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Avery Dulles, S.J., as the only American theologian ever to be raised to the College of Cardinals, is arguably, at least in the eyes of the Vatican, the most respected theologian in the country. Yet when he submits an article to your magazine on the important question of evangelization (10/21), you not only submit it to others for a comment to be published in the same issue, but print a response that is longer than his original article. It would seem to me America’s editors should swallow their bias and treat a brother Jesuit with greater respect.

Lou Baldwin
Philadelphia, Pa.

Increasing Style

Your back-to-back articles presenting contrasting views on Evangelization and the Jews (10/21) prompts me to write in thanks for what I perceive to be a style increasingly used in your publication. For a person like myself with no formal education in theology, but still very much concerned with the issues, reading Cardinal Avery Dulles and then the reply was tremendously helpful in my effort to listen critically to teachings on salvation outside of Christianity. I suspect this is a subject that many of us ponder as we reflect on the infinite love of God for all of his peoplenot so much on the question of salvation for all, but on the salvation plan or covenant that God may have for the many people outside Christianity. Please continue this very educational and stimulating style of journalism.

Donald F. Sauls
Inverness, Ill.

Strong Parallel

The article A New Chapter, by Fred J. Naffziger (10/21), presented an analysis of possible financial consequences and options that may face the church as a result of claims for clergy sexual abuse. Regarding the financial administration of Cardinal Bernard F. Law and some of the other bishops, as mentioned in the article, there is in my opinion a strong parallel with that of the several corporate executives who are under indictment for fraudulent accounting and other mismanagement, which has cost employees and investors vast sums.

In terms of the business side of church administration, we in the laity are in effect the stockholders who have been victimized by the secrecy and manipulation of the bishops. It is we who have invested our funds to build and operate the business and infrastructure of the church. We have, in effect, either had our investment wiped out or put in jeopardy.

If Cardinal Law and other bishops were to speak out to condemn the malfeasance of the corporate executives, this would be, in my opinion, a great hypocrisy. The one difference is that corporate executives are, in theory, answerable to employees and stockholders while the bishops hold themselves answerable to no one.

John L. Coakley Jr.
Kansas City, Mo.

Greatest Gift

My reading of Boys, Cunningham and Pawlikowski, Theology’s Sacred Obligation (10/21) is that after much explanation of differences between themselves and Cardinal Dulles’s Covenant and Mission (10/21) in the meaning of words, concepts and biblical notions, they still do not address the indisputable idea that the greatest gift ever given is a gift to be shared with all, Jesus the Christ. Where in the tradition does it suggest that 21st-century circumstances make it appropriate to exclude the Jews from the opportunity to hear this great news? Once people finish doing their best with words and reverencing others’ faith traditions (we grant this to the four authors), there remains the joy and the responsibility toward all to have Jesus be known more intimately, loved more ardently, followed more closely.

Kathleenjoy Cooper, A.C.J.
Miami, Fla.

Beatitude

I read with interest Cardinal Avery Dulles’s article Evangelization and Mission (10/21) and the committee’s response to it. Charity is the foundation of human existence. The expression of this love is in the fullness of God’s gift to all, his word and his communion with us through Scripture and the Eucharist. Through Christ, this bit of heaven on earth is the foretaste of beatitude. Men and women have a choice to believe or reject this. Belief or rejection follows evangelization. How is it possible for anyone to choose to believe or to reject, if I am to withhold my tongue?

This fullness of communion brings joy and life to the fiber of my being. I desire to share this with all my brothers and sisters. Why would I withhold this from anyone, especially a Jew with whom I share a common understanding of the created world? Catholic is not what I am but who I am.

Does the committee reject the truth that Catholicism embodies the fullness of communion between God and humankind or that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament? If so, say so, and do not pretend to represent a Catholic position.

Charity, love of God and my brothers and sisters, demands that I give what I have, my most precious gift, my faith (myself), to all who pass my way. All men and women are invited without exclusion. If I am to be silent and accept the muzzle and the falsehood of religious indifferentism, then I have no charity.

Beverly Sottile-Malona
East Amherst, N.Y.

Whole Law

I must confess that reading Covenant and Mission (10/21) last night made my head hurtas do other America articles from time to time. I was no doubt more sensitive than I would normally be to Cardinal Dulles’s position. I am in Minneapolis to work on the Paul Wellstone campaign, unable to come to grips with his death two days ago. As a Capitol Hill union lobbyist, it is my opinion that Senator Wellstone, a Jew, more than any other U.S. senator lived what we would call Gospel values. I wonder who should be evangelizing whom?

I then read the readings for today [Oct. 27], finding needed reassurance in the simple beauty of the definition of the whole Law and the prophetsoften not easy to live this law, to be sure, but really not subject to misinterpretation either. The Scriptures spoke of the puzzling and difficult command to love God, which I agree is often collapsed into service of neighbor. Judging from the outpouring of grief of the diversity of peoples in Minnesota and elsewhere, Senator Wellstone understood and lived that whole law. It seems that we Christians should focus more on loving our neighbor and less on theological debates over who alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation.

Mary Rouleau
Arlington, Va.

Erroneous Position

I find the argumentation of your editorial Ordaining Gay Men (11/11) weak and the position set out erroneous. For instance, the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that homosexuals are obliged to remain chaste does not, as you claim, contradict those who hold that gay men are less likely to maintain chastity. Second, your argument that evidence shows that homosexuals are no more likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexuals ignores the fact that most of the clergy sexual abuse cases recently brought to light involved homosexual activity. Third, against the argument that gays form cliques that exclude straight priests, you offer the statement that gay priests work well and easily with straight priests in all manner of ministries. This is called begging the question. Ditto for your argument that gay priests do not have difficulty living in same-sex rectories and communities, since the majority of gay brothers, priests and bishops are able to maintain their celibacy living in rectories and religious communities. Fourth, your argument that the ordination of gay priests is to be embraced because many gay clergy dedicate themselves to service in the church ignores the fact that gaysby which I mean homosexuals committed to a significant portion of the gay political agendaare unlikely to accept church teaching regarding the objectively disordered nature of the homosexual propensity and are more likely, therefore, also to dissent from church teaching on other matters.

Kevin L. Flannery, S.J.
Rome, Italy

Subtle Brief

The America issue of Oct. 28 revived this reader. Of Many Things sharply demonstrates that the classic essay is very much alive, and I’ll use it as an example in freshman composition class next term. Father Anderson offers a subtle brief for exploring and treasuring the world around us, and for respecting art wherever we find it.

Design for Disaster gives me some material for introduction to literature next week; the theme is war and peace. Maybe your combined editorial wisdom will cause a smidgen of thought in my freshman hawk, who was unmoved by Dulce et Decorum Est.

In Sister Said... Terry Golway reminds me of my own parochial school education, where the sisters taught us grammar so well that I still call on it. If God is good, I may even get students educated as his are, and I know that in the future, teachers will be blessed, helped and encouraged by their presence in the classroom.

For all of us 60-somethings, Michael Daley’s The Sandbox and the Incarnation is greatly welcome, for we have generally lived in the anonymity he celebrates. And his is a gentler take on what Jesus said, that the grain must die in order to bear fruit. After that issue is passed from one person to another to another and finally hits the ecology box, its articles will still be making our world a little better.

Joan Huber
Allison Park, Pa.

Back to Work

The articles in your 9/30 issue prompt this reflection. I would like to propose that men with Different-Sex Attraction (D.S.A.) and Functioning Sex Organs (F.S.O.) should not be ordained. If men with D.S.A. have F.S.O., and the purpose of sex is procreation, then men with D.S.A. and F.S.O. should be morally required to procreate in order to make more Catholics.

Really, could we please stop being ridiculous and get back to the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and building up the reign of God?

Timothy M. Powers
Goshen, N.Y.

Comments

geo & ellen curran | 11/16/2002 - 3:07pm
Ref letter to the editor of Kevin L. Flannery, S.J. Rome, Italy (Nov. 18th issue) A couple of brief comments on Father's letter. He states...that most of the clergy sexual abuse cases recently brought to light involved homosexual activity. Father's ambiguity infers that the ongoing issue of sexual abuse is the result of being gay. Most of what we have been reading on the subject seems to differentiate between the true pedophile (gay or straight) versus the psychologically maldeveloped or underdeveloped person. The responsibility starts in the seminary's selection of the candidate and helping him during his training to become aware of his orientation, whether heterosexual or homosexual and integrating that sexuality in a healthy way.

Alan Yost, SJ | 11/12/2002 - 2:34am
It seems to me that the first three of Kevin Flannery's points in his Nov. 18 letter are merely differences of opinion. It's the fourth that I wonder about. He decries America's line of reasoning that "many gay clergy dedicate themselves to service in the church" by claiming that they are unlikely to accept Church teaching on homosexuality, and therefore are more likely to dissent on other issues. First, how does he assume that gay clergy are unlikely to accept Church teaching on homosexual acts? Second, does he have statistical evidence that those who dissent on one issue are more likely to dissent on others, or is this merely a prejudice on Flannery's part? Finally, and most importantly, he appears to believe that "dedicated service in the Church" and "dissent" are mutually exclusive.

Are we not called as Christians to discern God's will by learning what our own conscience tells us? As a fellow Jesuit, who has made the Spiritual Exercises, I'm surprised at Flannery's seeming distaste for knowing and speaking what is in one's own heart. Furthermore, has not dissent been one of the ways that the Holy Spirit has brought about reform throughout the history of the Church?

I ask Flannery to recall St. Thomas Aquinas' bold statement that it is better to die excommunicated from the Church than to act contrary to one's own conscience. We do a disservice both to the Church and to the Holy Spirit when we keep our prayerful and informed conscience a secret merely in order to toe the party line.

geo & ellen curran | 11/16/2002 - 3:07pm
Ref letter to the editor of Kevin L. Flannery, S.J. Rome, Italy (Nov. 18th issue) A couple of brief comments on Father's letter. He states...that most of the clergy sexual abuse cases recently brought to light involved homosexual activity. Father's ambiguity infers that the ongoing issue of sexual abuse is the result of being gay. Most of what we have been reading on the subject seems to differentiate between the true pedophile (gay or straight) versus the psychologically maldeveloped or underdeveloped person. The responsibility starts in the seminary's selection of the candidate and helping him during his training to become aware of his orientation, whether heterosexual or homosexual and integrating that sexuality in a healthy way.

Alan Yost, SJ | 11/12/2002 - 2:34am
It seems to me that the first three of Kevin Flannery's points in his Nov. 18 letter are merely differences of opinion. It's the fourth that I wonder about. He decries America's line of reasoning that "many gay clergy dedicate themselves to service in the church" by claiming that they are unlikely to accept Church teaching on homosexuality, and therefore are more likely to dissent on other issues. First, how does he assume that gay clergy are unlikely to accept Church teaching on homosexual acts? Second, does he have statistical evidence that those who dissent on one issue are more likely to dissent on others, or is this merely a prejudice on Flannery's part? Finally, and most importantly, he appears to believe that "dedicated service in the Church" and "dissent" are mutually exclusive.

Are we not called as Christians to discern God's will by learning what our own conscience tells us? As a fellow Jesuit, who has made the Spiritual Exercises, I'm surprised at Flannery's seeming distaste for knowing and speaking what is in one's own heart. Furthermore, has not dissent been one of the ways that the Holy Spirit has brought about reform throughout the history of the Church?

I ask Flannery to recall St. Thomas Aquinas' bold statement that it is better to die excommunicated from the Church than to act contrary to one's own conscience. We do a disservice both to the Church and to the Holy Spirit when we keep our prayerful and informed conscience a secret merely in order to toe the party line.

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