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Reliable Course

One could not but be touched by the sincerity of Kevin O’Brien, S.J. and Peter Clark, S.J. in their article Drug Companies and AIDS in Africa (11/25). Unfortunately, they touch on only one aspect of the AIDS plague in that continent. Simply put, the greatest contributor to the spread of the disease is promiscuity and subsequent infection of sexual partner(s). One has only to read of the incidence of the disease among truck drivers and the prostitutes they frequent along the main highways in Central Africa to see that this is the case. This aspect of the spread of this plague is clearly in the hands of the Africans themselves. A second contributor to the spread is the reuse of needles, not only by corner-injectors who provide vitamin and antibacterial injections to anyone who can pay, but also by hospitals and clinics that persist in this type of reuse. Given that the hospital and clinic contribution to the spread of the disease is now put at between 5 percent and 20 percent, might it not be advisable to put some of the vast funds suggested by your authors into a program for supplying single-use needles? Finally, as good as the best of the current treatment regimens are, they are no more than a stopgap, and a poor one at that. The vast bulk of treated patients will succumb to the disease either through resistance development or through noncompliance. Let us not kid ourselves. Throwing money at this disaster will only delay the outcome. A radical change in behavior is the only reliable recourse.

Sean O’Connor
Wallingford, Conn.

Cover Story

James O. Clifford (It’s Not Just Priests, 12/2) gets it right only in his last paragraph, when he mentions the coverup. The story is the coverup. The story is the betrayal of trust by church leaders.

As terrible as the abuse of children by countless priests is, the reason it remains front-page news, the reason the prestigious New York Times was leading the charge on this one is that unlike most school systems, church leaders did not deal with the abuse as it happened. They did not remove abusive priests from ministry. Instead, they were concerned, it now seems, only for the church’s reputation. And that concern led them to destroy the trust of Catholics across this country as well as the church’s reputation.

He cites an example of a teacher who was molesting students since 1997. As horrible as that is, it fades in comparison to priests who have been molesting children, with the full knowledge of their superiors, since 1967. As for the dozens of cases of sex between teachers and students that were reported so far during this year alone, Mr. Clifford foils his own argument. We can be sure those dozens of cases were also investigated and dealt with this year alone. The abusing teachers were most surely not just transferred to another school where they could continue abusing children.

Eileen Reilly, S.S.N.D.
Wilton, Conn.

Tekakwitha

As a longtime subscriber to America, I usually enjoy reading Of Many Things. But I was dismayed to read the column on Kateri Tekakwitha (12/2). It is suggested that we view the penances undertaken by this young woman as a form of atonement for the sins of Europeans [who]... all but destroyed the cultures of Native American peoples.... Walking barefoot in the snow and whipping herself with reeds until her back bled were among the milder penances Kateri practiced. Quite frankly, this is bizarre nonsense. I am sure that any staffer at America who undertook such self-destructive and masochistic practices would be swiftly conveyed to Bellevue Hospital. And I find it incredible that such clearly mentally disturbed activities can seriously be considered desirable or useful in any way whatsoever.

John Vialet
Chevy Chase, Md.

Restore Faith

The proposal to ban homosexual men from the priesthood should be implemented (12/16).

No individual can claim to have a vocation to the priesthood without the people of God ratifying that call and a bishop validating the vocation by conferring the sacrament of holy orders. Thus, the recent ordinations to the priesthood of several women were not recognized by the church. Down through the years the church has always had restrictions on who can be ordained priests. There have been physical, mental and spiritual demands made that have resulted in certain men being barred from ordination, even though they felt they had a priestly calling from God. A recent example is men being refused ordination because of their allergy to wheat gluten.

It is wrong to ordain homosexual men to the priesthood. Their very lives are witness to selfishness and sterility, even those who are celibate and chaste. Christ, the very giver of life itself, can never be found in a homosexual act. It is an impossibility. How can homosexual priests proclaim the holiness of married and family life when their whole being is centered on sterile attraction to others of the same sex?

Francis DeBernardo’s letter, Badly Fractured (12/9), has got it completely wrong. The banning of homosexuals from the priesthood will cause great pastoral good, and help to restore faith in a Vatican and U.S. hierarchy that have lost their moral leadership in recent decades.

Alistair McKay, C.Ss.R.
Sumter, S.C.

Right On

In Tom O’Brien’s review of A Call to Heroism, by Peter Gibbon, he includes Christy Mathewson as an American hero and positive religious influence (10/28).

Mathewson had 373 career victories and an earned run average of 2.13. His dignified bearing helped to bring respectability to baseball. In 1918 he enlisted in the army and was sent overseas where he came into contact with poison gas, causing him to become tubercular. He died in 1925.

He was not, however, a southpaw; he was a right-handed pitcher.

Frank Thomas
St. Louis, Mo.

Unique Manner

Thank you for The Word column by Dianne Bergant, C.S.A. As an 85-year-old permanent deacon, I am always looking for ideas that make Scripture come alive for the suffering Catholics who must endure my mediocre homilies. Advent is often not understood, but this lady does a fine job of explaining its true purpose and value. Regulations prohibit women from standing behind the ambo, and it is a pity.

Having three Jesuit priest brothers, four wonderful daughters, grateful for the best possible wife of 56 years, plus working with several brilliant female bosses, I admit to being biased. The female mind sees what the male mind often misses. Women experience life in a unique manner. Even the language is refreshingfor example, pregnant with expectation. Can any man make such a statement?

Thank you, Sister Dianne, and thanks to America for recognizing her talent.

George Reinert
Denver, Colo.

Comments

John J. Paret, S.J. | 1/31/2007 - 10:47am
One of your correspondents (Letters, 1/6) was outraged that the severe penances practiced by Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha were described in a favorable tone in the Of Many Things column on Dec. 2, 2002, by George M. Anderson, S.J. I think the correspondent is forgetting that things were viewed in a different light 300 years ago. Among us, pain is practically a dirty word. We do not wish to suffer a minute of it, and we believe that our doctors should immediately find medications and treatments to relieve us of it. But years ago, pain was simply a fact of life. This was well known to Blessed Kateri. But her deep faith enabled her to understand that the pain Jesus suffered was not a necessary part of our divine Lord’s life; she knew he had suffered pain willingly for our salvation, and she was grateful for that. And her love encouraged her to be like him; since he had suffered, she wished to suffer with him.

Furthermore, saint that she was, she had a much keener comprehension than we do of her human failings, and saw them as more grievous than they really were, or than we would be willing to acknowledge. Her faith made her want to suffer in order to resemble her suffering Savior, but also to make reparation for her failings and those of people who had not responded to the love Jesus poured out for us.

In speaking as he did of Kateri’s penances, I don’t believe Father Anderson was saying, “Go thou and do likewise.” Rather, he was presenting this indication of the depth of Kateri’s love and devotion that we might admire it and be moved, in our own modern way, toward a similar devotion to him who has loved us so much.

Alan Yost, SJ | 12/27/2002 - 7:16pm
Alistair McKay, C.Ss.R.'s letter of Jan 6, 2002 makes me wonder if we should also consider banning from ordination people inherently prone to gross generalizations, prejudice, and illogical argumentation. Clearly, people with these inherent character flaws cannot image Christ.

For example, McKay refers to the lives of homosexual men as "witness to selfishness ...." He clearly knows no homosexual men (or at least isn't aware that he does). I know many homosexual persons, both men and women, and have found them to be no more or less selfish than heterosexual persons. Actually, a few of them are among the most selfless and generous people I have the honor of knowing.

McKay asks "how can homosexual priests proclaim the holiness of married and family life when their whole being is centered on sterile attraction ...." One could ask the same question of celibate heterosexual priests, since their celibacy renders them sterile as well, at least in the purely sexual sense that McKay seems to be confined to. And yet celibate priests do proclaim such holiness, thanks to the grace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. If McKay is saying that such grace can not be present in the homosexual person, he is limiting the power of the Holy Spirit. I wonder if that's the sin against the Holy Spirit we hear about in Scripture.

Alan Yost, SJ | 12/27/2002 - 7:16pm
Alistair McKay, C.Ss.R.'s letter of Jan 6, 2002 makes me wonder if we should also consider banning from ordination people inherently prone to gross generalizations, prejudice, and illogical argumentation. Clearly, people with these inherent character flaws cannot image Christ.

For example, McKay refers to the lives of homosexual men as "witness to selfishness ...." He clearly knows no homosexual men (or at least isn't aware that he does). I know many homosexual persons, both men and women, and have found them to be no more or less selfish than heterosexual persons. Actually, a few of them are among the most selfless and generous people I have the honor of knowing.

McKay asks "how can homosexual priests proclaim the holiness of married and family life when their whole being is centered on sterile attraction ...." One could ask the same question of celibate heterosexual priests, since their celibacy renders them sterile as well, at least in the purely sexual sense that McKay seems to be confined to. And yet celibate priests do proclaim such holiness, thanks to the grace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. If McKay is saying that such grace can not be present in the homosexual person, he is limiting the power of the Holy Spirit. I wonder if that's the sin against the Holy Spirit we hear about in Scripture.

Peter M. Kopkowski | 1/31/2007 - 12:06pm
I find it appalling that a letter in your Jan. 6 issue was published without an editor’s comment. The Rev. Alistair McKay says that “the very lives” of homosexual men “are witness to selfishness and sterility, even those who are celibate and chaste.” That is a gratuitous and totally unwarranted insult to every gay man in the world. How could you have published that without comment? The same applies to his question, “How can homosexual priests proclaim the holiness of family life when their whole being is centered in attraction to others of the same sex?” Father McKay’s very apparent homophobia prompts the unfounded and rash assumption that there are no homosexual priests (and never were any) who “proclaim the holiness of family life.” He then makes the totally illogical and unsubstantiated jump to the statement that “barring homosexuals from the priesthood will help to restore faith in the Vatican and the U.S. hierarchy.” Moreover, you helped to create a completely false notion by providing for his letter the caption, “Restore Faith.” It must have been a bad day in the editing department.

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