The National Catholic Review
New Directions

Many, many thanks for your honest and forthright consideration of the current horrible scandal. The entire April 1 issue was the best I have seen in 40 years of subscribing. I am sharing it with my friends in our parish, and I expect it to become thoroughly worn out in its labor of love. Thanks too for the attitude of hope and new directions that the articles contain.

Robert F. Hanlon
Reston, Va.

From the People

The current scandal has created a serious and perhaps permanent loss of confidence in church leadership. There is a systemic problem of sexual mores within the present clerical system and it has been seriously aggravated by a lack of pastoral concern and by the ecclesiastical arrogance of a number of church leaders both here and in Rome.

While a change in the Roman Catholic Church’s rule on celibacy could resolve some of the present difficulties, it is unwise to expect the Vatican to make this change voluntarily. A major pronouncement from the Second Vatican Council was the recognition that the church belongs to the people of God. Catholic men and women must now begin to assert leadership and assume their proper role in the administration of their parishes and their dioceses. They must have a major voice in the selection of parish clergy and bishops. The people of God have a right to insist on knowing the background of clergy who are assigned to their parishes, as well as of the bishop, who is the representative of the Vatican. There now must be a sharing of responsibility as well the attendant authority. We cannot expect help from our dioceses; leadership must come from the people.

Leo J. Jordan
West Orange, N.J.

Skewed Attitude

Congratulations, America; the issue on sexual abuse (4/1) was outstanding. The present scandal is undoubtedly the most serious that the church in the United States has faced in its history. The public airing of the sexual sins of the clergy is pointing out that many consider the church’s attitude toward sexuality to be skewed and its teaching on the subject to be irrelevant. We have assumed that Catholic teaching is based on an adequate understanding of human sexuality. Is it possible that the present crisis is leading us to question whether, in fact, that assumption is correct?

(Rev.) William S. O’Brien
Rochelle Park, N.J.

Perceived Problems

As I read about Archbishop Elden Curtiss’s response to a letter written by a local Catholic, I didn’t know whether to first laugh or cry (Signs of the Times, 4/1).

Archbishop Curtiss epitomizes a problematic male clerical attitude: the refusal to believe that a non-cleric would have anything of value to add to any conversation. His portrayal of the writer as disloyalbecause she dared to express concern about a priest who had viewed child pornography on the Web being assigned to work with childrenshows a total disconnect from reality.

Are loyal Catholics supposed to assume every decision made by the hierarchy is a good one? Look where that’s gotten us. How much healthier to use our God-given intellect, question perceived problems when we see them and work together to resolve them. But that would require a level of mutuality and trust that many church leaders are not yet ready to adopt. The laugh came when he instructed her to say a Hail Mary as penance. Someone should wake this man up and tell him what year it is. I thought one had to acknowledge sin, be sorry for it and resolve not to do it again before being assigned a penance. I guess he took care of all the preliminaries. Who needs a conscience or an intellect?

Paula Sarge
Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Truth Everywhere

I respond with affirmation and admiration to every article in the 4/1 issue. Each essay provided needed information through compellingly reasoned, purposeful development. Though my library shelf is now stacked with years of previous America magazines, I can recall no edition more worthy of praise and deserving of gratitude. I thank every writer and the insightful, courageous editorial staff. As I have shared various articles of this edition with friends, colleagues and collegians, I know my response will resonate harmoniously among thoughtful pursuers of truth everywhere.

Charles J. Norman, O.S.F.S.
Easton, Pa.

Meaningful Care

I cannot express the depth of my gratitude to you for dedicating an entire issue of America (4/1) to the current sexual scandal rocking our church. I have been so hungry for some intelligent and thoughtful responses to the current events. This has been hard to come by in the mainstream media, with their onslaught of slipshod, sensational sound bites. You provided a multi-perspective approach to a very complex and disturbing issue that deserves and needs such careful attention.

I want to single out especially Paul F. Morrissey, O.S.A., (Are Gay Priests Living a Lie?) and Joseph J. Guido, O.P., (The Importance of Perspective). Thank you for taking the care to speak pastorally and intelligently on the issues of sexual orientation and specifically on the issue of gay priests. I hope these authors know just how much their care means to many.

Jeff Cooper, C.S.C.
Cascade, Colo.

Theory of Marriage

If one were to extrapolate on Vogel’s theory of marriage as told by Thomas McCarthy when he states (4/18) that Vogel suggests people marry basically because they want to be cared for. Vogel adds, And that’s okay. If one were to accept this, I ask you, what Christian could deny our priests this comfort?

Mary Hills
Sylvania, Ohio

Comments

Fr. Leo C. Sprietsma, OFM | 5/17/2002 - 1:46pm
America's May 13th issue has two articles that are related.

One is "Farewell to 'the Club'" by Michael Papesh. The other is "A Reconsideration of the Catholic Priest Shortage" by D. Paul Sullins.

Papesh is right when he says that it is time to bid farewell to the clerical culture.

Though we ought to go one step further, and simply say goodbye to the whole concept of dividing people into "clerical" and "laity."

Anyone ought to be able to be "ordained" for a particular "extension of the ministry of the Bishop" according to their training and ability. And it need not be "permanent."

It is not "the priest" alone who makes the Eucharist present, but the whole worshiping community.

We need to re-think our whole theology and practice of ordained ministry in the church.

Joan R Huber | 5/16/2002 - 6:13am
The "priest-scandal" is actually about the hierarchy: Cardinals' robes make better visuals than Arafat's khafiyah. And when the media gets a Catholic denigrating Church leadership, confrontation and ratings rise. We need to watch ourselves, to heed Our Lord's "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." We need to be missionaries for kindness and understanding, not converts to abrasiveness and hostility. "Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart."

It's too easy for us independent Americans to think that kindness doesn't apply to those with more power than we; after all, they can take care of themselves. But they're God's children too, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Or, as the world has it--without qualification, "Do unto others . . . ." When we make honest mistakes as some of the hierarchy have done, we would appreciate loyalty. Poor judgment, after all, is neither sin nor crime.

Cardinals all began as priests, trained to shepherd, to absolve, to comfort. For them even a sexual glance at another person demands a fast mental turnoff and a fast prayer. Let's say that a cardinal gets a report on Fr. X and summons the priest, who enters scared. (I would be quaking.) The fear elicits excuses and slants the facts in the priest's favor. Of course the older man believes the honestly intended, "I'm getting help; I'll never do it again, if only I can start over somewhere that they don't know." Always the reality is what or who is immediately in front of you, the grownup with whom you are speaking. And then Our Lord asks for 70x7 forgiveness.

We need to pray for greater wisdom for our leaders and for greater enlightenment for Catholics who attack them. Flawed judgment is not a moral lapse. There but for the Grace of G-d go we.

Joe Olivier | 5/15/2002 - 2:59pm
Thank you, AMERICA magazine, for being a non-biased guiding light in times like these. It's time we as Catholic laity start taking an active role in the Church heirarchy. Why aren't lay people making or help making key decisions in the Vatican? Does it all have to be male celibates ruling over the rest of the Body of Christ? The sex scandal that has rocked our country and the hearts of the faithful is truly horrible, however, I do believe the Holy Spirit can still work something positive out of all this mess. Perhaps that would entail us looking into the future of our patriarchal system and/or reevaluating our belief system regarding matters of sexuality. Thanks again AMERICA, as I truly believe that you, as Richard Rohr says so often, are a "voice speaking out in the wilderness."

Fr. Leo C. Sprietsma, OFM | 5/17/2002 - 1:46pm
America's May 13th issue has two articles that are related.

One is "Farewell to 'the Club'" by Michael Papesh. The other is "A Reconsideration of the Catholic Priest Shortage" by D. Paul Sullins.

Papesh is right when he says that it is time to bid farewell to the clerical culture.

Though we ought to go one step further, and simply say goodbye to the whole concept of dividing people into "clerical" and "laity."

Anyone ought to be able to be "ordained" for a particular "extension of the ministry of the Bishop" according to their training and ability. And it need not be "permanent."

It is not "the priest" alone who makes the Eucharist present, but the whole worshiping community.

We need to re-think our whole theology and practice of ordained ministry in the church.

Joan R Huber | 5/16/2002 - 6:13am
The "priest-scandal" is actually about the hierarchy: Cardinals' robes make better visuals than Arafat's khafiyah. And when the media gets a Catholic denigrating Church leadership, confrontation and ratings rise. We need to watch ourselves, to heed Our Lord's "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." We need to be missionaries for kindness and understanding, not converts to abrasiveness and hostility. "Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart."

It's too easy for us independent Americans to think that kindness doesn't apply to those with more power than we; after all, they can take care of themselves. But they're God's children too, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Or, as the world has it--without qualification, "Do unto others . . . ." When we make honest mistakes as some of the hierarchy have done, we would appreciate loyalty. Poor judgment, after all, is neither sin nor crime.

Cardinals all began as priests, trained to shepherd, to absolve, to comfort. For them even a sexual glance at another person demands a fast mental turnoff and a fast prayer. Let's say that a cardinal gets a report on Fr. X and summons the priest, who enters scared. (I would be quaking.) The fear elicits excuses and slants the facts in the priest's favor. Of course the older man believes the honestly intended, "I'm getting help; I'll never do it again, if only I can start over somewhere that they don't know." Always the reality is what or who is immediately in front of you, the grownup with whom you are speaking. And then Our Lord asks for 70x7 forgiveness.

We need to pray for greater wisdom for our leaders and for greater enlightenment for Catholics who attack them. Flawed judgment is not a moral lapse. There but for the Grace of G-d go we.

Joe Olivier | 5/15/2002 - 2:59pm
Thank you, AMERICA magazine, for being a non-biased guiding light in times like these. It's time we as Catholic laity start taking an active role in the Church heirarchy. Why aren't lay people making or help making key decisions in the Vatican? Does it all have to be male celibates ruling over the rest of the Body of Christ? The sex scandal that has rocked our country and the hearts of the faithful is truly horrible, however, I do believe the Holy Spirit can still work something positive out of all this mess. Perhaps that would entail us looking into the future of our patriarchal system and/or reevaluating our belief system regarding matters of sexuality. Thanks again AMERICA, as I truly believe that you, as Richard Rohr says so often, are a "voice speaking out in the wilderness."

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