Reasonable Expectations

While I found Bernard M. Daly’s article The Coming Synod of Bishops (4/2) interesting and challenging, it occurred to me that the synod of bishops he describes is not that set forth in Canons 342-48 of the Code of Canon Law. It is important, I think, that the synod of bishops, a sort of new institute since the Second Vatican Council, be clearly described so that its true functions can be understood and reasonable expectations be entertained for its work.

It seems to me that Bernard Daly might perhaps miss the mark when he appears to describe the synod of bishops as a mini-council. That it clearly is not. And it should be noted that it is a synod only by analogy with the synod as that institute has existed in church law.


The synod of bishops is to promote the close relationship between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops. These bishops, by their counsel, assist the Roman Pontiff in the defense and development of faith and morals and of the preservation and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline. They also consider questions concerning the mission of the church in the world (No. 342). The function of the synod of bishops is to discuss the matters proposed to it and set forth recommendations. (No. 343).

(Most Rev.) Thomas G. Doran
Bishop of Rockford, Ill.

Solid History

George F. Giacomini Jr.’s review (4/2) of the books by Richard J. Rychlak and Michael Phayer dealing with Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust is a commendable effort. However, he appears to go along with Phayer’s conclusion that the pope was more concerned with Communism than he was with Nazism.

Unfortunately, that allegation is a canard not in accord with recent scholarship, but more in line with the propaganda diffused by the Communists after the Second World War. In establishing the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe after World War II, these enemies of the Roman Catholic Church sought to cut down their opponents by falsely accusing church leaders of collaborating with the Nazis during the war.

An analysis more in accord with the objective evidence is David G. Dalin’s Pius XII and the Jews, published in The Weekly Standard (2/26). Rabbi Dalin’s conclusion that Pius XII was, genuinely and profoundly, a righteous gentile shows how far off the mark Phayer’s position really is compared to Rychlak’s solid history.

Vincent A. Lapomarda, S. J.
Worcester, Mass.

Justice for All

The recent thoughtful and frank exchange of letters (3/19) by Brother Malham from Bethlehem, American Jewish Committee president Ramer from Washington and Rabbi Robbins from New York, each triggered by your March 5 editorial, convinces me more than ever that we are not likely to see peace in the Middle East until Palestine expresses some genuine concern for the rights and security of Israel and until Israel expresses some genuine concern for the rights and security of Palestine.

Opus justitiae pax, Pope John Paul II keeps reminding the world. Peace is the fruit of justice. Justice for all, not justice only for some.

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.
San Francisco, Calif.

Service for Pastors

Articles like Michael Lawler’s Changing Catholic Models of Marriage (3/19) are my reason for subscribing to America. It is succinct, lucid and gives me words (finally) to say what I have been thinking for a long time, but never had the time to articulate the idea. It is a definite service for pastors who are on the firing line and feel like they’re low on ammo.

(Msgr.) Daniel Arnold
Erie, Pa.

Eerily Unprophetic

I found the advice by Gerald Coleman, S.S., to Catholic school teachers eerily unprophetic (Coming Out’ as a Catholic School Teacher, 3/19). Father Coleman concludes that public acknowledgment of a homosexual orientation on the part of any Catholic school teacher, celibate person or church authority does nothing to further the dignity of every homosexual person. I would conclude the opposite. Advising perpetual secrecy does nothing to further that dignity; in fact, it encourages persistent false presumption and negative judgment. In essence, Father Coleman argues that we should be given no opportunities to practice respect, understanding and justice with the very folk who serve us within the home of the church.

Arguably, there is real risk of negative impact when a teacher or other church leader comes out. But there is also real risk of true liberation from misunderstanding, ignorance and fears among Catholics, young and old.

Indeed, maturity level, motive and circumstance all play crucial roles in determining the appropriateness of public acknowledgment. But should we conclude that no one is led by the Spirit to this sort of public passage? Please, give your readers an article that encourages prophetic action, not the safe hell of secrecy.

(Rev.) James D. Smith
St. Paul, Minn.

Stereotypes of Homophobia

The assertion of Gerald Coleman, S.S., that homosexual Catholic school teachers should not reveal their orientation to their students (3/19) is an example of a more and more prevalent attitude among Catholics: support homosexuals in theory, but shy away from real-life situations that involve actually addressing the obstacles that homosexuals face in a severely homophobic society.

To be sure, a teacher’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with his or her ability to teach, and it would be inappropriate for a teacher to make a habit of discussing his or her personal life with students, whether he or she is straight or gay. But high school teachers, especially those who teach Christian ethics and Christian marriage classes, often refer to their own experiences with sexuality. This is a completely legitimate practice, and it can truly enhance students’ learning, because they are more likely to pay attention to a real life anecdote than a dry rendition found in a textbook. It provides teachers the opportunity to become role models, given that they present their stories in ways that affirm church teaching.

Father Coleman has a problem with homosexual teachers making their orientation public, but he does not mention heterosexual teachers who do the same thing. Yet his own article says that there is evidence to support the statement that single heterosexuals are sexually active. According to this logic, any teacher who is not married is assumed to be sexually active. And premarital sex, whether one is straight or gay, is contrary to church teachings. What next? Forbid teachers to reveal to their students whether they are married?

Avoidance is the key to Father Coleman’s strategy: Homosexuals deserve respect and dignity and freedom to share their sexual journey, as long as we don’t have to be the ones doing the respecting. The church has avoided the question for far too long, and it needs to realize that any discussion of homosexuality must emphasize the fact that homosexual sexual activity is immoral not because of its nature but because it does not take place within the context of marriage. Period. Other stereotypes linked to homosexual orientation must be discussed and dismissed openly. To urge students or anyone else to respect homosexuals and simultaneously to discourage homosexuals from making known their sexual orientation is hypocritical and cowardly. The idea underlying Father Coleman’s entire article is that homosexual orientation is fine except that it brings a teacher or school disgracea disgrace rooted not in fact but in perception. If the church is going to declare that homosexuals deserve just as much respect as heterosexuals, then it should strive to make sexual orientation as benign and neutral a feature as skin color. To encourage homosexuals to hide their orientation is to accept the stereotypes of homophobia.

John Serop Simonian
Whittier, Calif.

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