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One of the traditional strengths of NCR has been its Letters pages. We want to keep it that way, so we’re a little concerned that e-mail responses that go directly to writers and columnists have been cutting into the letters to the editor. Some of our writers have made us aware of an especially strong response to a story or column and, on checking, we’ve found out that many of you were agreeable to having your e-mail printed.

Some of you had intended that, and didn’t realize there was a separate e-mail address or that the letters might stop at the writer’s e-mail box. So, help us out here. We suggest you either designate on the original e-mail that you want us to consider it for print, or send a copy along to letters@natcath.org.

Readers often remark favorably on not only the volume of letters we print but also the scope of the discussion and the number of letters we print that disagree with a point of view or a story. Help us keep those pages as alive and diverse as possible.

Speaking of e-mail, an e-mail address that appeared in Arthur Jones’ perspective piece on the editorial page of the Jan. 26 issue was incorrect. To get in touch with the group organized to overturn the 1996 Immigration Act, use: borderwitness2@juno.com.

If the initial reaction to the “How’s your parish?” cover story in the Jan. 26 issue is any indication, Catholics are concerned about finding that “home,” the parish where they feel welcome. Your responses make clear, first, that territorial boundaries no longer necessarily define where you go to church. Second, the search is for parishes that will not only nourish but will also challenge the community to think, to see the world differently from the popular culture and provide avenues for acting to make the world better. We really do want to live out the redemptive message.

As a result of that story, someone told me of a retired monsignor celebrating Mass in eastern Kansas some months ago at a church hardly known as a progressive hotbed. At homily time, he began talking about church history and the fact that not all the rules we have in place now have been in place since the beginning. At one point, he suggested that maybe it is time for the church to rethink its rules about celibacy and ordaining women.

As the story was told to me, the congregation gave him a standing ovation. All of which says to me that there is a common sense that runs rather deep out there. Thoughtful, reasonable people and their leaders see survival of a eucharistic community far more important than preservation of rules that grew out of a tangle of motives embedded in a complex history.

-- Tom Roberts

My email address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, February 9, 2001