Evaluated in Conscience

Sister Jeannine Gramick’s unenviable situation (Signs of the Times, 6/17) calls to mind the dictum of St. Thomas Aquinas (envisioning, actually, an even more extreme situation): When an ecclesiastical decision that is evaluated in conscience as certainly unacceptable is proclaimed under threat of excommunication, one may not under any circumstances follow it, even if noncompliance means that one must die excommunicated.

Edmund F. Kal, M.D.


Fresno, Calif.

Not Just

That photo of Sister Jeannine Gramick (6/17) could well have been placed alongside of the Madeleva Manifesto to portray one who is suffering the cost of discipleship.

If Sister Jeannine is to be expelled from her order, I believe that it is the Vatican officials she met last May who should issue her dismissal papers. This is not a matter in which her congregation has been involved, but rather the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To place such a burden on Jeannine’s superior general is not just.

Thomas More, C.F.X.

Louisville, Ky.

Act of Violence

I find it hard to accept the manner in which Sister Jeannine Gramick is being treated both by her religious superiors and Vatican officials (6/17). It strikes me as nothing less than an act of violencenot physical violence, but moral, spiritual, emotional violence. And to the degree that we accept it, we are becoming more and more a people of violence, whether we realize it or not. In this case what is being violated is the most sacred center of one’s personhood...the conscience. The Second Vatican Council taught clearly the church’s principle of the primacy of conscience, and Pope John Paul II has written eloquently of the dignity and sacredness of the human person and individual conscience.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states that Sister Gramick’s views have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the church. As a Catholic, I don’t find anything confusing about her ministry. What I do find confusing and disturbing is the heavy-handed way authority is being used to resolve this conflict. If this is the best we can do as church to resolve differences, then we are no betterand sometimes worsethan any other human organization. But if we truly believe we are called to be salt of the earth and light of the world, we can and we must do better, especially in this jubilee year.

Michael Pennett

Downers Grove, Ill.

Standard of Justice

Your report in the June 17-24 issue of America concerning the plight of Sister Jeannine Gramickbeing disciplined by the Vatican and now in danger of being expelled from her order, makes clear the real reason for such harsh treatment. While the Vatican’s judicial action has effectively terminated her ministry to the gay community, they are now proceeding to expel her from her religious order simply for discussing publicly the process to which she was subjected. The Vatican officials demand the right to keep that process secret and will destroy a human life to achieve that goal. Whether or not these Vatican officials were justified in their actions can never be reviewed by the people of God. Haven’t we learned from ancient experience in every civil society that the judicial process must be open for public scrutiny? Haven’t we said, no more Star Chambers? Certainly the church of Jesus Christ would adhere to, even exceed, that standard of justice. We, the people of this church, should rise up and demand no less!

Richard A. Jacobs

Ocean Pines, Md.

Spiritual vs. Juridical

Bishop William Murphy’s letter (7/1) regarding the article by the Rev. Hermann Pottmeyer (6/3) encourages me to hope that the bishop may expand upon his concerns with a longer, positive presentation. Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., has done so in America on other occasions, and the former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, has done so in book form. I realize that the Letters section, limited spatially as it is, allows the Boston auxiliary only to highlight his opposing argument. He did not, therefore, expose it sufficiently to scholarly and pastoral critique.

A chivalrous defense of the Roman curialists was based on the 12 years I worked in the Curia. In this I commend him, but he is far too modest. He has spent many years in Rome: his undergraduate studies at the North American College, his post-graduate studies and doctorate in theology there. He also modestly omits the fact that he is the present vicar-general of a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. One can’t help but think that he is defending Rome more than the church. (The Boston Catholic Directory, 2000, further shows him as the contact for Information and Ordering of Papal Blessings.)

Many would like him to develop the deep structure of his criticism of the mutual interiority argument of Father Pottmeyer, instead of simply fortifying his criticism with strategic adjectives like odd and interesting but strange. He may not directly intend it, but he does seem to demean the canon law elements by referring disparagingly to issues of jurisdiction and legislation and decrees. But I would be willing to say that many canonists are as concerned for the mutual interiority argument as is the bishop. They, too, love the church. While they may have to concentrate on external aspects, they have not fallen into the theologically false dichotomy of a spiritual versus a juridical church.

Inspired and guided by the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, they too recognize the church as the mysterium sacrum.

John F. Kenney

Berkeley, Calif.

Christ’s Presence

Amy L. Florian is a name I am not going to forget. Seeing her byline under the heading Faith in Focus in the July 1 issue immediately claimed my attention and sent me buzzing to her latest reflection like a bee to honey. I recognized the name of the writer who wrote, in the March 4 issue, such a well informed, finely crafted revisiting of the popular practice of eucharistic adoration under the title Adoro Te Devote. In that careful review of historical aberrations and deviations from the authentic meaning of real presence, Florian succeeds in achieving her goal of restoring two key elements essential to any practice or understanding of eucharistic devotion in today’s world: balance and integration.

Balance and integration, from Florian’s perspective, boil down to this: A Christian who is intensely concerned that the consecrated host not be left alone in the chapel must, therefore, also be concerned about the homeless people left alone in the streets. Those who reverence Christ’s presence in the host must also reverence Christ’s presence in human bodies. She sums up neatly: Eucharistic adoration and social justice are not, and must not be, mutually exclusive, for neither one is authentic Christian spirituality on its own.

I will be looking forward to Amy L. Florian’s future writings.

Robert Durback

Fairview Park, Ohio

God’s Love

After reading Parenthood and the Attributes of God, by Michael J. Daley (7/3), let no parents proclaim they do not understand God. And what an insightful take on the rainbow in the Noah account. Every time I see one in the sky, it will be a reminder that God loves me!

Edward R. Goldian, S.J.

St. Louis, Mo.

Eternal Riches

Blessings, thanks and congratulations to David S. Toolan, S.J., for one of the most brilliantly topical theological insights I have read in years (Of Many Things, 7/1). Richness is the cornerstone of faith. Until we see ourselves as rich, we cannot fully reach out to others because, as our flawed human nature dictates, we cannot control our basic desire to achieve richness.

Material wealth is not what keeps the camel from passing through the eye of the needle. Instead, it is the act of placing one’s faith in the maintenance of material wealth instead of in the eternal loving care of Goda God who wishes us to achieve richness above all elsewhich narrows the infinity of heaven to a needle’s eye. While material wealth represents a challenge, it is not an impediment to achieving oneness with God. As with every other aspect of our lives, our lack of faith in God’s love above all else is the impediment.

The more miserly we are with our material wealth, the less rich we are. Small wonder that miser and miserable share a common root. A clue to the nature of eternity, perhaps?

John Brewer Jr.

Portland, Ore.

Prayer Web

The article The Business of Belief: Living a Spiritual Life in the Corporate World, by James Martin, S.J., was right on point (7/1). His article brought back many interesting memories. One way to help cope is to undertake spiritual exercises. To assist with those I recommend a Jesuit web site that offers daily spiritual servings. It is available at www.jesuit.ie/prayer.

Frank M. Zaveral, C.P.A.

Denver, Colo.

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