National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
April 28, 2006

Letters Cardinal George

Regarding your editorial “A request to Cardinal George” (NCR, March 31):

The recent revelations concerning Cardinal Francis George, a man who had given the appearance of truly wanting to make a difference, have been harder for me to swallow than the national abuse reports. Why? Because after all those awful revelations I was desperate for a sign of hope in our church and I chose to believe in him. I trusted him; I thought he was a man of integrity, a sign of grace. But Cardinal George has knowingly disregarded the very charter he helped formulate. A priest under his charge, Fr. Daniel McCormack, was still in active service despite a record of accusations of sexual misconduct going back 14 years. And although he was again accused of sexual abuse in August 2005, Cardinal George overruled his own review board in allowing McCormack to remain in active and, to all intents and purposes, unsupervised ministry with young boys. Did he warn the parents in the parish? No. But now Cardinal George wants to “take responsibility”? I don’t know what that means. Apparently, for George, being responsible doesn’t mean doing the right thing; it means only saying or writing the right things and apologizing when you are caught not living up to it.

Metairie, La.

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I strongly disagree with the suggestion in your editorial that we should “take one more chance at trust.” If Cardinal George was deserving of such trust, he would have, by accepting responsibility, voluntarily tendered his resignation. Instead, he emulates Cardinal Law before him in defying the sensibilities of the faithful and in bringing disgrace upon the church.

George has already betrayed the second chance at trust that was accorded to all ecclesiastical leaders in response to the abuse crisis. He failed to provide appropriate leadership in one of our most prominent and most publicly scrutinized dioceses.

Your suggested “deep search into the culture of the hierarchy” will not be led by the likes of George and will never be accomplished so long as dereliction of duty is not only tolerated but rewarded. The “brother bishops” must witness the example of swift and severe sanctions upon those who fail to accept and implement the standards already developed.

Salina, Kan.

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The piece on Cardinal George was really one-sided. You called him “cavalier.” Even more troubling, you said the details of the case “damned” Cardinal George, arrogating to yourself the business of dispensing eternal judgment of human beings. You want to find fault with Cardinal George? First take the log out of your own eye.

Villa Park, Ill.

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One of the crushing problems for many archbishops is that they are responsible for hundreds of priests, in some archdioceses more than a thousand. A typical “span of control” in the military and business worlds is one supervisor for each 10 subordinates.

A typical Chicago parish 50 years ago had a pastor and two or three assistants. A few had as many as five or six. The typical pastor in 2006 has no assistant and often attends to the needs of more than one parish. In many dioceses large and small, elderly, overworked, burned-out, frustrated and often ill pastors do a heroic job of keeping their parishes alive.

For at least the last 150 years, every new archbishop of Chicago came from elsewhere. Each, including Francis George, who was archbishop of Portland, Ore., when appointed but born and raised in Chicago, knew very few Chicago priests and bishops. Each new shepherd was expected to meet hundreds of priests and try to learn their foibles, their histories and their problems, and at the same time attend seemingly endless ceremonial functions.

Under the best of conditions, Cardinal Francis George had an impossible task. No one tried harder than he did to keep all the balls in the air. For that, he deserves much credit.

In these uncertain times, only a supremely self-confident masochist would dare to accept episcopal responsibility and the never-ending aggravations that go along with such an appointment. They all quickly learn the firestorm of reality.

Birmingham, Mich.

Jesuit teachers

In Colman McCarthy’s column “Students in school 12 hours a day: Washington Jesuit Academy adopts a winning approach to education” (NCR, March 31), he says that the school should also have teaching Jesuits.

Jesuit-trained Roman Catholics in Japan went without clergy for 400 years quite successfully. NCR has been successful from the get-go without clergy. Put clergy in the faculty of the Washington Jesuit Academy and the Vatican may try to dictate what is to be taught there.

St. Louis

Democracy in the parish

Leonard Swidler’s notion of 10 steps to a constitutional parish (NCR, March 17) can best be described as Catholic chaos! Democracy is a wonderful concept when implemented in a proper, feasible situation. But the thought of reinventing the Catholic church from the ground up by the democratic process of voting for a constitution by members of each separate parish is incredibly unrealistic. It would inevitably lead to much greater contention and destruction of the church’s unity and authority. Each local bishop would not even be a participant in each parish’s creation of a constitution, since apparently his first involvement would be as an “observer” in the parish’s installation liturgy.

“The spirit of Vatican II,” terminology that is used to justify and give credibility to dissenting inventions that are actually not in Vatican II, is in great evidence here.

Swidler suggests that the parishes should be “careful not to be too specific theologically.” Well, this allows for a lot of wiggle room, since many parishes most certainly will attempt to chip away at, redefine and even reject some constant and unchangeable teachings on faith and morals. This would surely give rise to disagreeing factions within the parish.

We must remember that Jesus is our divine savior and teacher of truths we must believe. For example, when he taught his doctrine on the Eucharist -- about eating his real body and drinking his real blood -- many walked away in disbelief. Did Jesus call them back and say, “Let’s take a vote?” No, he let them walk away.

Albuquerque, N.M.

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Dr. Leonard Swidler’s concept of the constitutional parish strikes a chord with Community of St Malachi members. In 1975 Bishop James Aloysius Hickey granted formal recognition of our charter. Dr. Swidler’s blueprint, laid out in 10 steps, neatly parallels the foundation of our community, although it only hints at the years, sweat and tears it took to accomplish the birthing and growing of what was a novel vision of self-governance by a Catholic parish.

Inspired by a far-seeing founding pastor, a small group became several hundred, coalescing along the way into an action-oriented, self-directed group, willing to take on nearly any challenge. The community became known for creating spirited liturgies. By vote of its members, the community participated actively in the political movements of the times.

Now we seem to be in a downturn. Our ability to finance what we want to accomplish is now severely limited -- Dr. Swidler’s Step 7, nonprofit ownership, bears special scrutiny. Most evident is a pervasive change in attitude. “We don’t like politics. We don’t want to be concerned about money. The responsibility for decisions should be with the pastor.” A number, including younger members, state their feelings this way.

A parish governance structure of shared responsibility is possible within the outline drawn by Dr. Swidler. It once flourished with great vitality on the near west side of Cleveland in the afterglow of Vatican II. It remains to be seen whether the love and will of its members can succeed in infusing new life into St. Malachi’s constitutional veins.

Rocky River, Ohio

A touching obituary

Thank you for printing Doris Cipolla’s “Her obituary outed our partnership” (NCR, March 17). I wept as I read it because it told the truth -- that two “intrinsically disordered” (or so the Catholic catechism says) women lived intrinsically ordered grace-filled lives of fidelity to God (a lesbian Benedictine oblate, wonderful!) and each other (35 years together!) and gave service to their community in the educational and medical fields. I am glad their families accepted them so totally. They are genuine Christians. Continue to print such inspiring opinion pieces that tell the truth about most lesbian and gay couple’s lives -- whole-souled lives of fidelity and service; accepted by family and friends; worshiping God.

Bronx, N.Y.

Gay adoptions

I am responding to the Richard P. McBrien column “Gay adoption raises larger questions” (NCR, April 7). I thought the column was a fair appraisal of the present situation surrounding the action of Boston Catholic Charities, which stopped doing adoptions altogether after it was told not to allow gay people as adoptive parents.

The Vatican has made a claim that adoptions by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people do violence to children. Like Fr. McBrien, I would like to see proof of that. We must find out on what grounds the Vatican made this statement. The statement, unchallenged, has the potential to harm not only children but also adults who are willing to open their homes and hearts to the care of innocents.

I also think that many Catholic Charities across the country do put the interests of children first and do not discriminate on which good home the child is placed in. My experience with Catholic Charities has been nothing but positive; it is a group of dedicated people who live out the Gospel message to love one another.

I do not want to discount the dilemma the Boston archdiocese now finds itself in. However, I do caution my fellow Catholics not to put all Catholic Charities in the same category. One cannot turn a blind eye to good that is being done by this group of dedicated people in our various communities around the nation and in Boston.

Fr. McBrien points in a thoughtful way to the complexity of the problem, and I believe asks an appropriate question of the Vatican, and it needs to be answered.


Joe Murray is the U.S. convener of the Rainbow Sash Movement.

African women and AIDS

In his interview with Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan (NCR, March 10), I would have expected John Allen to raise the question of how to save the women of the archbishop’s flock from the ravages of AIDS. I would have hoped for an answer that would indicate a pastoral sense of mercy for these poor women, who should feel free to practice safe sex. I would like to think that the archbishop could assure them that they would not be sent to hell or be deprived of the sacraments if they were to insist that their husbands or partners use condoms to avoid infection. Children need their mothers.

Naples, Fla.

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 28, 2006