Thanks for an excellent article on “The Church and Psychiatry” (7/30). When the idea of becoming a Catholic priest first took hold of me, I ran away, much like Jonah. I decided to go into professional psychology instead. In working on my Ph.D. in clinical psychology I found myself confronted with massive antireligious sentiments. Oddly, that only strengthened my call to the church, as did my growing awareness that taking a human being apart and then reassembling him or her, but without a sense of God and religion, would not make for a complete person. That sense is essential to us, even while we run away.
(Rev.) Charles Fuld
San Diego, Calif.
In her perceptive comment “Clergy Rating: A Belated Response to Andrew Greeley” (8/13), Mary Anne Huddleston, I.H.M., a nun who has served 13 years on the faculty of a major seminary, apportions among four groups the responsibility for insuring quality preaching: bishops, seminaries, priests and people. For her, bishops “play a key role,” and she cites the American bishop who, in a workshop for priests of his diocese, dared to invite their public criticism of himself as a homilist. Are priests, though, always the most enlightened and disinterested critics of their diocesan bishop?
Once, intrigued by a parish bulletin announcement about a special Mass that would feature “dynamic preaching,” I wrote the pastor, not importunately I thought, inquiring if he would kindly explain the term. He responded that the bishop “will be the homilist at this special Mass, hence the phrase.”
E. Leo McMannus
In “Patient No More” (7/17), Kevin Wildes, S.J., mourns the death of Hippocratic medicine and historical notions of the patient-physician relationship. He supposes that managed care, recent scientific advances, certain bureaucratic health care delivery structures and changing public expectations have created a crisis in the fundamental roles of medicine in American society. In alarmist fashion he paints a polarized picture between traditional and contemporary medicine and suggests a solution of some combination of market and community models: perhaps a voucher system.
Medicine has not fundamentally changed—only the challenges (aging population, antiquated delivery systems and insurance schemes, rising costs and consumerism). Medicine practiced at its best will always remain person-centered, individualized and of high quality in the context of patient values, social relationships and personal goals.
Public perceptions and expectations have not changed. The public will continue to expect personalized care in the context of a professional relationship based on trust.
Managed care has failed to deliver on its promises to decrease cost and increase quality of care. Its legacy will merely be the collective frustration generated, certainly not the presupposed death knell of individual patients as individual patients and personal physicians as personal physicians.
Evidence-based medicine is being augmented (if not supplanted) by clinical outcomes studies. Certain population-based scientific studies will not stand up to the scrutiny of a broader application of cost, quality of life and caregiver-burden analysis.
Health care delivery systems will continue to evolve, pressured not only by financial constraints, but also by public expectations of quality, convenience and reputation of the medical staffs, organizational philosophy and community commitment and accountability.
The purpose of medicine is to “cure sometimes, relieve often and comfort always.”
John W. Finn, M.D.
A Heavy Foot
Joseph Jensen, O.S.B., writes (8/13) that if Liturgiam Authenticam is implemented “it would have a serious impact in at least three areas: ecclesiology, inculturation and biblical scholarship.” He then gives a devastating demonstration of the last of these. I hope others come forward to speak of the ecclesiological implications of this document, and I would hope those trained in canon law would be among them. As for inculturation, this must be addressed by liturgists, by poets, by those whose profession is translation and by other scholars who know what makes language “work,” especially ritual language. Those concerned with ecumenism and with justice should add their voices, for Liturgiam Authenticam treads heavily in these areas too.
Msgr. Eugene Gomulka offers important insight into the relationship between priest and parishioner in “‘Home Alone’ in the Priesthood” (8/27). Although he suggests that parishioners need to offer support and encouragement to their priests, deacons and trained lay ecclesial ministers have an even greater responsibility to offer their priests that same encouragement and appreciation. Those who collaborate in formal ministry with the priest, albeit in a different ministry from his, have a special obligation to minister to their co-worker. It would be good for diocesan bishops and directors of diaconate and lay ministry formation to provide such guidance to those in formation.
St. Johnsbury, Vt.
Odds are you are receiving a great deal of feedback about your issue of Aug. 27-Sept. 3. Articles about Dorothy Day, the magisterium, religion and the public schools, contemporary priesthood—what an outstanding example of the way America enlightens and challenges us week after week. I might be accused of laying it on a bit thick if I add how much I look forward to The Word in each issue—but I’ll run that risk! Many thanks to the excellent contributors and production staff, faithful witnesses all!
Robert B. Murray
Perhaps my parish was assigned the only A pupil in that class of B students mentioned by Mary Anne Huddleston, I.H.M., in “Clergy Rating” (8/13). My experience of my recently ordained assistant and his friends is completely contrary to the grim picture of the young Catholic clergy described by Sister Huddleston. These newly ordained priests are exceptionally bright, often bringing to priesthood university degrees and career experiences that vastly broaden their perspectives. These young men are notably devout with a prayerfulness born of decision, not of regulation, as it was in my day. Their appreciation of the unique features of Roman Catholicism, especially the sacramental nature of our church, is reflected in their careful celebration of the liturgy. Their attention to the many respect-life issues that plague church and society today is both sincere and productive. And I certainly have no complaint about preaching. Everything from rap verses to papal documents has been used effectively from our pulpit. From talking to other pastors, I believe that my experience is the rule and not the exception.
(Very Rev.) John A. Kiley, V.F.