Adoption: A Life-Giving Choice, by Thomas P. Muldoon (11/29), recalled to me a poignant personal experience. Several weeks ago I attended by accident (I had wandered into the wrong room) a session on adoption at the Lesbian and Gay Center in lower Manhattan. The principal speakers were a gay couple who had arranged to adopt a baby from the woman who was carrying it. The couple would pay all the mother’s expenses, and considerably more to the adoption agency, but there was no guarantee that the mother would give the baby up for adoption in the end. As I listened to the partners speak, I was struck more and more by how much over the period of the pregnancy they had bonded with the mother in ways that probably transformed their lives as well as hers. The men are relatively well-off urban professionals; she is poor, rural, and something of a substance-abuser.
One incident in their relationship remains in my mind. She already had a 2-year-old boy, whom she feared officials might take from her. One day she called the men in desperation. The 2-year-old was sick and had been crying for four days. She was afraid to take him to an emergency room lest her own noncompliance with drug rules be discovered, but she was even more afraid that she might hit the child in desperation. She had no one else to turn to. One of the men immediately got on a plane and flew across the country to stay with the woman and care for the child until the crisis was over.
Of course it was in his self-interest to do so, but what came through so strongly during the hourlong presentation and discussion was how two gay men and a straight, single mother of totally dissimilar social, economic and cultural backgrounds broke barriers to work together in the best interests of a child. Their now-adopted son is 2 years old and looks exactly like his 4-year-old brother had looked two years previously. Undoubtedly, some gay couples should not adopt children, but on the whole, can one think of an act that is more generous, loving and, in the end, Christ-like?
New York, N.Y.
I read your magazine at a neighbor’s home sometimes. You often have interesting articles. But, you always display a far-out liberal tone, both in what you print and what does not get written. I present two examples.
The article Hospitality to Strangers, by George M. Anderson, S.J. (11/22), about Hillary and John Benish was excellent; they are living saints. But I always wonder why I never read of an organization reaching out to the victims of crime. When did we last hear of an organization or person bringing food, money, clothing or shelter to those hurt by criminals, drug dealers and users or robbers? Aren’t they as entitled to our concern as the perpetrators?
Then we have your editorial on world hunger blaming the United States, our businesses and government, as usual. Nowhere did the article point out that there is sufficient food in the world for everyone. Nor did you say that those African, Asian and other countries in the world are predominantly nondemocratic socialist or communist dictatorships. That is the major reason for their problems, not us. If the hungry nations of the world adopted democratic, capitalistic, constitutional legal systems and a free market economy, this evil would evaporate.
I have traveled and worked on five continents and in many countries. Believe me, well over half the people in the world would emigrate here if they could. Yet all I ever read in your publication is how bad we are.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gave us a wonderful gift this holiday season (Signs of the Times, 11/29). The election of Bishop Donald W. Trautman, of Erie, Pa., as chairman of the bishops’ Liturgy Committee, a post he previously held from 1993 to 1996, gives Catholics committed to implementing the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council reason to rejoice. I had the privilege of attending a workshop on the General Instruction of the Roman Missal given by Bishop Trautman in my diocese last year. His perspective on the liturgy is surely inspired by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps now the church can hope for a clear, proclaimable Lectionary, a revised translation of the Roman Missal that will speak to a post-Vatican II world and an emphasis on the eucharistic celebration rather than devotionalism. Perhaps those desiring a return to a preconciliar liturgical theology will come to understand that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and should not be a divisive, sometimes vicious, battleground. As Bishop Trautman has said, we need to teach, teach, teach. I have great hope!
The article Bankruptcy and the Catholic Church, by Jennie D. Latta (11/29), was informative and encouraging; informative because most of us do not understand how Chapter 11 bankruptcy works, and encouraging because it would appear that bankruptcy is the best way out for the U.S. church’s most grossly mismanaged dioceses.
When dioceses can continue to function as debtors in possession, it would appear that the innocent laity and parish priests can largely avoid paying for the crimes and errors of the guilty abusers and their protectors. Perhaps cathedrals and episcopal residences will be sold off; that would be a shame, since they were built with the contributions of the entirely non-culpable laity.
Those concerned with justice for the abused should be reminded that closing parishes and schools does not punish the guilty, who are, in order of culpability, the abusers themselves, the bishops who allowed them to continue abusing and those who appointed such bishops.
When it is found that the dioceses do not really have storerooms filled with gold, the plaintiffs’ lawyers may have to gnash their teeth and settle for pennies on the dollar. You can’t really get rich selling off bishops’ miters. And the victims, who keep assuring us that it is not a matter of money, will find their vindication in reading the headlines of diocesan bankruptcies.
I certainly look forward to more articles by Judge Latta as the Chapter 11 proceedings take place.
I would like to thank Jens Soering for his periodic contributions to America, which provide a poignant reminder of the humanity of the men and women in the American prison system (12/6). He returns the faces to those who have been forgotten and cast off and reminds us all that regardless of guilt or innocence, ultimately the discussion is about a person. I sincerely hope to see more of Mr. Soering’s writings in the future.
As someone with a family member who has been in and out of the prison system, I have personally seen the suffering inflicted upon prisoners and the recently released. Modern prisons are designed to punish rather than rehabilitate and do little to maintain the dignity of prisoners, the same dignity found in all of us. Further insult ensues upon release, when a person returns to society supposedly having paid his or her debt, only to find the stigma of ex-con attached and new challenges. This family member was guilty; he served his time but desired change and found it almost impossible without the support of those around him and eventually ended up back in trouble.
Dorothy Day said it best when asked in an interview about criminals when she responded, God loves all men, and all men are brothers. As Christians we are called to love and support those who are most marginalized among us; and while it is easy to focus upon the poor, the homeless or the hungry, it is just as easy to forget those who have been imprisoned. God doesn’t give up on the incarcerated; why should we?
Thomas J. Randall
I respond to Howard Bleichner’s book View From the Altar and the review by Richard Hauser, S.J. (11/29). I was a major seminary professor from 1971 to 1983. It took years to work out the consequences of the Second Vatican Council in a solid way, and some institutional instability was inevitable. But if one looks closely at the numbers and ages of priests involved in sexual abuse of minors, a large percentage of them were ordained before 1970. If one is to indict the seminary system, both the old and the new must be at fault.
But this fails to take into account two other factors: the opening out of the actual practice of priestly ministry after Vatican II toward greater freedom and the inroads of the changing culture in which ministry was exercised. Finally, I am used to hearing that everything bad a priest does in his whole career is the fault of the few years of seminary formation, an obvious fallacy. Such an argument is not made about comparable professionals like lawyers and doctors. They don’t have a mold, and maybe we never did either. Only someone who has spent most of his life in a seminary could develop such a myopic view of seminary formation.
By the way, was there a growing gay culture in my time? Of course, in the sense that some gay men were being more open about their sexual orientation. Was there a heterosexual culture? By all means, but it was threatened by not being the only culture, much as goes on in society today. It pays to keep in close touch with reality.
Kenneth Smits, O.F.M.Cap.