Not Too Hysterical

If what the Rev. Michael Kane writes about New Standards for Pastoral Care (4/10) is true, I wonder, as a psychiatrist, why any man would even venture to become a priest. The priestly role is already a lonely one in our day, but according to him things are likely to make it even lonelierwith his bishop becoming an advocate for the diocese, and not a support for the priest, and his parishioners so likely to jump on him because something goes amiss in his counseling role that he had better get himself some malpractice insurance.

Frankly, I think the author is being carried away, perhaps because he may really be overly identifying the priest’s role with that of a psychotherapist, whose professional role is so much more clearly defined, while the role of a priest is much broader and not to be guided by rigid boundaries (the buzz word these days for mental health workers).


As I read the Virtus Model Code of Pastoral Conduct,I really get no sense of the doom and gloom he implies to be there. Rather I get a good picture of very reasonable principles to guide a priest in his counseling role, some rather common-sense principles that I assume are easily followed by men with the level of education enjoyed by current priests. Nor do I sense a stage being set for bishops to abandon their supportive role to the clergy. Please, let’s not get too hysterical in the aftermath of the sexual abuse debacle.

Donald J. Carek, M.D.
Bluffton, S.C.

Composition of Place

With regard to the review of Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,by John B. Breslin, S.J., (4/17), I have a few comments. Living in New Orleans for seven years, I learned about Anne Rice and lived down the street from her house. I found that her historical novel The Feast of All Saints gave me excellent antebellum background on the city. I understand her book about Christ certainly not as canonical, not even as Bible study, but rather as a colorful provider of what St. Ignatius calls composition of place. I thank her for it.

Anne Sturges, R.S.C.J.
Albany, N.Y.

Test of Verisimilitude

The very day I finished reading Anne Rice’s novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the review of this book by John B. Breslin, S.J., (4/17) came to hand.

I have no quarrel with Father Breslin’s comment that, given the genre of the Gospels and the sparse narrative about the childhood years of Jesus, a novelized autobiography of Jesus aged 7 to 8 is necessarily largely fabrication. But for readers who have often read and meditated about the life of Jesus in, for example, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, this book iswas for mea great help to imagine the turbulent political milieu of Palestine, to experience a child’s impression of the magnificent Jerusalem Temple and its elaborate sacrificial ceremonies, and to imagine life in the extended Jewish family atmosphere of Nazarethall of this through the eyes, and especially through the heart and emotions of a boy who is striving to know who he is.

What Father Breslin calls fabrication I would call a well-informed and loving attemptpersonal to Anne Rice, to be sureto imagine what went on in the mind and heart of a profoundly human boy who was, even as a boy, the most perfect expression of the Son of the Father in a human nature. Her imaginative depiction of Mary, Joseph and James also stand the test of verisimilitude, and helped me to free them from picture frames. Her use of a few incidents narrated in apocryphal gospels, however, was a minor blip of unreality, but not an essential flaw. I look forward to the books she promises to write on this theme using rich talent and experience of writing novels set in an accurate historical milieu.

Robert Deiters, S.J.
Tokyo, Japan


I like to remember my son, Joe, as being on a peacemaker team in Iraq when he died on Nov. 18, 2004. His peacemaker team was not the one Carol LeClair refers to in her letter (4/24) commenting on Iraq: Exit or Not? (3/6). My son was an American soldier and also a gifted linguist. He could read, speak, write and translate Arabic with the best of them. He planned to go back to the Middle East to graduate school when he was discharged in spring 2005. He wanted to improve his language skills and learn more about the people and culture he loved. His dream was cut short when he was mortally wounded near Fallujah while returning from a patrol.

I am angry over the loss of my son. I am also angry over the tone of the LeClair letter. The American policy may or may not be flawed, but American soldiers are not the villains. I know because my son, Sgt. Joseph M. Nolan, U.S.A., with his unusual language ability, saved as many Iraqis as he did Americans before Iraqis killed him.

Joseph P. Nolan
Waterbury, Conn.

Paramount Importance

Tom Fox makes a compelling case for reinvigorating Catholic social teaching in The Moment, the Message, the Messenger (4/24). But one of his seven points deserves some amplification. Fox notes that a commitment to fetal life is of paramount importance. I agree. But I would add that Catholic social teaching needs to embrace not only fetal life but all human life.

As we in Vermont are struggling to prevent a physician assisted suicide bill and a capital punishment bill from being passed by our legislature, we are reminded that Catholic social teaching points to the inherent dignity of all human persons. The elderly, the terminally ill, the disabled and even the felon convicted of heinous crimesall reflect their creator. All give their creator glory and honor just by being.

Catholics need to be comfortable speaking up for the dignity of all human persons and for public policy that respects that dignity.

(Deacon) Pete Gummere
St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Reformed Structures

I congratulate Tom Fox on the breadth and depth of his view of the Catholic Church in the United States at the present moment in The Moment, the Message, the Messenger (4/24). But I disagree with his suggestion of a moratorium on church renewal. The scandal of sexual abuse of minors by members of the Catholic clergy and, even worse, the failure of episcopal oversight, have opened a door that will not be closed to possibilities of creating new participatory structures in the church. The fact that Rome has severely limited the possibilities of collective episcopal leadership means that collective voice and action need to come from elsewhere. The many Catholic reform groups will not just stop; they will continue to affirm their place in the broad tapestry of the American Catholic Church. To stop would probably mean to leave, and we would lose the richness of this voice. But I am confident that this part of Tom Fox’s message will not come about; I know of no power that could stop the voices of reform.

Kenneth Smits, O.F.M.Cap.
Madison, Wis.


Almsgiving by Margaret Silf (3/27), was the most challenging article I have read about almsgiving in years. I must admit that I fall into the category of those who give to many charities year round while clinging to some resources for my future. Her words have been in my thoughts for some weeks, and I realize I have a way to go before I can say, as did the black South African woman running an orphanage for children whose parents had fallen victim to H.I.V./AIDS: When I meet my maker, I want to have used up, totally and completely, every gift I have been given. I want to return to God empty-handed when I have spent all God gave me. Then I’ll be ready to go home. These are words to reflect on for many years to come.

(Msgr.) Ron Amandolare
Egg Harbor, N.J.

Lifestyle Trusting

The Of Many Things column of May 8, on the truths of faith becoming a problem for faith-living, speaks volumes. Our hunger for an energizing, life-giving spirituality can easily be detoured by emphasizing the truths of our beliefs. Allegiance to these truths easily produces a certitude that subtly spirals downward to self-righteousness. If there is an ongoing, ever-harmful element in religion, Catholic or otherwise, it is the self-righteousness of absolute truths dividing people into those who are right and those who are wrong.

The true energy of faith is found in its mystical searching for true mystery, God, and the relationship God aspires to with each person of faith and their sharing it with one another and all others. Faith, then, is a lifestyle trusting in God’s love and presence. This is the enthusiasm and inspiration for sharing it in all our relationships. It is an ever-lifegiving trust in the incomprehensible mystery of God, needing no further truth to sustain it.

Mark Franceschini, O.S.M.
Denver, Colo.

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