How to Help
I loved the editorial, The Meanest Cities (3/6). It reminded me of when I was stationed in New York City during one of the coldest periods in history and Mayor Edward Koch challenged the churches and synagogues to allow the homeless to sleep in these sacred places. When the churches and synagogues tried to do this, everyone found out that this was in violation of a host of city and state ordinances. Somehow, in cooperation with local authorities and the help of countless volunteers, these obstacles were overcome, and many homeless found temporary shelter during that terrible period. It took a dedicated effort of lay volunteers to watch over these people during the long nights. Somehow, it worked.
Jeffrey Mickler, S.S.P.
Justice and Charity
Don’t Forget Justice, by Thomas Massaro, S.J., (3/13) is much needed. We Catholics do have a tendency to slight justice and think to ourselves, convince ourselves that charity will supply and make up for omissions. The recently canonized Chilean Jesuit, Alberto Hurtado, expressed it correctly: Injustice causes far more evil than can be repaired by charity. And Pope Paul VI reminded us forcefully with few words, Justice is the minimum of charity. Thanks to all involved for a thought-provoking issue!
John B. Pesce, C.P.
West Hartford, Conn.
The article on Chinese Catholicism’s growth is a timely topic, given China’s recent rise in global power politics (China’s New Role, by John A. Worthley, 2/20). But I was shocked at Mr. Worthley’s oversimplification and grossly inaccurate account of the status of the church in China. Never once does the article mention the growing violence the Communist government inflicts on the underground church and priests who are in communion with the Holy See. Nor does he mention that the non-Patriotic, nongovernment-sanctioned Roman Catholic Church in China is officially illegal. In late February, Father Lu Genjun and Father Guo Yanli were arrested by Chinese security officials for their affiliation with the underground church and their allegiance to the Holy Father. Surely, the church should continue to work toward the full communion with all Catholics in China, but reconciliation is far from reality.
Fasting: A Fresh Look, by Thomas Ryan, C.S.P., (3/6) covers all the bases and makes a case for renewing our understanding of fasting and abstaining from meat during Lent. Pastorally speaking, however, both fasting and abstaining seem not to resonate meaningfully in the hearts of the faithful, nor in mine. Actually most are excused from fasting because of their daily hard work. But there is another scriptural passage that might resonate within the faithful and bring them to fast meaningfully. It is proclaimed on the Friday after Ash Wednesday. God speaks: Is this the manner of fasting I wish...that a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast? ...This rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed (Isa 58:5-8).
Eugene Michel, O.F.M.
St. Paul, Minn.
Thomas Ryan, C.S.P., hits a home run in stating that prayer, fasting and works of justice (alms) are the very core of the Christian life. Each year on Ash Wednesday we hear this theme struck, and are all too often bored because of a certain lazy scriptural literalism. The Catholic imagination unfolds this triad of values one by one, noticing that the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience mimic the same discipline, the same truths, the same call to growth, the same bold, cosmic yet personal engagement. Any Catholic spirituality worth its salt has to embrace, elaborate and live these values.
Lent simply says, It ain’t easy, Buster! But if we can grasp the bridegroom theme, everything is transformed. Denying, punishing, guilt-tripping slink away. Lent, and the whole Christian life, then become, as for Jesus, a returning of love. He summed up his Lent this way: The Father glorifies me, and I glorify the Father. A great love affair.
Jack Morris, S.J.
Msgr. Thomas D. Candreva’s recent article, A New Impediment, (2/27) on the Vatican’s document on homosexual aspirants to the priesthood rekindled doubts and concerns that I, as a psychiatrist, have had since that document was published.
First, there does seem to be a ready movement from homosexual tendency to activity without much distinction between the two. The differentiation between deep-seated and transitory homosexual tendencies comes through as something quite difficult to unravel in the real world. There also seems to be a tendency to scrutinize a candidate’s homosexual sexual activity more closely than that of a professed heterosexual. While obviously either would need to be celibate after ordination, there comes through the inference that this may be a more difficult task for the homosexual. I know of no basis to conclude that the homosexual has more problems containing sexual urges.
Second, from where comes the inference that the homosexual tendency may impede development of affective maturity, which may impede the ability to relate correctly to both men and women? It is hard to believe that those with a heterosexual orientation have a monopoly on such maturity, which is a challenge for all of us. The question that comes to my mind is, Could it be that the heterosexuals in the seminaries and among the clergy are really the ones uncomfortable in dealing with those of homosexual orientation, not the other way around?
Third, it is unfathomable to me that the powers in charge would actually decide that a homosexual priest could not become a seminary faculty member. What does sexual orientation have to do with being a capable teacher/professor?
Donald J. Carek, M.D.