The Rev. Andrew M. Greeley’s conclusion that The New York Times’s coverage of the sexual abuse scandal in the church constitutes virulent anti-Catholicism is irresponsible (The Times and Sexual Abuse by Priests 2/10). The Times, like most major newspapers that covered the scandal, never implied that most priests were predators. And this is especially true of Laurie Goodstein, whom Father Greeley attacks. Never have I found her to be anything but professional and accurate in her reporting.


It does no good to blame the messenger for bringing bad news.

William A. Donohue,President, Catholic League for
Religious and Civil Rights
New York, N.Y.


With the clouds of war ever before me, I was struggling in my efforts to grade over 100 examinations on mass media law and ethics. In the middle of my efforts, I took a break and began to page through a recent issue of America. I stopped and read the column by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., No to War (2/17). It provided a much-needed uplift. Perhaps my students owe Father Kavanaugh for improving my state of mindwhich is always important when making decisions regarding particular exam responses!

David L. Martinson
Cooper City, Fla.

Amid Cacophony

At lasta thinking head emerges above the talking heads! Amid the cacophony of shrieking statistics (by the way, proving not much) comes a sane and sober statement of the factsalso substantiated by statistical analysis. Although there have been many excellent responses to the current priest-bashing plague, they have been at best a reasonably defensive effort. Now you have, finally, launched a credible attack on the irresponsible reporting of the press, thanks to the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley (2/10). His comments are credible because of his experience of priesthood and validated by his years of solid research. May his insights become contagious. The New York Times deserves so convincing and formidable an adversary.

Marie Roseanne Bonfini, I.H.M.
Immaculata, Pa.

Gun Control

Gun control (editorial, 2/10), as it is now conceived, will not work to limit gun violence in America, because it is divisive and technically flawed. The issue has become as polarized as the debate on abortion, with the anti-gun activists on one side and legitimate gun-owners on the other. Like abortion, this issue has driven large numbers of individuals, particularly hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts who would otherwise be Democrats, out of the Democratic Party. Gun control may have cost Al Gore the last election. Its major thrusts, a ban on assault weapons and now ballistic imaging, are technically naïve. The ban defines assault weapons in terms of what they look like, not in terms of their capacity to assault. If a gun has a few defined, nonessential, observable features, it is deemed to be an assault weapon, whereas any firearm in the hands of the wrong person can be used to assault someone else.

Ballistic imaging is based on the unique markings that a particular gun makes on a bullet or shell casing. A gun, however, is an assemblage of metal parts, any one of which can be replaced or altered with simple tools in a home workshop. Making one or more of these modifications will permanently change the unique markings, and this will become common practice if ballistic imaging laws are passed.

If gun violence is to be reduced, the issue must be taken out of the political arena. The confrontational approach must cease, and both sides need to sit down and begin to talk seriously with each other.

Francis J. Murray
Freeport, Me.

Common Good

The article by Henry J. Hyde (2/17), the esteemed congressman from Illinois, provides an interpretation of the church’s just war teaching as set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that I find troubling. He notes that statesmen have the responsibility for assessing whether the criteria of a just war have and can be met. To support his position he quotes from the same section of the catechism as did George Weigel, the biographer of John Paul II, to justify pre-emptive war: The evaluation of these criteria for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have the responsibility for the common good (No. 2309).

Congressman Hyde seems to be saying that statesmen, once they have completed their evaluation, know the mind of God in these matters, and once we hear their voice telling us that the criteria have been met for a just war, then we can be assured that we have heard the voice of God. Statesmen may get it right sometimes, but we know they have also gotten it wrong at other times with respect to war. When they ignore the prophetic voices of leaders like Pope John Paul II, I believe they may not arrive at the right answer.

Robert Stewart
Chantilly, Va.

Stood Alone

Thank you for the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley’s article on The New York Times and sexual abuse by priests (2/10). His list of corrections could have gone on. The Times still thinks diocesan priests take vows. And no priest or seminary instructorpast or presentwould argue that sexual activity other than heterosexual intercourse does not break the strictures of celibacy. That’s a Clintonesque distinction that would be seen as a joke by any cleric of my acquaintance. I was ordained in 1959.

And where was sexuality being taught in the United States during the years in question? Seminaries stood alone in not broaching the subject of sex in classrooms? It doesn’t seem likely.

(Msgr.) James Petersen
Fresno, Calif.


In his article The Times and Sexual Abuse by Priests (2/10), the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley certainly makes good points about the way the media have portrayed priests during this past year. However, Father Greeley misses an obvious point about the celibacy issue.

While I do not doubt that most priests are good, upstanding men, the fact remains that the predators certainly do exist (albeit only around 2 percent of all priests), and also that the numbers of priests in this country are dwindling. I agree with Father Greeley that making celibacy an option will not cure the sexual abuse scandal. But might it improve the quality and quantity of the priesthood we deserve?

Making celibacy an option (at the very least for men entering the priesthood) could attract a large number of men who dismissed the option of the priesthood so that they could have a family and a wife. The church can make this option much like the permanent diaconate already is; you need to be married before entering the seminary.

While widening the pool of candidates for the priesthood, we very well could, as Father Greeley suggests, be inviting more predators into our clerical culture. But we also could be invigorating a new breed of priest, one that perhaps can aid in looking at sexuality and a host of other issues from a new perspective within the seminary and parish walls. I strongly believe that their viewpoint can provide the link between the priesthood and the laity, who oftentimes feel that their priests cannot relate to them, as Father Greeley even admits by saying that priests are sometimes miserable homilists and do not administer user-friendly parishes.

When it comes to celibacy and the priesthood, we need not point fingers at the predators and say, See what happens? Instead, we need to look outside the seminary walls at those who would be more than happy to be part of the priesthood. Perhaps it is there that we can see that the priesthood can grow into something more life-giving than we ever imagined.

Mike Hayes, Associate Director
Paulist Young Adult Ministries
New York, N.Y.

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