To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
Mr. Jencks' recent article on Church-State relations ('Congress Shall Make No Law...') provides the reader with such a potpourri of conflicting opinion that there is some danger that he may have missed the very valid point of the article.
The point is, I take it, that "belief matters in politics." President Kennedy's intense effort in the recent campaign to forfend mistaken visions of tunnels to the Vatican or popes in New York harbours may unfortunately have led people to the opposite erroneous extreme of thinking religion and secular life have no points of contact at all. But the adherent of any religious creed and the set of moral ethics it implies, must naturally strive to express these in his daily life. A believer in the precepts of the Constitution will endeavour to do the same. So the Catholic takes a stand against "birth control, ...the drug traffic and pornography." So "one of the self-defined functions of American government has been the prevention of public immorality."
It is in this light that the clergy's battle against "gambling" and "discrimination" should be seen. Mr. Jencks, however, seems to view such activity as a violation of "American religious freedom," some of the paradoxes of which he examined in regard to the government's ruling on parochial schools, where "anyone who believes that instruction in religion is an essential part of all education finds himself effectively barred from the schools he is taxed for."
Naturally, where men attempt the practical realization of their moral ideals, the possibility is not excluded that they may make errors of their own. The Puerto Rican bishops (whom Cardinal Spellman endeavoured to dissuade) were perhaps so guilty. The circumstance doesn't mean, however, that believers in a particular religion shouldn't try to see "good behavior" established in the world at all.
Moral tenets, whether held by church or state, are meant to be lived, not merely paid lip-service. Here is just the point where faith and democracy successfully merge, and it is a pity that Mr. Jencks allows red-herring speculations about "the inanely tolerant American public" and the bad taste of "opposing Catholics more than necessary" to obscure it. Such considerations as these intimate that Roman Catholic ethics, while generously admitted to be a cut above those encouraged by "allegiance to Moscow" are contrary to the ideals of the American government, an idea that can only derive from a serious state of misinformation. Alexander C. Childs '61