Counting the Cost

Re "Slowing the Exodus,&rdquo by John J. DiIulio Jr. (5/11): One of the biggest tragedies in our church is that we are doing precious little to help teens grow in their understanding of their faith. Compared to mainline Protestant churches and mega-churches, which use many resources to keep their teens connected, Catholics seem to be totally indifferent to teens.

We need to wake up and join the 21st century and help high-school age Catholics know that they are important enough for us to invest our resources in them. Catholic schools are too expensive for the majority of families, so money and resources should be directed toward parishes. We also need to invest in the education of future youth ministers and catechists for teens, and pay them a decent wage. This will be expensive, but doing nothing results in many adults being uneducated in their faith and explains, in part, the exodus of young people from the church.

Mary Carroll

New York, N.Y.

Living Wage

Re your editorial on dealing with the priest shortage ("A Modest Proposal,&rdquo 5/4): We need a revolution in the way the church&ampampampmdashlaity included&ampampampmdashviews the priesthood. Priestly ministry is demanding work, requiring long hours, little time off, lousy pay and no real pension plan. I think celibacy for diocesan priests should be optional, but are rank-and-file Catholics aware of what changes that will mean for them? When Father has a wife and kids to feed, do Catholics really think the dollar they throw in the basket will be enough?

If a real discussion of married priests were to happen, it must start with a discussion of fairer treatment of priests, including realistic salaries and retirement options. That alone might make the priesthood a more attractive vocation for some. But that requires recognition by the laity of what this would entail. Otherwise a married priesthood would solve nothing, because no married man would enter such a vocation&ampampampmdashhe could not afford it.

Don Baker

New York, N.Y.

Nothing to Lose

What would Jesus do about the priest shortage (Editorial, 5/4)? Jesus "called&rdquo all around him, whether they were married men (Peter), single men (John) or women (Mary Magdalene, the first of the apostles). Why not throw open today our "leadership&rdquo to all who are of good character and interested in serving? The church might just be surprised at the movement of the Spirit in solving the current shortage. What is there to lose?

Paul Ackerman

Columbus, Mo.

Another Solution

You correctly point out in your editorial on the priest shortage (5/4) that sacramental ministry must be connected to other pastoral ministries, and you cite Canons 528 and 529. But these canons, in directing the priest to be catechist, evangelist and bearer of the works of mercy to the community, define more the diaconate as subsumed into the priesthood than the priesthood itself.

May I suggest an enhanced diaconate (including women) as a remedy for the church's crying need for ministers?

Phyllis Zagano

Limerick, Ireland

In Transition

Re your editorial on the priest shortage (5/4): I am 27 years old and a diocesan seminarian. I will soon be ordained to the diaconate and will be a priest within a year. My home diocese had not been able to foster vocations for a number of years, but has recently experienced a resurgence of good young (and old) candidates for the priesthood. During our experience of the decline in vocations, it was all too common to hear rumblings about how "the church is in transition&rdquo or what "the spirit of the Second Vatican Council&rdquo called for. In charity, a complete lack of formation led us to the point where people could advance their own opinions against the church in her teaching capacity.

What people failed to realize was that they were replacing dogma with dogma&ampampampmdashno more explored or well-developed than what we had traditionally been offered. A few years ago we gladly received a bishop who is faithful to the magisterium. By making vocations a priority, we have seen a tenfold increase in the number of men seeking ordination.

For pragmatic reasons alone, I would be in favor of seeing how Christ will provide for his church, to which he promised his everlasting presence (eucharistically as well as in other ways). But celibacy is a beautiful gift, and I thank God almost every day that he has called me to love him and his people in this most special way. I eagerly await the day when I will love the church (yep, that's you) with the same love that Jesus pours out for each and every one of us.

Patrick Johnson

Mountain Lakes, N.J.

Back to the Future

As the number of priests declines, perhaps we will reach back into the past and allow the revival of an ancient tradition in our church, when each community presented to their bishop one from among them whom they had called to preside at Eucharist and serve their community. Remember St. Augustine? And what about all those gifted women?

(Rev.) Rich Broderick

Cambridge, N.Y.

On Mission

Your editorial on the possibilities for expanding priestly ministry is especially apropos for the many dispersed Catholic communities in "mission&rdquo areas that have been and continue to be nourished primarily by catechists, and in some places by married deacons. During a conference in 1984 in Rome on the topic of lay catechists, this refrain was raised by a number of participants. I wonder how strongly this remains an expressed desire in newly evangelized areas of the world.

Kenneth J. Hezel, S.J.

Tamuning, Guam

Tongue-Tied

In your issue of 5/11 (Letters), Bishop Sylvester D. Ryan comments that there are some active bishops who strongly support the president of the University of Notre Dame in the controversy over Barack Obama's commencement address there. Perhaps as we approach the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will give them the courage to speak out.

John M. Young

Dix Hills, N.Y.

Disappointing

Your recent editorial "Sectarian Catholicism&rdquo (5/11) grievously disappoints, because it does not weigh rightly the evil of abortion or the power of elected officials, and because it mistakenly equates the actions of the pope in receiving officials of state with inviting them on his own initiative or conferring honors upon them.

Our mission, and that of all others who do recognize the terrible evil of abortion, must be to give that witness, peacefully and courteously but firmly, to the entire nation. The church (including its universities) should not be perceived as a great tent where good and evil are enthroned equally, each making its own cause for acceptance. This is not simply a debate about prudential decisions regarding church policies in the public forum.

Also, the pope does not invite advocates of one grave evil or another to share a prestigious role in his ministry or to be honored by him. Such persons may seek to meet with him as a head of state (which he is), and if they are so identified with evil practices, the pope will exhort them (as he has) in a manner that takes account of their position, responsibilities and commitment to safeguard human life and human dignity.

(Rev.) Daniel S. Hamilton

Lindenhurst, N.Y.

Slash and Burn

Bravo to your editors for the editorial on sectarian Catholics (5/11)! While hyper-Republicans slash and burn to make political points, and our bishops either play along or are ominously silent, the church's hold on Americans continues to erode (as documented in "Slowing the Exodus,&rdquo by John J. DiIulio Jr., in the same issue). Catholics of all political persuasions need to put their faith first and let their politics follow.

A way to do this&ampampampmdashand to provide a true and compelling witness to our culture and to the ever-increasing numbers of former Catholics&ampampampmdashis to renounce violence in all situations, from abortion to the death penalty, from war to assisted suicide, from destruction of embryos to destruction of the environment. There is plenty in Catholic social teaching to argue for such a comprehensive approach. Christ did not teach that only the "innocent&rdquo have to be protected while everyone else is fair game for "prudential&rdquo violence.

We need at least some of our cardinals and bishops to step front-and-center and speak out for a comprehensive "culture of life,&rdquo an approach faithful in all respects to Pope John Paul II's vision. Except on abortion, so much of what the Catholic Church in the United States is doing on a wide variety of issues is practically secret. Can anyone lead us forward from this state of stagnation and decline?

Mark E. Rondeau

North Adams, Mass.

Ears to Hear

I am proud of your magazine for its editorial on those who are so sure of what it means to be a Catholic and so certain of what is intrinsically evil (5/11). I found the following particularly insightful: "For today's sectarians, it is not adherence to the church's doctrine on the evil of abortion that counts for orthodoxy, but adherence to a particular political program and fierce opposition to any proposal short of that program.&rdquo

At the recent 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, its members were encouraged to "go to the frontiers,&rdquo to address the more challenging issues facing us, and your editorial does this.

Could I humbly suggest that the church envision structures that will make dialogue among all groups in the church more rational and loving? There seem to be many voices in the church today, but where are the ears?

Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Fair Play

Perhaps the University of Notre Dame could have invited Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X to speak at its commencement, and given him an honorary degree. When the expected complaints started rolling in, I would look to your magazine to champion his right to receive it. Or not.

Leonard Nugent

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Comments

Patricia Masi | 5/29/2009 - 6:26pm
Problem: Priest Shortage Solution: Optional Celibacy I think it is high time to consider the "optional" celibacy rule, based on the fact, that the clergy are really removed from the little nuances of everyday life. Having the option to have their own intimate relationships would give them an "on the front line" experience of what the day-to-day ins and outs of sharing family life is all about. Reading it out of a book, and certainly hearing from a parishioner are one thing, but living it day-in and day-out is living life fully and gives full understanding of "the other". My heart extends deeply to the clergy for giving so much, and yet, they have no one to truly share it with. Why not have the "optional" celibacy rule? In this way, these men can honor themselves as human beings and everyone else they come in contact with will see exactly that. I feel so many Catholics are very naive thinking that just because a man wears a collar it makes him less a sexual being than anyone else. That's just plain balderdash! Real people, real problems, real feelings - let's all get real and give these men the opportunity to be fully alive and real, and on the front line of living life fully. Why the Catholic Church is still in favor of celibacy is beyond me. Let's continue to help point one another into the fullness of life, while honoring our faith communities because after all, we are all in this "together". Is it not written in Genesis 2:18? The LORD God said, "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
Edwin Cooper | 5/26/2009 - 1:38pm
Dear Editors (this is not a new post, but a correction) Looks like my comment from 4 days ago is the only comment so far. Could you please make the corrections that I have listed in caps? It would make it read better! I hope my comment leads to a future article in America about incarnaton/conception in the lives of all humans. Thanks very much, Ed C. I read the thoughtful editorial (5/11) ABOUT the Notre Dame/President Obama controversy regarding the subject of abortion. As an orthpaedic surgeon, I can read about and understand the surgical techniques that will cause an abortion of the embryo or fetus at Any stage of prenatal development (which will all be quite legal under the Freedom of Choice Act, if passed). As an Episcopalian (our national church has become rather liberal on this topic) I can appreciate the discussions of when the product of conception becomes a human being as opposed to a lump of tissue in the uterus. The opinions among all Christitans continues to vary. But my KNOWLEDGE of Catholic theology is that the moment of becoming human coincides with the day of conception. Backing up two thousand years, Jesus was conceived by Mary (BOTH WERE without original sin), and thus the Incarnation coincided with that conception. In all Christian religions, we learn that all humans are created in the image of God. In Catholic theology, this image and the eternal soul would be bestowed at conception. So if each conception represents the imprinting of the image of God, does each abortion (at any stage) represent an echo of the Crucifixion? Please clarify... Thank you
Edwin Cooper | 5/22/2009 - 7:50pm
Dear Editors - This is Not a new comment, but simply a correction to the comment about abortion that I submitted this evening - IN the paragraph about being an Episcopalian I said that my church had become more liberal - please add the word "national" -before the word "church" . I was not referring to my local church in Kinston but only to the national church as a denomination. Many thanks, Ed Cooper
Edwin Cooper | 5/22/2009 - 7:24pm
I read the thoughtful editorial (5/11) regarding the Notre Dame/President Obama controversy regarding the subject of abortion. As an orthpaedic surgeon, I can read about and understand the surgical techniques that will cause an abortion of the embryo or fetus at Any stage of prenatal development (which will all be quite legal under the Freedom of Choice Act, if passed). As an Episcopalian (our national church has become rather liberal on this topic) I can appreciate the discussions of when the product of conception becomes a human being as opposed to a lump of tissue in the uterus. The opinions among all Christitans continues to vary. But my understand of Catholic theology is that the moment of becoming human coincides with the day of conception. Backing up two thousand years, Jesus was conceived by Mary (without original sin), and thus the Incarnation coincided with that conception. In all Christian religions, we learn that all humans are created in the image of God. In Catholic theology, this image and the eternal soul would be bestowed at conception. So if each conception represents the imprinting of the image of God, does each abortion (at any stage) represent an echo of the Crucifixion? Please clarify... Thank you

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