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Without Comment

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.

Peter M. Kopkowski
San Diego, Calif.

Credibility

The key sentence in the beautiful essay by Richard J. Rodeheffer, M.D., (2/4) is: To decide if a particular opinion or practice [of the church] is commanding of attention, one must ask if it is an authentic manifestation of Jesus’ spirit.... Until the U.S. bishops get over the practice of so much secrecy, their credibility will remain suspect. Jesus made no secret of the human failings in his midst, even among the chosen: the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter.

Bob Ennis
Manitou Springs, Colo.

Symbols

I applaud the timely recent column of Thomas J. McCarthy entitled The Flags Side by Side High Above the Altar (1/20). We share the pride and identification with all that is good and godly as we see the American flag and that of the Vatican displayed in churches.

Abuse of power in the institutions that these symbols represent does deserve scrutiny. There is yet another danger in viewing national policies and church teachings as well as procedures as though they were eternal verities, objects of fetishism.

All these require questioning if we are to remain active participants.

Robert Z. Apostol
Portage, Mich.

Church of the Poor

Denis Murphy seemed discouraged in his article Is Church of the Poor’ Just Rhetoric? (1/6). He may be right to be discouraged unless the church does in fact take his advice to pause and reflect on what it should be about.

I was very much involved with the poor of Manila back in the 1960’s. I walked on the planks that connected the shacks built on stilts over mud and polluted water. I was happy to read that while several generations have passed and some of their Catholic identity may have been lost, the poor still know what they want and need. When asked what the church could do, the poor had clear answers, though Mr. Murphy did not regard them as helpful. He and the church need to listen better.

They want free baptisms. When the stipend for a baptism, the mark of a disciple of Christ, equals a week’s wages, they certainly have a good starting point. The poor just want their children to be members of the body of Christ, the church, for all members of the church to be equal. Sounds clear to me.

They want to build a big church. Parishes in Manila in the 60’s counted over 100,000 people. The number has probably increased. Most churches could accommodate 1,000 at most. You would need 100 Masses on a weekend to get everyone into the church. The poor want the Eucharist. In the seminary we used to hear, It is the Mass that matters. Sounds like the poor have pretty good theology.

They want someone to teach the words of Jesus. They want to love one another, to share the little they have, to live in peace. Most of the poor cannot afford a Bible, so for them faith comes through hearing. Teaching comes primarily from example. As St. Francis said, preach the gospel, with words if necessary.

The people of Manila are great Catholics in the best sense of the word. They understand the words of St. Peter: Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life. What they need is not pity but support. What they need is not more bishops but more priests to baptize their children, provide them with the Eucharist and preach the Gospel by word and example.

For years the church in Manila tried to make up for the lack of priests by bringing in foreigners, but that has failed. Isn’t it time to start ordaining viri probati? There are thousands of proven, devout, faithful, married men who could serve their fellow poor admirably. I knew them when they were squatters and public school students in the 60’s. They are ready now, even though they do not know it. Ordaining the poor is the way to make the church of Manila a church of the poor.

James F. Belzer
Ocean City, N.J.

Change

The brief yet noteworthy reference by George M. Anderson, S.J., (Of Many Things, 1/20) to Sr. Helen Prejean describing the shift in the teaching of the Catholic Church, a shift that resulted in an eventual change in the catechism itself, which all but excludes the use of capital punishment, is a clear expression of the fact that Pope John Paul II’s opposition to the death penalty is a proof that the church can change.

Pope Leo XII had other ideas, as a marble tablet in Rome testifies. It is mounted on the wall opposite the entrance of the Santa Maria del Popolo church, and its Italian inscription reads (my translation):

TO THE MEMORY OF THE CARBONARI
ANGELO TARGHINI AND LEONIDA MONTANARI
WHO FACED WITH SERENITY
THE SENTENCE OF DEATH
PRONOUNCED BY THE POPE
WITHOUT PROOF AND WITHOUT DEFENCE
AND WERE EXECUTED ON THIS SPOT
ON NOVEMBER 23, 1825.
THIS MARBLE TABLET, FUNDED BY
THE DEMOCRATIC ASSOCIATION G. TAVANI ARQUATI
WAS PLACED HERE
BY THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE OF ROME
ON JUNE 2, 1909
AS A LESSON AND A WARNING.

Was the social and moral sense of the people of Rome in 1909 closer to the teaching and practice of Pope John Paul II than to the thinking and practice of Pope Leo XII in 1825? One must remember how difficult it was, in those turbulent political days, to be a good Catholic (loyal to the pope and to his extensive papal states), and a good citizen (loyal to the king and to the dream of a united Italy with Rome as its capital).

Just 177 years ago a pope was personally imposing the death penalty. Clearly, it is not fair to judge what people and popes did 200 years ago with our lights of today. But the pressing question remains: why are we still hesitant to admit the historical fact that our Catholic teaching and practice have recently undergone a 180-degree change of direction?

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.
San Francisco, Calif.

Comments

Deacon Clark Goecker | 2/19/2003 - 10:53am
I’m confused! Congressman Hyde writes, when referring to the current debate over Iraq, “statesmen (who is he referring to?), not clergymen or scholars, have the final responsibility for assessing whether the criteria of a just war have been and can be met.” I believe the “Doctrinal Note” says just the opposite.

If the Congressman has an informed conscience, something the “Doctrinal Note” focuses on but the Congressman ignores, he would appreciate that in a democracy all the people, clergy and scholars included, have a moral responsibility to speak out based not on politics, but on our informed conscience.

It is interesting to observe that the “Doctrinal Note” speaks to several issues in addition to abortion, including euthanasia, family needs, education of children, drug abuse, prostitution, religious freedom and “an economy that is at the service of the human person and of the common good.” And peace, “the work of justice and the effect of charity.” The Vatican document does not speak to capital punishment. Is the “Doctrinal Note” flawed? Or, was it even written to the United States, the only democracy in the world that legalizes the death penalty?

It seems to me the “Doctrinal Note” is about much more than abortion. It is, as it states, “to recall some principles proper to the Christian conscience, which inspire the social and political involvement of Catholics in democratic societies.” Congressman Hyde’s article is the best example of why it is important for all Catholics to reflect upon and discern the teaching of the “Doctrinal Note.” I look forward to a more thoughtful commentary on this important teaching tool from our clergy and scholars.

Deacon Clark Goecker | 2/19/2003 - 10:53am
I’m confused! Congressman Hyde writes, when referring to the current debate over Iraq, “statesmen (who is he referring to?), not clergymen or scholars, have the final responsibility for assessing whether the criteria of a just war have been and can be met.” I believe the “Doctrinal Note” says just the opposite.

If the Congressman has an informed conscience, something the “Doctrinal Note” focuses on but the Congressman ignores, he would appreciate that in a democracy all the people, clergy and scholars included, have a moral responsibility to speak out based not on politics, but on our informed conscience.

It is interesting to observe that the “Doctrinal Note” speaks to several issues in addition to abortion, including euthanasia, family needs, education of children, drug abuse, prostitution, religious freedom and “an economy that is at the service of the human person and of the common good.” And peace, “the work of justice and the effect of charity.” The Vatican document does not speak to capital punishment. Is the “Doctrinal Note” flawed? Or, was it even written to the United States, the only democracy in the world that legalizes the death penalty?

It seems to me the “Doctrinal Note” is about much more than abortion. It is, as it states, “to recall some principles proper to the Christian conscience, which inspire the social and political involvement of Catholics in democratic societies.” Congressman Hyde’s article is the best example of why it is important for all Catholics to reflect upon and discern the teaching of the “Doctrinal Note.” I look forward to a more thoughtful commentary on this important teaching tool from our clergy and scholars.

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