What Can Be

I found the column Of Many Things by James Martin, S.J., (1/8) on the role of women religious in the church both inspiring and insightfulright up to his final sentence. After two columns detailing women’s leadership activity in the church today, why would he write that the church does not allow women to lead in its name?

The answer is obvious: Martin equates leadership in the church with ordination to the clerical state and the particular legislative, sanctifying and governance roles reserved to certain church offices open only to clerics. This is much too narrow a definition of church leadership, as Martin himself demonstrates. There are, in fact, both clerical and lay leaders in the church. Problems arise when policy is made without recognizing this fact. What we as a church need to assimilate is that both clerics and laity with vision, gifts and commitment should be a part of the decision-making processes. The good news is that the fathers of Vatican II recognized this and mandated changes in the structure and law of the church that could begin to make this possible. There are consultative bodies mandated and/or suggested by law whereby bishops, pastors and their people can work together to govern, teach and sanctify the people of God. The bad news is that both laity and clerics have not fully appreciated how these bodies could work. Some clerical leaders, for their part, have guarded their power of making the final decision, while some lay leaders have pouted, little understanding their powers in consultation and implementation. The result is a polarized church, with its members deeply suspicious of each other’s motives, and strident/frightened leadership, be it clerical or lay.


My suggestion to all church leaders is that, rather than lamenting what cannot befemale clericslet us concern ourselves with what can and should be: broad-based input in decision-making and broad-based implementation of these decisions. And let us recognize the value and joy in the hard work of sharing our different gifts, all of which are necessary to bring Christ to the world and the world to Christ.

Katharine S. Weber
Mobile, Ala.

Effective and Prudent

The attempt by Charles Bouchard, O.P., (2/12) to justify Catholic votes for the pro-choice Democrat in last year’s presidential election failed to persuade me. No matter how many ways you wrap it, a vote for the Democratic presidential candidate last year can in no way qualify as advancing the pro-life cause.

If Father Bouchard can speculate as to the reasons Catholics voted for Gore, then so can I. Perhaps those who dismiss a strategy of choosing the most pro-life candidate, regardless of party affiliation, as single issue voting are themselves single party voters who cannot fathom the possibility that anyone good might come from Nazarethin this case, from outside the Democratic Party. I agree entirely that we should try to build on the national consensus that most abortions are wrong most of the time. But giving undying electoral allegiance to one party, even as it continues in so many national races to foist on its membership extremist pro-choice candidates and platform promises, does not strike me as an effective or prudent strategy for achieving this aim.

Daniel Avila
Everett, Mass.

Christians on Target

The article by Drew Christiansen, S.J., on Christians, Christmas and the Intifada (2/12) was right on target. The Christians in Bethlehem and the neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour have had their homes and businesses damaged and destroyed by the bombardments of rockets, missiles and bullets from tanks and helicopter gunships. Their lives have been disrupted by restrictions on travel and closures. They remain victims of both Muslim factions and the Israeli forces. These long neglected Palestinian Christians are angry and frustrated that the Christian world has not spoken out on their behalf. Thanks to America for making your readers aware of their courage, sufferings and need for support.

Jerome Sullivan, F.S.C.

Only One Approach

As a former Democrat who believes the party left me a long time ago, I was interested in the answer given by Charles Bouchard, O.P., to the question, How Could a Catholic Vote That Way? (2/12). After reading the article, I am left with another question: how could Father Bouchard think that way?

The piece is built on the flawed assumption that the majority of pro-life Catholic Republicans are naïve, one-issue voters who believe that the Bush administration will make possible the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Apparently only Democrats are sophisticated enough to see how unlikely that is, to recognize the difference between law and morality and to understand the need for conversion of hearts. He tells us that many Catholics have opted for a social pro-life strategy rather than a legal one. As I recall, Mr. Clinton’s first act as president was to expand abortion rights. And then there was his veto of partial birth abortion, an abomination Father Bouchard never mentions. So much for the Democrat predilection for seeing abortion as a moral evil while using other means to reduce its incidence.

Father Bouchard decries the tendency to look at only one possible approach to the moral problem of abortion, and I agree with that. If only he would also object to the tendency of Democrats to look at their approach as the only possible solution to other social justice problems.

Marge Kender
Orefield, Pa.

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