From our readers: January 12, 2017

| January 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

Open to open borders

Jason Adkins’ article, “Immigration debate needs constructive engagement” (Faith in the Public Arena, Dec. 22), has some good suggestions on how Catholics can better enter into solidarity with their immigrant brothers and sisters. However, he cites St. John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” as a document that supports the state’s right to control its borders “for the common good of their citizens.” As a matter of fact, “Pacem in Terris” in no place discusses this right. The encyclical actually moves in the other direction of Mr. Adkins’ article, and speaks of a “membership in the human family,” a “citizenship in a universal society” and a “common, world-wide fellowship of men.” It speaks of the right to emigrate and the duty of the state to accept immigrants seeking a better life.

It is true that the Catechism upholds the right of states to manage these affairs, but the notion of strict borders (let alone walls) is a modern phenomenon. I am not calling for an end to these laws, but Mr. Adkins’ reference to “sloppy advocacy that sounds like the United States should become a cosmopolitan nation of open borders and global citizens” is perhaps more derogatory than necessary. These “sloppy” advocates may have their finger on the pulse of something good. Pope John repeatedly referred to the need to transcend nationalistic thinking, to place the dignity of the human person at the center of political decisions, and to work as if one belonged to a human family.

Nicholas Zinos
Holy Family, St. Louis Park

Jason Adkins responds: The Dec. 22 column accurately describes Catholic teaching on migration found in “Pacem in Terris” and other places, the fullness of which cannot be contained in a 700-word piece. (See “Pacem in Terris” 106; Catechism of the Catholic Church 2241). The writer is correct that Catholics should not be overly nationalistic. My point was that globalist rhetoric is not a winning strategy for defending undocumented persons already here. Rather, like Archbishop [José] Gomez, we should advocate for the well-being of immigrants in an American frame of reference consistent with Catholic social teaching.

Burying the dead

In the Dec. 8 issue’s Seeking Answers (“Why are funeral homilies so much about Jesus and not the deceased?”), I thought the response by Father Michael Schmitz was disturbing and confusing.

I recently lost my spouse and felt that the burial Mass was for her. I’m sure that God in all his mercy and kindness would not deny the deceased person a memorial Mass. Also, we shouldn’t speak of the deceased as a sinner or to create doubt whether the person went to heaven. I did agree with the last paragraph of the article, which stated “the funeral Mass is a chance to say goodbye and to celebrate the life of the person you’ve loved. But it is also the chance to worship God.”

Jack Tschida
St. Bernard, St. Paul

Father Schmitz responds: Dear reader, please accept my sincere condolences for your loss. I can’t imagine the grief of having to say goodbye to your beloved spouse. The Mass is truly for those who are alive as a powerful way to say goodbye and to help us with inconsolable loss. You are correct in noting that the Mass was for your wife. We offer the sacrifice of the Mass for the person’s soul. It might be painful to remember that one’s spouse was a sinner, but that is the woman you loved: a wonderful person who was loved in the midst of her sin — as we are all called to be. I do not want to split hairs or to “pick at” the wound of loss that you’ve experienced, but we do not know the state of any person’s soul; we simply do not know if they are in heaven. The funeral Mass should not be the only place where we are aware of this; it should be our constant awareness about all of us. The belief that “all semi-decent people go to heaven” is not a Christian belief; we only go to heaven because of the grace of God through Jesus and our cooperation with that grace. It is this cooperation that is greatly hidden, even from those closest to us. None of this is an invitation to despair or discouragement. Jesus invites us to hope, but hope in him, not in the goodness of any one of us.

Life in one’s own hands

I read with great interest your article on physician-assisted suicide (“Coalition fights physician-assisted suicide,” Dec. 8). A coalition is going to help people change their minds? Is there going to be a lot of committees studying and making recommendations? I read the word “palliative” — ease, salve, excuse, soothe, relieve, alleviate — all pretty words. Are those the words you are going to use to try and talk someone out of committing suicide? If you have never been there and haven’t experienced the pain and frustration, all you will be offering is sympathy.

How can you connect with the person? The terrible, stabbing, sharp pain that throbs with every beat of your heart. Can’t sleep. Anxiety, frustration, no hope. Your friends and family watching you suffer. Bills piling up.

Then, the problem of drugs. When you have that miserable, debilitating pain, you will take anything that will alleviate some of it. Then, more and more of the drugs until you become addicted. Only God knows and understands what is in that man’s heart. At that point the person makes peace with his Creator and says, “I’m coming home.” I fully understand why that person wants to end it. The pain, frustration and anxiety will be gone.

Jim Plekkenpol
Sts. Joachim and Anne, Shakopee

Share your perspective by emailing CatholicSpirit@archspm.org. The Commentary page does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Catholic Spirit. Letters may be edited for length or clarity.

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