A modest proposal to the pontiff — and everyone else

I’m glad that Pope Benedict XVI recognizes that we should be concerned about all of creation and the environment. But I am saddened that he falls short by not giving us ways to do this. I often think of Genesis and God’s promise to Adam and Eve to provide grain and seed for them and animals alike. I believe he was then giving us a plan of environmental sustainability by promoting this vegetarian lifestyle. 

Sadly, we haven’t caught on to the wisdom of this, and today I can’t think of any justification for those of us who think we need to eat meat even three times a day. According to Mia MacDonald, who wrote “The Ecological Impacts of Animal Agriculture,” each American on average eats more than 200 pounds of meat a year. 

If it ever comes to the point where the Third World countries will be able to emulate us in this regard,the earth will be in serious trouble. Animal husbandry exacts huge amounts of grain and water, and the huge concentrated animal feeding operations cause water and land pollution. Also the animals expel methane gas into the air — a greenhouse gas that some researchers claim are more detrimental to our environment than gas-guzzling cars and coal-spewing factories. Isn’t the Holy Father aware of this?  

I think the Church erred by giving up meatless Fridays, but we each can decide to have at least one meatless day a week if we really care about our environment. 

— Suzana Megles, Lakewood, Ohio

Recapturing what’s lost

I just finished reading your column, “Discovering an old-school ethnic parish in the Midwest” (Openers, Jan. 10)

My childhood experience of parish life was lived out at St. John’s in Benwood, W.Va., where the majority of parishioners were of Irish descent, closely followed in number by us Italians, then various Slavic groups. I grew up hearing many different accents. That strong sense of ownership still exists in my home parish, which has remained open in spite of attempts to close it.

Here in the Youngstown area, many churches aren’t as lucky. There have been consolidations that have closed churches entirely. 

In my opinion, the larger congregations cannot possibly ever regain that sense of cohesiveness that once existed in the smaller churches. I understand the economics of consolidation, but the spiritual effect is to demoralize congregations. People may attend many different parishes without feeling as if they belong to any one place. For example, we are registered at one parish, but we attend a parish closer to home because of the convenience. No one seems to be missing us at the home parish. There are no phone calls, letters, etc., asking where we are or how we are doing. 

By contrast, in the parish where I grew up if you weren’t in your pew Sunday morning, you could expect at least a half dozen phone calls from people asking if you were sick and did you need anything. One felt as if one belonged to a larger family. 

I don’t know how we can get that back. I’ve seen movements like Renew or Cursillo come and go with no lasting results. 

Personally, I believe we need to find a way to reopen the individual churches. This is one of those times in the history of the Church when I believe God will have to intervene, because hearts need to be moved to accept calls to the priesthood and religious life, to accept larger families, to sacrifice material goods to build up the body of Christ. 

— Elizabeth Dreier, Poland, Ohio

Help in defending faith 

Re Nov. 15 editorial on Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s article “Anti-Catholicism: The Other National Pastime.”  

For 15 years, I have periodically conversed on Christian faith issues with a Christian person who is Baptist. I just recently found out that through all those years this person thought of me as a heathen in need of salvation. 

She recently came over to tell me about a dream she had in which she “saw” me writhing in the fires of hell. I asked her if she knew the sin for which I was sentenced to hell, and she told me it was idolatry. I was astounded and asked her why that sin. She responded with “Pastor gave a sermon Sunday about idolatry in the Catholic Church and I know from things you have said over the years that you are guilty.” I asked her what things I’ve said, and she responded with “all your talk about Mother Mary proves that you worship her instead of Jesus.” 

I have a strong devotion to Mary, and I talk about it. But I am careful around Protestants in what I say. I try to make it clear that I ask Mary to pray for me and my family. I cannot imagine anyone construing my comments as worship of Mary. This makes me fear I shouldn’t talk about it with a Protestant. 

— Karen O’Neill, Jacksonville Beach, Fla. 

Souls at risk

In the last two years, conflict has again arisen about the “Catholic” politicians who favor legalized abortion. There is great controversy over whether they should be allowed to receive Communion. But to me, the more important issue seems not to be addressed. Don’t these people realize that they are in grave danger of losing their immortal souls? 

— Mary Peterson Riley, East Syracuse, N.Y.