Counting the Cost
Re "Slowing the Exodus,&rdquo by John J. DiIulio Jr. (5/11): One of the biggest tragedies in our church is that we are doing precious little to help teens grow in their understanding of their faith. Compared to mainline Protestant churches and mega-churches, which use many resources to keep their teens connected, Catholics seem to be totally indifferent to teens.
We need to wake up and join the 21st century and help high-school age Catholics know that they are important enough for us to invest our resources in them. Catholic schools are too expensive for the majority of families, so money and resources should be directed toward parishes. We also need to invest in the education of future youth ministers and catechists for teens, and pay them a decent wage. This will be expensive, but doing nothing results in many adults being uneducated in their faith and explains, in part, the exodus of young people from the church.
New York, N.Y.
Re your editorial on dealing with the priest shortage ("A Modest Proposal,&rdquo 5/4): We need a revolution in the way the church&ampampmdashlaity included&ampampmdashviews the priesthood. Priestly ministry is demanding work, requiring long hours, little time off, lousy pay and no real pension plan. I think celibacy for diocesan priests should be optional, but are rank-and-file Catholics aware of what changes that will mean for them? When Father has a wife and kids to feed, do Catholics really think the dollar they throw in the basket will be enough?
If a real discussion of married priests were to happen, it must start with a discussion of fairer treatment of priests, including realistic salaries and retirement options. That alone might make the priesthood a more attractive vocation for some. But that requires recognition by the laity of what this would entail. Otherwise a married priesthood would solve nothing, because no married man would enter such a vocation&ampampmdashhe could not afford it.
New York, N.Y.
Nothing to Lose
What would Jesus do about the priest shortage (Editorial, 5/4)? Jesus "called&rdquo all around him, whether they were married men (Peter), single men (John) or women (Mary Magdalene, the first of the apostles). Why not throw open today our "leadership&rdquo to all who are of good character and interested in serving? The church might just be surprised at the movement of the Spirit in solving the current shortage. What is there to lose?
You correctly point out in your editorial on the priest shortage (5/4) that sacramental ministry must be connected to other pastoral ministries, and you cite Canons 528 and 529. But these canons, in directing the priest to be catechist, evangelist and bearer of the works of mercy to the community, define more the diaconate as subsumed into the priesthood than the priesthood itself.
May I suggest an enhanced diaconate (including women) as a remedy for the church's crying need for ministers?
Re your editorial on the priest shortage (5/4): I am 27 years old and a diocesan seminarian. I will soon be ordained to the diaconate and will be a priest within a year. My home diocese had not been able to foster vocations for a number of years, but has recently experienced a resurgence of good young (and old) candidates for the priesthood. During our experience of the decline in vocations, it was all too common to hear rumblings about how "the church is in transition&rdquo or what "the spirit of the Second Vatican Council&rdquo called for. In charity, a complete lack of formation led us to the point where people could advance their own opinions against the church in her teaching capacity.
What people failed to realize was that they were replacing dogma with dogma&ampampmdashno more explored or well-developed than what we had traditionally been offered. A few years ago we gladly received a bishop who is faithful to the magisterium. By making vocations a priority, we have seen a tenfold increase in the number of men seeking ordination.
For pragmatic reasons alone, I would be in favor of seeing how Christ will provide for his church, to which he promised his everlasting presence (eucharistically as well as in other ways). But celibacy is a beautiful gift, and I thank God almost every day that he has called me to love him and his people in this most special way. I eagerly await the day when I will love the church (yep, that's you) with the same love that Jesus pours out for each and every one of us.
Mountain Lakes, N.J.
Back to the Future
As the number of priests declines, perhaps we will reach back into the past and allow the revival of an ancient tradition in our church, when each community presented to their bishop one from among them whom they had called to preside at Eucharist and serve their community. Remember St. Augustine? And what about all those gifted women?
(Rev.) Rich Broderick
Your editorial on the possibilities for expanding priestly ministry is especially apropos for the many dispersed Catholic communities in "mission&rdquo areas that have been and continue to be nourished primarily by catechists, and in some places by married deacons. During a conference in 1984 in Rome on the topic of lay catechists, this refrain was raised by a number of participants. I wonder how strongly this remains an expressed desire in newly evangelized areas of the world.
Kenneth J. Hezel, S.J.
In your issue of 5/11 (Letters), Bishop Sylvester D. Ryan comments that there are some active bishops who strongly support the president of the University of Notre Dame in the controversy over Barack Obama's commencement address there. Perhaps as we approach the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will give them the courage to speak out.
John M. Young
Dix Hills, N.Y.
Your recent editorial "Sectarian Catholicism&rdquo (5/11) grievously disappoints, because it does not weigh rightly the evil of abortion or the power of elected officials, and because it mistakenly equates the actions of the pope in receiving officials of state with inviting them on his own initiative or conferring honors upon them.
Our mission, and that of all others who do recognize the terrible evil of abortion, must be to give that witness, peacefully and courteously but firmly, to the entire nation. The church (including its universities) should not be perceived as a great tent where good and evil are enthroned equally, each making its own cause for acceptance. This is not simply a debate about prudential decisions regarding church policies in the public forum.
Also, the pope does not invite advocates of one grave evil or another to share a prestigious role in his ministry or to be honored by him. Such persons may seek to meet with him as a head of state (which he is), and if they are so identified with evil practices, the pope will exhort them (as he has) in a manner that takes account of their position, responsibilities and commitment to safeguard human life and human dignity.
(Rev.) Daniel S. Hamilton
Slash and Burn
Bravo to your editors for the editorial on sectarian Catholics (5/11)! While hyper-Republicans slash and burn to make political points, and our bishops either play along or are ominously silent, the church's hold on Americans continues to erode (as documented in "Slowing the Exodus,&rdquo by John J. DiIulio Jr., in the same issue). Catholics of all political persuasions need to put their faith first and let their politics follow.
A way to do this&ampampmdashand to provide a true and compelling witness to our culture and to the ever-increasing numbers of former Catholics&ampampmdashis to renounce violence in all situations, from abortion to the death penalty, from war to assisted suicide, from destruction of embryos to destruction of the environment. There is plenty in Catholic social teaching to argue for such a comprehensive approach. Christ did not teach that only the "innocent&rdquo have to be protected while everyone else is fair game for "prudential&rdquo violence.
We need at least some of our cardinals and bishops to step front-and-center and speak out for a comprehensive "culture of life,&rdquo an approach faithful in all respects to Pope John Paul II's vision. Except on abortion, so much of what the Catholic Church in the United States is doing on a wide variety of issues is practically secret. Can anyone lead us forward from this state of stagnation and decline?
Mark E. Rondeau
North Adams, Mass.
Ears to Hear
I am proud of your magazine for its editorial on those who are so sure of what it means to be a Catholic and so certain of what is intrinsically evil (5/11). I found the following particularly insightful: "For today's sectarians, it is not adherence to the church's doctrine on the evil of abortion that counts for orthodoxy, but adherence to a particular political program and fierce opposition to any proposal short of that program.&rdquo
At the recent 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, its members were encouraged to "go to the frontiers,&rdquo to address the more challenging issues facing us, and your editorial does this.
Could I humbly suggest that the church envision structures that will make dialogue among all groups in the church more rational and loving? There seem to be many voices in the church today, but where are the ears?
Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J.
Perhaps the University of Notre Dame could have invited Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X to speak at its commencement, and given him an honorary degree. When the expected complaints started rolling in, I would look to your magazine to champion his right to receive it. Or not.
Oak Ridge, Tenn.