National Catholic Reporter
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January 27, 2006

Letters Putting meat on the table

In the past I have read letters to NCR excoriating Colman McCarthy for what a reader has deemed his (pick one) erroneous, stupid, misguided, subversive view on some subject. I felt a little sorry for Mr. McCarthy.

No longer! In the Dec. 16 edition, Mr. McCarthy launched into a diatribe against game hunting, a subject on which he demonstrated complete ignorance. First, most hunters are “pot hunters,” that is, we hunt to put food on the table. This was especially true during the Depression of the ’30s. With the expenditure of a dollar and a half for ammunition, 50 cents for gasoline, we could on a good day bring home enough ducks for a couple of meals, or quail for a meal, turtledoves for a meal or a pheasant for two meals. In between there were squirrels and rabbits, always worth the effort and the hike. Meat for a family is not a matter to be ridiculed.

San Francisco

‘Journey from hell’

Many more than 250 words would be needed for me to explain why I found the reprint from the Hartford Courant, “Journey from hell ‘began so long ago’ ” by Helen Ubinas, so offensive (NCR, Dec. 16). If, however, you believe that few readers were so offended, no explanation from me will be of interest or concern. But briefly:

1) Few facts about the abuser or abused. For example, is Paturzo still an official priest? What happened to Hackett?
2) Ms. Ubinas’ view of unpardonable sins is intrusive and her other commentary as well, all of it, in fact.
3) The dialogue with Paturzo, the questions intrusive, yes, and rough, inhumane. Poor fellow, he should have stood up and showed Ms. Ubinas to the street.
4) The writing in general, poor. I conclude that Ms. Ubinas’ background of experience in the business is limited, not, I also conclude, a recommendation for display by NCR.

St. Louis

Haiti’s woes

Kudos for Claire Schaeffer-Duffy’s piece on Haiti’s again-postponed elections and its government’s outrageous imprisonment since July 21 of nonviolent prisoner of conscience Fr. Gérard (“Gerry”) Jean-Juste (NCR, Jan. 6). Harvard’s Dr. Paul Farmer recently diagnosed him with life-threatening leukemia requiring urgent medical treatment, unavailable in Haiti, as is noted in the People section of NCR for Jan. 13.

Gerry is a hero to hundreds of thousands of Haitian-Americans in South Florida whose decades-long struggle for equal treatment and refugee status he championed as executive director of the now-defunct Haitian Refugee Center, which scored powerful legal and political triumphs under his charismatic leadership. Creole radio in South Florida and thousands of supporters continue to champion his cause and shall do so until Gerry once again walks in the light of freedom and can receive the medical care in the United States that he so desperately requires. His martyrdom in prison certainly is not helping the cause or reputation of Haiti’s interim leaders or that of a Bush administration lifting no finger to obtain his release, despite its enormous leverage over that government.


Steven David Forester is the senior policy advocate for Haitian Women of Miami Inc.

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Thank you very much for the article on abuses in Haiti written by Claire Schaeffer-Duffy. It was excellent. Although I have not been able to go to Haiti since the ouster of President Aristide because it is so dangerous, I did travel to that country annually before. Our parish has adopted an orphanage for children with disabilities near Port-au-Prince through the charity Food for the Poor. The situation in Haiti is absolutely deplorable, and it seems to me that it is the country the world forgot about. I seldom see anything in the secular or religious press about the social injustice that is Haiti. Thank you for covering it. Please follow up on this story and do not let it drop. Awareness is the beginning of improvement, which is much needed.

Canfield, Ohio

McNeill’s ‘new sexual ethics’

Some cannot get over the fact that John McNeill explored gay haunts and had a lover while in the priesthood (NCR Letters, Dec. 9 and Dec. 23). Obviously, he envisaged a new sexual ethics. Exactly what Catholicism needs! Admit that, and his life is virtuous. He followed his calling. But the shift is monumental.

Move beyond the biological equation that sex equals procreation. Allow that human sex primarily regards interpersonal bonding, and you free not only homosexuals but also some 90 percent of married American Catholics who use contraceptives, adolescents and others who engage in solo-sex and unmarried young adults or elders who share sexual intimacies -- all things good and beautiful when responsibly and lovingly done.

Rethink the celibate priesthood. It’s of a piece with Vatican sex-negativism. That’s the real wrong. So is the bishops’ collusion with a broken system.

Seminaries routinely turn out sexually immature priests. When they discover their sexuality, be it homo or hetero, should they go on living as half-persons? The terms of the celibacy “contract” have changed for them. Does it still hold?

By design, “holy” priestly poverty limits such priests’ options. How can priests take time off for personal growth or leave the priesthood altogether? Should they, if they love ministry and are good at it? How can any obedient Catholic explore sexuality?

Catholic sexual ethics is what needs attention, not celibacy violations. Pioneer McNeill was deliberately not playing by the old rules, which don’t work. He courageously confronted the issues, and many are the better for it. How else should ethics, or holiness, be assessed?


He’s no heretic

Regarding “California diocese holds schism and heresy trial” (NCR, Jan. 6):

I have known Fr. Ned Reidy for more than 50 years since we played football together at St. Ignatius High School in Chicago. Fr. Ned has always been a real priest, compassionate to the needs of others, and his only purpose in life has been to spread the love of Christ to all who have come in contact with him.

Fr. Ned is not a heretic. It’s the anti-women, gay-bashing right-wing extremists who are. I grow weary of seeing another wonderful priest being driven out of our beloved church by the Catholic Taliban.

Aspen, Colo.

Morning Mass

The “Starting Point” by Fr. Joseph McGowan (NCR, Jan. 6) caused me to reflect upon how important Eucharist is, particularly daily Mass, for those who minister to God’s people. I am a teacher in a high school that is fortunate to have a priest who celebrates daily Mass in a small chapel. A few of us gather before the school day begins. There I am strengthened and empowered by the Word and Eucharist to face whatever events will come my way during the day. Like Fr. McGowan, I appreciate the “acceptance, intimacy [and] security” within our group. During Mass, we often hear the sound of lockers opening and closing in the adjacent hallway and conversation about last night’s game as the students arrive at school.

For me, those students are as much a part of the gathering at Mass as if they were actually in the chapel. I feel united with all the teachers who have taught at the school before me in its rich, 100-year history. I sometimes think about gatherings like ours in schools, parishes and hospitals, all taking place at the same time. We go forth to face the day as the body of Christ. Although it means getting to work a little bit earlier, I truly look forward to early Mass.

Youngstown, Ohio

Option for the young

Thank you for Fr. Andrew Greeley’s review of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (NCR, Dec. 16). Few people are aware that liberation theology of Latin America not only declared a “preferential option for the poor” but also a “preferential option for the young.” At Medellín and beyond, they were well aware that the future of the world and the church is in the hands of the young. Do we want a church fully alive or a church fossilized? Jesus chooses youth: “Let the young come to me,” he says.

Sacramento, Calif.

A mother’s anguish

As a mother, I would like the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church to know how much it hurts to hear the child you raised and love referred to as “objectively disordered” by the church, as in the recent document about seminary investigations.

I am the parent of a lesbian, and I know my child to be a kind, loving, devout person who lives her life in full accordance with the Gospel of Jesus, as do many homosexual persons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “they do not choose their homosexuality,” and as a parent, I can attest to that very statement. My daughter, who received 16 years of Catholic education, struggled and prayed for many years, asking God to take this challenge away. When we learned of our daughter’s orientation, we were devastated. We, too, prayed endlessly for God to change things. We said novenas, rosaries and stormed all the saints in heaven to help us.

God answered our prayers and did change things, but in a way we did not expect. During our time of praying, reading and getting to know gay and lesbian persons, we became aware that they are indeed a gift from God -- a gift that reflects his love in a new and powerful way. In addition, I now have a small insight into the agony Our Blessed Mother suffered when her Son was condemned and then crucified. Part of her anguish must have come from those in the early church who abandoned Jesus and did not speak up or help him.

I am often asked why I stay in the Roman Catholic church where my child is not welcome and women are not valued in so many ways. My answer is that I stay for the Eucharist. This document will only make it harder for the faithful to celebrate and receive the Eucharist.

Beverly Hills, Mich.

Jesus and human need

In his recent letter, Lawrence Shrader implies that the church should steer clear of the humanistic tendencies of Vatican II and bid “man to return to authentic and fruitful spiritual realities” (NCR, Dec. 23). I think Mr. Shrader is misguided.

The reality is that first and foremost, to paraphrase Miguel de Unamuno, I am a man of flesh and bone; a man who has been born, suffers and dies; a man who eats, drinks, plays, sleeps, thinks and wills; a man who can be seen and heard. In short, I am a human being. And that, readers, is who each of you is.

I don’t see anything in the Gospels that suggests Jesus ignored man’s humanness. As a young man, at a wedding party, when his mother told him the host had run out of wine, Jesus didn’t answer that they should pray and drink water. He converted the water into wine. His first miracle was to satisfy a human need. And who can say that, by providing wine for the wedding party so that the participants could drink and be merry, Jesus wasn’t providing for the needs of the spirit, as well?

Contrary to Mr. Shrader’s view, Vatican II didn’t ignore man’s spiritual needs but fully acknowledged man’s humanity. To emphasize the eternal at the expense of the temporal is but an excuse to absolve ourselves of our duty to comply with Jesus’ admonition to care for the littlest among us: the aged, the crippled, the hungry, the sick, the thirsty and the weak. How can we ignore Jesus’ command and yet, in good conscience, claim to be Christian?

Bear, Del.

Goodbye, limbo

The editorial headlined “A little flexibility regarding limbo” discusses how the Vatican is soon expected to “dispense with limbo as an afterlife option” (NCR, Jan. 6).

It’s obvious to me a compassionate God would never allow a state such as limbo, but the church’s hierarchy certainly has erected one for homosexuals. To label homosexuality as objectively disordered yet claim homosexuality in itself is not a sin, only its acts, places homosexuals in an earthly limbo -- one short of hell, not heaven. If homosexuality is a sickness, then how could the effects of such a sickness be sinful? The church is imposing a grave burden on the homosexual community by labeling them disordered at best and sinful at worst.

Kenmore, N.Y.

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Alas! If limbo is gone, can purgatory be far behind?

Riverside, N.J.

Fighters for human rights

Another Martin Luther King Jr. Day has passed. It is amazing how so many of the eloquent words he spoke and wrote while he was alive are relevant today. In the spring of 1967, Dr. King preached a sermon on why he was opposed to the war in Vietnam (NCR, Jan. 20). Almost 40 years later, the following excerpt from that sermon speaks prophetically at a time when we are waging war in Iraq:

“Don’t let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America, ‘You are too arrogant, and if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and nations shall not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore.’ I don’t know about you, I ain’t going to study war anymore.”

The world today sorely needs a prophet like Martin Luther King Jr. to speak truth to power.

Louisville, Ky.

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Every year, all Americans dedicate Martin Luther King Jr. Day to the memory of this great fighter for equality and human rights. Just one day later we commemorate a great American tragedy. The heroism of another American (honorary) citizen who fought for human rights just like Martin Luther King Jr., who paid the ultimate price just like Martin Luther King Jr. -- but who, years after that terrible fate, unlike Martin Luther King Jr., still has not received what he deserves.

This man is Raoul Wallenberg. He saved tens of thousands from certain death by the Nazis in World War II. No one person in history has saved so many lives. And he paid the price when on Jan. 17, 1945, he was taken by the Soviet Army. Martin Luther King Jr. has a grave his family can visit. Raoul Wallenberg’s fate and whereabouts remain a mystery.

As we celebrate King’s legacy, we must remember to do everything we can to bring Raoul Wallenberg home.

New York

Baruch Tenembaum is the founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

Slower sainthood

“Theologians try to slow track to sainthood” (NCR, Dec. 16) refers to the controversial nature of John Paul II’s papacy that is widely known by those who followed the policies of his long pontificate. Popularity is not sanctity. The 11 theologians from different parts of the world who signed the appeal “A Call for Clarification” are right to request a critical review of the late pope’s policies. Even more so since Benedict XVI fast-tracked the beatification process. This comment is not to detract from the pope’s virtuous life, manifested even more during his pontificate. The intent of the Vatican to separate the pope’s personal life from his papal policies is a false dichotomy that makes no sense. If this separation is valid, why, then, the bitter controversy about Pius XII, and why is he not beatified? Does the Vatican want to create another baffling case of Blessed Pius IX, an anti-Semite who also had a long and controversial pontificate?

Fort Garland, Colo.

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, PO Box 411009, Kansas City, MO 64141-1009. 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 27, 2006