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November 12, 2007

Weve Got Issues

Regarding Bishops on Citizenship (11/5), what about the other moral issues that face voters today? Once again, matters of conscience are reduced to bioethical issues. There is no denying that abortion, euthanasia, stem cell and cloning are significant, but so are the other life and justice issues such as war, the economy, poverty and housing. We verbalize the importance of not falling into the single-issue rut when voting, but the leadership certainly does little to challenge and support people in doing it.

Mary Therese Lemanek

Allen Park, Mich.

The Catholic Vote

I applaud our bishops for highlighting issues related to social justice, human dignity and the value of life. The bishops are careful not to recommend one candidate over anotherI have yet to find one candidate who supports all of my positions.

Unfortunately, the bishops document on faithful citizenship, which you cover in Bishops on Citizenship (11/5), fails to reach many Catholics in the pews. I first learned about it during formation for the permanent diaconate. As pastors and preachers, we need to publicize the document.

Let us get the word out to parishioners. May we all vote reflectively and prayerfully, seeking to build the kingdom here and now.

(Deacon) Thomas J. Berna

Houston, Tex.

Leadership Needed

Thank you for Eco-Asceticism, by Kyle T. Kramer (11/5). It is encouraging to read of such people in the United States. The Al Gore phenomenon underlines how desperate the world is for American leadership on the issue of climate change and carbon emissions.

If the next president could exercise leadership and vision on these issues, he or she would at a stroke restore international respect for the United States.

Chris Chatteris, S.J.

Durban, South Africa

Cool My Sheep

Bravo to Kyle T. Kramer for Eco-Asceticism (11/5). To paraphrase John Paul II, technology will not save us. While Mr. Kramers actions may not specifically recall Jesus life (I can hear him telling Peter to turn down the air conditioning in the upper room!), the idea of self-denial for the sake of others certainly reflects not only the teachings of Jesus, but the lives of the saints as well as modern Catholic social thought.

Harry Johnson

Asheville, N.C.

War and Peace

The author of Writing, or Typing (Current Comment, 10/22), who says America ignored Catch-22 altogether, might look again. A scholastic who spent several summers at America and for some years contributed Between the Lines as a socio-literary column, wrote about it in Catch Peace (11/6/65). Joseph Heller, he says, indicts the moral pygmies who saw life as a parade and war as a game, and then sent young men down in blood and flames. Those words apply today.

Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.

Jersey City, N.J.

Electing Bishops

Regarding Episcopal Bishops Take Decision on Gays (Signs of the Times, 10/15): The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, meeting in September in New Orleans, did not vow not to elect another openly gay bishop. Neither the House of Bishops acting corporately nor individual bishops elect bishops in the Episcopal Church. Rather, diocesan Standing Committees consent (or not) to the election of a bishop by the electors of the diocese in which that bishop is to serve. Consent by a majority of diocesan bishops and Standing Committees is required for the consecration of a bishop. The House of Bishops reconfirmed a resolution of the Episcopal Churchs 2006 General Convention, which calls on bishops and Standing Committees to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

For your readers who may lack familiarity with the Episcopal Church, I would offer this sentence from Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by Our Anglican Communion Partners: Within the Episcopal Church the common discernment of Gods call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention. Put simply, the House of Bishops is not the sole decider. And the last words on the subjects of gay and lesbian persons in our church have yet to be uttered.

(Rev.) Franklyn J. Bergen

Tucson, Ariz.

In Defense of Barry

Amid the countless stories about Barry Bondss steroid use that have tarnished his image (Play Ball, Current Comment, 9/24), there is no real proof of such abuse. You ought to give the slugger credit for the awesome hand-eye coordination that allowed him to hit the ball over the fence more than 762 times. He is still a great ball player. The steroids would only have helped him to put the homers into San Francisco Bay!

(Rev.) Charlie Cicerale

Woodbridge, N.J.

Forming an Adult Church

With much fanfare, William Bassett (Church Records and the Courts, 10/29) decries the massive settlements paid out in the sex abuse scandals as well as the concomitant disclosure of files of priests with credible sexual abuse claims against them, calling them unprecedented in American history. Bassett, an advocate for the California bishops, states that church leaders should no longer be under the delusion that civil courts will respect canon law as a matter of free exercise, but the real problem is that the current Catholic parish governance model is a foreign structure inserted into a United States civil law system where it simply does not work. It is dysfunctional, broken and in need of urgent reform.

If we Catholics are to have an adult church, we need to start governing ourselves as adults. We cannot ask our employers to treat us under the civil law with all of the benefits our civil laws may offer an employee, and then turn around and not require a Catholic parish or diocesan corporation to act in the same way. This absurd behavior has materially contributed to the sex abuse crisis, because oftentimes employees are treated more justly in commercial corporations than in a Catholic parish or diocesan setting.

We also have to learn that priests without bona fide credentials in psychological counseling should not be consulted for problems that require a trained counselor. We would not ask a doctor legal questions, nor an accountant how to cook lamb. Priests and bishops are not one-stop shopping cure-alls for all ills.

Unfortunately, there are no such things as the spiritual records Bassett references in his article. He is correct, however, in identifying legislatures as the appropriate forums for improving the governance of Catholic parishes and dioceses. Hopefully, legislatures in each state will undertake some reform of the Catholic governance model. If they do so, we American Catholics have nothing to fear and everything to gain.

Tom Gallagher

Riverside, Conn.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Joe Mcmahon
15 years 1 month ago
While agreeing with Tom Gallagher's letter from the Mianus Riverside, I have to point out that state and federal laws sometimes fail the employee, just as church laws fail the parishioner. Even a unionized employee had better watch what he says (as there are devious ways of giving him nasty tasks), while most employees nowadays are in hire-and-fire-at-will situations legally. I hope for civil laws forcing tax-exempt organizations to disclose their assets and accounts to their donors, under pain of losing their tax exemption. (Last year, such a law did not pass in Massachusetts because churches big and small objected.) It would be interesting to learn how full the vaunted disclosures are in Darien since pastor Fay pleaded guilty to "interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud."

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