National Catholic Reporter
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April 7, 2006

Letters ‘Prophetic’ issue

Two more reasons to be grateful for NCR, both stemming from the March 17 edition:

1) The paper’s well-reasoned, consistent and prophetic opposition to the war in Iraq;

2) Colman McCarthy’s compelling (and, again, prophetic) piece about flesh foods. Violence is violence, and exploitation is exploitation; neither is appropriately Christian.

Portland, Ore.

Catholic Charities adoptions

The board’s vote to exit its adoption program is an extremely sad decision for Catholic Charities and each of its board members (NCR, March 17 and 24). While this decision has been difficult, our intent and commitment is to carry forward the broad mission of Catholic Charities, which serves more than 200,000 children, teens, families and elders throughout the diocese.

To be clear, the board’s action is not a protest against the church and its teachings, nor is it a protest against the state and its nondiscrimination laws and regulations. Throughout the process of discussion, the board maintained an unwavering commitment to the agency’s nondiscrimination pledge as well as an unwavering commitment to the welfare and safety of the children entrusted to the agency.

During the exit process, the agency is committed to ensure an orderly, planned transition so that the children we have been entrusted with will be cared for, supported, and will find permanent homes. The board is also committed to ensure the future health of Catholic Charities and the success of all of its programs to serve those in need. Our goal, as always, is to help serve the common good of our society.


Jeffrey J. Kaneb is the chair of the board of trustees for Catholic Charities in the Boston archdiocese.

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When God created humankind in God’s “own image and likeness,” God saw that it was good. God could not and did not create persons the church calls “objectively disordered” or “intrinsically evil.”

To deny loving same-sex couples the joy of adoption is not showing compassion or civility, and it is certainly demeaning to their humanity. Moreover, same-sex couples very often adopt children who are difficult to place. If it were true that homosexuality could be “caught” or “taught,” then all heterosexual parents would have only heterosexual children.

It is our understanding that Catholic Charities’ mission is to reflect Jesus to the world in matters of charity and justice. How can the bishops of Massachusetts dictate acts of discrimination in the name of Catholic Charities?

Chetek, Wis.

Catholics and torture

Perhaps it is time to take down the crucifixes from our altars in recognition that the tortured figure of Jesus has little or no meaning for nearly three of four Catholics in the United States (NCR, March 24). If we enlarged one of the torture photos from Abu Ghraib and hung it in place of the crucifixes, would American Catholics then get it? Better to ask how in our hearts we can somehow excuse the torture of one like us, one made in the image of Christ.

New Haven, Ky.

Protecting the unborn

Robert Royal’s point that embryos are “the littlest guys of all” (NCR, March 10) has implications for our thoughts about medical ethics and legislation. Under the law and in many moral and ethical discussions, the question of fetal viability is taken to be a measure of precisely how much protection the unborn is to receive or how much weight its “interests” are to be given. But isn’t that the opposite of the way it should be? Protection should be given to those who need it the most. This is not to say that the Roe v. Wade calculus should be reversed and the state’s interest in keeping a child in its mother’s womb should be strongest earlier in the pregnancy and weakest later. Or maybe it is saying just that. Though it is doubtful this theory would fly in the area of constitutional law, shouldn’t it at least be considered in moral and ethical calculi, where notions of the competing interests and rights of mother and unborn often constitute the framework in which decisions are made?

Staten Island, N.Y.

Foreign-born priests

I am a priest from Andhra Jesuit Province in India currently serving at St. Patrick Church in Oakland, Calif. I must say that “Study looks at foreign-born priests serving in U.S.” by Patricia Lefevere (NCR, Religious Life, Feb. 24) is well-thought-out and comes at a very opportune time, especially in the life of the church in the United States.

The missionaries down the centuries starting even from the time of the apostles -- priests and laity volunteering to work outside the country -- made huge sacrifices to “go into all the ends of the earth and preach good news to all creation” (Mark 16:16). The foreign priests serving in a country are special people who answer this vocation within a vocation.

In my country, many missionaries have worked from the early days of Christianity. Unfortunately, it was linked up at times with the subjugation and colonization of the locals. In spite of this, the missionaries showed an exceptional interest in developing local vocations. Practically every part of India, from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari (top of the country to its bottom), is teeming with good numbers of local priests and religious. In India practically every diocese is being governed by a local prelate. We in India can never be grateful enough for the generous efforts of the foreign missionaries in taking the Indian church to her present heights. We have local theologians, spiritual writers, illustrious men and women who are participating in education, health work, social work, political life, ecumenism, the work of culture and arts, and so on.

I agree with Dr. Seung Ai Yang’s statement in the article regarding the treatment of the foreign priest. The idea should not mainly be filling up the gaps but a more educated one of global or universal church. It is certainly not a matter of shame or insult if the children are asked to look after their parents or even grandparents when the need arises. Who knows? After a time the church in the other countries from where the missionaries are coming may also be going through the same “lean” phase as the church in the United States is going through now. But until then I hope there is no harm in welcoming these foreigners with open arms.

Oakland, Calif.

Levada on homosexuality

Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is quoted in an article by Cindy Wooden as saying that the priest who publicly acknowledges that he is a homosexual “places an obstacle to his ability to represent Christ the bridegroom to his bride, the people of God” (NCR, March 10).

In other words, what Levada is saying is, “Don’t tell”! How stupid does Levada think we all are? What got us into the mess of dysfunctional priests is that sex was off-limits for discussion. This led to a sick priesthood for many, and they played out their problems in ways that were unhealthy, not only for them but for the whole church. Honesty sets everyone free. Let’s talk about our sexuality. Let’s address it head-on and move forward in healthy relationships that can be built on celibacy. Once we start hiding who we are, it will once again destroy us. The biggest obstacle to a healthy priesthood is the Vatican itself.

Palm Springs, Calif.

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Regarding “Levada: Difficult for openly gay priests to represent Christ”:

Given how little we understand about our sexuality and unique relational needs today, it may be a mistake on par with the church’s prosecution of Galileo to tie eligibility for the priesthood to a literal interpretation of a metaphor created 2,000 years ago in an even less knowledgeable era.

Wausau, Wis.

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Levada’s statement makes me wonder how he thinks we men, whether clergy or lay, who proclaim ourselves to be healthy heterosexuals can ever image the church that is the bride of Christ. I hope we males were validly baptized, even though the church we were made a part of and represent is clearly said to be a feminine reality.

Tracy, Calif.

Associate movement

Your Feb. 24 Religious Life special issue dealt predominantly with priestly ministry and foreign-born priests. It also expanded on the benefits of religious life and how congregations have now fallen to a “quality, not quantity” mentality, and the need for religious orders to merge into blended communities. And yet there was little mention of associate programs and perhaps what one might call the evolution of additional forms of religious life. Have religious orders and their charisms become so stagnant, withered almost to extinction, that they are forced to mergers? Or is there not an evolution taking place enriched by the Spirit, with new kinds of life emerging in associate programs?

I am not suggesting that the associate movement is a total replacement for religious life but a re-expression that modern women and some men are looking for. Religious life must continue to adopt a model of mutual companionship between the consecrated and the lay person. It must look at new and creative forms of membership and not rely on the old. Together, the religious and the associate can develop a powerful “new religious life” that will continue to be a prophetic voice and make a difference in this world. It would be refreshing to see some articles written on religious congregations with new and viable associate programs. I am sure there are places for our young American adults if only we have the vision to develop new kinds of religious vocations.

Portland, Ore.

Iraq war

Regarding your editorial about the war in Iraq (NCR, March 17): I certainly am not a supporter of war. However, even in our own Catholic history over the years, Catholics have been known to kill a few people to promote or defend their beliefs. Look at the “just war” theory. In broad terms, Christians must not love violence. They must promote peace whenever possible and be slow to resort to the use of arms. But they must not be afraid to do so when it is called for. Evil must not be allowed to remain unchecked.

The editorial says, “As bloody as Saddam was, he was not singular, or particularly dangerous to the outside, as dictators go.” I say, tell that to the thousands whom Saddam murdered and their families and see what kind of response you get. I bet it will not be a friendly one.

The bottom line on Iraq is that we are there, and regardless of how we got there, the job needs to be finished and finished once and for all this time. I don’t want to have to send my son back because people like this editorial writer are stomping their feet safe and sound over here, worried about the monetary cost and destroying the morale of our troops over there. I won’t be sending a copy of this editorial to my son for moral support and Christian comfort.

McKinney, Texas

Married priests

The March 17 issue of NCR carried both a marvelous editorial and an energizing article by John L. Allen Jr. about the New Zealand Cardinal Tom Williams.

When good men like Williams and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit won’t or don’t initiate an “out-of-the-box” solution to the disappearing Eucharist by breaking with “tradition,” what hope is there that the Eucharist will be available for the people of God in a few years? Does not even one episcopal leader of our church have the testosterone to begin ordaining good married men (viri probati) to the priesthood so that the last priests out of the cathedrals in Wellington and Detroit won’t have to turn out the lights?

Columbus, Miss.

Another witness in the ‘cloud’

There is one more black witness to add to “The black community’s cloud of witnesses,” by Diana Hayes (NCR, Feb. 3): Mother Theresa Maxis. She left the Oblate Sisters of Providence to go to Monroe, Mich., at the request of Redemptorist Fr. Louis Gillet to found the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These sisters were founded to teach the children of the French and Indians who lived along the Raisin River.

This foundation again spread into two more branches of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Philadelphia and Scranton, Pa. From the Michigan foundation, God’s word of life has been spread back to Africa and South America as well as throughout United States.

No one can count the number of witnesses to God’s words of life that have been spread across the globe by these women but God himself.

Monroe, Mich.

Chicago labor dispute

Your article “Union battles to organize Chicago hospital chain” (NCR, March 17) contains many inaccuracies and false allegations about Resurrection Health Care.

Resurrection Health Care fully conforms to Catholic principles of social justice in every aspect. We offer fair wages, a generous benefit package, distinct education and advancement opportunities, meaningful work environment, and we seek employee input in many ways. We respect our employees’ right to choose a union if they so desire -- a position wholly consistent with Catholic teaching and federal law.

Employees should be the ones to choose whether or not they wish to be represented by a third party such as a labor union. For any employer to engage in dialogue with a group that misleads and purports to represent a group of employees but has not been elected or authorized as such is disrespectful of the wishes of the employees.

This issue is much bigger than one labor union attacking a hospital system when it has been unsuccessful at organizing by traditional means. Other Catholic health ministries around the country are also being subjected to such attacks, and well-meaning Catholic organizations and individuals are being swept up in the unions’ fights as unwitting surrogates.

You would be enhancing your mission and doing a great service to Catholic health care, to the church and society, if you were to discern and publish the truth about this issue.


Sr. Clara Frances Kusek is the executive vice president of mission for Resurrection Health Care.

NCR responds:
Labor disputes are, by definition, contentious issues that often involve a “he said/she said” dynamic. The significance of the dispute at the Resurrection Health Care System is not only that it involves Catholic institutions, but that it has also engaged the wider Catholic community, including rallies and petitions attended and signed by priests, nuns and parishioners. Those actions urged the system to honor workers’ right to organize, to hire back fired union supporters and to negotiate with the union organizing committee. While Sr. Kusek complains of inaccuracies, she cites nothing specific. The story itself gives considerable space to representatives of the hospital system to dispute each claim made by union organizers and their supporters. The truth we can get at in these circumstances is represented in the competing claims of the adversaries. We suspect, as is often the case in this kind of dispute, the truth ultimately ends up falling somewhere in the middle.

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, April 7, 2006