunity to criticize the Vatican and to raise doubts about the new pope, whose commitment to Catholic orthodoxy offends their sensibilities. One would take more seriously the demand of liberal Catholics for tolerance and greater democracy within the church if they did not turn a blind eye to repressive measures used by liberals and dissidents who have obtained positions of power within the church to harass, intimidate, and silence conservative Catholics—if, that is, they were truly liberal.
Dimitri Cavalli is an editor and writer in New York City. He is planning to write books on both Pope Pius XII and Joe McCarthy, the late manager of the New York Yankees.
Y SUBJECT is an embarrassing one for the educated and sophisticated, people like professors, college administrators, the editors and writers of the major magazines and newspapers, and those who produce our movies. It takes more courage among the sophisticated in the Academy and elsewhere to state without qualification that you love America than to declare yourself friendly to the United Nations, the idea of world government, or the ideals of socialism. The key words here are, of course, "without qualification." It is perfectly acceptable to praise America—even in the Academy—as long as you make absolutely clear that what you are praising is not America as she presently is but America as she can be. Praising the idea and ideals of America, in fact, requires that we temper our love of America as she presently is.
Why is this? Why are sophisticated people so uneasy about loving their nation? For Christians, skepticism about patriotism is sometimes rooted in the legacy of Christian thought. Scripture reminds followers of Christ that their deepest citizenship is in heaven, not in any earthly nation. We can never place our full confidence in this world, because even the most awesome products of human greatness and labor may be reduced to ashes with relative ease. Somehow I suspect that most of the unease in the academy—the part of the world of the sophisticated I know best—is not explained by rampant Augustinianism. Its unease may reflect its intellectual biases—and pretensions.
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