National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
September 1, 2006


Impatient women of God

Beyond the exuberance marking the recent ordination of 12 women in a memorable ceremony in Pittsburgh (NCR, Aug. 11), the experience of the 10 or more members of CORPUS in attendance was tinged with the bittersweet taste each knew so well. Were gender not a barrier to priesthood, the marital status alone of most of the female priest ordinands would constitute an impenetrable wall of rejection, termed more discreetly “impediment.”

In addition, the spirit of full inclusion, the absence of hierarchy, and insistence on a discipleship of equals celebrated throughout the women priests’ ritual is far from reality. In truth, the women were ordained for a church more akin to Call to Action, in many ways, than to the church of Rome. But as the celebrants reminded us during the ceremony, this is the story of any struggle for change. Many of the ordination guests had spent the prior weekend in Pittsburgh at the annual assembly of Pax Christi U.S.A. titled, “God’s People Can Wait No Longer.” God’s women could wait no longer.

Ellenton, Fla.

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The article on the July 31 ordination of 12 women was biased in its tone and coverage, describing the women as being “ordained … by a group that claims they are valid ... ordinations.” These new priests were not ordained by a group, they were ordained by bishops, who themselves were ordained by active male bishops in apostolic succession and in good standing with Rome. The ordinations can be said to be illicit, but they are sacramentally valid. Their sacramental nature is of a higher order than their place in canon law. Roman Catholic women priests are not separating themselves from the Roman Catholic church. These women are serious, dedicated and most are highly educated. Bishops Ida Raming, Patricia Fresen and Gisela Forster all have doctorates. Patricia Fresen taught theology at the national seminary in South Africa, and Ida Raming is a well-known scholar in theology. To not mention this sort of background deprives readers of a way of evaluating for themselves the nature of the ordinations in the light of their faith.

Women who love the church enough to take the risks these new priests have taken should not be dismissed with a passing wave at their short online biographies, as the ending quote from Phyllis Zagano does, but should awaken theological curiosity and respect. The comments from Phyllis Zagano are not about her own area of publication, women deacons, nor even about disagreeing with this approach to women’s ordination. They are about these women not believing what Catholics believe. A majority of Catholics believe women should be ordained, that we should have a more inclusive priesthood, that the church is the people of God, that they have a right to the sacraments and believe in their Catholic tradition. That is the community of believers these women have been ordained to serve.

Portland, Ore.

The war in Lebanon

Your recent editorial (NCR, Aug. 11) completely reflected the insanity of our government as partner in this war. We continue to send bombs to drop on an innocent nation, then send humanitarian aid to help that nation and any American living there. We tell the Israeli government to use “restraint”? Does that mean drop one less bomb or destroy one less house? Then we stand back and allow all that killing. We have gone completely insane. Too many Americans stand by as innocent citizens, both Israeli and Lebanese, become victims of our crime. As long as everything in us does not scream out in protest, the horror will continue.

Sanford, Fla.

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Your editorial “Violence is a false redeemer” (NCR, Aug. 11) is a stunning exercise in self-righteousness. The resort to violence by a sovereign state is always a matter of enormous gravity. Of course noncombatants suffer when war comes. Do you think the good Jewish people of Israel need some comfy Catholic leftists to tell them this? They were attacked. What would you have done had your towns, your homes been rocketed, your sons murdered and kidnapped? You very conveniently do not bother to say. Perhaps you would hand out copies of Walter Wink’s books to the attackers.

The Jews had not only a right to defend themselves, but a duty to defend the old, the infirm, the children who were directly targeted for killing by Hezbollah. While you busied yourselves making sport of an American general because he expressed pride in his troops when they went into Lebanon to assist their fellow Americans, Israelis had to watch as little old women were blown to bits while sitting on their porches drinking tea. It does not take courage to sit in safety and call down a pox on the houses of both the good and the murderous.

It takes courage to yell out the Shema Israel as you throw yourself on a grenade to save the lives of your fellow soldiers. This is what one Israeli reservist did in Lebanon. And by the way, he had two innocent children at home.

San Diego

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NCR’s coverage of the war against Lebanon was of mixed quality. Bishop Thomas Wenski repeats the Bush lie that Hezbollah and Hamas started the war. He said that terrorism is a reaction to globalization. It is a result of capitalist imperialism. Robert Royal’s article is an opinion soaked in Palestinian and Lebanese blood. It is a vindictive piece, no substitute for balance. Stephen Zunes’ article and the editorial were very good, although Tony Blair is no person to trust when he backs Bush to the hilt on Iraq and completes Bush’s every sentence. No mention was made of the prison camp fashioned from the Gaza Strip where Palestinians are held captive without access to trade or supplies. No mention of the poverty and hopelessness of Palestinians who are pushed to the wall in desperation. Their lives are their only weapons while their captors are armed to the teeth with the latest U.S. weapons and possess atomic arsenals. These are the root causes of unrest in Palestine.

Greer, S.C.

SOA protests are working

Argentina and Uruguay have joined Venezuela in ending the practice of sending troops to train at the U.S.-run School of the Americas where many members of the military in the repressive dictatorships of the 1970s received training. Bolivia will reduce the number of troops it sends there. Thanks to Fr. Ray Bourgeois and all of the protesters who faithfully gather at the facility to stand for peace and justice (NCR , Aug. 11).


Papal infallibility

For over 100 years the church has suffered from the doctrine of papal infallibility. The laity groans under the burden of it, or are leaving the church, heartbroken. World population is six times what it was 200 years ago. The earth is threatened with the consequences of overpopulation -- environmental degradation, water shortages, epidemics like AIDs, famine, social breakdown and wars. Yet the pope continues to insist that birth control is a mortal sin because his predecessors said so and because of the doctrine of infallibility.

What’s needed is for the laity to take the initiative and begin to say we understand the Vatican is made up of humans who make mistakes and fear the consequences of admitting to them. But not admitting to mistakes is hurting the church immeasurably more. The laity understood the consequences of overpopulation long ago and turned from raising large families in cities on limited salaries. Birth control is good stewardship and a respect for the limits of life on earth.

Farmington, N.M.

Mel Gibson’s outburst

Regarding news of fallen Catholic Mel Gibson, I’m stunned by its coincidence with a National Public Radio interview with Lakota healer Basil Braveheart, whose battle with alcoholism spurred his inspirational, spiritually nurturing perspective on alcohol abuse. Braveheart’s galvanizing revelation of respect for his own drinking problem as his “greatest teacher ever” arrived hot on the heels of the news of Gibson’s drunken, anti-Semitic outrage. Look at what alcohol has taught us about the darkness lurking in Gibson since childhood, thanks to Gibson’s openly Holocaust-denying father. In vino veritas.

Gibson’s entrance into rehab begs not only conquest of alcoholism, but learning from the same teacher Braveheart did. Only then would Gibson have a prayer for squarely confronting his chicken-hearted denial of the evil in the bark of his family tree and to exorcise the horror that made him his father’s son. The Anti-Defamation League’s hasty acceptance of Gibson’s apology needs to be tempered with this question: Had Gibson’s lackeys succeeded in their failed cover-up effort, would he have apologized? Obviously not. Ever since controversy over his gratuitously violent “The Passion of the Christ” provided him with an opportunity, Gibson has refused to denounce his father’s Fred Phelps-like outlook. The runaway social plague of hate deserves absolute zero tolerance. No one should take Gibson’s apology seriously unless he openly rejects his father’s beliefs beyond the shadow of a doubt. Until then, anyone of any denomination has a right to be mad to the max at Gibson.

Plattsburgh, N.Y.

More Carthusian monks

Sr. Wendy Beckett’s review of the book, An Infinity of Little Hours (NCR, July 28), contained a factual error. She wrote that Parkminster in England, was the only English-speaking Carthusian house. The American Carthusian house in Vermont, founded by Verner Moore, was approved in 1951. Moore was a former Benedictine monk and psychiatrist and had taught at Catholic University. In 1971, a monastery, known as the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, was completed at a new site near Arlington, Vt. Since the Carthusians shun publicity, it is easy for them to be overlooked. Nevertheless they are there and I presume the language spoken on the few occasions the monks speak is English.

Fukushima City, Japan

Royal’s comments on war

Christians who strive to follow the peacemaking principles of Jesus are often labeled foolishly naive as in Robert Royal’s column (NCR, Aug. 11). Was Jesus foolishly naive? George W. Bush, our very religious Christian president, pulled the wool over America’s eyes by taking us unnecessarily to war in Iraq in the foolishly naive, false belief that war will bring peace. No nation in history has ever tried to implement Jesus’ peacemaking principles. Failure to do so today puts the world in danger of total self-destruction. Our faith and trust reside in devilish nuclear weapons. In whom, or in what, do you trust? Creator Jesus, the love glue that holds the planet together, gives us the hope of peace that surpasses all understanding.

Louisville, Ky.

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While Robert Royal is president of the Faith and Reason Institute, his commentary on defeating evildoers expresses neither faith nor reason. It reads more as a commendation for bellicose policies on the part of all nation states and factions therein. He makes a good argument for continuation of massive arms exports and the conduct of the School of the Americas, the name of which has been changed but its emphasis on training techniques for assassination and torture has not. I am one of those peacemakers Royal so disparages. I do believe that reconciliation and justice are better choices than war, if only we would try them.

Pullman, Wash.

Flag in the sanctuaries

President Bush thwarted an attempt by atheists and liberal judges to remove the cross from Mount Soledad in San Diego. This was accomplished by Bush’s signing federal legislation making the site a war memorial. I hope the president’s action prompts both Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and Bishop Tod Brown of Orange, Calif., to return the American flag to the sanctuaries of our Catholic churches where it was proudly displayed since World War II. It seems that the cardinal and the bishop have forgotten that Christianity and patriotism go hand in hand. Their removal of our flag does a disservice to the brave Catholic chaplain Frs. Joseph T. O’Callahan, Vincent Capoddano, Charles J. Watters and Angelo J. Liteky who were awarded our nation’s highest award -- the Congressional Medal of Honor -- for their service to our country during World War II and the Vietnam War. Both Frs. Capoddano and Watters paid the ultimate price for their service to our country. Their medals were awarded posthumously.

Garden Grove, Calif.

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National Catholic Reporter, September 1, 2006