Magazine article Commonweal

Soviets & Synods

Magazine article Commonweal

Soviets & Synods

Article excerpt


I was surprised by a historical error in Margaret O'Brien Steinfels's otherwise insightful column on the illogical and emotional causes of war, "Why We Fight" (September 12). She writes that Russia lost Ukraine after World War I, and then regained it after World War II. It is true that following the Russian Revolution in 1917 Ukraine was momentarily independent of the Russian Empire. But that independence was short-lived. By 1919, the Russians under Lenin regained control. Except for the period of occupation by the Germans during World War II, Ukraine remained under Russian control until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I am particularly aware of this moment in history because I took a course in Slavic history from Professor Roman Smal-Stotsky while I was a student at Marquette University. During Ukraine's brief interval of independence from 1917 to 1919, Smal-Stotsky had served as vice-premier of the Ukrainian Republic. In 1919, he fled the Soviets to Poland, where he taught at the University of Warsaw, only to flee the Germans again in 1939, ending up in Milwaukee.

PAUL J. SCHAEFER Clinton Corners, N.Y


My source was Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919. Looking at the text again, I see that Ukraine's independence was indeed short-lived and that, after fierce fighting, Poland and the Soviet Union divided the country under the Treaty of Riga, signed March 18, 1921.



After reading Molly Farneth's article "At Rome's Mercy" and John Wilkins's article "Great Expectations: Pope Francis & the Synod on the Family" (September 26), I came away with a very pessimistic view of the upcoming synod on family life. I drew a parallel between the American justice system and the structure of the synod.

Many observers of the American justice system realize that the outcome of some trials are determined from the outset after jury selection. When jury selection is done badly, the results of the trial can be blatantly unjust. An obvious example of this injustice was the Mississippi trial in the 1950s of the three white men accused of murdering a sixteen-year-old black boy from Chicago named Emmett Till. The all-white jury acquitted the accused--a decision that could not be reversed, even though the three men later admitted to killing Till. Once twelve white jury members were chosen to decide the fate of the three white men accused of murdering a black boy in 1950s America, the outcome of the trial was a foregone conclusion.

I fear the outcomes of the synod on the family are similarly predetermined because of the structure of the synod itself.

The Catholic Church continues to have a hierarchical structure in which the members of the jury, those deciding the outcome, are all celibate men with no experience of being married with children in the modern world, and no firsthand experience of the attendant problems and moral dilemmas. The first meeting consists of members of the hierarchy and a few lay "observers." Next year's meeting is supposed to include broader representation of the faithful. …

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