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Choices More Worthy

I want to thank America for the attention you have brought to the pledge Renewing the Mind of the Media (11/11) and for John McCarthy’s excellent explication of the mind of the U.S. bishops in asking that this pledge be taken on Dec. 17 this year and on World Communications Day in the following four years.

The media are among the most influential forces in forming our culture, and yet they too often take the position that they are simply businesses supplying their customers with what they want. They rarely seem to take seriously the role they play in forming their audiences’ tastes or to take responsibility for aiming their programming at those with significant disposable income while ignoring millions of others they could serve.

In turn, we, their audience, may accept too willingly what they offer us, or we may feel that these media conglomerates are beyond the reach of being affected by our individual concerns.

The bishops hope that through the Renewing the Mind of the Media pledge, the large Catholic media audience will realize its potential to get the media and entertainment industry to make different choiceschoices that are more worthy of their awesome responsibility.

(Most Rev.) Robert N. Lynch

Bishop of St. Petersburg

Chairman, U.S.C.C. Committee

for Communications

 

Best Reviewers

I was delighted to read the comments by Richard A. Blake, S.J., on The Exorcist (11/18) and his observations about my essay on the film that appeared in America 26 years ago.

Father Blake and Richard Alleva of Commonweal are the best film reviewers in the Catholic press. I suspect they are better than anyone in the secular press. Over the last 25 years I have enjoyed and profited from Blake’s perceptive remarks about film. No one has more insight into Woody Allen’s work than Blake, and his book on Allen’s films, Woody Allen: Profane and Sacred (1995), is excellent. Currently I am reading Blake’s latest book, AfterImage, and even when I disagree with his analysis of a particular film I find his observations provocative and interesting.

(Rev.) Robert E. Lauder

Jamaica, N.Y.

 

A Sharp Reminder

I have before me the rough draft of a short note to America complimenting Tad Dunne on his perceptive and insightful sketches that have been gracing and highlighting the weekly Word column by John R. Donahue, S.J.

I’ve decided to send it, despite Bishop Frank J. Rodimer’s carefully worded misgivings (11/4) concerning what had struck me as a most appropriate caricature: Tad’s drawing illustrating But it shall not be so among you (Mk. 10:43), the Gospel passage for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (column dated Oct. 14).

Truth be told, the Latin words on the pompous prelate’s stole Magister sum, servus es (I’m the teacher, you are the slave) expressed forcefully what Christ warned his followers not to do.

All my confreres who know Bishop Rodimer unanimously describe him as a genuine Christian gentleman, the antithesis of Tad Dunne’s caricatured bishop. His feeling of betrayal is understandable, unless one sees the artist clearly loathing the opposite.

It was not very long ago that Msgr. George W. Casey could write: We should give up a good deal of our stuffiness: the whole amazing establishment of vestures, head-dress, staffs, thrones, canopies, coats-of-arms, titles, genuflections, ring kissing, deferences, processional order, protocol, etc., that characterizes official people in our church, and so distinguishes them from anything else in this world save, perhaps, the British court at coronation time or maybe some small oriental court left over somewhere from the Middle Ages. Such trappings get more space in the Code of Canon Law than the rights of man, and it means more to some people than the Gospel.

While much has changed for the better since the Second Vatican Council, an occasional sharp reminder of what Jesus thinks of the few remaining traces of our ecclesiastical stuffiness is healthy and welcome.

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.

San Francisco, Calif.

 

Respond to Reality

Perhaps the Rev. Robert J. Thorsen (Letters, 10/21), responding to Eileen Flynn’s article (9/30), did not mean to suggest that persons with a same-sex orientation (who are, in his view, the result of a genetic crapshoot) are outside the responsibility of Godso, tough luck! Nevertheless, the tone of his letter conveys that implication.

Surely, the Creator was aware of the potential numerical pervasiveness of such a genetic possibility, and would expect intelligent human persons to acknowledge and provide caring responses to that reality.

Helen Harvey

Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

Common Integrity

James Martin, S.J., keynotes The Church and the Homosexual Priest (11/4) with the traditional dictum that homosexuality is a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil, a definition that might fairly fit all of us afflicted by original sin. He then differentiates homosexual from gay, as an inherent inclination differs from patterned expression. Priests who are homosexual are evidently unable to be freed of that sexual impediment; but they are obliged, for their sake and that of the church, to keep free from both unchaste sexual activity and its associated mannerisms, which embody the impediment.

He goes on to report increasing patterns of mannered gay behavior in seminaries and beyond, which is immature and distasteful enough to be a handicap for ministry, whether or not it is accompanied by sexual activity.

Of course, he holds all priests to their commitment to celibacy. But all of us, married or single, cleric or lay, have an even more fundamental companionate need for chastity, the virtue whereby we convey truthful, mature and continent meaning in our bodies, relations, affections, manners and instincts. Chastity requires considerable and habitual self-discipline: that is, an uncommon effort simply to enjoy a common integrity. It is an uphill climb just to be normal. But isn’t that a pretty fair description of what original sin imposes on us all?

Michael Heppen, C.S.C.

Beverly Hills, Mich.

 

 

Regular Guys’

Two comments on your issue of 11/4, The Future of the Priesthood.

It is almost never pointed out in these discussions that the traditionalist societies of the church cannot build seminaries fast enough to house the number of good applicants they have. At the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter’s new seminary in Nebraska, 60 students will be in residence this fall.

I think as well that the question of homosexual clergy is much more difficult than James Martin, S.J., makes it out to be. Friends of mine who work for several dioceses and are completely committed to the spirit of Vatican II nonetheless tell me that they worry very much about the pastoral implications of a combination of homosexual priests and women now coming to dominate in roles not specifically clerical. This feminization of the church’s liturgical life, they fear, runs the risk of alienating whole generations of regular guys. As someone who teaches in one of the few men’s colleges left in the country, located in a diocese racked by pederasty scandal, I can only agree that the public face of the Catholic church today is highly problematic for the psychology of the average young man.

David P. Kubiak

Crawfordsville, Ind.

 

Quaint

James Martin, S.J., used the word twee to describe the TV show Ed (11/11). Twee is defined in Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary as affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute or quaint. As Father Martin said, the word is British, and in Britain, if a lass is excessively cute, she is considered to be one too twee.

Joseph N. Sweeney

Chevy Chase, Md.

 

Awesome Robe

As I read with fascination in both America (10/28) and other journals how hierarchy and theologians struggle with the ripples (or tsunamis?) created by Dominus Iesus and cognate edicts, I cannot help but visualize an Oleg Cassini or an Yves St. Laurent trying to custom-tailor a ceremonial garment to the precise physical dimensions of the risen body of Jesus Christ, or even of the person of God’s Holy Spirit. Well, lots o’ luck! After all, isn’t the people of God, as described, if ever so haltingly, in Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, ultimately a mystery, not much less unfathomable than the two just mentioned before?

Perhaps the real mistake is not so much in definitions worded this way or that, but in the very insistence on defining (making finite) realities that are meant to prompt primarily not verbose dissections but profound awe and spiritual fascinationthere being different forms of service, but the same Lord(1 Cor. 12:5).

Edmund F. Kal, M.D.

Fresno, Calif.

 

Party Times

The Of Many Things by James Martin, S.J. on Nov. 25 demands some response. Probably religious vows outlast nuptial ones statistically, so religious don’t need to celebrate fifth and other early anniversaries. But in light of the priest shortage, such celebrations are essential. What a wonderful chance for us layfolk to show appreciation for our priests who are young in their dedicated lives.

As for homilies, what would happen were Father Martin to start his with a request for a show of hands, How many looked at today’s readings earlier this week?

Ah, confession. I don’t know about that Benedictine Father Martin read, but I lost much spiritual help and growth to one pamphlet’s crisp advice to the penitent: Be blunt, be brief, be gone. (Good advice if you’ve robbed a bank or slept with a neighbor, but not if you want a little fine-tuning.) Much better a more current pamphlet’s counsel: Give your age, marital status and profession so the priest at least has a chance to help you. Indeed, younger confessors seem to talk more. It’s their way of reflecting God’s love to us, and the fact that they try is as helpful and inspiring as what they say. We appreciate the time so kindly givenand we stand ready to throw the priests’ one-, five- and ten-year anniversary parties, too.

Joan Huber Berardinelli

Allison Park, Pa.

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