National Catholic Reporter
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February 10, 2006

Letters Responses to Royal

I must say I was surprised and disappointed that NCR would print a column as biased and anti-gay as Robert Royal’s “Current views of homosexuality ignore ancient wisdom” (NCR, Jan. 13).

Royal asserts that those of us who advocate for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church, including the sacrament of marriage, have been “sucked into” an anti-Catholic stance. Royal could not be more wrong. Those of us who advocate for gays and lesbians are not anti-Catholic, but are instead faithful to the larger Catholic teaching that we respect the “life and dignity of all human persons.” We often take significant risks in speaking out to call our own hierarchy to be true to their own teachings.

In claiming that advocates for gay and lesbian rights are ignoring ancient wisdom, Royal ignores the Gospels of the New Testament. If Christ had condemned gay relationships, it would have been in the Gospels. Plenty of other sins are -- judging, hatred, placing the law above your neighbor and so on.

Finally, he argues that homosexuality contributed to the pedophilia crisis. I would remind Royal that at the time that most of the crimes were committed, most parishes had no female altar servers. That almost 25 percent of the victims were female clearly demonstrates that sexual orientation was not a factor, the predators went for whatever gender they could find. Scapegoating our gay clergy for the pedophile abuses only places young people of all genders at risk.

Pullman, Wash.

* * *

I do not agree with Robert Royal and Rome’s belief that homosexuality is “disordered in both natural and supernatural terms.” You see, Mr. Royal, I was very disordered in high school and part of my time in college. I prayed hard in Catholic high school that Jesus would take this cross from my shoulders. I said that prayer as I despised myself because my “affliction” would keep me single, alone, miserable and out of heaven. I said that prayer on the Roosevelt Avenue subway station in Jackson Heights, Queens, every morning and afternoon of every school day.

I was told in those high school years that my life would be nothing if I could not/would not change the sinful thoughts I had. After making what would be my last confession sometime in 1966, I was told by the priest that I would spend the rest of my life in subway toilets if I would not change.

Well, the disorder in my life did change when I met other gay men in a Catholic college and was introduced to a circle of older gay men in New York. I met couples who had been together many years, single men and women who seemed pretty well “ordered.” They worked, paid taxes, had houses or apartments, smoked and drank too much and led double lives, since the majority of them would have been fired had their “private life” stepped out of the closet. All in all, I’d say they did a fine job of ordering things, considering the circumstances.

So, Mr. Royal, that is my story, my life, and the story of lots of other gay men like me now in their 60s. Me, I’ve been disordered. I much prefer the order I’ve found with my partner of the last 28 years.

But I don’t know the story that formed “Rome’s” belief. Who is “Rome”? Does “Rome” hurt? Does “Rome” cry? Has “Rome” ever been gay-bashed? Why can’t someone from “Rome” just tell his story so that we would have life experiences to compare?

Then we could have a meal, read scripture and talk about what “disordered” means today.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

* * *

You give space to Robert Royal to write about the “3,000-year tradition” against homosexual relations, but it would be encouraging to see NCR devote space to describing some of the experiments that show the physiological basis for the origin of sexual orientation. Galileo had to put up with the same kind of tradition because church officials refused to look at the scientific evidence for his views. There is much more at stake here than what Galileo had to endure; people’s lives are at stake.

Winona, Minn.

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Why are you doing this to us? I can read the ilk of Royal in other publications. This is not why I read NCR. Will Pat Robertson appear next?

Brecksville, Ohio

* * *

Robert Royal rightly articulated “ancient wisdom” and church dogma, but ascribing rejection of Catholic doctrine to anti-Catholicism or lack of learned journalism is paranoid dogmatism. Such dogmatism once touted slavery as “ancient wisdom.” That idea cost 600,000 American lives to correct. The homosexual issue is not about sex. It’s about love between two human beings. Losing my beloved wife of some 50 years slammed into my intellect the reality of human love. Denying anyone the virtue of loving belies the greatest experiential lesson of my life and is thoroughly un-Christian.

The drumbeat of the current dogmatists, “Homosexuals are disordered, intrinsically evil, pedophiles and so on,” is bunk. I have a homosexual child. He is neither disordered, intrinsically evil nor a pedophile. Neither are the many other homosexual persons I know. Church morality experts who purport to know the mind of God peddle life-demeaning nonsense. Behavioral scientists junked Royal’s cherished “ancient wisdom” some time ago.

Equating new knowledge of human sexuality to anti-Catholic bias or imperfect journalism attacks people of an integrity and charity that often exceeds what Royal and I can probably claim. Instead, why not attack hedonism, an affliction of both heterosexual and homosexual creation? It’s taken me a lifetime to learn that human love, heterosexual or homosexual, is the one human virtue where we can touch the divine.

Farmington Hills, Mich.

Agents at the Worker

Regarding “Soup kitchen subversives” (NCR, Jan. 20): I am delighted to know that FBI agents are willing to help Catholic Worker communities serve food. No doubt the agents would be willing to do other chores also.

If this is what it takes to perform the works of mercy, so be it. Perhaps in the process the FBI, like so many others of us, will learn about the love of Jesus in this world. Now that is radical! Hardly the stuff of terrorism, but then Jesus himself was murdered as an enemy of the status quo.

The FBI can come to our Catholic Worker anytime they want. We will be glad to tell them what we are about if they are willing to boil a few eggs, fold a few clothes, welcome a few strangers.

Austin, Texas

Bishop Gumbleton

I would like to add my voice to that of Greg Bullough’s (NCR, Jan. 27) concerning Bishop Thomas Gumbleton’s revelation that he is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. I can understand Gumbleton not wanting to speak of his abuse as a young man, a young priest, a young pastor. However, when he accepted the office of apostle of the church he had a greater responsibility. It disturbs me to think that he might have allowed his perpetrator to continue in ministry when as an apostle he had the ability to stop predation of the sheep entrusted to him. It perturbs me that while I and one other priest gave testimony in Dallas in 2002, placing ourselves at great risk for the greater good, Bishop Gumbleton remained silent instead of joining his voice with ours. Like Bullough, I admire the long courage of Gumbleton on every significant issue of charity and justice in his long service to the Gospel. I applaud that he came to our defense now and I hope his witness will inspire the other bishop survivors to join us as coworkers in the truth.

Manalapan, N.J.

* * *

This is in response to Greg Bullough’s opinion piece, in which he took issue with Bishop Thomas Gumbleton’s decision not to publicly name his abuser.

As a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, I know that it is a huge decision and a horrifying prospect to name those who molested us. Even if the abuser is dead, most likely many of the members of his family, his friends, former parishioners and supporters are not.

To bring a storm of vilification upon oneself by disclosing the name of your abuser is horrifying in the extreme.

I spoke at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Dallas in June 2002 and chose not to name my abuser publicly. I did, however, contact his religious superiors and eventually contacted the police. I did not ever state his name in any public or open forum, fearing that I would bring upon myself a storm of criticism and accusations that I was crazy, greedy and a liar. I have seen this happen in my own community when a victim named his abuser in the local newspaper.

I am not saying that victims should not publicly name their accusers, alive or dead. On the contrary, I applaud the brave ones who do. But I can certainly understand why someone might choose not to.

Douglas, Alaska

Pope Hans?

The article by Robert Blair Kaiser that surmises that Hans Küng could conceivably have become the pope takes the cake (NCR, Jan. 6). And Robert is acting president of the Jesuit Alumni of Arizona? Oh, the poor Jebbies! Many years ago, shortly after Hans Küng was “silenced,” I heard him speak at the University of New Mexico, sponsored by the Newman Center. Yes, he was a witty, articulate speaker. The only problem was his subject matter. He did a thorough pope-bashing number. Hans Küng as our pope? Well, OK, if one has the destruction of the infallibility and authority of the magisterium in mind. But, cheer up folks. The Holy Spirit could not and would not let such a catastrophe occur!

Albuquerque, N.M.

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Could anything be more important in the world today than the organization Hans Küng created, the World Ethic Foundation? How true when Fr. Küng says, “There will be no peace in the world without peace among the religions, there will be no peace among the religions without dialogue, and no dialogue without emphasis on a common ethic. Without dialogue we shoot each other.” Now I ask myself: Why does that make our hierarchy nervous? Perhaps it’s because they see him headed in the direction where all the major religions will be able to meet as equals. Didn’t Fr. Bede Griffiths say all religions were seeking the One and only Creator, although they will call him by a different name?

Clinton, N.J.

College presidents

I give thanks for Colman McCarthy’s column “Plutocrats on campus,” which describes the high salaries of college presidents (NCR, Jan. 6). Why do we nod approvingly when these monstrous salaries for executives are published? Here in Boston, the CEO of my local health plan has an annual salary of over $1 million.

And what about the clergy? At our diocesan conferences, the bishop always pleads for “collegiality.” How is this ever going to happen when the inner-city priest makes $30,000 while the rector of the endowed church downtown makes $250,000? How much does Pat Robertson pay himself? Jerry Falwell? Cardinal Law? And sneaking in unnoticed except at budget time are the bureaucrats. The highest-paid employee in the Episcopal church is the executive director of our church pension fund. Doing jobs like “stewardship development,” “programmatic adult education” and “evangelism techniques” all bring six-figure salaries, while our no longer sacrosanct business community gives our children such high-salaried models as Martha Stewart, Gillette’s Jim Kilts and Enron’s Kenneth Lay -- all record-breaking embezzlers.

Over the past century, our free enterprise system has been successful in making virtues out of greed, wealth and possessiveness. It has not been successful in blotting out Matthew 19:24 (“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”) or 1 Timothy 6:10 (“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”).

And so, for American University President Benjamin Ladner and all other highly paid executives, Jesus has a saving counsel: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and everything else you need will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Dorchester, Mass.

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Colman McCarthy’s column on college presidents (NCR, Jan. 6) raises some important points. Where there is money and power, there will often be corruption, and we must be vigilant against it. In addition, college presidents have a responsibility to correct the kinds of abuses that plague both higher education and the church -- like unjust wages for support staff. Ostentatious excess is offensive and irresponsible in the face of such inequity.

At the same time, his article betrays his ignorance of college and university presidents’ lives and responsibilities. Universities have large and capable administrative staffs not so that presidents can kick back but so that they can fulfill their primary mission: ensuring future institutional survival by cultivating and maintaining relationships with donors and with the surrounding community. Their salaries and “benefits” are designed to permit them to pursue this goal single-mindedly. This makes them captive to the expectations of the big donors they are wooing. Presidents have club memberships not because they like free massages but because they need to go where, and when, donors are willing to meet them. A $10,000-$20,000 club membership that helps a president pull in a couple of $5 million donations is hardly a bad investment on the university’s part.

McCarthy is also naive about the sources of rising expenses. A single example: It can cost as much to hire and set up a lab and staff for a senior research scientist as it does to pay the president. And most good universities want lots of senior research scientists.

I invite McCarthy to follow a college or university president around during a typical week. He’ll likely discover 16-hour days, red-eye flights, endless meetings and ceremonial meals and appearances that make it hard to eat healthy food, get enough sleep and exercise, not to mention spend time with family. That squash game at the club (likely played at the request of a wealthy potential donor in the software industry) is not recreation. Just try being a middle-aged administrator playing hard enough to impress but not hard enough to offend, trying desperately to remember whether this is the guy whose wife is ill or whose daughter is in medical school, simultaneously, and coolly grooming one’s opponent for a key multimillion-dollar donation. Sounds like work to me.

Evanston, Ill.

Cristina L.H. Traina is associate professor and director of graduate studies for the Department of Religion at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

Spying controversy

Joan Chittister’s “Spy story highlights presidential overreach” (NCR, Jan. 13) is way off base. While Clinton was “sinning in the flesh,” his spirit was apparently not willing to deal with improvements she suggests were needed in intelligence gathering. The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 should have made improvements in intelligence a priority of his administration for the next seven years. But because of a little problem with “emotional maturity,” she’s willing to give him a pass and dump it all on Bush.

Bush’s “scandal” is a little more complex. Joan is correct that we did not elect a king but we did elect a commander-in-chief. As such, Bush has the primary responsibility of national security. How far do his powers extend in a time of war? That is a question that requires a more careful analysis than her cynical and biased notion of “a need for power.”

In the 18th century, war often required men to line up in red and blue coats to shoot at each other at close range and with clear intent. Terrorism in a high-tech, high-speed world has profoundly changed the requirements and mechanisms of national security.

It will take months, years and decades of analysis to determine the correct line between security and privacy. That line will likely be set in sand, not stone, as future generations will have to deal with newer problems and complexities. I pray our leaders now and in the future will be burdened with a minimum of “human weakness.” Character does matter.

Pompano Beach, Fla.

* * *

It is not hyperbole to say that our 230-year experiment in democracy is now threatened more than any time in our history, save one. We have proved that our democracy can withstand assaults from without; now the test is whether it can survive the erosion of freedoms from within. We have witnessed under this administration a concerted attempt to manipulate, deceive, bully and cajole the people and the press to bend them to its will rather than to hear and execute the will of the people.

This latest abuse of power is not simply an isolated case of the president overreaching in order to protect us. It is part of a long chain of actions and decisions aimed at fundamentally changing the balance of power to eliminate many of the checks on presidential authority. This administration is dedicated to creating an imperial presidency, and doing so by stealth. Do we want an imperial president who makes the laws up as he or she goes along, or do we want a government that is subject to laws, including constitutional checks and balances?

Dubuque, Iowa

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National Catholic Reporter, February 10, 2006