National Catholic Reporter
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August 15, 2003

LettersCall for resignation

As a retired New York City police officer, I find it hard to believe that none of the leaders of the Boston archdiocese who transferred predator priests to other parishes and other states will be held accountable for what sounds like criminal negligence to me. But thanks to Attorney General [Thomas] Reilly’s detailed report, the sins and crimes of Boston archdiocesan leaders are now common knowledge.

As a Catholic, I believe it is now up to us. The men who escaped criminal charges because of legal technicalities in Massachusetts were all promoted and many remain in positions of power and honor, like Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, N.H., Bishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, Bishop Robert Banks of Green Bay, Wis. ...

If these men are not honorable enough -- or ashamed enough -- to resign their positions, we must hold them accountable and demand their resignations.

Easier said than done? Of course. But we know that Cardinal Bernard Law, after putting the archdiocese of Boston through a year of hell, resigned his position because 51 courageous priests wrote a letter requesting his resignation and thousands of outraged parishioners withheld funds from archdiocesan activities.

Now it is time for Catholics in New York and Manchester and other dioceses led by disgraced leaders to stop contributing money, and it is time for priests in those dioceses to speak the truth to power, just as 51 priests did in the Boston archdiocese last year.

The following line from a June 6 New York Times editorial regarding the resignation of two editors of that paper also applies to the Catholic church: “The welfare of a great institution is always more important than the careers of the people who run it.”

Rockport, Mass.

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Thank you for putting the information out on the table and saying it as it should be said to McCormack, Daily, Banks, Murphy and Hughes: Do the right thing -- resign and don’t hide behind the law (NCR, Aug. 1).

These men sully the good names of those righteous, conscious bishops who are holy leaders, and frustrate the laity who want to remain faithful to the church.

Green Cove Springs, Fla.

Trouble in Texas

I read with interest the troubles at Holy Spirit Catholic Parish in South Texas (NCR, Aug. 1). It seems the real problem is that Bishop Raymundo Peña does not like what he probably preaches. An active, alive faith community living and breathing the gospel is not really what most bishops want. Edward Albee wrote the play “Tiny Alice” some years ago that raised the hackles of the Catholic bishops. In that play he describes the dilemma of one gentle monk, who in order to fulfill his vow of obedience to his bishop, loses his soul. It seems to me Albee was writing and dramatizing in a very prophetic voice as Fr. Ruben Delgado has discovered much to his shame and discomfort.

One has to wonder where we are as a whole church when a parishioner who agrees that a great wrong has been done still feels that her place of worship must be where the priest is instead of where the Holy Spirit community celebrates and mourns. It sounds like another parish is about to hit the dust. How can anyone’s faith not be changed in such a recurring atmosphere of lies and bullying behavior by the diocesan leaders?


Bishop O’Malley

While I wish everything good and supportive for Bishop Sean O’Malley and the church of Boston, I find myself questioning the whole matter. In spite of his successes -- less than 12 months in Palm Springs -- surely O’Malley can’t be the only U.S. clergyperson capable of bringing healing and new life to a suffering church.

When I saw the full-page cover of your recent issue (NCR, July 18), all I could think of was “the savior.” One more indication of the ailing health of the church today. Everything has become fixated on one man. God help him!

Meanwhile, one more time, the church is underserved by the lack of imagination and planning for a different future. A word to current leaders: Open your eyes. Look around you. Ask for help. There are many of us who can assist with this ministry of mediation, healing and reconciliation. Widen the base of your search for leadership and let the gifts of the church be brought to light. This is the kind of change many of us need to see transforming and renewing the People of God.

Beech Bottom, W.Va.

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The articles on Bishop O’Malley filled us with hope as he was practically portrayed as the reincarnation of St. Francis of Assisi. Then came the statement that he would not vote for any politician promoting abortion -- no matter how appealing the rest of his/her program. What a let down!

First of all, it would be political suicide for a candidate to promote abortion. Would Bishop O’Malley vote for a politician who opted to continue the sanctions against Iraq, sanctions that caused the death of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis? Would he vote for one who cast his/her vote to make war on Iraq? Would the bishop vote for politicians who refuse to help solve environmental pollution problems -- a form of slow torture and killing?

It is not only the womb where killing occurs. We kill in the ghettos, in our closed neighborhoods, in our economic policies and unemployment lines, in our prisons and in our wars of competition and greed.

It appears that Bishop O’Malley, like so many pro-life advocates, shows a lack of concern for choosing life “all the way and for everyone.” It’s a stubborn dogma that looks no further than the fetus.

Sterling Heights, Mich.

A slap in the face

I read Joe Feuerherd’s favorable article about Bishop Gerald Barbarito, newly appointed bishop of the Palm Beach diocese (NCR, July 18). Unstated in the article (or anywhere else as far as I know) is Bishop Barbarito’s close relationship with Bishop Thomas V. Daily, one of the bishops that Mr. Feuerherd took to task, albeit in a roundabout way, in his later article on the Web site entitled, “Yes, someone behaved responsibly in Boston” (it wasn’t Daily).

The national press, and the influential Catholic talking heads have universally praised the appointment of Bishop Sean O’Malley to lead the Boston archdiocese out of its scandal. But let’s not kid ourselves: Bishop O’Malley’s appointment to Boston after serving just a year in Palm Beach and the selection of Bishop Barbarito to replace him means two things for Catholics in Palm Beach -- both bad. First, clearly Boston Catholics are more “important” than Palm Beach Catholics (remember, we had two bishops in a row -- bishops! -- who themselves engaged in inappropriate homosexual behavior with several youths); and second, the old boy “East Coast Network” is still up and running the show in America, no matter who they parade out in Boston. That a bishop, I don’t care how great he might be, who is tainted by Daily’s misplaced loyalty would be selected to “fix things up” in Palm Beach is a slap in our collective sun-burned faces down here in Florida. Is the talent pool really so shallow that we couldn’t find a bishop who was/is totally untainted by the “sex abuse shuffle” in Boston?

Boca Raton, Fla.

U.S. inaction in Liberia

The article on Africa and the church’s growing involvements was inspiring (NCR, July 18). However, under U.S. priorities for Africa one listing was Liberian unrest. If the United States was really concerned about the carnage there, it would work quickly with a multinational force to quell the violence. Our president is still thinking about what to do there while he runs around the United States raising millions of dollars, not for relief of dying refugees, but for funds to keep his cronies in office. Everyone laments about what happened in Rwanda while we now sit back and witness Liberia.

I hope the bishops will target the small arms trade that is at the root of much of Africa’s troubles. Despite the poverty- and weapons-related debt so many African nations are staggering under, the Western countries still consider them as legitimate and profitable weapons customers. U.S. taxpayers need to realize that we heavily subsidize our arms merchants, who proliferate weapons throughout the developing countries.

Five missionary nuns from South Illinois were martyred in Liberia not too many years ago. Their blood and the blood of over 200,000 Liberians will not have been in vain if in the setting up of a new government all guns would be removed and arms trading forbidden, and the new government would be made up of educators, mothers and women peacemakers. No so-called liberating rebels would have a voice in the new government.

Carbondale, Ill.

Lies vs. duplicity

Dennis Doyle distinguishes lying from duplicity (NCR, July 18). While lying is wrong, duplicity is presented as a cut above. Doyle’s wonderful example of Fr. William Joseph Chaminade is appreciated. But Chaminade’s statement is a far cry from the 16 words President Bush used in the State of the Union address to claim from discredited sources that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium from Niger. Doyle questions whether the completely unfounded connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam as propounded by the Bush administration was really deception or only duplicity. If spurious statements by public officials in support of some “higher cause” are approvingly duplicitous, what has happened to the Christian notion of truth?

Dayton, Ohio

Cathedral for Mongolia

I recently read an article about the destitution and starvation among the people of Mongolia. Would someone tell me who is paying for this 1,000-seat cathedral to accommodate the 200 Catholics who live in Mongolia? (NCR, July 18)

Standish, Maine

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In the ’30s one spoke of the “bricks and mortar school of theology,” but never in our wildest dream could we envision a cathedral to accommodate 1,000 in a country with only 200 Catholics.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Invigorating theology

Thanks for a marvelous, though too brief, interview conducted by Margot Patterson with an invigorating and exciting theologian, Shawn Copeland (NCR, July 18). In these days of social disasters, both within and without the church, in these days of political atrocities, both actual and looming, Copeland seems a ray of sunshine on a bleak landscape. As a woman, as an African-American and as a Catholic, she comes across as a straight-talking, justice-seeking, compassionate woman of God. Please allow Patterson another opportunity to do a truly in-depth interview with this spirited and refreshing thinker. I, for one, am eager to read more, and I am certain others are as well.


Editor’s note: A longer, unabridged version of the interview with Shawn Copeland appears on the NCR Web site. Go to NCR

Palestinian violence

Stephen Zunes placed the cart before the horse (NCR, June 20). Palestinian violence is motivated by anti-Semitic/anti-Zionist hatred comparable to German Nazi hatred; comparable to white American hatred of “Indians.” Yes, Palestinians are suffering hideously, but this no more excuses their suicide bombing terror than poor whites’ sufferings excused lynching picnics, or German sufferings in Weimar Germany excused Nazi atrocities.

Dupes or anti-Semites assert: “Palestinians don’t identify as Arabs.” Palestinians know Jews were in Israel/Palestine two millennia prior to Palestinian Arab ancestors conquering Mediterranean lands (including Palestine, circa 700 A.D.). But they racistly (anti-Semitically) justify the destruction of the Jewish state, much as whites bristle at Native Americans taking back even parts of “white” lands; or like “Rhodesians” hostile towards African liberation.

The sole reason “Palestinians” have rights to a “Palestinian homeland” is because of Arafat’s agreement with Yitzhak Rabin. If Native Americans could conquer “America,” they’d have every right to do so, and since whites are in the majority, Native Americans could justify denying the franchise to racist whites. Ben Gurion’s government (1948) had a right to take back all of Israel, yet agreed to partition. And Israeli Arabs can vote. Israel can’t “seize” or “occupy” its own land.

Springfield, Ore.

Homosexuals and the church

I was scandalized upon learning of the Vatican’s vehement pressure on bishops to condemn the blessing of a loving homosexual relationship through marriage vows.

Can these angry men ever come to peace and good will toward the homosexuals in our midst?

These angry men do not consult their own graduate schools of psychology and medical schools of psychiatry before they espouse their fear-based hate for homosexuality. The “magisterium” consists of angry, mean, old, celibate men. They have no standing on the subject of sexuality period. They are out to lunch.

Their inhospitality is their greatest sin. When will the Vatican implement the true teaching of the Second Vatican Council? This John Paul is a Pius in disguise.

Unfortunately the elderly men in the red hats will just go on and elect yet another goofy old man who is clueless.

San Francisco

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It is simply astounding how far off the mark of correct doctrine the Episcopal church has gone. Every major religion from the dawn of history, the whole of Judeo-Christian tradition for 3,500 years, all of scripture teaches the clear immorality of homosexual activity. Now a church -- Christian no less -- says that not only is this not a sin but its church leaders may practice it with equanimity and impunity.

There is nothing more corrupting for a church or a society than to call evil good, and good evil, which is exactly what a section of the Episcopal church has done. Those of us who are still on the bark of Peter cry out to those who still want to follow corrupt doctrine to save themselves and come aboard. Do not sink with the immoral captain going down with the Episcopal ship. But then again, Henry VIII might be proud as the first to break another solid tradition about divorce and remarriage.


Letting go of anger

The July 4 issue was full of problems related to past offenses: abused young persons in parishes; Bosnia’s bloody history; the death penalty as retribution; affirmative action as recompense for injustice in the past.

It is often quoted that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, but that is only part of the story. Those who dwell too much on the past and cannot let go of it continue the problems.

It is probably asking too much of anyone to immediately forgive, not to speak of forgetting. But it is certainly clear that maintaining anger and hatred towards others does not hurt the others as much as it does the hater. Seeking redress must not be revenge. We cannot be free of the past until we let go of it.

Brandon, Fla.

Fate of Saddam’s sons

U.S. troops were wrong in killing Saddam’s sons. That was a violation of the Geneva conventions. Their fate should have been left to the Iraqi legal system, as any civilized nation would have done. Guilty until proven innocent is still a principle of all civilized countries, especially since the war has been declared over by the U.S. commander-in-chief. Even the Nazis were given trials at Nuremberg after World War II.

Dubuque, Iowa

Letters to the editor should be limited to 250 words and preferably typed. If a letter refers to a previous issue of NCR, please give us that issue’s date. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Letters, National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141. Fax: (816) 968-2280. E-mail: Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number.

National Catholic Reporter, August 15, 2003