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One of my duties as a newly ordained religious priest working in another diocese was that of offering the Eucharist and hearing confessions every Saturday morning in a state-run institution for about 1,300 troublesome girls, age 13 to about 25. I was reminded of those years, 1950 to 1954, as I read the review of The Magdalene Sisters by Richard A. Blake, S.J., and recalled that right here in the United States the girls in those state-run institutions had their heads shaved for major infractions of the rules, as in Ireland. For lesser violations, and far worse in my eyes, they were forced to take a pill that would make them sick to their stomachs for three or four days. Moreover, if the state officials decided that the girls were unfit to bear children, they would mutilate the girls’ bodies to that end. If someone wants to make a movie about the misuse of authority in such institutions, is it really necessary to go to Ireland and pick on Catholic sisters who, by and large, gave their lives for the well-being of young girls?

Edward V. Griffin, O.S.A.
Philadelphia, Pa.

Whose Gulag?

For a succinct, perceptive and disinterested evaluation, not only of Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters but also of the related issue of the media and the sex abuse crisis, the film review Gulag Erin, by Richard A. Blake, S.J., (9/29) is superb. His prologue and epilogue alone are stunning.

E. Leo McMannus
Venice, Fla.

Faithful Expediency

In connection with the article The Lay Vocation and Voice of the Faithful by Thomas P. Rausch, S.J. (9/29), I want to mention that on July 29 The Wall Street Journal published a long essay, Pastors and Prosecutors, by a prominent Boston attorney, Harvey Silverglate, in which he assailed Massachusetts Attorney General Reilly for overreaching the boundaries of his office in parts of his official report on the sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Boston. Among other criticisms, Mr. Silverglate saw in that report a disturbing pattern of probably unconstitutional intrusions into the religious liberties of the Catholic Church. (Silverglate, I should note, is not involved in any of the abuse cases.)

A few weeks later, on Aug. 11, the Journal published a response by two people who described themselves as regional co-coordinators of Voice of the Faithful, New York. Admitting that Mr. Reilly may have stretched the powers of his office, they nonetheless found his intrusions admirable, given the fact that the church long overlooked sex crimes against children.

I would have hoped that leaders of V.O.T.F. would not give voice so readily to the principle of expediency. That kind of thinking has been voiced too often. No wonder that fewer are listening than V.O.T.F. would like.

John W. Howard, S.J.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Teacher-Speak?

As one who has logged some 30 years of teaching in secondary schools, I am inclined to doubt that Sarah Stockton’s candidates for confirmation spontaneously concluded that their most important reason for wanting to be Catholic is to be part of a community (Christ the Teacher, 9/12). That doubt is deepened by Mrs. Stockton’s use of the word community no fewer than 10 times in two-thirds of a page. Her use of shared community elevates doubt to a certainty.

In the twilight of my career, I find myself waging war on teacher-speak. The young cannot help it. They are marinated in the lingo. This, they suppose, is the diction of the educated elite.

A graver matter: Mrs. Stockton seems pleased that community is her students’ chief reason for wanting to be Catholic. If that really is their conviction, confirmation should be postponed, and somebody should send for a priest.

As to Mrs. Stockton’s angst over her child’s brilliance in spelling, and the consequent envy aroused in the bosoms of her little friends, options exist. She could withdraw the child from competition; she could get the kid to take a dive; she could teach her to bear winning with grace or she could make peace with the reality so plainly stated by St. Paul: Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize?

Richard White
East Lyme, Conn.

Tapping Into Talent

Thank you for Phyllis M. Hanlon’s article, Food for Young Appetites (9/22). With much success, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland adopted the Rev. John Cusick’s Theology on Tap program.

The Associate Board of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Foundation manages the northeast Ohio Theology on Tap series. This board is a group of young professionals, usually between the ages of 25 and 45, who seek leadership, volunteer, social and philanthropic opportunities. They elected to host a Theology on Tap lecture four times a year at different large venues around the diocese. The popularity of this quarterly series grew quickly since its inception in early 2001; average attendance peaked at 350 to 400 people. Local comedy clubs, bars and restaurants are now calling us requesting to host a Theology on Tap at their establishment. We are struggling to find venues large enough to accommodate the young professionals interested.

We have seen a cross-section of attendees: young singles and couples who want to network with other young Catholics; others who are distanced from the church, interested in finding their niche again in the Catholic community; some who are simply interested in learning more about certain aspects of theology and the Catholic faith.

What we have found most amazing is the impressive number of young professionals who, after attending Theology on Tap, are interested in serving on a diocesan board of directors, connecting again with a parish community or donating to Catholic Charities.

Through this program, we are doing more than simply meeting the spiritual needs of young Catholics. We are finding a way for the church to grow from the talents young professionals offer.

Melanie A. Shakarian
Cleveland, Ohio

Peer to Peer

I found Mary Ann Reese’s article Refracting the Light (9/22) to be a balanced and accurate view of the young adults with whom I work as the director of young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Since young adults now make up over 40 percent of the U.S. (and Catholic) population, it is critical that we attend to the spiritual needs of these, our sisters and brothers.

Ms. Reese’s assertions that this diverse group of Catholics need not be categorized as monolithic is critical if one wishes to be taken seriously by them and by those who work with them. She proposes that the young adult groups she describes can be encouraged to learn from one another. This is critical to young adults (and all Catholics) who seek to be more balanced and holy witnesses to Christ’s call. None of us has the whole truth, but together we can come close to understanding it more fully, if not completely.

Peer to peer ministry in the young adult milieu is critical and yet difficult, as young adults are part of a more pervasive culture of competition. If the church wishes to witness to young adults and be witnessed to by them, it must practice this challenging task of listening to and serving one another.

Christine Wilcox, O.P.
San Francisco, Calif.

Correction. In the editorial A Pope for the World (10/6), we wrote that Hadrian VI was pope in 1552. The correct date is 1522.

Comments

Patricia Leary Kenney | 10/20/2003 - 6:17pm
William Donohue (No Evidence, Oct. 20) laudably defends a certain bishop but it seems he is directing his attack at V.O.T.F. Does he think perhaps that he is the only one who can speak on matters of Catholic and Civil rights?

Mr. Donohoe might wish to refer again to pages 38-39 of the Mass. Atty General's report, where a number of things are written about the Bishop of Rockville Center while he was Auxiliary in Boston. He will perhaps wish to correct the impression that someone other than Bernard Law, as Archbishop, could and did make the lawful appointments.

As Bishop Murphy knows, all his power was delegated power in these matters. The former but not lamented Cardinal Law was a specialist in delgating. One can read at leisure his Deposition before the court.

Mark Caponigro | 10/21/2003 - 7:03am
Terry Golway has made valid points about premature objections to Mel Gibson's coming movie about the Passion of Our Lord. But on two other points he is wrong.

1. Mr. Golway writes that the Nigerian-British artist Chris Ofili's painting, "Holy Virgin Mary," is "a representation of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung and decorated with offensive images, designed no doubt to shock and outrage middle-class Catholics. . ." (The "offensive images" are cut-outs of the photographs of naked women's bodies, presumably got from pornographic magazines. Mr. Golway might have added that the elephant dung is arranged so as to resemble pairs of testicles.) Much has already been written about this picture, which I, a Catholic and an artist, find most inspiring; and about Rudy Giuliani's reaction, which I find embarrassing. Ofili's intention was surely not to offend anyone. To me, this heroic portrait of Mary shows her as a wrathful conqueress over uncleanness and lust; so the porn and the poop are present even as the dragon usually is present in pictures of Saint George.

2. As for Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of Christ," I agree that the release and viewing of this movie should be obstructed no more than Scorsese's "Last Temptation of Christ." Much less, actually. In fact, we can count on God not wanting the serious efforts of serious artists ever to be overlooked.

The problem with Gibson's movie is false advertising. According to Paula Fredriksen, Aurelio Professor of Scripture at Boston University, writing in the 7/28-8/4/03 issue of The New Republic, the script she was shown was not historically accurate: for example, too much Latin (and Church Latin too, I might add, hearing Pilate say "Ecce homo" in a few seconds' worth of pre-release film that I saw on the news), and no Greek. And then there is narrative material introduced from the visions of 18th-century nuns: hardly true to Scripture. Whether this material is so anti-Semitic as to incite a pogrom, and to justify the opposition of certain cultural leaders, who can say yet. Nevertheless it is our responsibility, as Catholic Christians, to state that from what we know about this movie so far, it may be a traditionally valid interpretation of Our Lord's Passion, but it is not what our own biblical scholars would endorse.

Ms. Fredriksen was invited by Eugene Fisher, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to join a group of Scripture scholars, including four Catholics and two Jews, in reviewing the Gibson script that was promised them by William Fulco, S.J., classicist at Loyola Marymount University, and Gibson's Aramaic and Latin translator. The story of how the script was eventually delivered to this group, and how much of the movie had already been made, and how Gibson's people received the group's criticisms, and how the group were later threatened by Gibson's lawyers and discredited by spokespeople including Catholic clergy, is one that will be very interesting to read some day. From what Fredriksen writes, the Jesuits of Loyola Marymount seem not to have a noble part in this story--that alone should be of interest to America's readers. But what really matters for now, for all American Catholics, is that opacity is once again obscuring the truth of the Gospel. We should beseech the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to stand by Eugene Fisher and support the excellent work of him and his group.

Patricia Leary Kenney | 10/20/2003 - 6:17pm
William Donohue (No Evidence, Oct. 20) laudably defends a certain bishop but it seems he is directing his attack at V.O.T.F. Does he think perhaps that he is the only one who can speak on matters of Catholic and Civil rights?

Mr. Donohoe might wish to refer again to pages 38-39 of the Mass. Atty General's report, where a number of things are written about the Bishop of Rockville Center while he was Auxiliary in Boston. He will perhaps wish to correct the impression that someone other than Bernard Law, as Archbishop, could and did make the lawful appointments.

As Bishop Murphy knows, all his power was delegated power in these matters. The former but not lamented Cardinal Law was a specialist in delgating. One can read at leisure his Deposition before the court.

Mark Caponigro | 10/21/2003 - 7:03am
Terry Golway has made valid points about premature objections to Mel Gibson's coming movie about the Passion of Our Lord. But on two other points he is wrong.

1. Mr. Golway writes that the Nigerian-British artist Chris Ofili's painting, "Holy Virgin Mary," is "a representation of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung and decorated with offensive images, designed no doubt to shock and outrage middle-class Catholics. . ." (The "offensive images" are cut-outs of the photographs of naked women's bodies, presumably got from pornographic magazines. Mr. Golway might have added that the elephant dung is arranged so as to resemble pairs of testicles.) Much has already been written about this picture, which I, a Catholic and an artist, find most inspiring; and about Rudy Giuliani's reaction, which I find embarrassing. Ofili's intention was surely not to offend anyone. To me, this heroic portrait of Mary shows her as a wrathful conqueress over uncleanness and lust; so the porn and the poop are present even as the dragon usually is present in pictures of Saint George.

2. As for Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of Christ," I agree that the release and viewing of this movie should be obstructed no more than Scorsese's "Last Temptation of Christ." Much less, actually. In fact, we can count on God not wanting the serious efforts of serious artists ever to be overlooked.

The problem with Gibson's movie is false advertising. According to Paula Fredriksen, Aurelio Professor of Scripture at Boston University, writing in the 7/28-8/4/03 issue of The New Republic, the script she was shown was not historically accurate: for example, too much Latin (and Church Latin too, I might add, hearing Pilate say "Ecce homo" in a few seconds' worth of pre-release film that I saw on the news), and no Greek. And then there is narrative material introduced from the visions of 18th-century nuns: hardly true to Scripture. Whether this material is so anti-Semitic as to incite a pogrom, and to justify the opposition of certain cultural leaders, who can say yet. Nevertheless it is our responsibility, as Catholic Christians, to state that from what we know about this movie so far, it may be a traditionally valid interpretation of Our Lord's Passion, but it is not what our own biblical scholars would endorse.

Ms. Fredriksen was invited by Eugene Fisher, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to join a group of Scripture scholars, including four Catholics and two Jews, in reviewing the Gibson script that was promised them by William Fulco, S.J., classicist at Loyola Marymount University, and Gibson's Aramaic and Latin translator. The story of how the script was eventually delivered to this group, and how much of the movie had already been made, and how Gibson's people received the group's criticisms, and how the group were later threatened by Gibson's lawyers and discredited by spokespeople including Catholic clergy, is one that will be very interesting to read some day. From what Fredriksen writes, the Jesuits of Loyola Marymount seem not to have a noble part in this story--that alone should be of interest to America's readers. But what really matters for now, for all American Catholics, is that opacity is once again obscuring the truth of the Gospel. We should beseech the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to stand by Eugene Fisher and support the excellent work of him and his group.

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