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I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from the letters to First Things about my exchange with George Weigel on the adventures of the U.S. in Afghanistan. These letters show that the questions raised in that exchange are lively; for that we should all be grateful.

To Father Oakes (whose prose is as elegantly over-excited as always): I’m glad he shares my surprise that Mr. Weigel did not respond to my main point. I’d thought that this was because it’s not easily answerable, but Fr. Oakes sets me straight by at least attempting an answer. However, not all that he says makes sense. He asks what it means, in retrospect, that the Allies did not respect the ius in bello norms in World War II. Well, it means at least that those who gave the orders for the fire-bombing of German and Japanese cities acted unjustly, and that those who spoke for and with the Church then and after should have said so. Elizabeth Anscombe was one who did: she argued, trenchantly and rightly, that President Truman was a war criminal. Fr. Oakes, by his own lights, should agree, and I hope he does.

But Fr. Oakes appears to think that the American Catholic populace-at-large (including, presumably, him and me) is relieved from having opinions or making judgments about the justness of a particular act of war contemplated by our country because the classical just war theory permits those judgments only to statesmen and generals. This is incoherent. It follows directly from such a position that when two nations with Catholic populations are at (or about to go to) war, the populations of both are justified in judging their cause correct (just), because their statesmen and generals do. Perhaps Fr. Oakes will bite that bullet; I won’t.

As for the old accusation, “Not to decide is to decide”: well, yes, but the question is, to decide what? Fr. Oakes misconstrues the question I was asking, for that question I did decide. The question was: Did U.S. Catholics have enough
information at their disposal in September and October of last year to be able to apply the ius ad bellum criteria? I decided this question negatively, and Fr. Oakes does not address my arguments about it. Perhaps they were a bit subtle. I’m impressed, I must say, by Fr. Oakes’ blithe confidence in his ability to know the answer to counterfactual conditionals such as “What would have happened if the U.S. had responded bellicosely to the embassy bombings of 1998?” I have no such confidence. Perhaps Fr. Oakes has unusually well-developed predictive powers?

And finally to Fr. Oakes, about pacifism, C. S. Lewis, and soldiers. I’m pleased that Fr. Oakes approves of soldierly self-sacrifice and nobility. So do I. But I prefer these virtues when their exercise doesn’t involve killing other people. Does he?

Thanks to Mr. Toner, with most of whose letter I fully agree. I didn’t, though, claim to know more than the hierarchy. Rather, I asked them whether they knew more than I, and the answers I’ve had since the piece appeared suggest that for the most part the answer is no.

To Mr. Chambers: I didn’t claim simply that our sources are not wholly reliable; I claimed that they are very largely unreliable, which makes a difference. And the jury analogy is relevant, but not in the way he thinks: U.S. juries do not begin their work from a position of neutrality, but from a presumption of innocence. Similarly, a Catholic thinking about ius ad bellum begins from a presumption that a contemplated war is not just—a presumption which Mr. Chambers allows for the sake of the argument, and from which the conclusion I argued for does follow. Paragraph 2309 of the Catechism is a difficulty, I admit. To it I can only repeat what I said above to Fr. Oakes about statesmen and generals. I ask Mr. Chambers to think (as I continue to do) about the implications of this paragraph in the Catechism for the latitude we U.S. Catholics should permit our representatives on questions about the common good. We live, after all, in a nation in which those who have responsibility for the common good have made it illegal to restrict the killing of the unborn.

To Mr. Mock and Mr. Belousek: pacifism is a position I revere but don’t share, not, anyway, if it means abjuring all uses of lethal violence as a matter of principle. Mr. Mock accuses me of sloppy thinking, but doesn’t say wherein the sloppiness lies. I’d like to know (really!).

Mr. Guthrie’s question is important. I do think that the means by which information is disseminated in late-capitalist nations, together with the strong pressures toward mendacity affecting elected representatives in democracies, mean that the common man (and that’s me) doesn’t have and can’t get what he’d need to make reasonable decisions in time of contemplated or active war. And this means that the common Catholic man (and that’s me, too) is wrong to throw his support behind his nation when it’s contemplating (or has declared) war. This may not be the situation we’d like, but it’s no good pretending things are otherwise, is it?

George Weigel replies:

Ron Mock suggests that I confuse justice and order in my rendering of just war theory. Perhaps it would help clarify the point if I noted that, in my 1987 book Tranquillitas Ordinis, I “translated” St. Augustine’s classic definition of peace as “the peace of dynamic and rightly ordered political community.” Which means that justice and freedom are the two crucial components of “order” in tranquillitas ordinis. As I hope I’ve made plain in my just war writing over the last fifteen years, there are certain forms of political “order” that are not “right order” and need not be preserved—indeed, conscience may require that they be resisted, by a variety of means, a point on which Thomas Jefferson and Lech Walesa would have agreed. So I plead not guilty to the charge of identifying “order” and “justice.” Ditto to the charge that I am endorsing a “presumption for violence.” As I thought I had made reasonably clear in my article, the just war way of thinking about the moral exigencies of world politics begins with a presumption for justice—a presumption that the magistrate has the moral obligation to defend the common good, even at the risk of his own life—and then proceeds to a moral analysis of the various means available for securing justice, which can include proportionate and discriminate armed force.

Darrin Belousek’s letter reminds me of a mot attributed to the late John Courtney Murray, S.J.: “If the end doesn’t justify the means, what does?” Mr. Belousek does, however, take us close to the theological heart of the matter, which is indeed one of eschatology. He tells me that I misunderstand pacifism; from my point of view, what I think I understand is that pacifists misunderstand their relationship to the coming Pax Christi. That will be Christ’s work, not ours, established in Christ’s time, not ours; and because of the very nature of the Pax Christi, which will be the consummation of Christ’s salvific work in the final establishment of a Kingdom that is by definition “beyond” history, no work of politics (including nonviolent politics) will advance the establishment of the Pax Christi by one millisecond. Between now and then, the task is not
to establish Pax Romana, but . . . tranquillitas ordinis, to go back to the beginning (in several senses of the phrase).

Speaking the Truth?

David Novak wonders how a Jew like me can teach at a Christian divinity school in light of my “opposition to the dialogue” of the two communities and my belief that their “relationship necessarily involves mutual repugnance” (“‘Instinctive Repugnance,’” May). Let me assure the readers of First Things that my involvement in Jewish-Christian dialogue (which began when I was a teenager) and my commitment to it remain alive and well. Professor Novak’s error lies in assuming that because I reject “Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity” (which he coauthored), I must reject the dialogue tout court. Nothing in my critique of the statement provides the slightest support for his assumption.

As for his equally unfounded claim that I believe the relationship of Judaism and Christianity to be “necessarily” one of “mutual repugnance,” Prof. Novak does attempt to provide textual support. In doing so, however, he doctors my words in a way that inverts their plain and unambiguous meaning. Here is his alleged quotation, exactly as he gives it, brackets and all:

One need hardly be an advocate of interfaith hostility to observe [that] the two communities . . . feel an instinctive repugnance toward each other.

This must be compared with the passage in which I actually used the term “instinctive

One need hardly be an advocate of interfaith hostility to observe that two communities that feel an instinctive repugnance toward each other are unlikely to form an amalgam, whether through acculturation or intermarriage. By the same token, communities that have largely overcome their animosity and moved to mutual respect, as Jews and Christians have done to a significant extent in the United States, must look elsewhere for such reinforcements to group identity as existed under the older and more contentious arrangement. Under any conditions, the risks are higher for the smaller community—that is, the Jews. They are especially high if Jews and Christians really do stand in the relationship described by Dabru Emet.

Prof. Novak’s mischief goes further than his obvious insertion of a definite article and his employment of a tendentiously misleading ellipsis. The passage from which he has lifted the term “instinctive repugnance” makes it crystal clear that the attitude in question is largely a thing of the past, having been replaced by “mutual respect.” If Prof. Novak had wanted to give a truthful account of where I think things stand—and of my own personal attitude—he would have quoted those two words as well. That he does not, instead distorting my real words beyond recognition, should give pause to any honest reader.

I am hardly the “eminent Jewish scholar” that Prof. Novak calls me, but I am alert enough to recognize when I have been misquoted, when my meaning has been grossly and prejudicially misrepresented, and when the substantive issues I have raised remain unaddressed.

Jon D. Levenson
Albert A. List Professor of
Jewish Studies
Harvard Divinity School
Cambridge, Massachusetts

In his article “‘Instinctive Repugnance,’” David Novak seizes upon and distorts a single phrase, taken out of context, from Professor Jon D. Levenson’s extensive and thoughtful critique of the interfaith document “Dabru Emet (Speak the Truth): A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity,” in order to launch an ad hominem assault on Prof. Levenson’s integrity, his attitude to Christianity, and his suitability to be a professor at Harvard’s Divinity School. Prof. Levenson was certainly not advocating “mutual repugnance,” or any hostility for that matter, between Christians and Jews. He was merely pointing to an undeniable historical reality about the deeply ingrained, almost instinctive, responses of each group to the other’s religious rituals and core beliefs, that has largely and thankfully become a thing of the past. This in the context of Levenson’s very cogent and realistic critique of Dabru Emet’s willful ignorance of historical and theological realities that must frame any honest and fruitful interreligious dialogue.

While it is fine, indeed healthy, for Judaic scholars to engage in a heated exchange about the best way to approach interfaith dialogue, nothing can justify Prof. Novak’s truly repugnant accusation that, in not ascribing to Dabru Emet, Prof. Levenson is somehow guilty of fostering “self-hatred” among Christians, or his insulting suggestion that Levenson would be better off teaching in an Orthodox yeshiva than at Harvard. It is not without irony that, in the name of promoting an open dialogue between Christians and Jews, Prof. Novak has displayed a imperious intolerance of genuine dialogue within the Jewish scholarly community.

The etiology of this imperiousness is not hard to find in Prof. Novak’s article, where he describes Dabru Emet as “the first normative text for Jews dealing with the new and better chapter in the relationship between our communities dating from the 1965 statement, Nostra Aetate, of the Second Vatican Council.” It will no doubt disappoint Prof. Novak to learn that while the Torah, Mishna, Talmud, and Codes of Rabbinic Law may fairly be described as “normative texts for Jews,” his own writings in the pages of First Things do not quite merit that august designation, even if endorsed by three other Jewish college professors and later published as an advertisement in the New York Times.

Prof. Novak’s analysis of the widespread Jewish opposition to Dabru Emet is equally supercilious. With astonishing self-importance Prof. Novak writes: “As there is still Christian opposition to the Christian document of 1965, so there is now Jewish opposition to Dabru Emet.” In comparing the signatories of Dabru Emet to the members of the Second Vatican Council, Prof. Novak reflects not only an unwarranted sense of religious authority, he betrays the false reasoning that rendered Dabru Emet such a deeply flawed document in the first place. In point of fact, there is no Jewish equivalent to the Vatican, just as there is no parity between Jewish and Christian attitudes toward the other’s faith.

The same flawed reasoning led the authors of Dabru Emet to obscure the central theological differences between the two faiths, by asserting that Jews and Christians “worship the same God” and find religious authority “in the same book.” But, as all moderately educated Jews and Christians know, the God of Israel does not incorporate Jesus of Nazareth or the Holy Spirit, and the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) does not include the New Testament. These are not minor details; they are fundamental differences and only by confronting them in the context of interreligious dialogue can we hope for an honest and productive exchange. How strange it is that Prof. Novak’s polemic against dealing openly and honestly about the differences that separate believing Jews and Christians was published in the same issue of First Things as Richard John Neuhaus’ admirably candid reflections on the Jews.

At the very core of Prof. Levenson’s critique of Dabru Emet was the fact that this “Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity” imagines that, in their historic theological attitudes toward each other, there is somehow a balanced “dialectical” relationship between Christianity and Judaism. In challenging that misconstruction of Jewish history and theology, along with several other deeply problematic aspects of Dabru Emet, Prof. Levenson did a great service to furthering open discussion on a topic that is far from resolved in the minds of most rabbis and Jewish thinkers, Prof. Novak’s “normative text for Jews” notwithstanding. That Prof. Novak and his coauthors chose to lower the level of discourse not only in First Things but in their strident letter in the April 2002 issue of Commentary, in which they dismiss the possibility of dialogue with Prof. Levenson “in his present state of mind,” is most lamentable.

Rabbi Dr. Allan Nadler
Department of Religious Studies
Director, Jewish Studies Program
Drew University
Madison, New Jersey

I was surprised and dismayed at Professor David Novak’s misrepresentation of Prof. Jon D. Levenson’s reference to the “instinctive repugnance” between the Jewish and the Christian communities in Prof. Levenson’s penetrating and incisive critique of the Dabru Emet document. Based upon his obvious (and deliberate?) misconstrual of Prof. Levenson’s remarks, Prof. Novak proceeds to challenge the integrity of Prof. Levenson’s teaching Christian students at Harvard Divinity School.

As is evident from Prof. Levenson’s full (rather than selectively edited) comments, he was referring to the instinctive repugnances of the past, which, at least in the United States, have, over the past few decades, been significantly overcome. The point Prof. Levenson was making was that precisely because of the increased mutual tolerance and respect between Jews and Christians, and between theologians of Judaism and of Christianity, it is important for Jews who want to preserve Jewish identity, Jewish religiosity, and Jewish continuity (as I know that both Prof. Novak and Prof. Levenson do) that the fundamental theological distinctions between Judaism and Christianity not be blurred or glossed over, since such blurring can contribute to the phenomenon of Jewish intermarriage and loss of meaningful Jewish identity. This practical argument against the blurring of theological distinctions, which is what Dabru Emet does, is in addition to the basic argument for intellectual and theological honesty and integrity, especially (but not only) when engaging in mutually respectfulinterreligious discourse. I assume that one of the reasons why students of all faiths flock to Prof. Levenson’s courses at Harvard Divinity School is because in addition to appreciating his erudition and brilliance, they respect his intellectual integrity.

Prof. Levenson notes that, among other differences between traditional Judaism and Christianity ignored by Dabru Emet, Jewish adherents of Judaism do not consider the New Testament to be their sacred scripture, do not believe that Jesus was either Messiah or God, do not believe in a Trinitarian God, and do not believe that Christianity either supersedes or fulfills Judaism. It would have been much more productive for Prof. Novak to have responded intelligently and directly to these points than for him to falsely attribute to Prof. Levenson the exact opposite of what he actually wrote.

Solomon Schimmel
Professor of Jewish Education and
Hebrew College
Newton, Massachusetts

In his comments on Professor Jon D. Levenson’s article “How Not to Conduct Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” Prof. David Novak remarks that “Why Prof. Levenson teaches mostly Christian students in a Christian divinity school is a question he needs to answer, even if only to his Christian students and colleagues at Harvard.”

As one of those students, I can only say that during the years before I came to the Divinity School, in which I attended a convent of the Sacred Heart and a Jesuit university, I never heard any professor give a thorough and thoughtful explanation of such doctrines as that of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, or criticize the rampant and inane anti-Catholicism in secular academe. Prof. Levenson has done so consistently. He has been not only respectful but generous in his treatment of Christianity. The respect with which he has treated Christianity demands that he tell the truth about Jewish-Christian dialogue. Parts of that truth are distinctly unpalatable. In seeking to “Speak the Truth” we must first be willing to listen to it. It is to the truth in all of its fullness that we must subject our consciences if we are to be chastened and ultimately renewed by it. Prof. Novak owes not only Prof. Levenson but also the latter’s Christian students an unqualified apology.

Suzanne Smith
Cambridge, Massachusetts

David Novak replies:

Of course Professor Levenson is right that his remark about “instinctive repugnance” was specifically employed when speaking about what he claims has been “overcome” and largely replaced by “mutual respect.” Nonetheless, since he objects to even our assertion of the partial commonality between Judaism and Christianity, how could that “instinctive repugnance” possibly be “overcome”? Since Judaism and Christianity clearly have much historical overlapping, and since Prof. Levenson sees that overlapping to be so negative, what else is left except a continuation of that “instinctive repugnance”? Our historical overlapping makes the only other alternative—indifference—impossible to sustain. Surely, the relation of Christianity to Judaism is different in kind from, let us say, the relation of Hinduism to Judaism. That is why I so emphasized that striking phrase. It is the leitmotif of his whole article, including his repugnance for the very idea of Dabru Emet as proposed by Jews. His condemnatory article in Commentary, unfortunately, did not invite a dialogical response.

Rabbi Nadler’s anger is even harsher than that of Prof. Levenson. But let me address at least one of his intellectual points. He confuses my use of the word “normative” and effectively equates it with “authority.” Whereas all authoritative texts are normative, not all normative texts are authoritative. A theological text like Dabru Emet is normative because it advocates what Jews ought to affirm about Christianity. It is not authoritative like the Bible and the Talmud because no one can or should quote it as a statement that makes a prima facie claim on its hearers. In other words, unlike the authoritative statements in the Bible and the Talmud, Dabru Emet’s statements require argumentation before one is either persuaded or dissuaded by them. It is theology, not revelation. It thus calls for either acceptance or a theological alternative. It is to be hoped that Prof. Levenson, being as theologically oriented as he is, will provide the latter at some future time. Then there will be a true inter-Jewish dialogue on Christianity.

In response to Prof. Schimmel, and also back to Prof. Levenson, if the preservation of Jewish identity requires that we always have to react against a “negative other,” then that diverts us from asserting the universal significance of the whole Jewish tradition. We Jews should be strengthened in our identity by appreciating how much our Torah and tradition have partially influenced Christianity, and that many Christians now at long last appreciate that influence, and even want more of it. But one cannot influence someone with whom one has nothing positive in common.

As for Suzanne Smith’s defense of her teacher, I am very happy to hear how much some of Prof. Levenson’s Christian students appreciate his scholarship and pedagogy, which I appreciate as well. Indeed, that explains much of my keen disappointment in his Commentary attack on Dabru Emet. However, Ms. Smith might ask Prof. Levenson how “the respect with which he has treated Christianity” is consistent with his negative article about Christianity’s relation to Judaism—at least in that article—and his even more negative attitude towards a group of his fellow Jews who are more hopeful about a better relation between our two communities, a relation that is theologically true and not just politically useful. Hence, no apology is required for a response in kind to Prof. Levenson’s attack on both Dabru Emet and its authors, who, as he concludes, “are
whistling in the dark.” Ms. Smith should learn from our exchange what a passionate people we Jews are.

Benke Brouhaha

James Nuechterlein’s comments (“Let Us Pray,” April) on the September 23 Yankee Stadium affair are reminiscent of many other defenses of the event and of “Lutheran participation”—long on personal feelings and cultural sensitivities, short on theology and biblical understanding. If, in his initial paragraph, by calling the LCMS “sectarian” Mr. Nuechterlein meant to disparage its theologically conservative position, he has succeeded only in name calling.

Viewing the Yankee Stadium prayer service twice and reading Dr. David Benke’s extensive explanation and defense of his participation have been instructive. Yet, I respectfully register my disagreement with his defense and with Mr. Nuechterlein’s characterization of the event. No explanation can deny the (pan)religious character of the affair—from the sincere petitions of the rabbis to the wailing of the imams to the broken English of the Orthodox priest. The service included spiritual songs and mini-homilies as well as prayers—not a full-blown worship service,
but religious enough to make it more than merely a civic response to a tragic event. Pastor Benke himself referred to the venue as a “house of prayer.”

There are also those who embrace the Madison Avenue cliché, “Any (all) publicity is good publicity.” Having a Lutheran “rep” at such events, even in a less than ideal context, instills in attendees and viewers appropriate positive feelings. And it makes Lutherans feel good about themselves: “Look, one of us!” I suspect that such sentiment accounts for much of the theologically naive approval of Dr. Benke’s participation within LCMS circles, but it distracts us from the real issues, from the life or death question which we must finally face: How does a Christian presence distinguish itself from the false gods at such an event? For if that distinction is not made, and made clearly and unmistakably, the witness to the non-Christian is ambiguous and uncertain at best, false at worst.

Attempts to redefine syncretism to suit twenty-first-century postmodern sensibilities are futile. In a few short decades we have moved from a nominally Christian public square to one that is increasingly multi-religious, even pagan, and St. Paul’s warning against blending in with worshipers of idols is more relevant than ever. Indeed, we need to adjust—not, however, in the direction that Yankee Stadium, September 23, would lead us, but in the direction that God’s Word leads us.

David Berger
Olivette, Missouri

I was disappointed by James Nuechterlein’s essay on the controversy among Missouri Synod Lutherans over Pastor David Benke’s prayer in Yankee Stadium. Mr. Nuechterlein’s rhetoric, labeling orthodox critics of Benke as “ultraconservatives” with a “sectarian mentality” and a “blinkered preoccupation with unionism,” sounded much more like the kind of orthodoxy-bashing one has come to expect from the mainstream media than the thoughtful commentary typical of First Things in general and Mr. Nuechterlein’s work in particular.

Mr. Nuechterlein sounds uncomfortably like those who attacked Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger for being intolerant of other religions when he affirmed the unique fullness of the Christian revelation in Dominus Iesus As Ratzinger wrote, “The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle).” Critics of Pastor Benke like myself believe that his prayer gave aid and succor to just such religious relativism and syncretism.

Mr. Nuechterlein misses entirely what is at issue in the disputes over the Benke prayer. The concern is not whether Dr. Benke should have taken part—nearly everyone agrees that it was fully appropriate for him to use this opportunity to minister to believers and to proclaim the gospel—nor over the kitschy character of the Oprahfest. The controversy has been sparked by what Pastor Benke actually said in his prayer—and here Mr. Nuechterlein does a disservice to his readers by failing to provide a single bit of information about the content of Dr. Benke’s prayer. To make a prayer Christian, more is required than attaching the phrase, “In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.” The actual content of the prayer should clearly enunciate the hope that we have in the saving work of Christ alone. Here is an unfortunately representative paragraph of the woolly language Pastor Benke chose to use:

Oh, we’re stronger now than we were an hour ago. And you know, my sisters and brothers, we’re not nearly as strong as we’re going to be. And the strength we have is the strength of love. And the power of love you have received from God, for God is love. So take the hand of the one next to you now and join me in prayer on this “field of dreams” turned into God’s house of prayer.

In Pastor Benke’s actual prayer (as opposed to the written text from which he departed), he made no mention of Jesus (except in the closing phrase), nor of the significance of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as the unique expression of God’s love, nor of the need for repentance and faith in Christ as means of grace. Benke made no effort to distinguish the Christian faith from the rest of the smorgasbord of spiritualities offered to the audience at Yankee Stadium. One doesn’t have to be blinkered by a sectarian mentality to be worried that yet another major Protestant denomination may be lost to the relativistic zeitgeist.

Robert C. Koons
Department of Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin

James Nuechterlein portrays the debate within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as a political dispute: this is a struggle for power between moderates and “entrenched” hard-line ultraconservatives. A political framework serves his opinion well, because politics allows the debate to be conducted on a subjective plane. I suggest, however, that framing the discussion in this manner fails to portray accurately the situation inside of Missouri. Those nasty hard-liners are so hard-line and ultraconservative because this is a theological crisis in which the objective truth of the gospel is at stake. Those beleaguered moderates are beleaguered because their argument on the matter is reduced to politics; and a purely political matter is, de facto, not a matter of right and wrong, but of differing opinion.

This leads us back to the “moderate” assertion that the service was not syncretistic because the clerics gathered to express moral, not theological, agreement. In that case, syncretism is defined by subjective intent, not objective action.Objectively, however, syncretism is a service in which various religions invoke, pray to, and worship a variety of gods, spirits, or forces. The intent doesn’t matter; the action does. At Yankee Stadium, a worship service took place that involved prayers, invocations, readings, and homilies by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and others. If this is not an example of syncretism, what is?

(The Rev.) Tim Pauls
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Boise, Idaho

In his column about the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and its controversy over a pastor praying publicly at Yankee Stadium with non-Christians, James Nuechterlein quotes me as having sympathy for the LCMS conservatives who are trying to censure Pastor David Benke. A clarification is in order. As a non-Lutheran observer, I personally believe that the anti-Benke camp within the LCMS is overreacting, and that what Dr. Benke did was fine. I did not mention that in my piece. However, with the LCMS conservatives taking such a beating over this issue, I thought it fair and necessary to say they are asking the right questions about religious identity and the limits of ecumenism, even if one might disagree with their answer. I wrote that as a Roman Catholic convert stunned and dismayed by the Holy Father’s inclusion of African shamans in his peace summit in Assisi earlier this year. The priest who first did my instruction in the faith was once a missionary in Africa, and told me terrifying stories of having to do spiritual battle as an exorcist with the same sort of “religious leaders” the pontiff was now welcoming as his honored guests. Hence my concern.

Rod Dreher
Brooklyn, New York

James Nuechterlein replies:

For the record, I am in favor neither of syncretism nor relativism, not to mention idol worship. What is at issue is whether David Benke is guilty of any of these failings because of his participation in the September 23, 2001 event at Yankee Stadium. I do not think he is. To pray in the presence of non-Christians is not the same thing as praying with them. This was not a service of worship in the Lutheran understanding of that term. I agree that Pastor Benke’s prayer could have been improved upon as a Christian witness (he has, I believe, indicated as much himself), but I do not see how any non-blinkered observer of the event could see his participation in it as either a threat to or denial of the gospel.

The Trouble with the Jesuits

For the most part, Avery Cardinal Dulles’ review (April) engages the ideas laid out in Passionate Uncertainty by Eugene C. Bianchi and me rather than bottom-feeding off the methodological flaws that reviewers in America and Commonweal claim to have found. After commenting on a few of these technical matters, I want to concentrate on the meat of his remarks.

There are at least two signs that our selection of Jesuits and former Jesuits is representative. The geographic and age distributions of the men who took part in the study closely match what is known about these populations. Second, when we compute correlations between, for example, the period of entry into the Society and the social origins of the men, we find that Depression-era entrants came from lower class origins than those who have joined up later. No surprise here, and that’s the point. If anything else emerged from the exercise, we would have reason to doubt the validity of the data.

The real difficulty may lie not with our statistical analysis but with our interpretation of the discursive responses supplied by the men. We supplemented the qualitative statements with quantitative measures—with ten-point scales of the sort “How satisfied (10) or dissatisfied (1) are you with the direction the Society of Jesus has taken in the past few years?” We have enough measures of this sort to compare Jesuits and former Jesuits along several dimensions—satisfaction with the Society’s performance, with the leadership of the Church, with their own work, etc. The quantitative measures enable us to calculate how, for example, satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the sexual magisterium ties in with satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the institutional Church.

The essential task is to see how Jesuits and former Jesuits tie things together, for it is on these cognitive and emotional patterns that religious cultures and organizational habits are built. One such connection is the bond between attitudes toward what one Jesuit calls “pelvic theology” and attitudes toward institutional authority. Beliefs about the sexual magisterium are bundled with opinions about adherence to hierarchical Catholicism, notably in the requirement of celibacy for priestly ordination.

These connections matter because they condition (though they do not determine) the recommendations for change that readers draw from the study. Consider amental experiment common in political science. Markets are fundamental to democracy. Without markets, you definitely will not find democracy. With markets, you may find democracy. But alongside markets you may also find developmental dictatorships of the sort that flourished in places like Brazil, Spain, South Korea, and Taiwan a few decades ago. Markets are therefore a necessary but not a sufficient condition for democracy.

There is no exactly comparable precondition for hierarchy in religious organizations. But one comes very close, and this is the cluster of doctrines falling under “pelvic theology.” By specifying male gender and celibacy as prerequisites for holy orders, canon law makes these properties necessary, though hardly sufficient, conditions for priesthood. Dispense with these rules and the traditional hierarchy collapses.

The logic linking celibacy to hierarchy is at the heart of Cardinal Dulles’ strategy—tightening up the ship—for remedying the current crisis. His views cannot be dismissed as wishful thinking, given what we know about the fate of some religious orders that have liberalized themselves into extinction. Still, different recommendations can be drawn from the same evidence. The radical one supposes that “tightening the ship” is a lost cause requiring a futile exercise in surveillance; it also perpetuates an exclusionary hierarchy.

In large measure distinct from fractures in the sexual magisterium, the rise of lay people in positions of ministerial responsibility widens the gap between the apostolic apparatus of Catholicism—schools, retreat houses, even parishes—and its authority structure. Here the problem is less one of doctrine than of doubts about the relevance of a clerical presence in organizations that lay people manage pretty much on their own. Most of their colleagues don’t want to get rid of Jesuits, nor do they covet holy orders for themselves. But many are perplexed about what Jesuits are supposed to be doing and who they are. So are many Jesuits.

The reform agenda implicit in the rise-of-the-laity scenario differs, at least partially, from the program behind the crisis-in-the-priesthood/sexuality drama. Calls for consultation between clergy and laity and for accountability of ecclesiastical incumbents are less threatening, because less foundational, than demands to rethink inherited connections between priesthood, the sexual teachings of theChurch, and its structure of authority.

Peter McDonough
Department of Political Science
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona

I read with interest Avery Cardinal Dulles’ review of Passionate Uncertainty and although I have found the book helpful, I also very much appreciated the Cardinal’s astute observations on the book and on the Society of Jesus. But I think Cardinal Dulles oversimplifies when discussing what the “Jesuit baby boomers” think about he Church and the Society: he correctly catches a mindset shared by some early boomers already in the Society by the end of Vatican Council II, but is less on target in seeming to describe in the same way the middle boomers, those of us who entered in the late 1960s and ’70s.

I entered the New York province in 1968, and by that time the Church, the Society, and formation were already in great change, wildly varying opinions were being loudly voiced, many Jesuits were experimenting, and many were leaving. We weren’t expecting a revolution, but we had to figure out how to survive and make sense of religious life, drawing on widely conflicting advice from older Jesuits who were arguing among themselves. Whatever our theological leanings, we learned first of all to be individualists in order to survive. If late boomers and possibly Generation X Jesuits are, as Cardinal Dulles suggests, different again, it may be simply that the Society and the culture have settled down considerably and young men are able to make clearer choices about whether to enter the Society or respond to God’s call in other ways.

Francis X. Clooney, S.J.
Professor of Theology
Boston College
Cambridge, Massachusetts

In many respects Avery Cardinal Dulles’ review of Passionate Uncertainty seems more like an article giving the Cardinal’s view of the Jesuits, and I will address it as such.

The Cardinal tells us that the Society “has an exciting history” and that its story “exists in the authentic heritage established by St. Ignatius Loyola.” “It is indelibly inscribed in the Spiritual Exercises” and the Constitutions and “the authentic documents leave no room for the Society to be a church within the Church.” No one would dispute that the heritage of the Jesuits is one of saints, martyrs, and a long, distinguished record of collaborating with the Holy See. However, that was then, this is now.

Cardinal Dulles says that the “works of the Jesuit order are prospering because its universities have larger enrollments and more academic prestige than ever before.” No doubt this is true. But the Cardinal makes no claim that these same universities are authentically Catholic, providing authentic Catholic teaching. In fact, the Jesuit universities were in the forefront of those opposing Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Pope’s attempt to require them to provide Catholic teaching. They are still in opposition. As an editorial in the Catholic World Report (April 2002) says, “The leadership of the Jesuit order is working actively against the implementation of the Pope’s directives.” I am reminded of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s statement in the 1970s, “I recommend to all my friends and relatives that they send their children to secular colleges and universities where they will be forced to defend their faith, rather than to Catholic ones, where their faith will be taken from them.” I am a graduate of a local Jesuit university. If any of my sons had wished to go there, I would have done all that I could to discourage them.

Let’s turn our attention for a moment to the elephant in the living room, or should I say the “alleged” elephant, since Cardinal Dulles refers to “the alleged increase of homosexual tendencies among younger members in the Society of Jesus as well as in other religious orders and diocesan seminaries.” In the November 2000 issue of the Catholic World Report, Father Paul Shaughnessy, S.J., wrote a hard-hitting article titled “The Gay Priest Problem.” Although Cardinal Dulles says that “a new generation of seminarians and religious is arising,” and that “it consists of young men eager to retrieve the tradition of former centuries and to serve the hierarchical Church,” Fr. Shaughnessy notes that “the U.S. Jesuits recently approved guidelines for admitting novices that include this characteristic of the ideal candidate: ‘He has the ability to identify and accept his own sexual orientation and to live comfortably with people of different sexual orientations.’” Fr. Shaughnessy argues that this approach will steadily increase the number of gays in the clergy, and that, “quite simply, those entrusted to fix what is broken are broken themselves.”

In California, the same Jesuit Provincial, Fr. Smolich, who has effectively exiled Fr. Joseph Fessio, the founder of the St. Ignatius Institute, was reported by the Los Angeles Times (March 24, 2002) to have covered up the sexual abuse of two retarded dishwashers by a number of Jesuits at their Los Gatos Jesuit Center.

When I graduated from Xavier University in 1964 I was commissioned an officer in the United States Marine Corps. At that time it was easy to make the comparison that the Jesuits were the Marine Corps of the Church. Can anyone conceive of that comparison being made today?

Cardinal Dulles concludes his review with the comment that, “for some of us, life in the Jesuits is more challenging and more congenial.” Well, more congenial it may be, but I would have more admiration for the Cardinal if he would use his considerable prestige to speak out about those who have done so much to damage the Jesuits, and to speak up for those faithful Jesuits who have been treated so shabbily by those in authority.

Allan Smiley
Cold Spring, Kentucky

Avery Cardinal Dulles replies:

I have no difficulty in accepting Father Clooney’s description of himself as a member of the second wave of the “baby boomer” generation. His letter confirms the fact that in the early 1970s there was wild experimentation and confusion in the Society of Jesus as well as elsewhere in the Church. He acknowledges, I think, that much of the experimentation has proved to be misguided and that younger Jesuits today seem to have a more settled outlook.

As a former naval officer I can understand Allan Smiley’s eagerness to see the Jesuits become the Marine Corps of the Church. But that would be a caricature of the view of St. Ignatius, who wanted men capable of personal discernment and responsible decision. Jesuits have never marched lockstep like soldiers on parade. While bound together by a common faith and aspiration, they seek to develop their personal gifts in the service of Christ and the Church. They can disagree about strategies and sometimes do.

Mr. Smiley falls into the rather unhelpful habit of praising an idealized past and lamenting a demonized present. He gives a slanted picture of current trends. The Jesuits of my acquaintance are uniformly enthusiastic about Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Several of them contributed in important ways to the drafting of that admirable document. Some Jesuits in the universities, like other university people, have had reservations about one or more of the general norms appended to that Apostolic Constitution, for example, the mandatum. But many bishops shared the same concerns. From the tone of his letter I suspect that Mr. Smiley would not be likely to see the complexities involved.

Mr. Smiley urges me to “speak out” against those whose actions he deplores. Too many people, I believe, are speaking out on issues that they do not fully understand, thereby compounding the confusion. Before reaching a judgment about matters in California I would have to listen to all parties in the dispute, not just to one side. On the matter of “speaking out” we would all do well to listen to the sage counsel of St. Ignatius:

We should be more ready to approve and praise the orders, recommendations, and way of acting of our superiors than to find fault with them. Though some of the orders, etc., may not have been praiseworthy, yet to speak against them, either when preaching in public or in speaking before the people, would rather
be the cause of murmuring and scandal than of profit. As a consequence, the people would become angry with their superiors, whether secular or spiritual. But while it does harm in the absence of our superiors to speak evil of them before the people, it may be profitable to discuss their bad conduct with those who can supply a remedy.

The Provincial of the Jesuits in California is not exactly my superior, but I would not wish to interfere with his government unasked. As a quintessential New Yorker, I would have difficulty understanding what goes on in California.

Peter McDonough is correct in judging that, unlike some other reviewers, I did not choose to dwell extensively on the methodological flaws of Passionate Uncertainty. Professor McDonough’s strained efforts to defend the methodology are a showcase example of the kind of jargon that makes the book difficult to read.

Prof. McDonough’s letter also reveals with startling clarity that the real intent of the authors is to attack the hierarchical structure of the Church and its traditions regarding priesthood. He accuses me of seeking to “tighten the ship.” But in face of the present scandals about sexual misconduct in the ranks of the clergy, there is no room for laxity. If the teaching of the hierarchical Church on sexual ethics and priestly conduct had been followed, the scandals would not have arisen.

The Jesuits of the early years were known as preti reformati. Not all Jesuits today would qualify for that designation. But in this respect as in others, St. Ignatius and his first companions can continue to inspire their loyal followers, upon whose shoulders rests the future of the Jesuit order.

How to Help the Poor

That the American bishops in the last thirty years have generally offered few creative contributions to economic issues, as William McGurn observes (“The Preacher and the Economist,” April), is true. They have not offered ideas; rather they remain in a very dated liberal, statist view concerning economic problems and injustice, following the line of thinking of the late John A. Ryan, “The Right Reverend New Dealer.”

Yet, on the other hand, neither have Mr. McGurn and Wall Street offered, or allowed, pace Milton Friedman, any creative ways or thinking to address the glaring and cruel gap in wealth between the few and the many throughout the world. Laissez-faire capitalism is simply that. Those who have get more, those who have a lot, get a lot more, and yes, slowly, ever so slowly, those powerless and without ownership occasionally may get a chance to participate.

There are presently three billion people in the world who live on less than two dollars a day. In the U.S., according to a Congressional Budget Office memorandum (May 1998), the top-earning one percent of Americans have as much combined income as the 100 million citizens with the lowest income. The fact is that globalization is controlled and directed by those who have this concentrated wealth. Both in Laborem Excercens (1981) and Centesimus Annus (1991), Pope John Paul II has explicitly criticized what he terms “rigid” or “extreme” capitalism.

Some forty years ago, Hannah Arendt, in her Crises of the Republic, wrote: “Our problem today is not how to expropriate the expropriators, but, rather, how to arrange matters so that the masses dispossessed by industrial society in capitalist and socialist systems can regain property”—in other words, in the twenty-first century, have access to capital.

The doctrine of the common good and the principle of subsidiarity of Catholic social teaching require as much. Under current structures, monetary and otherwise, these teachings are being violated. Free markets and competition are good. Rigid capitalism is not, however, free. Economic and political freedom require ownership, that is, access to capital. John Paul II and Catholic social teaching recognize this.

Laissez-faire capitalism inhibits this freedom, this ability to participate, from below. Robert McNamara, capitalist par excellence and former head of the World Bank, smugly rejected development from below, maintaining in Poland, for example, after the fall of communism, that only corporate executives knew how to use money and to invest. This was in direct contradiction of the Catholic principles of the Solidarity Movement, the movement that helped bring down the Iron Curtain and end the Cold War. In the meantime, in the U.S., Enron’s employees have lost billions of dollars in their savings and investments.

Expanded ownership of capital would begin to rectify these injustices and errors. It would neither require a violent revolution nor cause the plutocrat capitalists to lose their money. In the U.S., Congress could enact laws requiring the Federal Reserve to give credit to those who have no credit or assets. Presently, those who already have capital get loans for more capital. Globally, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and other organizations could make changes accordingly. John Paul II in Centisimus Annus (§16) writes that the state “must contribute . . . by creating favorable conditions for the free exercise of economic activity.”

In their book Binary Economics (1999), Robert Ashford and Rodney Shakespeare of Syracuse University cogently present the economic viability of such a system. Moreover, for nearly two decades under the leadership of Dr. Norman Kurland, an economist and lawyer, the Center for Economic and Social Justice in Washington, D.C., has advised businesses as well as governments on expanded capital ownership, based on the ideas of Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler (the latter a Thomist philosopher) in their book The Capitalist Manifesto (1958).

Mr. McGurn and the American bishops, “Be Not Afraid.”

Geoffrey B. Gneuhs
New York, New York

William McGurn replies:

I do not presume to speak for Milton Friedman. But my best guess is that the Nobel Prize-winning economist would have no problem in principle with the argument that the way to help the poor would be to expand their ownership of, and access to, capital. Unfortunately this one sensible notion comes wrapped up in so many false assumptions and mischaracterizations that I’m not surprised Mr. Gnuehs cannot see that it is in fact the market that is already providing what he says he wants.

Let me suggest that part of the problem here is that his conception of capitalism does not rise above caricature. In the first three paragraphs he cites “laissez-faire” capitalism, “rigid” capitalism and “extreme” capitalism. Likewise he appears earnestly oblivious to the irony of presenting Robert McNamara as the “capitalist par excellence,” not least given the general disdain that most free market organs and institutes have for both the World Bank and Mr. McNamara’s tenure there. Apropos Mr. Gnuehs’ suggestion that the Federal Reserve just issue credit—with no test of credit-worthiness, it appears—it is worth recalling that this is more or less what Mr. McNamara did a generation ago with all his development loans, creating crushing debts that poor nations are still paying off today.

My experience is that much of the error here stems from a failure to make a fundamental distinction between businessmen—and especially pro-business regimes and arrangements, about which Adam Smith was energetically skeptical—and pro-market regimes, which admittedly are far more rare. The difference is critical, because it is often the nation’s business leaders who fight off trade and globalization because they threaten a cozy status quo in which businessmen don’t have to compete for either customers orlabor. For anyone who has trouble distinguishing between the two kinds of regimes, I suggest spending time in both Hong Kong and the Philippines, and then compare which place does better by those at the bottom of society: the so-called dog-eat-dog laissez-faire economy, or Asia’s largest Catholic nation.

Three billion people living on less than $2 a day is indeed a scandal—but not the one Mr. Gneuhs thinks it is. For it prompts the question: What about the other three billion? As the OECD has pointed out, most of these people were lifted out of poverty by the globalization and expansion of trade since the end of the Second World War, the largest shift out of poverty in human history. Here in the U.S., half the population is now invested in the market, so much so that the AFL-CIO declined to sign onto the post-Enron anti-401(k) campaign because the message from the rank-and-file was loud and clear: they like owning their retirement plans.

In “The Mystery of Capital,” Hernando De Soto pointed out that the world’s poor have trillions of dollars in assets. What they don’t have is a market—i.e., a legal framework—in which those assets can become capital. Globalization and free markets are not without their problems, but they are the only real hope that the laboring poor have of raising themselves out of misery by giving them the opportunity to tap into world markets not only to offer their labor to more bidders but to avail themselves of the goods and services the rest of the world has to offer them.

The Mainline’s “Quiet Voice”

I appreciate, and am flattered by, the attention Richard John Neuhaus gave my small essay on the mainline churches and public life (“Mainlining in the Basement,” Public Square, April), though unsurprisingly I feel his account unhappily skewed (except on “Christianly indexed”—a palpable hit!). I was especially dismayed by his reading of my assessment of the real contributions of evangelicals and Roman Catholics in U.S. public culture; my point (more an aside, really) was simply that, for various reasons, they cannot replace the kind of service to civil society that the mainline provides—not that they do no service at all. But I am resigned to being unable to change Father Neuhaus’ mind regarding my actual arguments, and I would only ask that readers make up their own minds by looking at the essay for themselves.

My essay was prompted by the book The Quiet Voice of God, edited by Robert Wuthnow and John Evans. The title of the book is not meant, I think, to suggest that the mainline’s “quiet voice” is the sole presence of God in the culture, but rather that the presence of God is manifest quietly through the mainline. Anyone who knows Bob Wuthnow knows how odd it would be to attribute any arrogance or smugness to him at all. Insofar as the book’s title is making a point, it is the opposite of the one Fr. Neuhaus drew. I thought I made that clear to a fair reader, and his misinterpretation does not make me doubt that I did.

Charles T. Mathewes
Department of Religious Studies
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia

RJN replies:

I do know Robert Wuthnow and agree that he is neither arrogant nor smug. Professor Mathewes’ “aside,” however, suggesting that evangelicals and Catholics cannot provide (not “replace”) the civic contribution provided by the mainline remains problematic for the reasons I indicated. I join in recommending a reading of his article in Theology Today (January 2002).

On Public Repentance

I was struck by Richard John Neuhaus’ declaration that saying who should or should not be a bishop is “way above” his job description (“Scandal Time,” Public Square, April). It is certainly outside mine, since I am not a Roman Catholic. I had always understood, however, that Roman Catholics consider their priests and, a fortiori, their bishops to be their “fathers-in-God.” Surely a primary obligation of a father is to protect his children. From the outside it appears that the Archbishop of Boston has signally failed to do that. If the Church continues him in his office, this inescapably weakens the credibility among outsiders of the claims the Church makes for its hierarchy. I recognize that the effect on outsiders is not what guides or should guide the Church’s decisions. At the same time, no Roman Catholic should be surprised or offended at this reaction.

Daniel C. Reuter
Prospect, Pennsylvania

In the chorus of protest and angst over the recent sex abuse scandals that result from the sins of some few Roman Catholic priests, one hears a few strains that seem to dominate. One is the entirely secular suggestion (although proposed by some within the Church) that Bernard Cardinal Law and others must “resign” the post that has been entrusted to them. They lack, so the argument goes, the necessary support from their constituents to be effective leaders. This, however, is entirely wrongheaded, as Richard John Neuhaus and others have pointed out, since the office of bishop is a sacred trust and obligation—not merely a political position of leadership.

Lamentable, however, is the absence of any discussion, suggestion, or offer of public repentance. As a Protestant in the broadly “Methodist” tradition, I will refrain from casting any stones. Rather, I find myself praying for Cardinal Law and my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Yet, I am troubled that no one seems to be willing to counsel Cardinal Law and others that repentance with some acts of penance is profoundly called for. The failure to protect the little ones, perhaps causing some of them to “stumble,” is not merely an egregious failing; it is a grievous sin that our Lord decried in the strongest possible terms.

That being the case, perhaps Roman Catholic leaders and clergy can find in this moment the grace to exemplify true repentance. Cardinal Law might find grace to repent and as his penance step aside in acknowledgment that he cannot undo what he has allowed to be done. His stepping aside would not be bowing to political pressure or polling data, but would be bowing to the Lordship of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

Cardinal Law could, by stepping aside, take up his cross and follow Jesus for the sake of the redemption of Christ’s Church. His attempts to fix the problem can never be free of the all-too-human and quite understandable temptation to self-justification. Only God’s grace can justify. Only God’s grace can rectify. Only God’s grace can sanctify. A faithful and courageous act of repentance could be a profound witness to all our Lord’s children—Roman Catholic and Protestant.

Steve Blakemore
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Pastoral
Wesley Biblical Seminary
Jackson, Mississippi

Image by Liz West licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped.

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