I do canonical work for women religious in the United States and in other countries. Some of this work has been with cloistered sisters. Therefore, I was deeply touched by the beautiful photographs of the women from the three Carmelite monasteries (Who Can Argue With Love? by Lily Almog, 10/2). The Jewish photographer made it clear that these women live in a simple dwelling conducive to prayer and recollection. The expressions on their faces conveyed a tranquility that could come only from women who have an intimate relationship with Christ. It is amazing that such a way of life can be lived in a world that is so deeply torn by violence. At the same time, it is the very witness that the people in our own day and time need.
As general counsel to a state Catholic conference and a diocesan lawyer, I was disappointed to read the recent article by the attorney Marci A. Hamilton regarding the sexual abuse crisis (9/25). Ms. Hamilton’s stilted arguments are terribly misleading.
Ms. Hamilton makes the disingenuous argument that laws lifting the statute of limitations in sexual abuse claims against employers do not target the Catholic Church. Her argument ignores reality. In California, for example, the legislation that lifted the statute was enacted by the California Legislature in 2002, at the height of the media coverage of the sexual abuse crisis and the Boston sexual abuse litigation. The legislative record unmistakably establishes that legislators had the Catholic Church squarely in the crosshairs when they enacted the bill lifting the statute against employers. In the following year, more than 1,000 lawsuits were filed against Catholic institutions in California. Only a few claims were filed against non-Catholic institutions during this same period, despite the fact that child abuse is a pervasive social problem hardly limited to the Catholic Church. To suggest that such legislation does not target the Catholic Church is the same as arguing that the enactment of the Patriot Act was unrelated to 9/11.
Ms. Hamilton, who teaches at the Cardozo Law School in New York and has for many years been a bitter and hostile critic of the church, conveniently fails to mention that she is also one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the sexual abuse litigation here in California. As a paid partisan, her views should be taken in the context of her own financial interests in the outcome of the cases she is handling, which one can only assume are sizable. Could those interests have colored her analysis? Perish the thought!
James F. Sweeney, Esq.
I sympathize with Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., as I too am still waiting for good homilies and the opportunity to break open the Scriptures (Preaching: A Ministry (Still) in Distress, 9/18). I become frustrated at our liturgies when the homilies are canned, delivered in a tongue I find hard to understand and with examples that are far from relevant. Will there come a time when preachers will be in the pulpitmen and women, lay and ordainedwho have the call and the gift to bring the word of God to the people of God? I believe the time is coming as we deal with the shortage of priests, the closing of parishes, the laissez-faire attitude of Catholic adults. The church suffers while church leaders ignore the signs. But the time will come when they will realize that the walls have to come downfor the Spirit is moving in our world!
Cathleen Ryan, O.P.
New Britain, Conn.
I read Marci A. Hamilton’s lead article, What the Clergy Abuse Crisis Has Taught Us (9/25), with great chagrin and some surprise. Today, I read Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s strong rebuttal (10/9), but noticed it was placed in a much less favorable location.
I write because I am puzzled. America evidently made an editorial judgment (as opposed to a reportorial one) to run the Hamilton piece, which constitutes an inimicus curiae effort by a manifestly partisan writer with an adversarial agenda. Either you let your guard down, or your editorial compass has gone awry. How could you not see what she was up to, despite her disingenuous disclaimers? Or, I fear, did you see and decide to go forward with a Damn the torpedoes attitude?
You have sparked a very troubling concern in me, as a former appellate judge and former academician (and longtime America subscriber), with this journalistically questionable enterprise.
(Hon.) Joseph W. Bellacosa, Esq.
Garden City, N.Y.
Putting Abuse in Context, by Monica Applewhite, and What the Clergy Abuse Crisis Has Taught Us, by Marci A. Hamilton, (9/25) have highlighted the gravity of Christ’s admonition that harming or scandalizing children is a reprehensible action and has serious consequences.
The church is called upon to protect the weak, and whenever it uses spin doctors to protect itself, it fails to carry out its mission. If only the recent Congressional scandal had been highlighted early on.
People who molest children are, for the most part, hardwired differently from the majority of society. And until those in the church hierarchy acknowledge this fact, their solutions to the problem are highly suspect.
Forgiveness of the sinner is essential. But elimination of the occasion of sin is critical. And that action requires the participation of all.
Thomas M. Whaling, Esq.
Laguna Hills, Calif.
Marci A. Hamilton would have us believe that the money involved in payments of lawsuits against Catholic dioceses either comes from insurance payouts or is withdrawn from the coffers of the diocese and has no connection to the personal contributions of the Catholics in the pews (What the Clergy Abuse Crisis Has Taught Us, 9/25). In fact, the assets of the church derive from the generosity of the faithful, past and present. The church is not a for-profit corporation in the business of making money, but a nonprofit religious institution dependent upon the charity of its members. Years ago, property was bequeathed to the church and land was purchased and churches and religious structures erectedin large measure by the nickels and dimes of immigrantsto glorify and worship God and transmit the faith to future generations. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.Cap., is correct in his reluctance to burden the families of his diocese for something in which they share no responsibility (10/9).