National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
March 5, 2004

LettersBishop Gossman

Along with many fellow Catholics, I was angry and dismayed at Bishop Joseph Gossman’s firing of the editor of the North Carolina Catholic newspaper as reported in the Jan. 9 NCR. I felt a sense of betrayal by the bishop. His action seemed so out of character, its timing so mean-spirited, thoroughly unlike the man I hold in high esteem.

So I called Bishop Gossman, told him how I felt, and listened to him. I still don’t think his reaction fit the situation, nor do I think the timing appropriate. I can, however, understand from the bishop’s perspective what upset him. I understand, too, the legal ramifications that limit what he could say. I didn’t think to ask him at the time if pressure had been put upon him from above. My concern was the bishop himself and had he changed. I don’t believe he has.

In the 28 years that I’ve known him, I’ve never found Joe Gossman to lie. He is a caring, compassionate man. We’ve had our battles through the years, but I’ve never found him to be dishonorable or vindictive.

The question that remains for me is, given the bishop’s reasoning, why was the article later taken off the diocesan Web site, and by whom? Its removal to me smacks of censorship. A “well” church doesn’t have to resort to such actions.

Durham, N.C.

Judicial activism

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has stated that the issue of same-sex “marriage” is too important to leave to a one-vote majority of the Massachusetts high court, and that the people should not be excluded from so fundamental a decision.

This is not the first time the people have been excluded from fundamental decisions, but it should be the last straw.

In the past seven years, courts have interfered with the sanctity of the voting booth by overturning 27 elections; they have nullified major citizen efforts of petition and referendum, once considered a grass-roots road to justice.

So many vital issues have been decided by one- or two-vote majorities that younger generations do not know the meaning of government by the people.

It is the courts, not the people, that have created abortion rights, banned God from school and public life, supported computer-generated child pornography (and called it “free speech”).

Decisions that are the sole responsibility of representatives elected by the people are being quietly made by unelected judges over whom there is no control. What remains is a judicial dictatorship with democratic pretensions.

Constitutional corruption and legislative/executive/citizen acquiescence have put us back where we started 228 years ago, face to face with “the divine right of kings.”

Congress needs to transform its anti-executive energies to where they belong at this moment in history, to being anti-judiciary -- and strip the runaway courts of judicial review, even if it takes a constitutional convention (not an amendment) to do it.

The state has a huge stake in the strength and health of the family, the basic unit of civilization. The people must demand that their elected representatives protect and defend marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.


* * *

The article “Re-igniting the religious left” (NCR, Jan. 23) contained much food for thought. While it is true that the First Amendment mandates the separation of church and state, it is also a fact that the United States was founded on the principles of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Atheism is alien to the great majority of the American people. Just about every one of the founders of the nation had no compunction whatever about professing his faith and belief in God. Unfortunately, for the past 40-some years the United States Supreme Court has been unwavering in its campaign to abolish all public expression of religious belief in this country and to make agnosticism, if not atheism, the official ideology of the country.

For the past 30 some years, the Democratic Party has caved in completely to the most extreme left-wing, secular humanist elements in our society. The party is so devoted to unrestricted abortion that no pro-life Democrat could possibly be the party’s candidate in a presidential election.

The Republican Party may not be perfect, but at least its leaders, like the founders of our country, do not hesitate to express their belief in God and their support for the Judeo-Christian ethic. The party is predominantly pro-life, and while not homophobic, it does not go out of its way to glorify the “gay” lifestyle. The wonder is not that 63 percent of Americans who identify themselves as “religious” vote Republican in presidential elections; the wonder is that 100 percent of them do not do so.

Claymont, Del.

* * *

As a result of judicial activism in Massachusetts and the widespread calls for amendments to the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and that of the United States, the question of same-sex unions has taken on added significance in our consciousness and in political debate.

On the level of terminology the problem is relatively simple. Why not agree to call same-sex unions marriages? Why not issue a piece of paper certifying such unions as marriages? After all the term “marriage” and the corresponding concept are analogous. We use the term to stand for things that are simply different but which in some ways exhibit a sameness. Examples: John and Jane are married; John is married to his job; in Jane we see a marriage of brains and beauty. Why not expand the analogy and say John and Joe are married?

But questions of language are intimately connected with questions of truth. Given the analogous nature of much of our language, the same terms can represent different conclusions, can reflect different conceptual frameworks, and express completely different convictions about the reality of things.

If the demand for recognition of same-sex unions as marriage means simply that persons in such unions should be accorded the same legal rights (rights guaranteed by various constitutions) as anyone else, arguments against such a demand would be difficult to come by.

If, on the other hand, the demand is for society to acknowledge same-sex unions as the exact equivalent, to be of the same value, as the marriage of a man and woman, it is a question of culture and as such a recognition by society would represent very significant progress on the road to decadence.

Belleville, Ill.

Marriage initiative

While I don’t think the Bush initiative to help build stronger marriages is bad (NCR, Nov. 28), it is not aimed at the more difficult problem of why people don’t get married in the first place.

Some studies a number of years ago (they may even have been in NCR) showed that the main reason many men of poor means don’t get married is that they feel they do not have the education, job skills and personal skills to make a marriage work, that is, they have failed a lot in life and don’t want to fail again at marriage.

Our social welfare system is geared to the woman and to making her work (at minimum wage with substandard child care) instead of focusing on getting the fathers fully educated and working at good paying jobs so they feel they can support their children and the children’s mothers. That is a more difficult job for social welfare, but a more important one.

Redwood City, Calif.

Fr. Marcial Maciel

Regarding your Feb. 6 book review of Vows of Silence by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner: It appears NCR believes in double jeopardy for Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Fortunately, the Vatican does not.

NCR knows the facts. I know because I have written to you about them more than once. You know that from October 1956 until he was reinstated in February 1959, Fr. Maciel underwent an intense investigation by the Vatican. This investigation came immediately after any alleged sexual abuse would have happened. Each Legionary was interviewed personally and in depth. The result: Fr. Maciel was completely exonerated. No wrongdoing. No abuse. In fact, nothing but praise for him and his promising congregation. That is why the Vatican knows not to waste its time on allegations that mysteriously arose some four decades later.

How different this is from the sad cases of actual abuse that lay hidden for so long. In so many cases, victims report they were never approached by an authority figure who would empower them to unburden themselves.

You say it yourself: There is nothing new in this book. And from the little we know from your quotes, what it does contain is a distorted view of Fr. Maciel and the Legion of Christ. Those interested in the truth can find it at

Cheshire, Conn.

Kearns is publisher and editor in chief of the National Catholic Register, a weekly newspaper owned by the Legion, and a spokesman for the order.

* * *

A recent news report, which I believe was picked up by NCR, observed that American Catholics were “Americans first and Catholics second” when it came to the sex abuse issue. Would it not be more accurate to say that American Catholics cannot accept the idea that their spiritual leaders would be held to a lower standard of responsibility for the people in their care than their secular leaders are expected to observe?

In the same vein, your review of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II in the Feb. 6 issue quotes a canon lawyer as saying, “Perhaps it was better for eight innocent men to suffer than thousands of people losing their faith.” How does the canon lawyer imagine that the “thousands of people’s” faith will survive the information that it was based on a lie and preached by someone who subverted it in his own actions?

I spent 30 years in the U.S. foreign service and know from firsthand experience how strong is the impulse for self-protection through silence in virtually all large organizations. Ultimately, however, the institutions that survive have to learn how to apply the disinfectant of honesty. Our church did that after the Inquisition, after the period of two popes, after the indulgences scandal led to the Reformation. It was traumatic, but the trauma was less painful than a continuing lie would have been. That’s what we face now.


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National Catholic Reporter, March 5, 2004