Letters to the Editor

Published the week of March 15

ROME-ING CHARGESI was very disappointed in the content and tone of Jeannette Batz's March 8 article, "Roman Holiday," regarding indulgences in the Catholic Church. As one officially involved in the ecumenical ministry of the Catholic Church, it was sad that the author used the recent signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Holy See and the Lutheran World Federation as a springboard for her "analysis" on indulgences. The unfortunate thing is that the only Lutheran quoted in the article is from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church that is not in the Lutheran World Federation nor sympathetic to what the Joint Declaration proclaims.

While Catholics and Lutherans (apparently 80 percent of Lutherans worldwide of the LWF) have been able to reconcile over one of the issues which has divided us, over how God saves us, that is, justification, this does not mean that we have resolved all the issues around the the living out of this doctrine, namely, indulgences, among others.

While the author claims the indulgence question is "a bit legalistic" and "all very complicated," a bit of theological reflection in a more ecumenical context would have been useful. There are three doctrines which need to be understood in explaining indulgences: the Incarnation, the Communion of Saints and personal conversion. Catholics and all Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the flesh. This makes the human person and all creation holy. We are not bystanders in the life of faith but active participants. In the traditional creeds, Apostles and Nicene, recited by many Christians in their weekly worship, reference is made to the communion of saints. This has been understood as the members of the body of Christ, living and dead, in heaven and on earth, and in Catholic understanding, those in Purgatory. This means we all have a stake in one another's lives and salvation through Christ. Finally, what indulgences can be defined as are moments of conversion in which the individual consciously responds to God and seek to grow in the spiritual life for themselves and others. Indulgences are a sign and gift of what it means to be church as we pray and sacrifice for ourselves and others.

While some other Christians, and even some Catholics, may not "buy" this reflection on the indulgence question, possibly it might open up a more balanced discussion than indicated by the author.

Rev. Vincent A. Heier
Director, Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Archdiocese of St. Louis

PLANE TALKThanks to Adam Pitluk for his work in exposing some of the ghosts in TWA's closet in the March 1 RFT article "Gremlin on the Wing." Carl Icahn is certainly one of the major actors in TWA's struggle for survival. But make no mistake -- there are other ghosts lurking in the same closet, and one of the most hideous and potentially dangerous is the W-1W expansion plan. What Icahn has started, W-1W can finish, completing the demise of the once-great TWA. The precarious financial position of TWA is well documented in the article. Can you imagine heaping the lion's share of the $2.6 billion expansion cost on top of the already overburdened shoulders of TWA? And worse yet, it is reported that TWA has told the city of St. Louis that it sees little value to the new runway unless a new terminal for TWA is ready to open when the new runway does, and that means an additional expense of nearly $1 billion for TWA.

But there's more. Even if TWA could afford all that debt, the master plan shows that W-1W delays in poor weather in the year 2015 will average 73 minutes per aircraft in the high-use west operations. Astoundingly, some aircraft will have delays of over 10 hours, causing many cancellations, according to the FAA. Can TWA afford such delays and operate profitably? Of course not.

And bad news as well for airport neighbors. If a new TWA terminal were to be built, the runway use presently shown for W-1W would change, putting thousands of additional aircraft over areas south and southeast of the airport where today's master plan indicates little noise impact, setting in motion another buyout of the citizenry around Lambert.

TWA is being held hostage by the city of St. Louis for previous favors and is acquiescing in the face of the city's zeal to spend the billions involved. It's a "we helped you, now you help us" mentality. The problem is that TWA can no longer afford to be pressured in this manner. While W-1W languishes, meaningful improvements to Lambert in the near term are held captive on the drawing board. There are many projects that could be initiated at Lambert, with little or no cost to TWA, that could bring millions to TWA's bottom line. But the supporters of W-1W don't want Lambert to operate better right now for fear that these improvements will further diminish the value of W-1W. But these are the very projects that can help TWA over the hump ... now.

Time and cash are both running out for TWA. Beyond the short-term improvements, it's time the St. Louis community unlocked Lambert expansion from the political box where it now festers. Make cost-effective substantive improvements to Lambert's operational efficiency now. The only concrete added to this airfield in the last 20 years has been a pair of paltry high-speed turnoffs. Compare the progress and improvements made at other hubs around the country.

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