National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
July 1, 2005

Letters Iraq editorial

Regarding your editorial against the war in Iraq (NCR, May 27): Wonderful timing for the Memorial Day weekend.

Santa Barbara, Calif.

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Your lead editorial began, “Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect a country hip deep in a war ...” I’m older than anyone on your staff, 78, and I’m a veteran of World War II. Believe me, this country is not hip deep in war. In WWII there were several days when we lost several times more than the total losses in Iraq. There were no cars manufactured during WWII. That was hip deep in war.

Let me point out that if your son or daughter is killed, to you it is the biggest war in the world, but not to the nation. We are still killing more people on our highways each month than all the people we have lost in Iraq.

Phoenix. Ariz.

Rainbow sash wearers

It appears as if the Vatican is having an all-out assault against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people around the world. For one thing, there is the case of Erik Meder, who lost his job for writing “ ‘Strangers no longer’: Who is the other among us?” (NCR, May 20) about reaching out to homosexuals.

Then there is what happened in St. Paul, Minn., on Pentecost Sunday. About 150 people gathered at the Cathedral of St. Paul to wear the rainbow sash (a symbol that celebrates GLBT human sexuality). For the last five years, GLBT people, their friends and relatives have worn the rainbow sash on Pentecost Sunday. Last year a group of men calling themselves “Ushers of the Eucharist” knelt in front of participants blocking their way to receive Eucharist. This year, Bishop Harry Flynn was told by the Vatican to deny Communion to any rainbow sash wearer. If you wore a sash, you were given a blessing instead. Some, when denied, told the minister, “In Jesus’ name you are forgiven.”

This event reminds me of the Bible story of Zacchaeus (Luke19:1-10). The tax collector had climbed the sycamore tree. Jesus saw him and said, “Come down from the tree. I am staying at your house today.” Many people complained that Zacchaeus was an awful person. Jesus knew this was not true. In today’s world Jesus would tell GLBT people, “I’m staying at your house today.”

St Paul, Minn.

Quotable quote

In your “Quotable & Notable” section, you could have included the insightful comment from Farrukh Hasan in her article “Can immigrants save us from the neocons?” (NCR, May 20):

“A country’s best and most important asset is not its weapons, wealth or power but the conscience of its people.”

Saipan Island, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Illegal immigration

Patricia Zapor of Catholic News Service writes compassionately about the injustices suffered in this country by immigrants and their separated families (NCR, May 6 and 20). And I read with interest and gratitude that over a dozen church organizations and our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have launched a campaign called Justice for Immigrants.

Our immigration laws definitely need to be changed. I take issue, however, with statements by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick and Bishop James A. Tamayo quoted in the May 20 article. They misrepresent the current and ongoing media and public fervor; Cardinal McCarrick says it is “anti-immigrant fervor.”

I have been following the immigration issue closely for several months and the only fervor I’ve heard and read about regards illegal immigration. Bishop Tamayo acknowledged that some people came into the United States illegally. That number was about 3 million last year alone, and they came mostly from Mexico. They included drug smugglers and criminals as well as the millions who came to work.

Our immigration laws need to be made fair and to be enforced. Currently, the government is doing next to nothing to secure our borders, and I for one applaud our citizens who are peacefully observing our border with Mexico and helping the understaffed and overworked authorities to do their job.

I also applaud our Catholic church for its long and tireless service to immigrants in this country who are exploited by many of the businesses and corporations that hire them.

Garner, N.C.

A Catholic woman’s story

I thought it might not happen, but several weeks ago I presided at Margaret’s funeral. My worry for years was that she might leave the church before she died. She was an intelligent, well-educated woman from a small town in Ohio where Catholics were a tiny minority. As a child, she lived through the bigotry that considered Catholicism to be a cult, only to perceive a much more significant insult to her intelligence and faith from the church she loved so much when she reached adulthood.

Particularly hard to take were the Vatican pronouncements that seemed to declare women were wonderful beings but insufficient for the grace of ordination or theological thought or certainly any real role in the governance of the church. When she went home to Ohio to her great aunt’s funeral just a year ago, the priest — newly ordained and fervently orthodox — recounted the story of his meeting with two Protestant ministers in town who were discussing a particular passage in scripture. He proudly told them he didn’t have to worry about interpreting scripture because the Holy Father did all his thinking for him. Then he warned the congregation they were never to criticize the church to “outsiders.” She said she wanted to stand up and scream, “That’s it. I’m not Catholic anymore.”

These past few years have been increasingly difficult for her as so many of her friends left the church and ridiculed her for staying where she was treated like a child. She hung on, but it was by the slenderest of threads.

At her funeral we read the commissioning of the disciples from Matthew’s Gospel. It carries that incredibly important and telling line: “They worshiped but they doubted.” Many would claim there is no room for questions and doubt in the church, even if it means the church has fewer members. By their line of reasoning, the 11 disciples who found themselves on that mountaintop with Jesus would not have a place and certainly would not have a voice in the church today. We forget that even though they worshiped but doubted, Jesus still trusted them.

Eau Claire, Wis.

No medical malice

I passionately reject the accusation made by Sr. Patricia A. Thomas that physicians are solely motivated to provide quality medical care by the threat of malpractice litigation (Letters, NCR, June 3).

In my long and all-consuming practice of a surgical specialty, I have witnessed errors in judgment, ignorance of fact, equipment failure and so on to account for a few bad outcomes. But the limits imposed by the pathology were responsible for the less than optimal result in the majority of cases.

I’m not sure anyone in the medical community could measure up to Sr. Thomas’ ideals. Good thing she practices internal medicine, in which the outcomes are far less measurable than in the surgical specialties.

Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

Democracy in the church

Regarding “Promoting democracy in the church” by Eduardo M. Penalver (NCR, May 27): I enjoyed the article and have known this gifted young man and his family for many years. However, as a parishioner of Holy Disciples Parish, I would like to offer a point of clarification on the events that transpired.

It would be an understatement to say there were problems related to the priest who had been assigned as our administrator. This resulted in many letters that were written to the Office of the Vicar for Clergy by parishioners who had serious concerns surrounding this priest. When I gathered with some these folks, I found many of us had chosen to withhold our financial commitment until something was done. Ultimately, the archbishop removed the priest from the parish, noting this placement wasn’t a “good fit” for Holy Disciples or for the priest. At this time, our financial support resumed. However, during the seven months he was there, the priest had surrounded himself with a group of loyalists. Upon his removal, this group of loyalists began depositing their weekly donations into an escrow account, demanding his return. Eduardo was correct that the precipitous drop in overall income — as a result of the deep divisions the priest created within the parish — captured the attention of the archdiocese.

Sadly, many close relationships among founding members of this young faith community remain shattered. A new pastor has been assigned, and we eagerly await his arrival in July and continue to pray for our continued healing and to once again become the viable faith community we once were.

Puyallup, Wash.

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In his article, Mr. Eduardo M. Penalver made some interesting mistakes for a lawyer. He confuses electing the head of a church with electing a head of state. The pope is indeed a head of a state, the Vatican City State. He becomes the head of that state because he is elected head of the church. He does not become head of the church because he is elected head of a state. Mr. Penalver also says that “in the past,” canon law allowed lay people to become cardinals. He neglected to mention that this has not been the case for a long time. Today, cardinals, with rare exceptions (for example, Cardinal Avery Dulles), must be bishops, and the exceptions are still priests. As a parish priest, I can tell Mr. Penalver that in my parishes women are in decision-making areas, and they do make decisions, and I back them up. And this is the norm, at least in the Phoenix diocese. He might also notice that the “extreme hostility” of the bishops toward some organizations results from the fact that they sometimes espouse positions that are not part of our faith.

Glendale, Ariz.

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Withholding donations from the Boston archdiocese had more than a minimal (though unintended) effect on parish closings, on the unavailability of funds for priests’ pensions and most important on reductions in social services programs for the poor. Perhaps a better solution would be a rousing call for more support for what many think are the essentials of being Catholic.

Morristown, N.J.

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I feel offended by your article of May 27 on withholding donations. Despite the inequities, this is not how we resolve differences in the church. This should never have been published.


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National Catholic Reporter, July 1, 2005