National Catholic Reporter
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September 3, 2004

Letters Vatican’s letter on women

I wish to commend your editorial staff and columnists John Allen and Sr. Joan Chittister for the great charity they exercised in their discussions of “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World” (NCR, Aug. 13).

In my opinion, the “Letter” in its present state constitutes a grave insult to educated Catholic laity and, I hope, thoughtful bishops throughout the world. Its glaring weaknesses are its lack of sound analytic reasoning and its tortured diction, neither of which can be laid to the vagaries of translation. Theology, the “Queen of the Sciences,” and its fellow travelers still demand rigorous reasoning. Exposition of ideas requires good writing. The “Letter” demonstrates neither. To acknowledge that it was several years in the making adds only further embarrassment.

If the Vatican and the bishops wish to teach the laity, they would do well not to insult their intelligence with such poor work. If they wish to teach the laity, they should replace convoluted argumentation with sound reasoning. They should replace hubris (“The Church, expert in humanity ... ”) with true, rather than self-serving, self-stating, humility. They should refrain from suggesting that conjugal love within the sacrament of marriage is something quite less than the non-sacramental states of celibacy and virginity. If the Vatican and the bishops were to argue honestly, they might find themselves in new places that the laity have found before them.

Urbana, Ill.

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“The church, expert in humanity” is an appalling mistranslation. The Latin word expertus means simply “experienced in.” A better translation is “the church, experienced in the human condition.”


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I find it interesting that the Vatican returns to the bridegroom/bride analogy regarding women’s place in the church. I know Vatican officials somehow make the church female, but I can’t find the logic in why somehow that means all priests have to be male. The way I look at the bridegroom/ bride analogy, if God is male, as they continue to profess by not allowing the use of non-gender-specific language, it seems to me that all of the priests should be female, does it not? Otherwise we’ve got a homosexual relationship, and we’ve all heard the official line on that!

Stacy, Minn.

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Once again the Vatican is “speaking about women, without women’s voices.” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s “Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Women” demonstrates the Catholic hierarchy’s dramatic misconceptions of feminism. However, the hierarchy may have one point correct.

The letter calls for “active collaboration between the sexes” and for women to “have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems.” With these mandates, it seems as if the Vatican’s most recent letter has laid out the best argument for women’s ordination in the Catholic church.

Fairfax, Va.

Barnes is executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference.

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Leave it to NCR and Sr. Joan Chittister to criticize God, scripture, the Virgin Mary and the pope. And certainly the pope must be criticized for what he said and for what he didn’t say, and be criticized for sex slavery, marriage, childbirth, children and for every bowl of sand that a woman has had to carry on her head (photo, Page 7). The gift of nagging. Some things never change, do they?

Bay City, Mich.

Bush not Earth-friendly

In 2000, President Bush promised that if elected he would work to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. Yet upon taking office, he withdrew American support from the Kyoto Treaty to regulate carbon dioxide, and he dismissed a report from his own Environmental Protection Agency pointing out carbon dioxide’s critical role in global warming. Now, with the White House having done nothing to address the growing problem, elected attorneys from New York City and eight states filed a lawsuit to force five utilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Why has President Bush reversed his position on carbon dioxide/global warming, and why has he refused to confront these energy companies himself? Because they are among the top donors to Republicans and the Bush-Cheney campaign. Which is more important for Bush, the health of the American people or repaying his donors? The answer is obvious. Who will you vote for in November?

Dubuque, Iowa

The Protestant connection

The failure of the anti-globalization movement can be attributed in my view to its unwillingness to investigate the origins of capitalism. Clearly, if you wish to destroy something, a fruitful line of investigation is to find out how it originated. Its birth might give some clues as to how its death might be accomplished. The most convincing account of how capitalism originated can be found in Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which demonstrated the profound influence the change in religious thinking brought about by the Protestant reformers had on economic practice. He showed that their ideas, especially Calvin’s, could be considered the midwife if not the mother of the capitalist era.


Bombs good for business

A comment on John Allen’s article “Bombing in Iraq” in the Aug. 13 issue:

I’m a well-educated small-business person and a Vietnam infantry veteran. I agree with the Chaldeans that the “authors of this violence came from outside Iraq.” The foreign policy of our government encourages violence. Directly and covertly, our government funds violence. The bottom line is business. Violence generates huge profits directly (weapons development, weapons sales, military supplies, etc.) and indirectly (control of land, control of resources, control of currency, etc.).

Violence makes news. Violence cultivates hate. Violence is used to group people (“terrorists,” “Muslim extremists”) so that individuality and humanness are blurred, and killing is accepted as a solution.

If the funding of those who bombed churches could be traced, I suspect it would lead to those who make profits and whose livelihood is directly related to violence. It is in the best business interests to have Christian churches bombed. And, based on what I see in the United States, it is in the best political interests -- keep hate alive, focus on “terrorism,” focus on “good Christians” and “evil Muslims.”

Peace takes brains, not brawn. Peace is a lousy business.

Grass Lake, Mich.

Responses to ‘Real Deal’

I was disappointed to read the political hit job on Mr. Deal Hudson (NCR, Aug. 27). I have lost much respect for your publication.

Versoix, Switzerland

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What I find truly distressing is not the mention of Deal Hudson’s “checkered past” (which appears to consist of one 10-year-old incident), it is a Catholic newspaper that would put a man, his family and a Catholic magazine through a 10-year-old scandal to win an election. While Mr. Hudson’s sin deserved condemnation, to all appearances it seems Mr. Hudson has done the work of restitution for forgiveness.

I don’t understand why you, who supposedly believe in that forgiveness, would attack a fellow brother for such an old sin and label his past checkered. Why would you try to destroy the man and his family for his political opposition to your stances? The same happened to President Bush when his 25-year-old alcoholism was raised as an issue in his 2000 campaign. The same is happening to John Kerry with his war record in Vietnam.

I do believe current sins and recently repeated sins should be fodder for campaigns; they speak to character. One-time ancient events or long-ago past sins should not be an issue in campaigns or lives.

What we should learn from this is even faithful Catholics can and will fall. None of us are sinless, and those who have overcome their past sins, I believe, have a great deal to teach us about how to overcome our own.

So, shame on you for trying to destroy a man for opposing your political leanings. Do we as Christians in a sinful, fallen world not have it tough enough?

Lansing, Mich.

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In exploring the Internet regarding the Deal Hudson scandal, I noticed that several sites, though reporting Deal’s sexual misconduct, chose not to go into lurid and graphic detail. Some pointedly declined even to link to the NCR story. Having read Joe Feuerherd's “Real Deal,” I can see why. The detail called for by Fordham University from the student victim had no business being gratuitously over-quoted in a newsweekly that calls itself Catholic. Fuerherd should show more restraint in the future or take a journalist position that better suits his style.

Shawnee, Okla.

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Congratulations to Joe Feuerherd and to NCR for publishing the real deal on Deal Hudson. Hudson is hoist with his own petard and deservedly so, having written about “the lie that a person’s private conduct makes no difference to the execution of their public responsibilities.” Since Hudson’s responsibilities and associations are very public, he should resign his position at Crisis if he wishes to match his words with his deeds. Instead, I expect to see him and his colleagues echo his defense that the article was a political dirty trick. It wasn’t; it was great reporting.

In my view, what Hudson did amounted to rape, taking advantage of a drunken, troubled student, when the power differential was obvious: a 44-year-old faculty leader with a vulnerable 18-year-old. How dare he adopt the benign public relations language of bishops about “mistakes,” “grievous sin” or “embarrassing event” when I believe “crime” is the more appropriate term? And shall we parse the definition of rape to exclude Hudson’s action? His version of consent must be breathtaking.

What was missing in the article though was some indication of how Cara Poppas is faring today. I pray she is a victim turned survivor, and has come through the darkness somehow. The perpetrator goes on to power and glory while the wounded copes as best she can. I cannot stomach another word from Deal Hudson on the sexual abuse scandal in our church.

By the way, NCR is deemed not just “liberal,” but “notoriously liberal” in Hudson’s latest e-mail. While I too find your stances overly liberal at times, I prefer your pioneering work on exposing sexual abuse and seeking justice to anything else in Catholic publications on the subject. I’m late in doing so, but sign me up for a subscription.

Merrimack, N.H.

There is a peace church

I am writing in response to Joseph Cunneen’s eloquent letter (NCR, Aug. 13), with which I agree except for one point. He says he “fears there is no church (or non-church) organization that is fully pacifist.” Does he not know about the Quakers -- the Society of Friends -- as well as the Amish, the Mennonites and various Brethren groups?

The Friends were pacifist from the beginning with George Fox, and they have certainly proved they are “fully pacifist” through the American Friends Service Committee. The committee was begun in World War I, when young Quaker men declared their conscientious objection to fighting and instead were able to persuade our government to allow them to go to Europe to provide assistance to the civilian victims of war. By the end of the war, the American Friends Service Committee was so well organized and broadly supported that it was able to feed more than a million starving German and Austrian children every day.

When the threat of World War II was still gathering, the committee sent three leading Quakers to confront the Nazi government and obtained permission from Gestapo commanders to set up aid stations to help thousands of Jews to emigrate. In every war or situation of violence since then, and now in Iraq, the service committee has been present, aiding victims on all sides, cooperating with relief groups of all denominations, including Catholic, and testifying to a “fully pacifist” commitment that has won it the Nobel Peace Prize.

Maybe Colman McCarthy, whose writings I have long admired, should consider becoming a Quaker. Or maybe he is.

Newtown, Pa.

Girl’s ‘invalid’ Communion

I am writing regarding the story of 8-year-old Haley Waldman (NCR, “People,” Aug. 27), who suffers from a wheat gluten allergy and for whom a priest used a rice-based wafer for her first Communion: Trenton, N.J., Bishop John Smith said the sacrament was invalid because of the substitute.

I cannot understand the mentality of the church’s hierarchy when it turns away the faithful. Are they implying that the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist takes place only if the bread contains wheat? Are sacraments gifts that can only be conferred upon the faithful by the “church”? Would Christ say: “I am not going to be present in the Eucharist of Haley Waldman since the ‘bread’ does not contain wheat?” I admit that I find it hard to consider the “Communion wafer” bread. I suppose that the church decided to consider “Communion wafers” as bread out of convenience. I hang my head in shame when the Catholic church embarrasses itself and its faithful in decisions like this. I can visualize God wondering, “What is wrong with these people?”

Jackson, Mich.

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Joseph Cunneen thinks that by leaving the church, Colman McCarthy is chasing a mirage (NCR, Letters, Aug. 13). I think that Mr. McCarthy is actually leaving a mirage, the Catholic church. The latest example of this mirage-like behavior is the story out of New Jersey that the first Communion of an 8-year-old girl is invalid because the wafer she received was gluten-free! It is as if Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me -- but please, wheat bread only!” Msgr. James Moroney, executive director of the secretariat for the liturgy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, justified the action of the Trenton bishop by saying, “We do need to take what Jesus did literally; we try to do what he did.”

If Msgr. Moroney is being faithful to what Jesus did, he should eliminate the candles, incense, vestments, Lectionary, scripture readings, offertory, collection and so on from the Mass. Additionally, he should not use a fax, phone or a copy machine; neither should he drive a car, travel by plane, eat with a fork, take a shower or play golf. You get the idea. Trying to do what Jesus did by using a host made of wheat is behaving like the Pharisees of Matthew 23:23-24, whom Jesus condemned. What a mirage the church today is!

Coral Springs, Fla.

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, September 3, 2004