Fitting Tribute

A brilliant star, Richard A. McCormick, S.J., illuminated the galaxy of moral theology in the 20th-century United States as no other (Signs of the Times, 2/26). His notes on moral theology over the years were eagerly devoured by opinion leaders in church and state. He shone as a fair-minded scholar who described all sides of a moral question with obvious objectivity. However, he was not a mere chronicler; rather, he proffered his own enriched critique (his father had been president of the American Medical Association).

His years of teaching at universities, his willingness publicly to tackle the vexatious moral problems of the post-Vatican II era are testimony to his fidelity to the church, the hierarchy and to his priestly courage.


It was distressing to learn that no bishop was present at his funeral. No fault inferred; perhaps poor publicity about his death. Many a bishop, including some cardinals, relied upon his judgments and advice. They copied his words for their letters and encyclicals with proper attribution as to source. Perhaps the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, at its next plenary session, will take public notice of this Jesuit’s seminal role in theology and pay him fitting tribute.

(Most Rev.) Mark J. Hurley

Bishop-Emeritus of Santa Rosa

San Francisco, Calif.

Buried Argument

The Rev. Richard P. McBrien’s main argument about Ex Corde Ecclesiae (2/12) is buried in his first paragraph. Why should he seek a mandate to teach theology when he already has one from The New York Times?

Kenneth L. Woodward

Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Your editorial Priests With AIDS (2/26) reminded me of the many texts in the Gospels and Acts about the rehabilitation of Peter after the terrible scandal of his betrayal-denial. Had this not been done by Christ himself (Jn. 21:1-15), the community would never have accepted Peter’s authority and leadership in the early church.

We need more honesty in the church. We need to recognize that there are gay priests, that they are as bound to celibacy as heterosexual priests, that they have special spiritual needs different from others and whose needs need to be addressed forthrightly. We are a sinful church, which needs forgiveness and reconciliationeven for priests with AIDS.

Peter J. Riga

Houston, Tex.

Bad Psychology

Thank you for your editorial Priests With AIDS (2/26). The issue indeed is the silence concerning the reality of gay priests. The church’s continued insistence that a deep-seated homosexual inclination is intrinsically disordered is psychologically destructive. Bad psychology continues to be bad theology. Let us continue to work for greater enlightenment as we come to recognize the lives of gays and lesbians within our church community.

Robert F. Miailovich

Arlington, Va.

Confrontation for Health

I thank you for your honest yet compassionate editorial Priests With AIDS (2/26). The editorial brought back sad memories of three priests who died with AIDS and had to endure the added burden of suffering their disease secretly.

I served as diocesan vocation director for nearly 10 years. I concur with your assessment that gay priests [seminarians] is not the issue. Seminaries as a whole do not (or perhaps are not permitted to) train men with the skills needed to live a healthy celibate life. At one national convention of vocation directors, a well respected priest psychologist was about to address us on this very issue. He publicly asked that the session not be taped and that the two bishops in the room leave (they did not). He told us he feared Vatican reprisals.

Your editorial says it so well, ...defensive postures, even if they spring from love of the church, may only increase the difficulty of confronting this problem. Yet confront it we must.

(Rev.) Kenneth Miller

Louisville, Ohio

Puzzling on Pelagianism

Your recent feature/homily of Robert K. Hudnut (2/26) is puzzling to me. As an expression of pietist Protestant faith it is familiar and unremarkable.

But what’s it doing in America? Between Presbyterians and Catholics the question of Pelagianism and the graciousness of grace is not in dispute. What is perhaps the point of departure between us is the quality of the responsibility incumbent upon the human person who has been grasped by faith.

These distinctions in emphasis have been around for about 500 years now. Mainline Roman Catholicism has tended to follow one stream and Hudnut’s tradition another. Both have their relative merits, but they do tend to lead to two rather distinct ways of posing questions and conceiving religiosity.

That Hudnut’s essay, for example, is framed in radically individualist terms with not a whisper of faith’s ramifications for global solidarity is both jarring to this Catholic’s sensibilities and unhelpful in addressing a historical situation construed in Catholic terms.

Throwing around a word like Pelagianism, with all its heretical overtones, seems a pretty audacious undertaking when done with a broad brush. In any case, I’d prefer it if it weren’t done with the complicity of The National Catholic Weekly.

(Rev.) J. Michael Byron

Cambridge, Mass.

Recovering Resonance

As a recovering Pelagian myself, I resonated (with a guilty blush) to Robert K. Hudnut’s article (2/26). Working to merit God’s love and approval is so dumb, trying to achieve what you already have.

William J. O’Malley, S.J.

Bronx, N.Y.

Cool Vocal Dorks

Further on Terry Golway’s The Educated Dork (2/12): While there is no mistaking the anti-intellectual bias of the arbiters of cool, this is more longstanding than the MTV-era. I have a few years on Mr. Golway and can still recall my high school English teacher coming to the defense of a classmate who had dared to make an intelligent statement in class and was then subjected to the murmured snickering of the cool ones. To withstand this peer pressure, teenagers need the vocal support of family, teachers and true friends.

Julia Cornely

Brooklyn, N.Y.

More Listening

Thanks for the well-deserved commentary on the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley (1/29). The church needs to listen to Greeley more in the manner referred to by Cardinal George in his letter in the same issue.

Dick Weeks

San Bernardino, Calif.

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