Cautious Hope

The article by Thomas P. Rausch, S.J., linking Catholic and Evangelical theologies (7/15), is well crafted toward ecumenical hope. Another article is needed, however, to see the stark differences that indeed have grave implications for U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Most Evangelicals value charity but do not consider justice a Gospel imperative. In Central America, to the joy of elitist rulers, Evangelicals preach that poverty and the death of children are the will of God. Systemic sin is unacknowledged; financial success is the reward of right-eousness; weaponry is admired; enemies are satanic. An option for the poor or the oppressed matters little when the end-time is at hand. Why does this scare me about our president?

Robert J. Brophy
Los Alamitos, Calif.


Unforgiven Sins

Hurray for Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., (An Echo of Bagpipes 7/29). She has done many of us a great service by putting into words our feelings and beliefs. After a lifetime of being taught that all sins can be forgiven, we are finding this is not practiced by the people who wrote the declaration in Dallas. It would have been more in keeping with the teaching of Jesus if they had listened to Bishop Sullivan. The one-time prodigals who have lived repentant, productive priestly lives of service and salvation deserve the chance to serve again the people who need them. We continue to hope that the Lord who promised to be with us always will inspire those who care, so justice and mercy will prevail.

Marie Farrant, S.S.J.
Marjorie Sweeney, S.S.J.
Pottsville, Pa.

Dignity Restored

An Echo of Bagpipes, by Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., (7/29) reminded me of my former pastor, who nurtured me and prayed with me all through my seminary years. He was/is seen as a very loving and good priest, but an act of indiscretion many years ago changed all that in an instant. I preached for his 25th anniversary and told people how he built the kingdom in his 25 years as a priest. He then continued to build for many years after that. While I am glad that the church is getting rid of the bad weeds (Gospel for Sunday, July 21), I do not condone any acts that threaten our children. Our society, sadly, is not yet ready to forgiveanything, it seems. When we forgive we do not say, That’s O.K., just don’t do it again. When we forgive, we return dignity to that person and allow him or her to make restitution and continue on with life. Why won’t we allow my former pastor to do this? I pray for those men who have lost all. I pray for forgiveness, compassion and the return to them of their dignity.

(Rev.) Bill Lugger
Lansing, Mich.

Church Forgiving

Just when I thought I had heard all I wanted to hear about the sex scandals of the church, your July 29 issue brought new insights. I was impressed with Cultures, Codes and Publics, by Chester Gillis; Collateral Damage, by the Rev. J. Ronald Knott; as well as An Echo of Bagpipes by Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M.

When I was a child, we talked of the Church Militant (the church on earth), the Church Suffering (the church in purgatory) and the Church Triumphant (the church in heaven). Perhaps for too long our church has been both too militant and too triumphant here on earth. Now we are clearly the church suffering. We are all sinners and all wounded people. What we need now is more humility as well as more forgiveness. We need to forgive all those who have offended others, including the abusing priests. We need to forgive all those church leaders who turned the other way. We need to forgive ourselves too. And we all need to try to make amends. Perhaps eventually we could be the Church Forgiving. Jesus was neither militant nor triumphant here on earth, but he was certainly suffering and forgiving.

Lucy Fuchs
Brandon, Fla.

Help Victims

We look at things differently, Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M. (7/29) and I. After nine years of talking with victims of priest pedophiles, I am appalled at her insistence on forgiveness for one-time offenders when, in almost every case, the molester doesn’t apologize or even acknowledge wrongdoing. He has used the collar and the title Father to gain entry to a child’s world. The results are devastating. Even one encounter with a priest predator leaves a child shattered, the spirit destroyed.

When a murder is finally solved years after the crime, isn’t it expected that the criminal be brought to justice? Would we shrug it off as something no longer important? The crime a priest commits against a child deserves the same attention.

And Camille reflects the naive assumption of many Catholics that there was, indeed, just one crime. In reality, very few pedophiles stop after one offense. It is much more likely that the once is the time he was caught.

Many of us are looking to the good priests, supported by their congregations, to stop dwelling on their present unenviable position and start establishing centers to help victims of priest pedophiles. With nine centers funded for the care of priest pedophiles, it is time to even things out.

Sally Butler, O.P.
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Great Angst

The article by the Rev. J. Ronald Knott, Collateral Damage, (7/29) was one of the most poignant and touching of any I have read concerning the clergy sexual abuse issue in the American church today. Not only did Father Knott touch on every particular segment involved in this multifaceted scandal; but, by writing from his heart in such a personal way, he lent his own humanity to explore this crisis effectively.

Like so many Catholic laypeople today, I have experienced great angst over this, struggling between fighting for justice and self-righteousness. I wrote to Father Knott to thank him for his vulnerable and honest feelings that helped this laywoman see parts of this situation that were clouded for me, and now I thank America for publishing this article, which made that possible.

Nancy Rocereto
West Haddonfield, N.J.

Moral Guidance

I appreciated your remembrance of David S. Toolan, S.J., and the article Hawks, Doves and Pope John Paul II, by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (8/12).

Father Toolan was once a member of the faculty of religious studies at Canisius College and is remembered fondly by many on the faculty here.

Father Christiansen’s article could not be more timely. I am hesitant to jettison the just war theory. If rigorously applied by taking into account the wise insights of Pope John Paul II, the just war theory could provide insight and moral guidance to policymakers, some of whom might be otherwise disinclined to take into account the moral questions that must be answered before going to war.

There is a pressing need for concerted public debate about whether another American war with Iraq is morally justifiable. I do not doubt for one moment that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous and evil ruler. Iraq and Iran have suffered terribly because of him. But is war a morally justifiable means to remove this dictator? The just war theory might provide a framework to resolve this critically important issue.

Richard H. Escobales Jr.
Buffalo, N.Y.

Complex Mix

After reading the strong letter by Thomas R. Jackson, M.D., (7/15) and the thoughtful contribution by Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M. (An Echo of Bagpipes, 7/29), I feel reassured that I am not alone in questioning the wisdom of the zero tolerance policy. By giving up the ability to decide in individual cases, the bishops have straightjacketed themselves into making decisions that appear to defy justice, mercy and even common sense. One medicine does not cure all ills, and one policy does not fit all cases. Lawyers see crime, theologians sin and physicians sickness in the perpetrators of sexual abuse. In reality, there is a complex mix of these elements in varying proportions. Furthermore, the implications and consequences of the accepted policy have not been thought through, or at least not adequately explained. The assumption that the protection of children is assured may be erroneous. Are we only concerned about the children in our schools and parishes? By laicizing priests, they are released into the community at large, and are no longer in a formal relationship with their bishops. Who will make sure of their ongoing treatment, supervision and needed care? Our prison system is not known for its intensive rehabilitation services, nor can we rely on overworked parole officers. These ousted men may find themselves in stressful situations that predispose them to fall back into abusive behavior.

Finally, demonizing fallen priests and revenge will not bring healing to the victims nor prevent further abuse.

Edda H. Hackl, M.D.
Chicago Ill.

Share the Work

In the midst of what may be this millennium’s most underreported storythe decimation of the diocesan pressthe role of Catholic magazines becomes even more important. Fortunately, they are up to the task. Sadly, many periodicals controlled by bishops are not permitted to do their share of the work.

When I was editor of The Brooklyn Tablet (1968-85), we believed that when the Catholic press doesn’t talk about what the Catholic people are talking about, it becomes irrelevant. Why contribute to a bishop’s appeal to support a journal that is presented under false pretenses as a newspaper in the common understanding of the word?

Readers are comfortable with a periodical that challenges them, if sometimes it also courageously speaks for them. America has powerfully articulated the concern that the bishops are not being held responsible. I am envious of the gentleness with which Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., (An Echo of Bagpipes, 7/29) and Valerie Schultz (God in the Tangled Sheets, 7/1) disagree with official statements.

Sister Camille’s question about zero tolerance (100 percent intolerance?) echoes in my soul: Does the goodness, the generous self-sacrifice of the intervening years count for nothing? Ms. Schultz discusses the confusing canonization of a celibate couple as a model for Christian marriage. Perhaps they were forgiven for the indiscretions that produced four children, if they and the kids promised to avoid them in the future.

The Second Vatican Council said laypeople have the right and sometimes the duty to speak up. The late Bishop Francis Mugavero of Brooklyn recommended the letters column of The Tablet as one appropriate way to do that. I am pleased to note that policy continues in Brooklyn, although not in neighboring dioceses. Amid the calls for more openness, more transparency, more trust, more listening, more dialogue and more accountability, we have more expunction and more censorship, more hugger-muggery and more Fifth Amendment silence. As the columnist Westbrook Pegler said, No one ever proved he was innocent by changing the subject.

(Deacon) Don Zirkel
Farmingdale, N.Y.

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11 years 12 months ago
Many of the continuing letters on the subject of our church’s scandal (8/26) and some of your articles reflect a serious misunderstanding of two basic issues.

One: the removal of abusing priests under zero tolerance guidelines has to do with protecting our children, not with condemning priests to hell. We must forgive and pray that God will forgive those priests, but we must not in the course of extending that forgiveness open any child to the known potential of repeating the horror.

Two: in an ideal world such priests may (and only “may”) be dealt with properly in less draconian fashion by careful and judicious bishops. But in our world, too many bishops have demonstrated that they are neither. Given that the pope (who alone can act against a bishop) has not held any of those bishops accountable, the American bishops as a body have no alternative but to act as they have done to protect our children.


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