While the topic shouldn't overshadow the magnitude of the memorial services, I agree with the much of the criticism over the exclusion of clergy from the official 9/11 ceremony in New York City. (An article in the New York Times, "Omitting Clergy at 9/11 Ceremony Prompts Protest," by Laurie Goodstein, explained the situation.) To me, the omission seems both unnecessary (would that many people object to their presence at a memorial service?) and baffling (the official explanations still seem somewhat confused). More importantly, excluding clergy from the official public memory of the day is almost willfully ahistorical.
The clergy were a significant part of the events surrounding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, particularly in New York. To begin with, they were among the first groups to respond to the disaster at Ground Zero, with priests, ministers and rabbis on the ground from the earliest days. (By the time I arrived on Sept. 13, there were already several who told me that they had been ministering there since the 11th.) Members of the clergy presided over thousands of funerals and memorial services, a ministry especially evident in the case of the many firefighters and police officers whose funerals were celebrated in scores of Catholic churches throughout the archdioces of New York. Clergy from a variety of traditions provided guidance, comfort and solace for those seeking answers in the face of the death of loved ones, or simply in the face of tragedy. Religious organizations spearheaded charitable efforts both in New York and elswewhere. But most of all, the witness of the clergy on that day was embodied by Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M., who sacrificed his life in service to others. Fr. Judge, the Franciscan priest and New York City fire chaplain who was killed after racing into one of the burning towers to minister to firefighters, is listed as the first official casualty of the attacks on the World Trade Center: "Victim 0001." Surely his public sacrifice warrants remembering the place of clergy--publicly.
James Martin, SJ