In reading Will the Seminaries Measure Up? by Ronald D. Witherup, S.S., (3/20) the jump-off-the-page statement that there is only one question in the Instrumentum Laboris about homosexuality seems as if that should cover the sexuality issues in the church. What disturbs me is that the question should be, Is there evidence of any inappropriate sexual activity in the seminary? To me the implication of the first question is that sexual activity between a man and a woman is O.K. because it is evidence that the seminarian is not homosexual. Isn’t celibacy the issue here? Why does the church have to go around an issue before facing it? We the people of God have to continue to keep a watchful eye on the leaders of our church, who are not all honorable men.
The critique of seminaries now in process (Will the Seminaries Measure Up? by Ronald D. Witherup, S.S., 3/20), brought to mind an idea I had early in my 61 years of priesthood. Should the future priest be trained in the milieu in which he received his call from the Lord? The years have convinced me that I was not all wrong, maybe partly.
We were trained in a monastic setting, totally cocooned from the ambience and situations in which we would minister. The news of the world we were to conform tothy will be done on earthwas blocked out. No newspapers, no radio, no telephones and limited mail. Distance from women was a rigid requirement. Consequently, we tended to emerge without the muscle in our personalities to cope with a world where women do most parish work and come for counseling. Our ability to preach on justice in the public life we knew little of was limited. We were well educated, spiritual and motivated, but we were like greenhouse plants, ill-fitted for a foreign environment.
The method of our formation was heavy on rules and punishment. Before entering the seminary, we directed our own spiritual development with the aid of worship, prayer, study and advice. We were basically self-propelled. In the seminary, we gave ourselves over to a structure to form us. We assumed a passive role. Passivity was the safest path to ordination. This surrender tends to produce an infantilism that can lead to substance abuse and sexual difficulty.
I am not suggesting a dismantling of the present system, but an adjustment; nor am I saying that the old system did not get good results. The fleet admiral of the Pacific used to say that the Catholics had the best chaplains in the Navy. He added, however, that we also had the worst. Most problems that have come to light dated back to those trained in the way described.
I am aware that substantial changes, some beyond any we would have imagined, have been instituted. My question is, Are they enough? In the Navy, I supervised and was supervised by Protestant chaplains, most of whom I respected highly. It would be rash to say that we have nothing to learn from their training. After all, the advancement of ecumenism depends greatly on our humbly learning from one another. I would hope the inspectors would include visits to their seminaries.
(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.
It is both surprising and sobering to note that no one, in the analyses of Deus Caritas Est (3/13), even among those who are ecumenically engaged, draws attention to the absence of any reference in the text to dialogue of charity. How essential are efforts to restore Christian unity to our understanding of what it means to live as church?
The expression dialogue of charity first appeared in a statement of commitment of the third Pan-Orthodox Assembly in 1964 and was repeated by Patriarch Athenagoras during his visit to Pope Paul VI in Rome in October 1967: We are called upon to continue and intensify the dialogue of charity. That gesture, the visit of the Patriarch of Constantinople to Rome, more than 900 years after the schism between the Eastern and Western churches, was a clear example of the dialogue of charity, which precedes and creates the appropriate environment for theological dialogue leading toward greater unity. The letters, messages, telegrams and joint declarations between Constantinople and Rome from 1958 to 1970 were collected and officially published as the Tomos Agapis, the book of love.
By analogy, the dialogue of charity applies to all relationships among Christians aimed at restoring and serving the unity for which Jesus prayed on the night before he died so that the world may believe. In the text, Pope Benedict XVI refers several times to John’s Gospel and even to the last supper discourses from which this prayer is taken but does not land on the absolute importance of such love for Christian unity. He draws from Acts depictions of a unified Christian community to exemplify how charity is essential to being church. But where are any references to ecumenical actions, which Pope John Paul II warned are not some sort of appendix which is added to the church’s traditional activity?
For that matter, where in the encyclical is a reference to interreligious friendships, including relationships with Muslims, which Benedict XVI himself said in Cologne cannot be reduced to an optional extra? Have we forgotten how the Second Vatican Council emphasized that ecumenical and interreligious relations are essential to Christian love?
I thought your Of Many Things column of April 3 hit the nail right on the head. In particular, your evaluation of what Catholics might do in the coming election advised the correct strategy.
Let me give you a recent example of the left doesn’t get it mentality. Last week my wife and I were having breakfast with a prominent political figure and his wife, with whom we have developed a friendship over the years. The politician asked me why I had left the Democratic Party. I told him it was principally over abortion, homosexuality and the pornographic/sleaze element (meaning the media/entertainment approach). He asked me about my views on abortion. I told him I had tried, over the years as a lawyer, to reach some moderate positions on the issue, but I wasn’t sure there were any. At this point, the man’s wife jumped in like a veteran N.O.W. attack dog and characterized all women as victims and asserted that they should have the absolute final say in this matter (and that was that). I told her that one of the things that offended me about that position was the fact that as a married man I wouldn’t have anything to say about my wife deciding on an abortion, even though the child had been conceived in a lawful and consensual way. Thus, there could be two other victims, the child and an innocent husband. No rejoinder. I was left with the impression that I had been consigned to the mentally deficient right, without hope of salvation. The politician reminded me that elections are decided by the fringe (I assume he meant the lunatic typeon both sides). That ended the conversation.
Let me suggest that the right doesn’t have it all wrong and the left doesn’t seem to want to get it. They merely want to co-opt fools like me into thinking I can ignore fundamental wrongs by concentrating on other things I might agree with. So politics marches on!
Measure of Charity
I agree entirely with Thomas Massaro, S.J., when he raises concerns about an overemphasis on charity in Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (Don’t Forget Justice, 3/13). He might have strengthened his argument with one well-known and one lesser-known ecclesial statement on the subject.
In 1971 the World Synod of Bishops made the now-famous affirmation that action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as constitutive of the preaching of the Gospel, or in other words, of the church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation (Justice in the World, No. 6).
Pope Paul VI, in less-quoted remarks delivered on the occasion of the Second General Conference of Latin American Bishops in Bogotá (Aug. 23, 1968), asked the pointed question, Is charity enough? and answered by saying: We have to reply yes and no. Yes, charity is necessary and sufficient as the propelling principle of the great innovating phenomenon of this imperfect world in which we live. No, charity is not enough...if it is not accompanied by other virtues such as justice, which is the minimal measure of charity.
Joseph Nangle, O.F.M.
Power Falls Short
I wish to comment on the Ethics Notebook column The Muslim Mystery: Get Tough or Get Talking, by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (3/20).
I agree that rational peace among nations and peoples must begin with open and honest dialogue. The United States has already atrociously demonstrated, by the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, that getting tough on terrorism and ousting political regimes hostile toward Western culture only unites Arabs and Muslims toward retaliation. Rationalizing liberation through the use of brute military strength will not eradicate underlying religious and national issues this area of the world has faced for thousands of years. In fact, this type of psychotic behavior will only breed more hatred from one oppressive regime to the next.
Tolerance and understanding are two important qualities where dominant power falls short. Palestinians have a right to grieve about the displacement and mistreatment of their people by Israel and the United States. Nevertheless, if roadside bombs are the only vehicle of communication, how can a resolution toward peace ever become fruitful?
In order for civility to prevail, both sides need not forget past clashes, but express their differences humanely.
It is in the best interest of all races and nations to stop placing verbal bandages on the wounds of indifference and start backing up positive discourse with comparable actions toward peace to protect future generations from ultimate social destruction.