Credit Where Due

The prodigious Father Andrew M. Greeley, who observed his 75th birthday this month, used to direct his ire at incompetent bishops, faulty practitioners of sociology and resigned priests who wrote about the psychosexual problems of the clergy. In The Times and Sexual Abuse by Priests (2/10), he finds The New York Times guilty of atavistic no-popery.


Thereby he resembles, perhaps more than he would like, the 76-year-old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the diviner of one’s innermost thoughts, who recently apodictically attributed the media’s coverage of clergy abuse to an intentional desire to discredit the church.

E. Leo McMannus
Venice, Fla.

Their Own Practices

Thanks for the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley’s article The Times and Sexual Abuse by Priests (2/10). It is time that the whole situation be put in some kind of context. That is not to deny in any way the damage that has been done, the need to make reparation as far as possible and the importance of doing everything in our power to prevent any reoccurence. But I agree that it has turned into a total witch hunt. The Boston Globe, which has done an excellent job of unearthing the tragedies of sexual abuse on the part of priests, foreshadows the overkill of The New York Times. And innocent priests as well as the total Catholic Church of the United States continue to be crucified.

Meanwhile The Times continues to run advertisements picturing women as nearly naked as they dare run in their papers. This denigrating of women is standard fare for The Times and The Boston Globe. After all, they get paid for running these adsso who cares about the models? The fact that they have been stripped almost naked for all to see does not matter as long as The Times and The Globe get paid.

But look at their faces! How tragic that these papers have to make their living prostituting beautiful young women! So, while these honorable papers are pointing their fingers at some priest abusers, I suggest that they look at their own practices.

Marie Mullane, R.C.
Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

Organizational Structure

The Rev. Andrew M. Greeley misses the point in his recent article about abusive priests (2/10). His commentary is largely a rebuttal of an apparently inflammatory article that appeared in the New York Times regarding the psychological profile of men who become priests, and how their allegedly immature psychological state predisposed them to abuse children.

I accept, as Father Greeley asserts, that no more than 4 percent of priests have abused children, and that it is ridiculous to characterize the other 96 percent based on the behavior of a deviant minority. I also agree that the incidence of child abusers among priests is probably no greater than among men in the general population. But all of this is not the point.

The number that I am most interested in is the proportion of the innocent 96 percent that knew about abusive priests and the policy of reassigning them, yet did nothing to stop either the abusers or the policy. These silent priests are accomplices to the crimes and must share the guilt. The only member of this silent group who has finally accepted responsibility is Cardinal Bernard Law. Are we to believe that he alone knew about this reassignment policy involving so many priests and so many victims over so many years? Preposterous!

Rather than a psychological profile of abusive priests, I would like to know the psychological profile of priests who knew yet did nothing. Why didn’t they speak out? Were they afraid of retribution, and from whom? What is the nature of a fraternity that circles the wagons to protect its own at the expense of innocent children? What kind of organizational structure enables the perpetrations of such a massive conspiracy of silence for so many years?

Until these questions about silent priests are answered, and collective guilt is accepted by the priesthood in general, the laity will always be curious and suspicious about the psychology of priests. And rightly so.

Timothy J. Jorgensen
Rockville, Md.


The Rev. Andrew M. Greeley’s article, The Times and Sexual Abuse of Priests (2/10), said things that many American priests would have liked to say but were not able to articulate as well as Father Greeley or were embarrassed to express for fear of looking like whiners and victims. For months good priests have gotten a bad rap without being able to defend themselves against the onslaught of vicious innuendos about their sexual and human maturity and their celibacy. I have never been more embarrassed, mortified and humiliated in my 50 years as a Catholic priest than in this past year.

Maybe more Catholic lay men and women, the people in the pews, could have spoken up for their embattled priests. I agree with Father Greeley that for months The New York Times has mercilessly and dishonestly gone after the Catholic priests.

Maybe we priests needed this persecution. This painful experience will help purify the American priesthood and make us priests after the heart of Christ. It could be a grace.

Gino Dalpiaz, C.S.
Stone Park, Ill.

Never Wavered

Many thanks for publishing the interview by Daniel Hartnett, S.J., with Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P., Remembering the Poor (2/3). Gustavo (as any committed Christian in Peru would affectionately address him) was an inspiring presence in his native Peru from his ordination as a parish priest in Lima 40 years ago through the terrible siege of the Shining Path guerrilla movement (1980-92). Gustavo himself taught a theology course every summer that any Peruvian might attend. He never wavered in his option for the poor, despite opposition from brothers in the local and universal church. In the worst of times, he condemned violence, no matter its source, and encouraged a suffering and believing people to be steadfast in hope.

Clearly he is still at this task. His words indicate for us the attitudes that can free us from the grip of terror and lead us on a path of peace.

Mary Beth Moore, S.C.
Wantagh, N.Y.

Maintain Neutrality

The article by Daniel Hartnett, S.J., Remembering the Poor (2/3), focused on liberation theology and an interview with Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P. Now I think I understand the church’s mission to the poor. However, the problem with liberation theology, at least as applied 20 and 30 years ago, was that it identified with a radical, left-wing political philosophy. Such a philosophy usually finds expression in some kind of socialism. No economic or political system was as great a failure in the 20th century as socialism. Countries that embraced it then, or do so now, usually cannot even feed their own people.

Thus Representative Henry J. Hyde’s article, Catholics in Political Life (2/17), was a welcome contrast. In this country too many church organizations also adopt the political strategies of the left. They are thus cast as partisans in a political debate and often become involved with those who would exploit the poor for their own political power. No one party has a corner on compassion or concern for the poor. They have different ways to accomplish the same goal. Catholics, especially church leaders, would do well to evaluate the solutions of both sides and maintain political neutrality.

Jim Collins
Farmington Hills, Mich.

Morality of War

Representative Henry J. Hyde writes in Catholics in Political Life (2/17) that the catechism’s reference to those who have responsibility for the common good (No. 2309) in questions of a just war means statesmen, not clergymen or scholars, have the final responsibility for assessing whether the criteria of a just war have been and can be met. He sees more than is there.

In a representative government, all voters have responsibility for the common good. The phrase, at least as it applies here, is not exclusive. War is not up to President Bush and Representative Hyde alone.

Paragraph No. 2309 has to square with No. 2039: As far as possible conscience should take account of the good of all, as expressed in the moral law, natural and revealed, and consequently in the law of the church and in the authoritative teaching of the magisterium on moral questions. No free pass for presidential choice there. Could the morality of war with Iraq be different in France and Germany than it is in the United States and Great Britain? It sounds as if Representative Hyde is reviving the Peace of Augsburg’s cuius regio ejus et religio for the Bush administration’s national security policy.

Tom Blackburn
Haverhill, Fla.

Faithful to Conscience

I read with interest and respect Representative Henry J. Hyde’s reflections on The Vatican’s Doctrinal Notes on Some Questions Regarding the Patricipation of Catholics in Political Life (2/17). How difficult it must be to represent some five or six hundred thousand people in this pluralistic society and remain faithful to one’s conscience.

I was impressed with Mr. Hyde’s reflections on respecting life until he branched out into the life-threatening quagmire that Iraq promises to become. To interpret the catechism’s statement The evaluation of these [just war] criteria for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good as referring only to statesmen (read elected officials) is, I believe, a very narrow interpretation. I always thought that all of us had responsibility for the common good. As Mr. Hyde himself states a bit later, democracy is an ongoing experiment in a people’s capacity to be self-governing.

The note itself says, The consequence of this fundamental teaching of the Second Vatican Council is that the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in public life, that is, in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good.’ Therefore, in exercising this participation, I deny that there is any way this looming pre-emptive strike on Iraq can be deemed a just war.

It is interesting that in the same issue your estimable columnist, John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., took George Weigel to task for using the same paragraph of the catechism in the same vein.

Nicholas E. Bedessem
Hagerstown, Md.

Just Conditions

It is nice that Henry Hyde quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2/17), but I wish that he would read the rest of the statements about war and not just the one that says that he and others in Washington have the right to evaluate the just conditions. That is too much like, Just trust us; we know best.

With all the shenanigans and lies that we are fed by our government and all the underhanded political dealings, we cannot trust our government. We know that we were previously misled in Vietnam and in the Persian Gulf war (the incubator story) and who knows how many more cases? So why should we trust those in office today?

Perhaps in the past, when St. Augustine made up the just war theory, people knew little and blindly followed their leaders, excusing themselves that they were only following orders. Today we know that we cannot always follow our leaders, even Catholic leaders who piously quote the pope when it pleases them and ignore him when it does not, who loudly condemn the killing of the unborn, but support all kinds of other measures that kill the living.

I am not worried that Catholic politicians will impose their religious views on the nation; I only wish they would really support all of the values of our faith.

Lucy Fuchs
Brandon, Fla.

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