Short on Moral Courage?

In the editorial “Paths of Conscience” (5/2), the editors seem almost to be of two minds regarding the refusal by Roy Bourgeois, M.M., to recant his beliefs. They acknowledge that in calling for him to recant what he believes, the church authorities are asking him to lie; and they note that he has chosen “authenticity.” On the other hand, the editors seem to compare Father Bourgeois’s situation with those who have been “silenced” at times by the church and imply that maybe he should simply “be quiet” about the subject of women’s ordination while continuing to work for other causes.

But of course the situation faced by those silenced by the church (Yves Congar, O.P., John Courtney Murray, S.J., and others) is not the same as that faced by Father Bourgeois, who is not being asked not to publish or speak of his beliefs publicly but is being asked to recant—to lie about what he believes. The difference is clear, as is his choice. He has chosen not to lie.


Are some in the clergy made uncomfortable by his choice for honesty and integrity in preference to going along with the church authorities? There are many, many members of the clergy who agree with Father Bourgeois and will say so privately but fear to say so publicly. Perhaps some fear, but try to deny, that they lack his moral integrity and courage, and would like very much for him to “go along,” so they are not forced to come face to face with their own consciences and their own lack of moral courage.

Anne Chapman

Los Angeles, Calif.

What Does Rome Fear?

As I read your editorial “Paths of Conscience” (5/2), I am halfway through Dr. Elizabeth Johnson’s book. Why do you call her Sister? She is a doctor of theology. Referring to her as Sister, her personal vocation, rather than as a theologian is to denigrate her status as a theologian.

Cardinal Wuerl and his minions sanctioned her because if one accepts the trajectory of her theology, the male caste system and absolutism that have characterized the church since the time of Constantine would collapse. No wonder the cardinal feels threatened!

On Father Bourgeois, I notice that several times Maryknoll’s Orbis Books is cited in Dr. Johnson’s book. Orbis has been a powerful voice in speaking truth to power, in developing new theological horizons that support women, the poor and the oppressed. It is ironic that Maryknoll speaks the truth to secular power where freedom of speech and intellectual autonomy are guaranteed, but it collapses when the time comes to support Bourgeois and speak truth to Rome’s ecclesiastical power, where there is no intellectual autonomy or freedom of speech. Is Maryknoll’s superior afraid that Rome will shut Maryknoll down if the order takes a courageous stance on repression within the church?

Bill Wilson

Hedgeville, W.Va.

Greediest, Not Greatest

Tax the rich? In answer to your “Let’s Be Clear on the Budget” (5/2): What of the rich going along with their being taxed, in effect taxing themselves at a very high rate? The 90 percent rate from the early 1940s to the early 1960s surely couldn’t have been maintained if the wealthy then had the mindset they have now. Then they were part of the Greatest Generation, not the Greediest.

During those two decades of high taxation we paid our World War II debts and helped other countries with theirs, invested in the huge G.I. Bill that built the middle class by boosting tens of millions into it and built freeways, to mention a few things the government did that the private trickle-down sector could not do.

Now we cannot maintain our middle class or highway system. Our medical costs are the highest in the world because of the profit motive, the incentive to do more, to focus on quantity rather than on quality. We do very little prevention or early care and too much later and very expensive care because we did so little earlier.

Jim Lein

Minot, N.D.

Let’s Look at the Record

Before the bishops who are described in Signs of the Times (“Bishops Divided on Pro-Choice Politicians,” 4/25) pop a knee-jerk condemnation of pro-choice politicians, they should reflect on the performance of the politicians who claim to be pro-life. Ronald Reagan claimed to be pro-life; George H. W. Bush was pro-life, depending on which day you asked him; and George W. Bush also voiced a pro-life stance. But what did any of these men ever do about abortion? Nada.

The Reagan-Bush administrations had a total of 20 years, but their only pro-life action was a friend-of-the- court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court during Reagan’s second term. The truth is that politicians are pro-life when they are campaigning. When they are in office, they do not want to touch it. It is too controversial and will alienate about half of their constituents. It’s better to stay mum on abortion and give their time to popular causes like tax cuts for the rich and bashing immigrants. So I hope we take a look at politicians’ performance instead of their rhetoric and take a seamless-garment approach to public affairs.

Ken Eppes

Dallas, Tex.

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