One of my duties as a newly ordained religious priest working in another diocese was that of offering the Eucharist and hearing confessions every Saturday morning in a state-run institution for about 1,300 troublesome girls, age 13 to about 25. I was reminded of those years, 1950 to 1954, as I read the review of The Magdalene Sisters by Richard A. Blake, S.J., and recalled that right here in the United States the girls in those state-run institutions had their heads shaved for major infractions of the rules, as in Ireland. For lesser violations, and far worse in my eyes, they were forced to take a pill that would make them sick to their stomachs for three or four days. Moreover, if the state officials decided that the girls were unfit to bear children, they would mutilate the girls’ bodies to that end. If someone wants to make a movie about the misuse of authority in such institutions, is it really necessary to go to Ireland and pick on Catholic sisters who, by and large, gave their lives for the well-being of young girls?
Edward V. Griffin, O.S.A.
For a succinct, perceptive and disinterested evaluation, not only of Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters but also of the related issue of the media and the sex abuse crisis, the film review Gulag Erin, by Richard A. Blake, S.J., (9/29) is superb. His prologue and epilogue alone are stunning.
E. Leo McMannus
In connection with the article The Lay Vocation and Voice of the Faithful by Thomas P. Rausch, S.J. (9/29), I want to mention that on July 29 The Wall Street Journal published a long essay, Pastors and Prosecutors, by a prominent Boston attorney, Harvey Silverglate, in which he assailed Massachusetts Attorney General Reilly for overreaching the boundaries of his office in parts of his official report on the sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Boston. Among other criticisms, Mr. Silverglate saw in that report a disturbing pattern of probably unconstitutional intrusions into the religious liberties of the Catholic Church. (Silverglate, I should note, is not involved in any of the abuse cases.)
A few weeks later, on Aug. 11, the Journal published a response by two people who described themselves as regional co-coordinators of Voice of the Faithful, New York. Admitting that Mr. Reilly may have stretched the powers of his office, they nonetheless found his intrusions admirable, given the fact that the church long overlooked sex crimes against children.
I would have hoped that leaders of V.O.T.F. would not give voice so readily to the principle of expediency. That kind of thinking has been voiced too often. No wonder that fewer are listening than V.O.T.F. would like.
John W. Howard, S.J.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
As one who has logged some 30 years of teaching in secondary schools, I am inclined to doubt that Sarah Stockton’s candidates for confirmation spontaneously concluded that their most important reason for wanting to be Catholic is to be part of a community (Christ the Teacher, 9/12). That doubt is deepened by Mrs. Stockton’s use of the word community no fewer than 10 times in two-thirds of a page. Her use of shared community elevates doubt to a certainty.
In the twilight of my career, I find myself waging war on teacher-speak. The young cannot help it. They are marinated in the lingo. This, they suppose, is the diction of the educated elite.
A graver matter: Mrs. Stockton seems pleased that community is her students’ chief reason for wanting to be Catholic. If that really is their conviction, confirmation should be postponed, and somebody should send for a priest.
As to Mrs. Stockton’s angst over her child’s brilliance in spelling, and the consequent envy aroused in the bosoms of her little friends, options exist. She could withdraw the child from competition; she could get the kid to take a dive; she could teach her to bear winning with grace or she could make peace with the reality so plainly stated by St. Paul: Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize?
East Lyme, Conn.
Tapping Into Talent
Thank you for Phyllis M. Hanlon’s article, Food for Young Appetites (9/22). With much success, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland adopted the Rev. John Cusick’s Theology on Tap program.
The Associate Board of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Foundation manages the northeast Ohio Theology on Tap series. This board is a group of young professionals, usually between the ages of 25 and 45, who seek leadership, volunteer, social and philanthropic opportunities. They elected to host a Theology on Tap lecture four times a year at different large venues around the diocese. The popularity of this quarterly series grew quickly since its inception in early 2001; average attendance peaked at 350 to 400 people. Local comedy clubs, bars and restaurants are now calling us requesting to host a Theology on Tap at their establishment. We are struggling to find venues large enough to accommodate the young professionals interested.
We have seen a cross-section of attendees: young singles and couples who want to network with other young Catholics; others who are distanced from the church, interested in finding their niche again in the Catholic community; some who are simply interested in learning more about certain aspects of theology and the Catholic faith.
What we have found most amazing is the impressive number of young professionals who, after attending Theology on Tap, are interested in serving on a diocesan board of directors, connecting again with a parish community or donating to Catholic Charities.
Through this program, we are doing more than simply meeting the spiritual needs of young Catholics. We are finding a way for the church to grow from the talents young professionals offer.
Melanie A. Shakarian
Peer to Peer
I found Mary Ann Reese’s article Refracting the Light (9/22) to be a balanced and accurate view of the young adults with whom I work as the director of young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Since young adults now make up over 40 percent of the U.S. (and Catholic) population, it is critical that we attend to the spiritual needs of these, our sisters and brothers.
Ms. Reese’s assertions that this diverse group of Catholics need not be categorized as monolithic is critical if one wishes to be taken seriously by them and by those who work with them. She proposes that the young adult groups she describes can be encouraged to learn from one another. This is critical to young adults (and all Catholics) who seek to be more balanced and holy witnesses to Christ’s call. None of us has the whole truth, but together we can come close to understanding it more fully, if not completely.
Peer to peer ministry in the young adult milieu is critical and yet difficult, as young adults are part of a more pervasive culture of competition. If the church wishes to witness to young adults and be witnessed to by them, it must practice this challenging task of listening to and serving one another.
Christine Wilcox, O.P.
San Francisco, Calif.