National Catholic Reporter
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October 10, 2003

LettersReevaluating the IHM controversy

I was somewhat dismayed by Joan Chittister’s serene endorsement of Anita Caspary’s new book, Witness to Integrity (NCR, Sept. 5). During 1967-68, I was giving retreats in the Los Angeles area where the IHMs [Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters] were known as the “I Hate McIntyre” sisters.

Their controversy with the cardinal was disrupting the atmosphere of our laymen’s retreats, so I wrote to the IHM headquarters for a copy of their new constitutions. The sisters graciously responded. As I read the spiritual vision embodied in these experimental adaptations, I had the queasy feeling that the sisters’ three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience had metamorphosed into liberty, equality and fraternity.

Since those hectic days, Msgr. Francis J. Weber, archivist for the Los Angeles archdiocese, has written a two-volume biography of Cardinal James McIntyre under the title His Eminence of Los Angeles (1997). In the second volume this biography has some interesting items of information:

The IHM episode, quite marginal in itself, exemplifies a widespread trend toward congregationalism in the American Catholic church. Two recent books bear witness to this: David Gibson’s The Coming Catholic Church (2003) and Peter Steinfels’ more nuanced A People Adrift (2003). The absolutely nonnegotiable item in these more developed versions of congregationalism is their rejection of Paul VI’s condemnation of contraception in 1968. This obsession says a lot about the so-called progressive understanding of Vatican II.


Fr. McCloskey

In these troubled times of the church, it must be very comforting to Fr. C. John McCloskey (NCR, Sept. 5) to know that he has all the answers, and that his answers are unequivocally the only possible ones. If you don’t agree, go elsewhere.

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything as arrogant and officious.

Arlington Heights, Ill.

* * *

God’s incredible love for all human beings surpasses our understanding. Yet Fr. McCloskey thinks he has all the answers to every spiritual subject. What arrogance! What pride!

Dracut, Mass.

Second look at Arnold

Every so often, good Colman McCarthy loses his nonviolent marbles. His “Arnold’s story one of conversion” (NCR, Sept. 5) casually dismisses as unimportant Schwarzenegger’s “orgies of violence” movies as if they were dim background, not intense lessons in antihuman, antiwomen lifestyle. He dismisses as unimportant Arnold’s love of “the free-market theories of Milton Friedman,” which anywhere else he would condemn as structural violence.

He praises Schwarzenegger for helping to pass Proposition 49 (after-school learning) but ignores that Arnold opposes raising revenue to pay for it. And sure, Schwarzenegger has consulted with Warren Buffett, but he totally rejected Buffett’s evidence that property taxes (or any taxes) are too low for California’s wealthiest residents.

No, Colman, the wonderful contributions of the Shriver family have not yet made over Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose only complaint is too much spending, too many taxes. When he calls on the rich to share money, not just psychic pain, with society as a whole; when he calls for a living wage; when he connects military spending and military violence with poverty and violence at home; when he demands an end to the death penalty; when he advocates universal single-payer health insurance; when he abandons his Hummers and calls for folks to leave their SUVs -- then we can begin to take note of him and of your claims of his transformation to socially responsible citizen.

Silver Spring, Md.

‘The Magdalene Sisters’

Your review of the movie “The Magdalene Sisters” (NCR, Aug. 15) covered one aspect of this story -- and well. There is, however, a meaning that goes beyond the surface story, meaningful as that story is.

This movie is a telling of the life “granted” to women under a hierarchical church. Parents, church, neighbors, friends and women peers all collaborated, condoned and participated in the horrible punishment of these young women. The Irish society was made sick by the church’s mandates. Families and others took away the lives of many young women.

This movie is for Catholics what the Salem witch trials and “The Crucible” were to mainline Protestants. But I do believe that mainline Protestants have evolved further. I don’t think mainline Protestants any longer define women by sexuality. Nor do Protestants role-cast women as do their Catholic counterparts.

Who did you hope for in this movie? For me it was the few women who held on to their dignity. Who are the women today who hold on to their dignity in a still male-dominated church? Women can be made saints after they die and made irrelevant while they live. A priest once told a story of how he went to a conference in which noted women theologians were the presenters. This priest said, “I walked out of the conference into the graveyard where the good sisters were buried.”

Portland, Ore.

Illegal aliens

Your issue on “Liturgy at the border” (NCR, Sept. 19) makes those of us who oppose this invasion from the south appear like xenophobes and unchristian. The facts show otherwise. Resistance to all forms of amnesty for the 9 to 11 million illegals is both American and Christian for many reasons.

There is at least some truth in the pagan adage that charity begins at home. This illegality should not be covered with the Christian blanket of compassion for the stranger.


Bush’s diversions

In your Sept. 5 editorial, you state the belief that as the American public realizes the magnitude of the Iraqi debacle, “the nation will be forced into deeper self-reflection.”

I wish I could believe this. I fear it is more likely that the Bush administration will find a way once again to divert the public’s attention to some other issue or “holy” war effort, maintaining the vague but powerful impression that Bush is a strong, righteous leader. Hard facts don’t campaign well.

This guy makes “Slick Willie” look like a rube.

Portland, Ore.

Married priests

NCR reported in its Aug 29 issue that in an attempt to make their case for a married priesthood to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 163 Milwaukee priests referenced the Eastern churches and married Protestant ministers who were ordained as Roman Catholic priests.

Assuming that some, if not all, the 163 Milwaukee priests who signed a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would choose marriage, they would be well advised not to point to the example of the Eastern churches in communion with Rome nor the Protestant ministers ordained as Roman Catholic priests.

The Eastern churches do have married priests but ordained priests are not allowed to marry. The Eastern church experience only demonstrates that the sacrament of marriage is not a real impediment to the sacrament of ordination but not the reverse. Furthermore, in the United States, the Eastern church tradition of married priesthood has been forbidden by successive popes since 1929. Why the Eastern churches have complied with this edict is an interesting question. One, they may think there is nothing they can do about it short of schism, or two, they do not consider a married priesthood essential to their integrity as Eastern churches or a combination of both.

The Episcopal and Lutheran priests who were married and chose to join the Roman church were ordained again in the Roman Catholic church. Bishop Wilton Gregory and the Vatican could use both cases of the Eastern church and the ordination of Protestant ministers to continue to disallow already ordained priests to marry.

Waterville, Maine

James Shannon

Mary Bader’s piece on James Shannon (NCR, Sept. 19) was most inspiring to me. She profiled a life that truly embodied the gospel. His priesthood and love of church was reflected in who he was and what he did. Persons of all walks of life saw goodness, leadership and empathy for the human condition in Jim Shannon. They saw the gospel message lived.

I can’t help but think of what might be -- a hierarchy that embraces the Jim Shannons, a hierarchy that recognizes compassion and simple leadership.

Scottsdale, Ariz.

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, October 10, 2003