Why confine our concern to killing priests (4/29)? It seems that we could say the same about every person in church ministry. The outdated paradigm threatens the soul of every director of religious education, pastoral assistant and active minister who tries to balance the increasing demands, expectations and judgments of too many disengaged laity and too many unimaginative, threatened leaders, with their legitimate call to carry on the mission of Jesus.

Mary Therese Lemanek


Allen Park, Mich.

Ecumenical Solution

I believe that ecumenism can help alleviate the burdens of our priests (4/29). Through inter-faith efforts in a given area, a community’s needs for ministering can be jointly addressed by various faith communities.

Resource sharing is essential to addressing the needs that cross denominational and religious boundaries. An integrated effort by people of good-willGod’s people of faith, hope and lovecan help alleviate the burden of those who are trying to be all things to all people.

There are highly qualified people from all faiths who can help minister to the poor, needy, vulnerable, afflicted, grieving, etc. Currently, there are many redundant effortsand many gaps. A coming together of people who are ready, willing and able, in a focused effort to ease the burdens of both ministers and those who need ministering to, would benefit all.

Maybe the Holy Spirit has inspired Pope John Paul II in his current direction relative to the requirements for priests so that we, as Catholics, would recognize the gifts and talents of all of God’s childrenand find a way to work together to help bring about God’s kingdom here on earth.

S. J. McMahon

Newburgh, N.Y.

Totalitarian Parking

In Are We Killing Our Priests? Francis Dorff, O.Praem., makes some very insightful observations. My further discussion of two points is not to quibble, but rather to draw further inferences.

1. Almost everyone today is afflicted by workaholism. This most important point ought to have been first. The spirit of the age sees life as a series of problems, which (of course) we humans will eventually fix, if only we put in more effort and receive adequate funding. Where more is always better and always required, we don’t know the meaning of the words enough and satisfaction.

2. One concept of the priesthood is the socially embedded paradigm (male, celibate, etc.). However, there is another way to look at the situation. In the job description of a parish priest in canon law (especially canons 528 and 529) are found many duties that do not require ordination. Delegating to others in the parish community might ease some burdens. For example, if a pastor spends half an hour in a staff meeting arguing about the number of spaces in the parking lot, he is not overworked, just foolish. Now delegation would entail relinquishing total control. But the quest for total control is precisely what makes the job so totalitarian. Relinquishing total control would apply especially to presiding at the sacraments, where many priests feel compelled to explain every detail and put their personal stamp on everything rather than simply and heartily following the liturgical text and leaving something to the Holy Spirit and the faithful.

Charles Terbille

Toledo, Ohio

Mills Grind Slowly

A big hurrah for the article Are We Killing Our Priests? by Francis Dorff, O.Praem. (4/29). The heading, Communally Assisted Suicide, rang true to me, a senior laywoman. Aware of the frazzled lives of priests, I suggested that a Catholic nursing home where I volunteer did not need Mass every day. People who underestimate the magnitude of the problem were shocked at the thought of interruption in the usual.

After reading the article I thought of the troubling times in our country’s history when unfair working conditions spawned protests. Workers in Philadelphia textile mills suffered stretchouts. Mill owners had forced their workers to put out more work in less time. Labor practices have changed radically since the early thirties.

If sociological conditions can change from the ground up, why not a communal change in re-examining the life of the priest who should be at the heart of the community? Is the church afraid to challenge the passive faithful who are comfortable with anachronisms?

Cecelia Johnson

Philadelphia, Pa.

A Modest Proposal

A Reflection on your Gun Control editorial (4/29): Instead of opposing the National Rifle Association, as so many of us do, why not give the N.R.A. a key role, the major responsibility for keeping guns out of the wrong hands? Limit gun sales and ownership to members of gun clubs accredited by the N.R.A. Screening for membership would require personal interviews and intensive background checks. Some kind of coordination with federal, state and local authorities could be devised. Hunters, ranchers and sportsmen would thus responsibly and legally own guns. Criminals would not.

(Rev.) George P. Carlin

New York, N.Y.

Leadership Denied

The article by Francis Dorff, O.Praem., (4/29) on why we are killing our priests is excellent, especially his observation that the key reason is in identifying the male, celibate, clerical caste system with the essence of priesthood.

I would like to take his thoughts a step or two further. We are using tunnel vision in seeing the shortage of priests as primarily an intramural problem. Our formative mandate remains the same: go into all the world and teach. Evangelization is crippled by seeing priesthood as a ministry primarily to those who have already accepted the good news.

Killing our priests might be overstated as a tragedy. I think most priests at one time or another in their growth acknowledge to themselves that they are handing over their lives. After all, the role model was executed after a short ministry.

The greater tragedy is that the proclamation of the glory and wonder of the good news to those most in need of itbeyond the walls of the churchis denied leadership. The reduction in the number of Masses said is a lesser loss. We confuse the church with the Gospel.

That there are other priestly vocations outside the male celibate, clerical caste is a gift from God’s magnanimity. The rejection of it in favor of retaining the caste is, I think, a prime example of confusing the misguidance of the human spirit with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

James Crafton

Dayton, Ohio

Sacramental Machine

Thanks for the article Are We Killing Our Priests? by Francis Dorff, O.Praem. (4/29). The laity-to-priest ratio here where I work, in the backlands of Bahia, Brazil, is 40,000 Catholics per active priest. We do what we can, even though the task is impossible. I keep saying to myself, God is in charge, yet it just seems impossible to evangelize. All I seem to have become is a sacrament machine.

Alfred Puccinelli, S.M.

Urandi, Bahia, Brazil

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