Breaking through stereotypes

I hope many people take heart from Gerard O'Connell's fine report on our improving relations with Muslims, and that they refuse to be drawn into the extraordinarily uncharitable talk about Muslims one too often hears in the media ("A pope mends strained relations with Muslims," April 26).

We also need to recognize, however, that it is not only the Catholic side that has been active in developing this relationship. Since the upset of the Holy Father's Regensburg lecture a significant group of leading Muslim scholars has been promoting dialogue around the common theme of the love of God and neighbor. It was they who first proposed this theme in a letter to Pope Benedict XVI a month after Regensburg, and then developed it one year later in a letter to all Christian leaders. The initiative is led by Prince Ghazi of Jordan and has grown to involve hundreds of Muslim and Christian leaders and scholars in a sustained dialogue.

Though this initiative has drawn more attention, we should also celebrate the efforts being made in many parts of the world by the Turkish movement led by Fethullah Gülen. Through their schools and in countless small institutes for dialogue in cities all over the world, this admirable group promotes interreligious and intercultural dialogue with patient commitment and openness.

It is a source of great pride to the Gregorian University in Rome that two of our former students head up one of these institutes for dialogue right on the banks of the Tiber, where they facilitate with warm hospitality the encounter of Muslims, Christians and Jews. Another of my former students is now responsible for the movement's dialogue office in Brussels. They are just three of a growing number of Muslims who still come to the Gregorian to learn about Christianity and to develop an understanding of dialogue.

-- Daniel A. Madigan, SJ [The writer, associate professor of theology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., was founding director from 2001-2007 of the Institute for the Study of Religions and Cultures at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University.]

Difficult adoptions

In regard to your question-and-answer article regarding adoption facilitated by Dr. Ray Guarendi ("New book tackles misconceptions about adoption," April 12), I wish to take issue with his statement that the birth mother trying to get her baby back is about as common as a lightning strike.

Within our small Catholic parish, this has happened to two families (mine being one of them). One family lost a beloved son in a bitter and lengthy court battle. We chose not to utilize the court system to keep the daughter we were adopting when we observed the anguish this other family endured.

They had another child naturally; we adopted again and our daughter is the most precious part of our lives, as are her wonderful children. But be aware -- this situation is not nearly so rare a situation as Dr. Guarendi supposes, especially when the adoption is "private."

-- Patricia Turner, Jackson, Tenn.

'Mute dogs'

It is wrong to argue that President Obama's invitation to speak at Notre Dame's commencement ceremony should not be rescinded on grounds of "civility."

Pope Benedict XVI, before becoming pope, had sharp words of condemnation in his book "The Salt of the Earth" for some of the Church's own bishops who "dodge conflicts" in the public square. He referred to them as "shepherds who are like mute dogs; in order to avoid conflict, they let the poison spread. Peace is not the first civic duty and a bishop whose only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive."

Civility clearly is not the criterion for moral action.

-- Paul Kokoski, Hamilton,Ontario, Canada

Makes sense

The shooting death of three cops in Pittsburgh is really comprehensible, although certainly a tragedy ("Incomprehensible tragedy," April 26). I would say that America's love of violence, the availability of guns and the persistence of an organization that never will compromise on guns and their availability lead this nation to expect, and accept, and grow accustomed to these shootings.

Our romanticized love of the Founding Fathers and the frontiersman overcoming hardship and natives, living off the land, clouds our ability to recognize that times have changed. We are a much more urban nation.

The National Rifle Association plays on this fear and creates an atmosphere of doom and gloom without the gun in hand. They are as much a part of the "culture of death" as is abortion, yet I see no one standing up to the NRA.

Pope John Paul II was a champion for the culture of life. Are not the lives of all humans, regardless of which side of the womb they are on, no less valuable? Our culture for life must include stringent and well-enforced gun control.

-- Joseph Murray Gillis, Adamsville, Tenn.

Possessions purge

I enjoyed your article in the April 19 issue titled "Suffocated by credit card debt." We appreciate things when we must wait for them.

Most of us accumulate many more things than we will ever be able to use. And given that our homes are so full of "stuff," one of our goals should be (and not just during Lent) to divest ourselves of many things on a regular basis.

As I work through this period of unemployment, I am trying to take steps each week to find ways to give away items that I no longer need that could benefit others, or throw away things that simply sit in stacks and accumulate dust that really have no value and that I will never use, and to change my attitude on buying things to force myself to wait to see if I really need the items or not.

It's amazing how we can reduce our expenses when we set our minds to it. Maybe if all of us applied that entrepreneur spirit to reduce our possessions we could pull ourselves out of this unhappy economic situation.

-- Bob Ulicki, Cupertino, Calif.

Good for the soul

Another suggestion in regards to the editorial "Anxiety antidote,"April19: Gardening has much to recommend it. Besides being good for the soul, it can also put food on the table.

-- Leanne Crompton, via e-mail