In response to your editorial “How Old Is Old Enough?” (5/30): Massachusetts lowered the drinking age to 18 in the early 1970s. It was a disaster. Instead of 18- to 21-year-olds drinking moderately, they drank more and bought it for those under 18. Night clubs that people over 21 used to frequent were taken over by teens, who were hostile to older couples just looking for a night to socialize with other adults. Night club owners saw a decrease in revenue because teens would buy less and just hang out, while adults bought drinks individually. And the amount of damage by teens ran the costs up. Things were so bad the state ran a referendum and voters voted 5 to 1 to return the drinking age to 21.
Boston Mass.The Bishops ‘Took Care of It.’
The story “John Jay Report Depicts Progress” (Signs of the Times, 5/30) reminds me of when I was a New York City transit police officer in the 1960s and early ’70s and learned that clerics were not arrested for sex offenses in the subways.
My partner and I arrested a rabbi for exposing himself to a group of children, and I was asked by my sergeant, “How would you feel if all those priests hanging around the men’s toilets were arrested?” Being a Catholic, I responded, “I’d arrest the pope if he was doing this.” I was then informed that instead of arresting rabbis, ministers and priests, “we inform their superiors and they take care of it.”
Many years later everyone knows how the bishops “took care of it.” They didn’t help these priests or their victims. Instead they protected themselves and the institution—and the law enforcement community helped. Celibacy was not responsible for the clergy’s abuse of children, but when celibate priests were caught looking for sex in public toilets, the church knew it had a problem but ignored it until The Boston Globe exposed the crimes in 2002.
Eileen M. Ford
Rockport, Mass.Brace for Change
Bishop Blase J. Cupich’s “The Bishops’ Priorities” (5/30) in response to the John Jay Report is disappointing and troubling. In its tone it suggests a church put on lockdown. Who would want to be a priest in this environment of “rigorous screening” and scrutiny? It is like running a prison or penal colony. Where will the community find warmth, friendship and love without fear?
Michael Higgins, co-author of Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry Into the Clerical Abuse Scandal, observed in a related article in The Globe and Mail (Toronto) that it is not enough for the church to lament. Reform is necessary, and we must brace for it.
The reform is not achieved by posturing or legal gamesmanship but by an examination of clerical culture and its secrecy and entitlement. This reform involves addressing celibacy for parochial clergy, the narrow rules for selecting bishops and applying collegiality and subsidiarity to church governance. The answer is not a system of policing but de-establishing the pathologies that make the abuse possible.
Re “Reform of the Reform” (Signs of the Times, 5/30): The pope says that the old Latin Mass should be promoted even for small groups of people requesting it. That is fine if all parishes have four active priests once again.
But there is a priest shortage around the world. In many places priests already celebrate three Masses on Sunday, and some places have no Mass. Does Pope Benedict understand the stress most priests are under these days, that many priests are pastor of more than one parish? Does he really want burned-out priests to capitulate to the requests of a small group of parishioners?
As for seminarians, they need more training in pastoral care and homiletics. Without these skills our church will keep hemorrhaging members. Should Latin training take priority? Pope Benedict is an academic and Vatican bureaucrat. I am not sure he knows what’s going on in parishes. That is scary.
Hicksville, N.Y.‘I Phoned You in Spurts’
As I read “Calling Collect,” by Heather Angell (5/30), I am pretty sure I understand why your poetry editor picked it for publication. It is a thoughtful and painfully honest account of what so many people go through in college. It is an intimate account of the struggle to become who you are and of the people whom you count on along the way. Well done, Heather!