National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
May 19, 2006


Techno-sorry schools

The headline on the front page of your April 7 Catholic Education special issue was “Reaching for excellence.” That noble goal was clearly not being achieved in the classroom photo on that same page, which could have been taken when I was in school or teaching school 30 years ago, nor was it featured in the stories that followed.

Where is Catholic education in the technological age? How are we preparing students for excellence in education, in the workplace and in the future without reference to an integrated curriculum using the best practices and technological solutions in the classroom? The resources for educating tomorrow’s leaders are myriad and affordable. They require that teachers migrate from the tools of yesterday’s trade to the computer age; training is available and accessible. What will happen to our Catholic schoolchildren when they are not prepared to function and excel in the future? When will Catholic educators catch up with the realities of this technological age and respond appropriately, thus reaching for excellence?

(Sr.) Miriam Malone, SNJM
Los Gatos, Calif.

Sr. Miriam Malone is a team member of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate.

Statute of limitations

Concerning the article by Joe Feuerherd, “Church lobbyists battle to limit abuse suits” (NCR, March 31):

Title 18, United States Code, Section 3283, provides as follows for criminal cases on lands within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and in the Indian Country: “No statute of limitations that would otherwise preclude prosecution for an offense involving the sexual or physical abuse, or kidnapping, of a child under the age of 18 years shall preclude such prosecution during the life of the child, or for 10 years after the offense, whichever is longer.”

In recognizing the evil that is child abuse, Congress has made it possible to prosecute such cases criminally in a manner consonant with the typical disclosure of abuse, for example, sometimes years or even decades after it has occurred. Having prosecuted hundreds of such cases, I am of the opinion that no therapy, no counseling, no prayer, no personal forgiveness, ever makes these children completely whole again. The emotional trauma leaves scars that persist for the rest of their lives, and they are changed forever. Jesus calls upon us to forgive those who wrong us. Forgive we must, but we can certainly forgive and pray for those who sexually abuse children even as the jailhouse door clangs shut behind them, or as the civil lawsuit seeks to hold to account negligent church officials charged with oversight of such abusers. If the consequences of lawsuits following child abuse result in a “pillaging” of church resources as Archbishop Charles Chaput laments, should he not ask who is responsible in the first place?

Brandon, Miss.

Gay adoptions

In the Letters for the May 5 issue, Fr. Frank O’Donnell asks what we would tell a 10-year-old who has been adopted by a male couple and asks, “Where’s Mommy?”

First of all, if the child has not noticed the absence of a female parent before the age of 10, I would suggest testing for mental capacity. But more important, we would answer the question in the same way all questions of children should be answered: with the truth, enveloped in love, at the level that the child is able to understand. Children are quite capable of understanding the difference between biological birth and being chosen to be part of a family. The absence of a female parent can be the result of any number of circumstances and is not limited to children being parented by a male couple.

Springfield, Mo.

* * *

Most states, including Florida, allow gays and lesbians to be foster parents. Imagine that! Gays and lesbians are allowed to foster children but in Florida they are not allowed to adopt them. Gays and lesbians have enough love to foster a child, just not enough to become their parents. The stand of the church makes no more sense than that of my home state.

A loving permanent environment is better for a child than the uncertainty of foster care. Foster parents do a wonderful job. However, their job is meant to be temporary. My wife and I are adoptive parents. We know firsthand the desperate needs of these children. I have an adoption support and advocacy ministry in the Orlando diocese, and I volunteer my time helping to find permanent families. The most important thing is finding loving families who will welcome the stranger into their home, not following a political or social agenda.

Candler, Fla.

Right-to-life issues

Thank you, thank you, Mary Ellen Neill, for your article on the abortion debate ( NCR, April 21). Every word resonated with me. I noticed a long time ago that some of the most vocal condemnations of abortion come from men, and men who in other venues have not been noticeably sensitive to the needs of children. I am thinking of the Catholic hierarchy, many of whose members colluded with and protected known child molesters and exposed other children to potential harm. I am thinking also of conservative politicians who are “right-to-life” supporters but vote against any bill that allocates money for children’s welfare.

It is my belief that the core issue here is not fetal life but women’s bodies, specifically, who gets to control them. Not once have I ever heard or read of a right-to-lifer taking to task the men who are impregnating these women. Why aren’t they out picketing the homes of these men? If abortion is murder, then surely passive complicity is still complicity, complicity in a murder, if you accept that premise.

I believe that if the Catholic church (and other organizations) wholeheartedly promoted responsible sexual behavior, including the use of condoms, the abortion issue would eventually fade and die. This would positively impact a whole range of issues: infant and child mortality, the health of the mother, child abuse (anyone who has not worked in the field cannot begin to imagine the horrific things that happen to unwanted children), which in turn would ultimately reduce crime and prison populations, to name but a few variables.

But before that could happen the church has to be willing to look at human sexuality in all its complexity and move away from the sex-is-primarily-for-breeding mentality. So far I don’t see any signs of that happening.

Rockingham, Vt.

Clerical cover-up

Michael Newall’s exposé on the church of Philadelphia (NCR , April 28) brought tears to my eyes. The shame, terror and horror perpetrated by an organization corrupted by its fidelity to selfish interests are all too familiar. I experienced agreement with and outrage at Assistant District Attorney Will Spade’s assessment of Msgr. James Molloy as a good and decent man who was a product of the church that he had given his life to.

However, it was in the first paragraph of your editorial in that issue, “Examine the clergy culture,” that I found the simple truth about the church that will keep it mired in corruption as long as it persists. “Hierarchical clergy culture, heavily shrouded in secrecy and wrapped in layers of protection from accountability of any sort” is at once a prescription for more of the same and an answer to the editorial’s ending question, “How did it come to this?” Indeed, how could it not come to this? And, more to the point, how can it come to be any better until structural changes bring accountability and openness to all its operations?

Portland, Maine

* * *

In response to the final question in your recent editorial: The short answer is, it did not “come to this.” It has always been like this.

As a product of the school system of the Philadelphia archdiocese, I can honestly say that our priests and nuns in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were the normal slice of human beings, from the seriously mentally disturbed to the saintly and godly. As a victim of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of nuns and as a former seminarian for the Philadelphia archdiocese, I can honestly say that Christ does exist; he simply does not exist in the hierarchy in any real and discernable way.

The prime question we must ask is this: Who is the church? And then we must have the courage to live out the rest of our lives in accordance with the answer we find.

Alexandria, Va.

* * *

The clerical culture can be very scary, as is brought out by the description of Msgr. James Molloy of the Philadelphia archdiocese. He seems to have been a good man, but as a faithful functionary he had his conscience and judgment sucked out of him, much as occurs in cults such as the Jonestown group. The voluminous but bloodless descriptions of atrocities that Msgr. Molloy wrote down are too reminiscent of the careful accountings of German functionaries as they sent many poor souls to the ovens.

When Will Spade said to him: “Father, you’re such a nice guy, how could you have been part of this? I mean you had to know what you were doing was wrong,” Molloy replied: “It was my job and I was trained to be obedient to my cardinal.”

Now those are the words of a dehumanized subordinate who has been thoroughly brainwashed.

Naples, Fla.

Pedophilia addiction

I have once again read what I would call a rant upon the hierarchy in your editorial about Cardinal Francis George and his negligence where it comes to the supervision of pedophiles and the protection of children ( NCR, March 31). I mean no disrespect to NCR when I say that your position on priest pedophiles and the hierarchy is not enlightening. Not only is it not enlightening, it actually generates attitudes that are punitive as opposed to therapeutic and therefore harmful to the children that you blame Cardinal George for not protecting. Please let me explain.

I am a relapse prevention specialist and have seen the ravages of addiction and relapse. I have also treated family members or “co-dependents” of the addicted. Pedophilia is an addiction, and like any other addiction it has co-dependents.

The Catholic church has confounded itself because it has fallen into a “sin-centered” mode of operating around an issue that the whole culture has bungled because we as a culture find it more convenient to be angry and self-righteous. Both the cardinal and the NCR misrepresent the condition of pedophilia as a moral problem. A moral problem by definition is a freely chosen evil. Pedophilia is a compulsive behavior and therefore a sickness.

The focus on Catholic priests and other hierarchy leads the reading public away from the larger story, which is the epidemic of pedophilia in the United States and the world at large. The addiction to children as sex objects creates huge (billions of dollars) industries devoted to child pornography, the enslavement of Third World children and untreated predators trapping children on the Internet.

Self-righteous anger of the kind in your editorial is a poor substitute for what is needed: consistent, dedicated, long-term treatment of pedophilia as a disease.

Asheville, N.C.

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, May 19, 2006