The thoughtful article, Assume Nothing: A Postscript to the John Jay Report, by Beth Sullivan (9/13), clearly illustrates the need for parents to be aware of words or actions by an adult that might indicate that the person is, or could be, a child abuser. As part of the safe environment programs mandated by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June, 2002), training programs are now provided in nearly all dioceses and eparchies around the country.
Thousands of parents and caregivers have received information regarding such important topics as: how to identify an individual who might abuse a child, how to determine when a child might be the victim of some type of abuse, what to do when you suspect a person is an abuser, and what to do if you believe that a child is being abused. I strongly urge persons responsible for the care of children and young people to use this resource to learn about the problem of child abuse and how it is manifested in various parts of our society.
Sexual abuse remains the most under-reported criminal activity in the United States. Many factors contribute to this, such as fear of retribution or embarrassment. In those instances where a sexual assault is believed to have occurred, this information should be brought to the attention of the appropriate law enforcement or child protection agencies. It is critical that persons who have been abused come forward as soon as possible in order to prevent future acts from occurring, to ensure that offenders are held accountable and to help victims and their families begin the healing process.
Additional support for victims is available through specially trained diocesan or eparchial victim-assistance coordinators, as well as from public sexual assault and counseling centers located in most major cities.
Executive Director, Office of Child and Youth Protection, U.S.C.C.B.
Sacredness of Life
A letter writer pointed to the scandal of a Catholic in public life supporting abortion (9/20). However, the question at issue is something else. I do not know of a Catholic politician who rejects the church teaching that abortion is evil. The controversy is about opposing abortion by law. There are grounds for a Catholic politician to see such legislation, under present conditions, as an unrealistic quick fix. Prohibition did not eliminate alcohol, but, instead spawned racketeering, an underground industry, and corrupted law enforcement. A politician may be mistaken in his outlook about such legislation, but it would be rash judgment to accuse him of favoring abortion. Some politicians also may be reluctant to criminalize fellow citizens whom they represent, who differ with them for religious reasons. All in all, the matter must be discussed charitably, with accusations restrained, and free from partisan politics. Our efforts to teach the beauty and sacredness of life have had marked success. Dedication of greater resources to pro-life public relations is called for.
(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.
I just received our school’s Sept. 20 issue of America. As a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, I was delighted to see St. Philippine Duchesne, the religious who brought the Society of the Sacred Heart to America, featured on the cover of an issue devoted to religious education. But what thrilled me more was the depiction of the Potowatomi children with laptops!
Our foundress, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, was always forward-thinking in terms of the education of young people. That vision has inspired Sacred Heart educators for more than 200 years: to look always for the best means of educating the children currently in our schools. I am not sure that Philippine would have easily embraced this new technology, but I am confident that if she thought it would improve education and better prepare her students for the world in which they would live, she would have tried to adapt her teaching to incorporate it.
Many of the Sacred Heart schools in the United States, including my own, have implemented laptops or tablet PC’s into their programs. Like Sophie and Philippine, we try to adapt our methods and programs to meet the needs of the current generation of students.
Today, I walked around my school showing the cover of America to faculty members and students. I visited a ninth-grade English class, where everyone was working on laptops. I asked them who the woman was on the magazine cover. They immediately responded Philippine Duchesne! I probed them a bit more by asking what the Potowatomi children have, and they answered in unison, Laptops! One student wanted to know if I could find out if they were really laptops or the latest technology, tablet PC’s!
Certainly, Philippine Duchesne would have employed the best methods and means of educating students, whether it was pen and paper or tablet PC’s, but more important, she would have reminded us that the Potowatomi children and other impoverished children are also entitled to an education that prepares them to be responsible and contributing members of the society in which they will live. To that end, she would have called us daily to remember our responsibility to those children.
Lynne Lieux, R.S.C.J.
New Orleans, La.
Young People of God
A Glass Half Empty by James J. DiGiacomo, S.J., (9/20) notes that one problem for the church is the temporary conversion of the young. Its cause: religious mis-education. We tell them mainly what they want to hear: the friendly God, the appealing Jesus, who affirms, encourages and shrinks from judgment. This does not get to the heart of the problem of ministry to young adults: a recent distorted ecclesiology with which many writers and ministers approach youth ministry.
Father DiGiacomo is right. We do sometimes have to say the hard things, but to the whole community of young people, not just to a slice of pre-selected ones whom we find already there.
These Catholics, who may need the more superficial badges of Catholicism and the sometimes groupy belonging that the larger young community does not, are important indeed, but they are not an accurate sampling, much less exhaustive of what’s out there watching and waiting. There’s a reason that at one Big Ten university, only 75 out of nearly 12,000 Catholic students (of whom roughly only 2,000 regularly worship on campus) belong to the Newman student organization. The rest are not bad people, faithless Catholics, philosophically incapable or theologically or spiritually apathetic.
As director of campus ministry at a Catholic Benedictine liberal arts college and at a Big-Ten school and as parochial vicar or pastor in parishes to which college students came home, I have experienced another church. There is a broad band of younger Catholics that, these days, regrettably gets all too short shrift in the press and church. Who cares about them? We increasingly measure Catholic identity and conversion only by whether they act out as the new and improved traditional Catholic. If not, we dismiss them.
If we’re talking about the people of God and God’s universal call, we need to fix our ecclesiology. Preaching to the choir (younger or veteran) is certainly in order, but in today’s church we need to be talking to the rest of the congregation too. To do so, that same breathing Spirit may even be telling pastoral ministers things we don’t want to hear.
Stephen R. Honeygosky, O.S.B.
Faith Into Action
I was intrigued by Both Gen-Y and Catholic, by Mark Mossa, S.J., (9/20). His point is that 20-something adults (called Gen-Y or millennials by some) should not be lumped into the overly simple categories of extreme or conservative. In fact, they may be neither.
While young adults at Mr. Mossa’s Loyola University in New Orleans may tend toward the conservative, he rightly points out that there is much diversity amid that conservatism. Many young adults already engaged in the church’s culture (or at least somewhat interested) hunger for catechesis and have a strong desire to put their faith into action through social justice programs, service opportunities or political action.
What is sometimes lacking in ministry to this group is a wide-ranging look at Catholic teaching. While young people may want the Catholic teaching taught in a straightforward manner, they also need to be given the context of the development of these teachings in order to discern where the true wisdom lies. This guards against the developing extremism and arrogance of which some more progressive people tend to accuse (and in some cases as Mr. Mossa points out, rightly so) Gen-Y young adults.
The challenge for people like Mark Mossa and me is not to preach only to the choir but rather to venture forth as missionaries to young adults and, as St. Ignatius would say, to help them find God in all things.
Paulist Young Adult Ministries
New York, N.Y.
Answering the Call
As a member of Generation X and a priest charged with the formation of Generation Y, I found the article by Mark Mossa, S.J., on the youngest generations of Catholics, to be quite refreshing. JPII-generation Catholics do not wish to go back in time and live in a preconciliar church, as many are led to believe. On the contrary, we are striving to be the saints of the new millennium by answering the call of the Second Vatican Council to spiritual maturity by a full, conscious and active participation in the sacramental life of the church; by understanding who we are through the theology of the body and by actively living our faith in the postmodern world. Is that so wrong?
(Rev.) Damian J. Ference
Your September 20, Religious Education Issue was well done and raised a number of important issues. But your editorial, Leave No School Behind, failed to address adequately the constitutionality of government aid to religious schools. As one who has followed this debate, I feel that the question of constitutionality will remain a sticking point until lower schools follow the governing process adopted years ago by religious colleges and universities.
Since the late 1970’s, religious colleges and universities moved away from clerical- and religious-dominated governing boards to units of broader and more diverse representation. Many, if not most, institutions of Catholic higher education have balanced boards of clergy, religious and laypeople. This governing process contributed in large measure to meeting both state and federal constitutional requirements.
But as we look today at the broad range of Catholic elementary and secondary schools, few have balanced board representation, and virtually none of these boards are more than advisory in nature.
Pope John Paul II has personally encouraged the American bishops to create better systems of participation, consultation and shared responsibility with the faithful. If the American bishops were to delegate responsibility for school governance to those who have the interest and the competence to govern, the opportunity of overcoming constitutional infirmities would, I think, be increased substantially.
Leo J. Jordan, Esq.
West Orange, N.J.
In Hospitality at Church (9/20), Kathleen A. Bruun scores a direct hit with the best method to improve our parishes. Becoming a welcoming parish is also the first step I and the directors of youth ministry at both the diocesan and parish level across the United States preach when people ask How do we reach the young and the teenagers?
It is not necessary to build elaborate teen centers filled with the latest MP3 equipment, video displays, internet connections and a variety of food offerings. What is most important to the youth is feeling welcomed. This must come from the entire parish and not just the assigned youth ministers. A sense of acceptance establishes the foundation for building relationships with the young. And relationship is the linchpin to all ministry with youth.
Once relationships are established and continue to deepen, parishes can identify the needs of the youth and teenagers that are paramount. Most young people in the church recognize that they do not need more facilities built specifically for them that further separate them from the rest of the parish. Parishes need to invite and welcome the young into the facilities already in a parish.
As Ms. Bruun points out so well, being a welcoming parish is the most effective and lowest-cost method that would do more to improve any parish than all the teen centers could ever hope to create.
Daniel J. Greer
Wonder of Community
The title of Debbie Rosenberg’s article, A Witness to Joy: A Recent Convert Shares Her Story, (9/20) caught my attention immediately. I am a member of the team involved with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Charlotte, N.C. I too, am a witness to the deep, often surprising joy of walking with Jesus. It is an emotion that I would wish for all who walk on the journey of faith with the others in the adult initiation process and in the daily practice of Christian living. I too have discovered the wonder of community in my own parish.
I will be sharing Ms. Rosenberg’s story with the candidates and catechumens in our R.C.I.A. gathering this week. I am grateful for her witness.
The reports by Jon Fuller, S.J., and James F. Keenan, S.J., on the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok (8/30) bring to the fore the importance of a global perspective and a more comprehensive response to people living with H.I.V. and AIDS. Jon Fuller notes the significance of moving beyond a narrow medical model to a more holistic approach in providing solutions to H.I.V. prevention, including a concern for basic human needs too often lacking in places where H.I.V. presents the greatest threat.
I believe we Catholics need to pay great attention to Father Fuller’s image of the AIDS Conference as a diverse gathering of leaders together with people affected by H.I.V. and AIDS, sitting at a common table to undertake a work of the peoplea liturgy on behalf of the world community. This inclusive liturgy gives rise to a more incisive identification of needs, discovering new solutions and taking action that is responsive and responsible. The image resonates with the energy of Catholic liturgy as symbolic, uniting the many into one body, in the face of forces that are diabolic, dividing and fragmenting the human community.
It is precisely in this kind of liturgy that we who celebrate the Eucharist are impelled to engage. We who gather at the table of the Eucharist should be drawn to this other table, listening to people’s experiences with openness and compassion. The mission and community bonds that emerge from our participation in the Eucharist bear fruit when we take a place at this table with those who tend to be left out. We have a contribution to make by addressing with them in nuanced and well-developed moral arguments the ethical issues that Father Keenan identifies and so clearly articulatesno mean feat, considering the scope of the conference and the number of its participants.
Father Fuller concludes: What is subsequently made available on that table, ranging from vaccines and drugs to nutrition and clean water, remains the all-important and ever-challenging central question. Those of us who claim to be a eucharistic people, who live no longer for ourselves but for Christ, have compelling reasons to respond to that central question, because, as Father Keenan aptly points out, for us mercy is not an option; it is precisely what God requires.
We who are called to be merciful are helped greatly when Fathers Fuller and Keenan keep these issues before our eyes.
Donald G. LaSalle, S.M.M.