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The Real Story on Witches

I am a conservative Catholic who reads This Rock regularly. Most of the time I agree with what I read, but I strongly disagree with Michelle Arnold (“Witchcraft 101,” July-August 2008) because I think the only thing she really knows about witches is what she’s read or maybe heard. To know about witches, witchcraft, and Wicca, you should have experienced it or know people who do it. Reading an Idiot’s Guide from Barnes & Noble and a book from the 1950s by Margot Adler will tell you nothing.  I have relatives who practice Wicca. Practicing Wicca does not make you a witch. A real witch will never tell you she is because it will expose her. Only a person who tries to be a witch (someone who practices without powers) will tell you that witches do not believe in Satan. Real witches know that he exists. They also believe in God, but refuse to worship him. A real witch is a woman who has demonic powers. This is not something you can read from a book or learn in a classroom while you got your degree.

—Jennifer Reed
Thousand Oaks, California

Michelle Arnold replies: I thank Ms. Reed for writing and sharing her experience. Experience is indeed a powerful teacher and cannot be overlooked.

I respectfully suggest to Ms. Reed that books cannot be overlooked either. The books I cited in my article were by practitioners or experts sharing their knowledge with readers interested in learning more about witchcraft. Dismissing their knowledge of or experiences in witchcraft and stating that the practitioners must not have been “real witches,” apparently solely on the basis that they have written books on their knowledge and experiences, seems imprudent. In regards to Margot Adler’s book Drawing Down the Moon, the original copyright date is 1979. The copyright date of the edition I used is 2006.

If Christian evangelization to witches is to have hope of succeeding, we must be willing to give self-described witches the respect of listening to them carefully and crafting our Christian apologetic based on their explanation of their own beliefs, and not on what we think that they believe.

Build Character; Prevent AIDS

I just finished reading the article “Uganda: The Real ABC’s of an Epidemic” by Matthew Bunson (May/June 2008) and cannot agree more with his conclusion. I am part of a program at Correctional Training Facility-Central in Soledad called Inmate Peer Education Program (IPEP). There are five of us who (until budget cuts stopped the program) volunteered and taught classes to the inmate population on various infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections, and TB). The two classes taught the most were Hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. We first became aware of the Uganda ABC’s, as I call them, during a PBS Frontline special titled “The Age of AIDS.”

It was an excellent documentary and highlighted the Ugandan education program. What was most revealing to me is the simplicity of the statement. The Frontline special showed how troops of performers would go to villages and conduct performances explaining the ABCs and their importance. Even Catholic Charities and Billy Graham Jr. were involved and provided financial support. This is a program that has proved to be effective and supports the idea of education, education, education. You cannot prevent something if you do not know about it. There was one key ingredient that Uganda has that the U.S. does not: the backing of the government. The Frontline special showed the President of Uganda conducting an ABC seminar in a village. That is leadership by example.

This idea was so good that we (TPEP educators) incorporated it into all of our classes. What is most surprising and pleasing was the response from the men attending. The idea struck a chord and some even wanted more information to send home so that they could speak with their children. That is the goal of all education: passing on the information to others. And it was also great because it showed how, through development of the family character, the individual character also grew.

I found it great that others recognize the importance of prevention and that good ideas can come from anywhere.

—Eric Lewis
Soledad, California

Is Celibacy Superior?

In reading the article by Russell Shaw “Does the Church Have too Many Secrets?” (April 2008) I wonder about his words “A distorted idea of vocation lies at the root of all this . . . takes for granted that the clerical state is intrinsically superior to all others” (i.e., the consecrated life, the married state, the single lay state in the world). I perked up in reading his statement because I have conversed with my adult children about this matter, drawing from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. In paragraph 16 he speaks of marriage and virginity or celibacy. He beautifully points out the importance of both and that virginity for the sake of the Kingdom “presupposes” marriage. Virginity is a calling forth from the good of marriage so that the rest of us might not lose our focus on the real purpose of life on earth and life in the body. At the end of the paragraph he says, “It is for this reason that the Church, throughout her history, has always defended the superiority of this charism to that of marriage, by reason of the wholly singular link which it has with the Kingdom of God.” If God calls an individual, male or female, out of the norm, that is, from marriage and to the consecrated life for the sake of the Kingdom, is God saying that the norm is “less”? I think not. I’m also reminded of Our Lord’s words to Martha that Mary had chosen the better portion.

— Margaret Keeler
Via e-mail

Russell Shaw replies: I am grateful to Margaret Keeler for her interesting remarks. The question I was discussing was whether the clerical state is superior to all other states. As Mrs. Keeler points out, it’s the life of virginity for the kingdom’s sake which enjoys superiority in the view of the Church, and since there are some married priests (to say nothing of married deacons) and some lay people who embrace virginity for the kingdom, the supposedly absolute superiority of the clerical state—excellent though that state is—doesn’t stand up under examination.


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