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Powerless

I am writing in response to Professor Mary Jo Bane’s article, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in the Church (6/3). In 1968 I was 29 years old and had six children. I remember exactly where I was when Pope Paul VI spoke from Yankee Stadium and essentially said, Set another place at the table. That was the message of Humanae Vitae. I sat in my kitchen listening to the radio and sobbed. My husband and I had had six children in seven years, and two miscarriages.

Did I experience lay dissatisfaction and anger? No. I think it was desolation, futility and awful resignation. We were two good, educated, Catholic parents; what could we do? We did the only thing possible at the time to preserve our marriage and our family. We exited from the teaching, and that only after prayer, more tears and lots of guilt.

The current scandal, or Catholic Watergate, has also made me cry, and I have incredible anger. I was not so angry in 1968, just more resigned. I have changed; my church has not. They are still in my bedroom!

Sexual abuse of children is not even in the same category with the teaching of Humanae Vitae. It is despicable, sinful and manipulative. Yes, I live in Boston and have been assaulted by all of it for five months, but never in 1968 did I feel as powerless as I do now. My faith is much stronger now; it is who I am; it is the peaceful, powerful part of me. It speaks to me and says, You are mine, I have counted every hair on your head.

If in two years nothing much has changed, if the same dusty, musty mitres and crosiers are still around, I will be so angry at myself for not speaking out. Please don’t anyone compare the encyclical on birth control in 1968 to this mess. I was there. Then it was resignation and personal decisions; now it is rage, and all decisions are completely out of our hands.

Barbara M. Donahue
Cohasset, Mass.

Realistic

I am especially proud of the manner in which the editors and writers for America have handled the clergy sex abuse matter. One issue has been more insightful than the next, but let me comment on the June 3 issue. I was most impressed with what Patricia Kossmann wrote in Of Many Things. She was so realistic in her commentsit speaks to me of what I too am hearing in my parish. Her comment the faith of most of the faithful remains intact is just right, and I resonate with I too am one of them. Her final paragraph, in which she describes her association with the sisters, is very consoling and realistic.

Every one of this week’s articles is right on targettells the truth but also gives some direction and is rooted in Vatican II. I hope to use some of the pieces to help educate myself and our parish life teams.

Mary Riordan, R.S.M.
Biloxi, Miss.

Judgment Needed

Thank you for your editorial on June 3 about the current crisis. I agree with your observation about the need for lay boards. No matter how zero tolerance is defined, there will always be situations where judgment is needed; that judgment must include the people of God.

I would disagree, however, with one point: the automatic reporting of a past incident with a minor where the minor is now an adult. We as church do have an obligation to make sure that no one is at risk by the accused offender. But beyond that, each case is different.

Having dealt with this situation, it is important to help the victim take the lead so that however the process evolves, he/she is in control of it and is not victimized again. Often, informing church authorities is the first step in dealing with painful memories. Adult victims who come to us rather than to law enforcement are looking for pastoral care and, most of all, an apology. When they are ready, they have the power to tell civil authorities on their own terms, perhaps assisted by the church representatives who have accompanied them in the process.

Thomas Smolich, S.J.
Provincial Superior
Los Gatos, Calif.

Expert

Charles M. Whelan, S.J., has long been listed first among the associate editors of America. A professor of law at Fordham University, he brings his expert analyses to bear to clarify legal and related issues in the 5/27 issue, The Conversation Continues.

Horrendous charges and reflections on clerical sexual misconduct have, in our season of torment, been expanding daily in directions which are sometimes irrelevant, irrational or irresponsible and sometimes, it seems, all of these.

Also in this issue The Conversation Continues, America has lined up for us a phalanx of other experts from other fields. All of these experts offer us much-needed light on this conversation and prepare us to accept the gifts the Comforter would give us in this season of Pentecost. At the end of the day we can only be grateful to our fellow citizens for bearing with us and hope that the Roman Catholic Churchboth members and leaderswill be humbled and purified by the trials God sends us.

Francis D. Champion
Pittsford, N.Y.

More Woe

Having just spent the past several months teaching Romeo and Juliet and trying to convince eighth graders that Shakespeare’s language still speaks to us in our lives today, I thought of the Rev. Michael L. Papesh’s prescient reflection, Farewell to the Club: On the Demise of Clerical Culture (5/13), while wrapping up Act V with my students:

And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punish’d.

How many bishops and pastors must be echoing these sentiments during our own times of tragedy in the church today? Indeed a story of more woe, than that of Juliet and her Romeo!

Susan O’Connell
McLean, Va.

From a Tribunal Judge

In the article What Kind of Church Is This? (5/27), J. Michael Byron refers to a judicial process, laicization, without noting that that there are several important principles that govern any canonical procedure. One of them is found in Canon 1341. It states that only after it has been ascertained that scandal cannot be sufficiently repaired, that justice cannot sufficiently be restored and that the accused cannot sufficiently be reformed by fraternal correction, rebuke or other ways of pastoral care, is the Ordinary then to provide for a judicial or administrative procedure to impose or to declare penalties. In this principle as well as others, canon law upholds the primary mission of the church, which is to heal and reconcile, not punish. Each time I read an article in your publication and an author refers to canon law, more often than not, the author makes an error in what he or she says, because of a lack of basic understanding of foundational principles.

Eileen Jaramillo, J.C.L.
Lansing, Mich.

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