You’ve done something wrong, repented and have spent the following years, even decades, in faithful, compassionate service to others. Then, without warning, you’re placed on extended medical leave, and your calling is gone overnight (4/22). The resultant trauma is mind-boggling.
We need to remember such priests now with a note that details their kindnesses to us and ours. We need to let them know how their counsel, homilies and actions have made us better people, and how, through us, this good continues in the world. As even that flawed place tells us, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Joan Huber Berardinelli
Allison Park, Pa.
Thank you for the gracious editorial in which you said some very nice things about my pastoral letter (4/8) Equipping the Saints for the Work of Ministry. Now I know what a wide circulation America magazine enjoys, as any number of people brought your editorial to my attention. The Rev. Jim Lang, our vicar for parishes, was of immense assistance to me in the drafting of the letter. He is the one who worked over the data and put it together in user-friendly terms.
In the midst of all of these screaming headlines about other subjects not so pleasant, it is heartwarming to know that the faith of our good priests and people is strong and steadfast, and that they are getting on with their Father’s business in a workmanlike way and are manifesting genuine excitement in so doing.
(Most Rev.) James M. Moynihan
Bishop of Syracuse
Architects of Success, by Kenneth G. Davis, O.F.M. Conv., (4/29) describes very well the urgent need in the majority of our dioceses to provide formation programs that will develop men and women who can work effectively as leaders in youth and young adult Hispanic ministry. If we are to provide for a church whose communities in the future will be less in parallel and more blended, the leaders we form will need, as much as possible, to be themselves bicultural and bilingual. My diocese has a bicultural, bilingual Hispanic woman as the director of ministry to English-speaking youth and young adults. She was trained by Fe y Vida, one of the programs favorably mentioned by Father Davis in his article.
(Most Rev.) Carlos A. Sevilla, S.J.
Bishop of Yakima
Honor and Respect
I write respectfully with reference to the editorial Healing and Credibility (4/1). More specifically, I refer to the words smeared the reputation of anyone wearing a Roman collar. This is not intended as a critique of America, which I consider a valued arm of Catholic literature, both educationally and inspirationally. Nor is it intended as a critique of the editorial which was honest and straightforward.
Preferable to the wording quoted above, and much appreciated, would have been some nuanced phrasing recognizing that reputable priests must live and work under the shadow cast by others’ smeared reputation.
Considering the low percentage of known pedophile priests versus the high percentage of good priests with high integrity intact and demonstrated stability, it seems unfair to make the blanket statement covering anyone wearing a Roman collar. That high percentage demonstrates loyalty, consistency, devotion and willing commitment. Yet they have to live and minister in the shadow of a shameful, disheartening and disappointing church scandal. Those good priests have to face the public and continue their ministry under challenging circumstances and sometimes with personal sacrifices. This letter is intended to express support for those good priests in our country who bring honor and respect to the church and the priesthood in the face of this outrageous and overwhelming scandal which has infected our church. I thank them.
(Most Rev.) Benedict C. Franzetta
Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Youngstown
I wish your articles on clergy sexual abuse and cover-up (4/1) had said the following:
1. Regarding anger: victims, their families and others have every right in the world to be very angry at the perpetrators and those who covered their tracks. In great anger, Jesus drove the sellers out of the Temple. The holy Father E. J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, was known for his monumental wrath when children were abused. The sensus fidelium is at work here in the anger of our people.
2. Perpetrators and those who cover up need to be removed from officepronto. Those who refuse are perceived to be modeling hypocrisy. They have lost their moral authority. Only generals can remove generals. People are rightly angry with bishops, not priests in general.
3. Our people want the gay culture, with its hatred of traditional Christian morality, to be roundly chastised. Our people want any dissent rooted in real hatred of Rome to be rejected. We all need to repent.
4. Only after these things are done is it time for experts to be listened to. Then they will truly have something to offer.
My heart is with the abused children of America.
(Rev.) Val J. Peter
Girls and Boys Town
The Rev. Stephen Rossetti, in his article The Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse (4/22), succeeds in offering a cogent and comprehensive treatment of what he rightly identifies as a complex issue not given to simple understandings or simple solutions. The clarity with which he delineates the issues, particularly from his expertise as a psychologist, is a most helpful contribution to the discussion.
I would, however, take issue with any concept of a limited ministry for offenders judged in any way to be at risk, no matter how minimal. A person is either judged fit for public ministry as a priest or he is not. One cannot limit a priest’s ministry without putting someone else at risk somewhere. Even a priest under close supervision at a chancery desk job will have times when he is alone walking, or driving a car, or in a church, or a rectory, where there is a chance he could re-offend. And when he does, his status is still that of a priest in ministry.
Further, and a much more serious concern, is to identify any placement as posing less risk, such as a nursing home. It is a known fact that health care institutions have been the dumping ground of problem priests for years. Hiring institutions and certifying professional bodies will no longer tolerate this practice. If you are not fit for ministry in a parish, you are not fit for ministry in a health care settingor any place else, for that matter.
(Rev.) Joseph J. Driscoll
President, National Association of Catholic Chaplains
Bravo on your editorial Punishing the Church (4/22). The focus for Catholic donors must be the work that stands in jeopardy if donations are cut: service to the poor, evangelization, education and pastoral care.
Having said that, in the absence of solid information and transparent financial practices by dioceses, even donors with the highest regard for church leadership are beginning to raise questions about whether donations designated for charitable purposes have ended up as resources in settling sex abuse cases.
What is needed at this time is a national audit of U.S. dioceses by a recognized public accounting firm. It would document what has been paid out over the past three decades and would reveal the sources of the payments. Full disclosure of the results would go a long way toward rebuilding confidence among donors and is simply good stewardship.
Francis J. Butler
President, FADICA Inc.
Let me share with you what I think is the beginning of a long-term solution to the present crisis in the Catholic Church in America. I am not a theologian, nor am I an expert in any field, but I have been a priest for nearly 42 years.
We have to develop a moral theology of sexuality. This theology has to come from and be based on Sacred Scripture, our tradition, modern psychology and biology (this is what the Second Vatican Council tells us to do), our history and personal experiences, prayer and discernment. God is truth; truth is one. If one discipline, like behaviorist psychology, contradicts another, like theology, then one is wrong. Both have to go back to their sources and resolve this.
When we have this updated theology of sexuality, then this will lead us to an updated theology of marriage, celibacy, hetero/homosexuality, etc. Presently we have a moral theology based sometimes on an antiquated biology and psychology. Because of this, some of our moral theology has lost its credibility among clergy and laity. We see numerous instances where the actual practice goes against the present theology and where clergy and lay make their own theology, not based on our rich resources but based on foundationless trends.
Unless we have our best minds in these different areas do research, study, debate these issues and finally develop a solid theology of sexuality, we are just using Band-Aids, and problems will continue to combust.
Floyd A. Lotito, O.F.M.
San Francisco, Calif.
Kenneth G. Davis’s article Architects of Success (4/29) made reference to the urgent need to invest resources and time in the formation and retention of Hispanic youth ministers. This article led me to reflect on the fact that Hispanic ministry, in general, in the United States should not continue to be seen as an addendum to the multiple programs that our dioceses have in their agenda. Be it youth or adult formation, catechesis or social activities, parishes and dioceses must develop a structure that involves the participation of Hispanic leaders at their own level of formation; then, promote them to reach higher standards in their ministry; listen to their experiences and ideas; give them significant roles in the leadership of the communities in which they are involved and invite them to be always open to work with non-Hispanics as one church. Such parameters apply to both these architects of success, and those working with them.
Clarity and Courage
This is a note of appreciation and thanks for your superb issue of April 1 on clergy sexual abuse.
I found it excellent, well balanced and most helpful. The editorial was sound and accurate. I praise you and your staff for your clarity and courage in publishing that fine set of articles.
(Rev.) James A. Coriden