After reading Of Many Things (8/29) by James Martin, S.J., about his trip to Spain, I laughed out loud at his ending. What a gift that the trip to Loyola was a confirmation of your Jesuit vocation. However, being called an idiot was truly a confirmation of your vocation to become a disciple of Christ! Jesus told us very clearly there would be name-calling for those who speak his truth. Thanks for the reminder.

Denise Anderson
Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.


A Modern Problem

I want to demur somewhat from Patrick Wall’s letter (7/18) commending Colt Anderson’s article, An 11th-Century Scandal (6/6) on St. Peter Damian, which deals allegedly with the crime of clerical sexual abuse of children in the 11th century. In fact, Damian in his Book of Gomorrah expresses no concern whatsoever about any possible victims of sexual abuse or harassment, nor does Pope Leo IX in his response. They are concerned only about clerical perpetrators of sodomy, and about the indiscreet discretion of religious superiors who fail to expel the offenders. Adolescents and children (parvuli) come up only in a canon that Damian cites in Chapter 15, attributed to St. Basil (really by St. Fructuosus of Spain, d. 665), prescribing penance for a cleric or monk who pursues youths with kisses or other inappropriate behavior. If a mere kiss deserves such punishment, Damian asks, how much more should sodomites be punished?

I have found almost no reference to the sexual abuse of preteen children before the 20th century. It seems to be largely a modern problem, to judge from the historical record.

Henry Ansgar Kelly
Los Angeles, Calif.

Meaningful Discussion

I found the juxtaposition of two Signs of the Times items (9/12) to be ironic.

Bishop Donald W. Wuerl’s comments on the national ramifications of the denial of Communion to politicians were thoughtful and pertinent. Even more so to me when I saw your picture of the burial procession of Brother Roger Schütz of Taizé. I was reminded of a news report on his burial Mass in The New York Times on Aug. 24 reporting that at a eucharistic service celebrated Tuesday by a Roman Catholic cardinal (Cardinal Walter Kasper) for Brother Roger, who was a Swiss Protestant, Communion wafers were given to the faithful indiscriminately, regardless of denomination. The Eucharist is the embodiment of Christ’s love and of the oneness of all Christians, in spite of our sinfulness and divisions. Cardinal Kasper apparently realizes that it is not a weapon to be wielded to alienate sinners or further divisions. I hope Bishop Wuerl’s comments will stimulate some meaningful Christian discussion among his brother bishops in the United States.

Vincent T. Gaglione
Yonkers, N.Y.

Unifying Principle

I respect Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh, who seeks a more united approach... to receiving the Eucharist (9/12). The bishop is quoted: There must be some way in which the bishops can establish a process, mechanism or procedure for appropriate national consistency. May I suggest the hierarchy trust in the mercy and justice of God on behalf of the faithful who choose to receive Communion as the unifying principle. We all know that the gift of the Eucharist must never be seen as a reward or punishment concerning the faithful.

(Rev.) David M. Carey
Baltimore, Md.

Fraternal Testimony

In interreligious dialogue, to promote dialogue means to create bonds of friendship. I was well pleased to read the fraternal testimony of Rabbi A. James Rudin on the friendship enjoyed by him and Cardinal John J. O’Connor of New York (A Jewish-Catholic Friendship, 8/29). To see two men of such stature interact as they did is to recognize how well they embodied the fruits of interreligious dialogue, which are understanding and cooperation.

Damian MacPherson, S.A.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Don’t Blame

An item in Signs of the Times on Sept. 12 outlines the position of the Diocese of Spokane that parish churches and properties are not diocesan assets, following a bankruptcy court ruling that they are.

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...the local bishop establishes parishes, modifies boundaries, closes parishes, assigns and transfers clerical personnel, audits parish books, approves major expenditures, approves building designs, imposes taxes and assessments, and so on...it is a duck.

It is right that all parish assets be a part of diocesan assets, because that is where control, i.e., ownership, resides. True, this could unfortunately result in forfeit of church/school properties to satisfy damage awards. But don’t blame the victims or their lawyers. Blame those who commit crimes and/or those who allowed the criminals to continue in positions that gave them opportunities for more criminal acts. And include those individuals’ personal assets as well.

Eugene Bova
Overland Park, Kans.

Chronic Failure

The article by Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, C.S., United Nations Reform and Human Rights (9/12) makes the protection of fundamental entitlements the primary objective for the future of the United Nations. May I respectfully suggest that this emphasis overlooks a more pressing need.

In his transmission letter to the secretary general, the chairman of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, Anand Panyarachun of Thailand, insisted that the United Nations can improve its effectiveness only if efforts are...redoubled to resolve a number of longstanding disputes which continue to fester and feed the new threats we now face. To his mind, as to mine, the major unresolved conflicts are the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Kashmir and the Korean Peninsula.

Peacemaking (not just peacekeeping) is an essential element of Catholic social thought as well as a paramount objective of a well-lived Christian life. This high purpose applies to the work of collective bodies as well as to individual behavior, and is relevant in international as well as national settings. A peace-building commission within a reformed United Nations would be helpful. The essential problem, however, is the chronic failure of the Security Council to promote the pacific settlement of longstanding disputes through the exercise of the conciliatory authority that has been conferred upon it by Chapter Six of the U.N. Charter.

Cornelius F. Murphy Jr.
Pittsburgh, Pa.

All of Our Weight

I would like to thank David Richards for his letter, Full Weight (8/29), about the recent effort to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico. It’s unfortunate that his local media did not cover the issue, because during the 2005 legislative session New Mexico’s bishops were leaders in our effort to pass House Bill 576, Abolish the Death Penalty.

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan named repeal of the death penalty as the top issue for the church at the annual bishops’ breakfast with the governor and legislators. He hosted a press conference attended by all the bishops vigorously supporting the repeal legislation. They made the front page of the two lead newspapers in the state and were covered in smaller papers as well. The director of New Mexico’s Catholic Conference, Allen Sanchez, was a vital member of the repeal team working daily on our behalf. The bishops also communicated privately with Catholic legislators and Governor Richardson on the issue.

Every parish in the state received correspondence from Archbishop Sheehan, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, C.S.B., or Bishop Donald E. Pelotte, S.S.S., regarding church teaching on the death penalty. It is unfortunate that these messages were not communicated to parishioners at Mr. Richards’s local church. In short, our bishops were an active and integral part of the success of H.B. 576the first repeal bill in New Mexico’s history to pass either chamber of the state legislature. We never would have made it this far without them.

Oct. 21-24 is the Eighth Annual Weekend of Faith in Action Against the Death Penalty. It is the perfect opportunity for all faith communities to become more involved. Information is available at www.nmrepeal.org or www.amnesty-usa.org/faithinaction.

Helen Prejean, C.S.J., often says that support for the death penalty is a mile wide but only an inch thick. But scratching through that last inchabolishing the death penalty in New Mexico and everywhereis going to take more than the full weight of the bishops. It is going to take the weight of all of us.

Kathleen MacRae
Santa Fe, N.M.

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