National Catholic Reporter
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October 21, 2005

Letters Seminary investigation

My husband, a lapsed Episcopalian, enjoys needling me about my Catholic faith, usually by posing questions. Sometimes he hits the nail on the head, as when he asked about the seminary review (NCR, Sept. 16). His question was, “Where would Jesus come out on the subject of gay priests?” I have no doubt that the fellow who hung out with lepers and tax collectors would stand shoulder to shoulder with gay priests and seminarians. So should we all.

Summit, N.J.

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I think the Western church has always had the presence of gay men in the priesthood and as bishops. These men have done a good job. But I do believe that the recent sexual revolution of the past 60 or more years has dealt a severe blow to the church. The position of the church has been that “nothing has changed” regarding the understanding of sex, and so the church never dealt with the complications and complexity of this revolution. In the 1960s and ’70s, about 25,000 men left the priesthood in this country, and I would say most of these men were heterosexual and most got married. Has the church entered into a dialogue or investigation of this major exodus? No.

In my view, homosexuals or heterosexuals are not the problem. The problem is that the upper management of the church is completely out of touch with the lower clergy and the people of God. The church is functioning as a pyramid -- all truth is at the top.

If the church permitted women at the highest level of management or even if it permitted the ordination of women, there would be a very different solution to these problems. Women think differently about almost everything that is church, and certainly about sex. This is no doubt why Jesus’ confidantes were women rather than the 12 who left him hanging in the wind.

Florissant, Mo.

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Let’s see now: no gays, no divorced, barely tolerate women, no condoms to keep people from dying of AIDS, virgin priests. Yes, indeed, it does seem as though the plan is for a smaller, leaner, more orthodox kind of church run by sexually repressed, old conservative white men. Where have we seen that diabolical vision before? There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus would not be in the pew, much less the pulpit, but outside with the real people who live real lives.

Napa, Calif.

Jones’ retirement

While I have followed the Roman curia’s retreat from the norms of Vatican II over the past 35 years, I have never seen it exposed at the level of such intense analysis as in Arthur Jones’ column “The Roman imposition” (NCR, Sept. 9). If this is to be Arthur Jones’ swan song, it is a worthy finale to a magnificent career.

San Antonio

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Please. Please. Please don’t let Arthur Jones go! Nail up his office door. Rope him to his desk. Sabotage his car -- but don’t, don’t let him go. For goodness’ sake, for all our sakes, don’t let him go!

Well … unless … when the Spirit moves him, he writes for NCR. Or … he writes that book.

Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

Philadelphia abuse scandal

Congratulations on continuing to publicize the abominable handling by the ecclesiastical bureaucracy of the clerical sexual abuse crisis (NCR, Oct. 7). Over time, this publicity continues to have a positive effect.

The editorial in that issue asks the bishops, “Where do we go from here?” The short-term answer is, “Probably nowhere.” Each bishop has power to go his own way; some will follow the charter of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; others will not.

The important consideration is to protect the victims of abuse. The public must constantly be encouraged to report criminals to the police first; then, if desired, to the church authorities. If the abuse is not covered by criminal law, then the public should contact the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests at or the Bishop Accountability organization at Both groups can provide advice. Then, if desired, report the issue to the church authorities.

And, mandatory reporter (of suspected abuse) laws must include clergy if they do not already do so. Additionally, statutes of limitation laws relative to sexual abuse should be suspended for two years to avoid the dilatory tactics seen in Philadelphia.

Overland Park, Kan.

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Anthony Bevilacqua and his predecessor … the horror of it! The question remains: Will the hierarchy hold him to account or reward him with a post in Rome? The light has come into the world, but the shepherds have preferred darkness.

Baltimore, Md.

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In the Philadelphia clergy sexual abuse story, NCR calls passionately for “consequences.” After reading the sordid details, it’s my view that the church must defrock Cardinals Anthony Bevilaqua and Justin Rigali. That’s for starters. Too severe? Not as severe as Jesus’ own ideas for protecting children. Ultimately we must forgive, too, and then welcome them into the circle of faith as lay folk, their sins forgiven, like ourselves.

Burlington, Vt.

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In your editorial of Oct. 7, you asked the bishops: “Where we go from here?” You wondered if there is a bishop in America who would have the wherewithal to scream, “Enough!”

Unfortunately, we all know your rhetorical questions will go unanswered. Why should our bishops take responsibility when the “clergy were responsible”? After all, doesn’t NCR call this the “clergy sex abuse crisis”? Rome is not convinced that there is a problem with the bishops they appointed; it is with the clergy since this is a “clergy sex abuse crisis.”

The time has come to change the name of this crisis. We all know why it occurred in Boston, in Philadelphia and in many other dioceses in America -- it was a lack of leadership by our bishops.

What Rome needs to hear from the press, and especially from our Catholic press, is that this is the “bishops’ sex abuse scandal.” Let’s put the blame where it belongs.

Atherton, Calif.

Political role reversal

The article on Christian fundamentalists (NCR, Sept. 23) brings back memories. When I was growing up, we identified first as Catholic, then as ethnic Irish, Slavic, German or Italian. The rest of the world was non-Catholic or outside the pale.

In those days, Catholics were Democrats and, at least in New York City, Catholic Republicans were highly suspect. In 1940, my parents supported Wilkie, who ran against FDR. When I wore Wilkie buttons to parochial school, I was ostracized by the other students and told by a nun to remove the button because the Republicans were anti-Catholic, proved by the hate campaign against Catholic Al Smith, the 1928 presidential candidate. There also lingered the memory of the 1884 election when the Rev. Samuel Burchard stated at a Republican rally that he and his friends would never support the forces of “rum, Romanism and rebellion.”

Protestant evangelicals were the most virulently anti-Catholic group in America and often allied with the Klan. In some parts of the South, it was almost as dangerous to be Catholic as African-American.

The nation, too, was predictably divided. The South voted Democratic -- the “Solid South,” as it was called -- and Republicans often didn’t bother campaigning there. The states of the Confederacy still hated the party of Lincoln and their elected officials were usually conservative Democrats who supported the poll tax and Jim Crow. On the other hand, the African-Americans who could vote were Republicans (mindful of Lincoln) and could be counted on to vote as a bloc in urban areas.

The situation has completely reversed. The South has become Republican. African-Americans have become Democrats and have almost been written off by the Republicans.

Perhaps the most surprising development is the about-face of Catholics. Who could have imagined Catholic bishops allied with Southern Baptists and other evangelicals as in the 2004 election? Perhaps Catholics have erased their memories of being the underclass where “no Irish need apply” and now identify with what their parents and grandparents considered the party of the rich and privileged.

Stony Brook, N.Y.

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 21, 2005