National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
January 14, 2005

Letters Sexual ethics

When I opened the Dec. 10 NCR, the feature essay with large color art of a nude Eve with Adam and snake titled “The Vatican combats today’s Manichaeans” immediately piqued my interest. This must be good stuff, I said to myself, as I began to read. However, by the time I had reached the last paragraphs, I realized how badly I had been snookered. This essay proves that an exceedingly well-written and featured piece can, at the end, smell like bovine manure.

That people are spiritual beings stuck in an irrelevant body is indeed heresy. That sex is our defining human characteristic is, and has been, the claim of every male who wishes to define women as different from themselves. Most notably men have defined women as the source of all sin, a mistake of nature, always subservient and always, always assigned to strictly limited roles. This sexual arrogance is more prevalent and more insidious than the Manichaean heresy ever was. “Sex is destiny” as an ideology can be well hidden under layer upon layer of clever (male) argument until only the smell gives it away. Our church is not continuing to fight an old heresy, as Chris Roberts claims, but is really only seeking to perpetuate an even older order that relies on the male dominance of women.

Wexford, Pa.

The Vatican and the Legion

When I attended Call to Action in November, I went to hear Jason Berry and bought the book Vows of Silence. Maciel and the Legionaries make Opus Dei look mild! When I opened the Dec. 10 NCR, my eyes immediately fell on Page 3 and the headline “Vatican heaps praise on Legionaries of Christ.” Your Page 28 editorial in that issue is so right on! Because of incidents such as this, I am so ashamed of the church that I love. What can we people in the pews do to bring about justice and a real sense of Gospel spirituality?

Several years ago I heard a wonderful lecture on whether or not we can find Jesus Christ in our church, or need we look for another church. Jesus cannot be head of this hierarchical Pharisee-ism. We, the people of God, are the church, and I trust that the Holy Spirit will not leave us orphans, but this news just before Christmas was almost too much to bear.

I love my church and I don’t feel called to look for another but to demonstrate a better image of Catholicism.

Clio, Mich.

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While I am completely in agreement with an implication in your editorial “Misplaced papal praise” (NCR, Dec. 10) that an appropriate curial cardinal should speak to the charges of sexual molestation by Fr. Marcial Maciel Degolado, permit me to suggest a different spin to why John Paul II was so full of praise for the founder of the Legionaries of Christ: The curial officials who surround the pope kept this information from him.

Sherman Oaks, Calif.

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Regarding your Dec. 10 editorial “Misplaced papal praise” and a related article, “Vatican heaps praise on Legionaries,” I would like to remind NCR readers that Fr. Marcial Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ have already made it clear that the allegations mentioned in the articles are false. The documentation demonstrating the truth in these matters is available for all to see at John Allen has it right when he writes in “The Word From Rome” (Dec. 3) that there is no cover-up, but rather, “The only honest answer is that the pope and his senior aides obviously do not believe the charges.”

Like those who write, edit and read NCR, we Legionaries and our founder are appalled by sexual abuse; we are committed to the church’s social doctrine; we are committed to evangelization; we are committed to creating the civilization of love and justice.

Cheshire, Conn.

Spirituality supplement

Thank you for the great Spirituality supplement in the Dec. 17 issue of NCR, and especially for Rich Heffern’s conversation with Fr. Diarmuid O’Murchu at the Call to Action Conference in Milwaukee. Also appreciated was the reading list of Fr. O’Murchu’s publications.

I attended this conference specifically to hear Fr. O’Murchu along with Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker. I was not disappointed. How exciting and hopeful to hear speakers who, while grounded in faith, can speak outside the patriarchal box and challenge us to consider the possibilities of a renewed theological perspective that integrates faith, science, feminism, et al.

That annual conference and NCR provide for me a sign of hope in the diocese I serve, which is currently infested with Latin Masses, gold-trimmed vestments, incessant incense and bells. In short, a looking to the rear for comfort in that time before Vatican II when all was under control, rather than embracing the chaotic future that our children and grandchildren will inhabit.

Congratulations on these first 40 years of your publication -- and echoing Sr. Joan Chittister’s challenge, please “don’t lose your nerve”!

Fort Thomas, Ky.

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What an exquisite Christmas present, those vital, inspirational words of Deborah Halter in her article in the Spirituality supplement, “After talking about God, learning to talk to God.” They are essential words for the church to live by -- yes, including you and me. Thank you, Ms. Halter and NCR, for this gift of God.


Abortion opinions

As a long-suffering but now happy Boston Red Sox fan, I was intrigued by the letter “Bat poverty out of the park” (NCR, Dec. 10), which called Catholics to be as steadfast in eliminating poverty as Sox fans are in supporting their team.

I recently read a pamphlet, “Planned Parenthood, Where Have All the Black Children Gone,” which cites the decades-long attack by Planned Parenthood on black families. The reproductive racism -- 35 percent of abortions are done on black women, but they are only 12 percent of the population -- that Planned Parenthood practices by placing 78 percent of their abortion facilities in black neighborhoods has had a devastating effect on black families and is a major cause of poverty in the United States. In the last 30 years, Planned Parenthood has received over $3 billion of federal funds to promote condoms to youngsters, and when they fail, Planned Parenthood charges them for abortions. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have exploited blacks for over $4 billion in abortion sales. Seventy percent of black children are born into single-parent families. Seven billion dollars would help eradicate the poverty of single parents by educating the youngsters to a better life.

If Catholics demanded that the tens of millions of dollars given Planned Parenthood each year be redirected to educate the poor in decent schools we would make a huge reduction in poverty in the United States. It would take years, but Catholics can be as faithful as the Sox fans.

Silver Spring, Md.

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In the letters for Nov. 26, Frank Terranella suggests that liberal Democrats accept the overturn of Roe v. Wade. He believes this would result in continued legal abortion in blue states and a prohibition in red states, a compromise all could live with.

The problem with this is that there are significant minorities in each state, regardless of color on the last election map. As a mostly-blue resident of a very red county in a blue state, I have neighbors who strongly disagree with my opinion of Roe. I respect their opinion, even if they don’t respect mine. I doubt the neighbors are likely to move to a red state.

I believe the worst part of Mr. Terranella’s suggestion is the revision to the often economic injustice of the pre-Roe situation, where women could not afford to travel to areas where abortions were legal and generally performed in a professionally competent manner. I believe the law needs to be the same in all states.

I also greatly fear that some of the extreme pro-life groups would use an overturning of Roe as the opening salvo to attack birth control pills, in-vitro fertilization and other practices with which they have strong moral disagreement. Many of these practices obtain their civil legal acceptability from court rulings restricting state efforts to regulate or prohibit these practices.

San Marcos, Calif.

Staffing the parishes

I found the Rev. H.A. “Bud” Tillinghast’s Nov. 19 letter telling about the small size of Protestant churches to be most informative. Many of the Catholic churches in the cities and towns across America and around the world that are being closed or attended by circuit-rider priests could be well served if ordination were not restricted to celibate males.

For many years, I have wondered why men and women -- single and married -- could not be ordained for a local community. I remember presiding at liturgies in convent chapels during the middle of retreats or spiritual exercises when the leaders were women, but they were forced to import a male priest with no understanding of what was going on in order to celebrate their Sacrament of Thanksgiving. It appeared to be ridiculous then and it appears so today.

I think that many sitting in the pews today are much more “gifted” with the ability to preach the Gospel than those of us who have studied the required theology and philosophy (the dogma and the rubrics) but understand nothing about humanity. It seems possible that we really do not need old, large and very expensive-to-maintain churches. It might be good to meet in a storefront church with a celebrant selected by the local community who is ready and willing with the collaborative efforts of that community to meet the spiritual needs of the people of God.

Arlington Heights, Ill.

Too patriotic

Robert Royal, Joan Chittister (NCR, Nov. 19) and Eugene Cullen Kennedy (NCR, Nov. 26), in their post election views, overlook what I consider a disturbing trend in the recent national election: the rise of excessive national patriotism.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration and its cadre of neoconservative ideologues have brilliantly manipulated the fear and insecurity of the American people to a nationalistic fervor. Our nation responded, in part, because a proud narcissist culture is drawn to totalitarianism. “American values” and “our American way of life” had to be defended.

The Bush neocons skillfully duped a befuddled U.S. Congress into the preemptive invasion of Iraq. “Bomb them into the Stone Age” was the patriotic battle cry I heard too often. Yes, this is war, and bombing innocent civilians is fair game when you are fighting evil. But, in truth, bombing innocent civilians is nothing less than pure terrorism. Thus, the United States became evil as well.

America is now a bewildered nation with its conflicting ideas of patriotism, moral values, conspicuous lifestyles and illusions of innocence, while U.S. foreign trade policy continues to advance U.S. corporate imperialism all over the world.

For the future survival of our planet, the United States desperately needs to come together with a new vision, working for a just, sustainable and compassionate world. But first the United States must rid itself of outdated dreams and recognize the delusional lies of a narcissistic capitalistic culture.

Sarasota, Fla.

Don’t be a consumer

Mr. Angelo Stagnaro (NCR, Dec. 17) would have us believe that “total disregard for self to the benefit of others is the sole cause for the success of the U.S. economy.” I am always confused how spending on things made overseas (as are most of the things bought for Christmas presents) helps our economy. It increases the extreme imbalance of trade. This year Christmas came just after the worst imbalance of trade in the month of November.

Buying things made overseas may indeed help China and Japan. It creates manufacturing jobs in those countries. However, the jobs created here are part-time temporary “Christmas jobs.”

How about looking outside our families and donating to Habitat for Humanity, which will house the homeless; Second Harvest, which will feed the hungry; books for our schools -- well, you get the idea.

Helping Japan and China is nice, but just one month of the year, at Christmastime, let’s remember the Beatitudes and give a gift to our country at the same time.

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Corporate giving

Target’s recent corporate decision to place “no solicitation” restrictions on the Salvation Army lacks any Christian justification. If nothing else, we who have discretionary funds need gentle reminders of our affluent good fortune during this period.

Target may have missed the recent unanimous 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in San Francisco regarding constitutional free-speech rights. That court also referred to a 1985 decision involving Krishna Consciousness solicitors, stating that “mere annoyance” did not create a need to block solicitation.

Since 1891, Army bell-ringers have sought funds. Standing on wet or icy pavement is no ego-inflating exercise. Rather, it is a humble reminder of the many unfortunates among us. Ask for whom the bell tolls in our Christian nation. Given our adverse circumstances, it may one day ring for you, for me, our parents, our children.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy considers the Salvation Army “America’s favorite and most trusted charity.” In Forbes, Peter Drucker states that it is “by far the most effective organization in the U.S. No one even comes close to it in respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication and putting money to maximum use.”

I have given this great thought. Since the Salvation Army is not sufficiently high-end for one square yard of public space outside of Target, my spendable 20s and 50s are no longer high-end enough to go inside, either. Not ever again.

Chico, Calif.

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In light of the recent controversy over Target’s decision to enforce its no-solicitation policy in a consistent and equitable manner, I would like to remind all of Target’s exemplary record of community giving.

For nearly a decade, Target has partnered with Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, providing clothing, toys, household items and food vouchers for families in need. Year round, Target invests in programs to help meet families’ basic needs. Target sends volunteers throughout the year to help with projects ranging from sorting gifts to building shelves at a local children’s shelter.

Target’s commitment to community is lasting and deep. The company delves into community needs and works with nonprofit and community groups to ensure effectiveness and accountability in meeting those needs. Just last month, we presented Target Corp. with The J. Jerome Boxleitner Community Service Award, an annual award for outstanding accomplishment in working with the poor or disenfranchised.

Target gives back more than $2 million a week to organizations across America. Through this support our communities are stronger and our citizens are healthier. This is truly a legacy to celebrate.


Larry Snyder is chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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, January 14, 2005