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June 06, 2011

Blessed Franklin and Eleanor

Constance M. McGovern’s review of Hazel Rowley’s book Franklin and Eleanor, An Extraordinary Marriage (5/16) reminds me that at the beginning of his presidency Franklin Roosevelt told one of the women in his professional life, Frances Perkins, a fellow Episcopalian: “We’re going to make a country in which no one is left out.” Together Franklin and Eleanor strove throughout the 40 years of their lives together to achieve that still unfinished goal. Because I believe they were moved by the call of the baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving their neighbor as themselves, and to strive for justice and peace among all peoples, I have long said that if I were founding an Episcopal congregation I would want to call it the Church of Eleanor and Franklin. Not coincidentally, Secretary Perkins has now been listed among the holy women and holy men of the Episcopal church.

Frank Bergen

Tucson, Ariz.

Courage in the Pulpit?

Your editorial “Solidarity Forever” (5/16) reminds us that democracy depends on checks and balances, transparency and fair treatment for all.

In the United States, barely 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized and 30 percent of those in the public sector. Chief executive officers today make over 300 times what the average worker makes. C.E.O. wages rose 24 percent last year, those of workers with jobs 3.3 percent. In Bergen County, N.J., where I am president of the county workers, ours average barely $48,000 a year. Our blue collar colleagues make 20 percent less than this. We are fed up with the bullying of Governor Christie, who talks about us to others but not with us.

The failure of the church to address the honorable role of labor today is evident at Sunday Mass, where few priests have the courage, much less the conviction, of those great priests you recognize in your editorial.

Gerry Drummond

Dumont, N. J.

‘Error Has No Rights’

Re your Signs of the Times note (5/16) on the removal of Bishop William M. Morris of Toowoomba, Australia, because of his pastoral letter mentioning the ordination of women and married men: Should anyone be surprised at this action? The official apparatus of the church is simply hell-bent on stifling anything that remotely deviates from the official line. Transparency and due process are terms without meaning for the shepherds of our church. The era of “Error Has No Rights,” if it ever was dead, is back again and alive.

John D. Fitzmorris

New Orleans, La.

It’s What You Do That Counts

Concerning the John Jay report (Signs of the Times, 5/30): I have read all 183 pages, including the footnotes. The crisis has never been over priests, married or celibate, or gays or the pedophile or the ephebophile. Any institution or activity with children of any age within its care—Catholic, private or public, school or athletic, or even playground—has some form of the problem. You can try; but like the poor, it will always be with you. It is what you do when it rears its head that counts. That is, it is a management issue. The institutional church has not faced it. It will not get over the crisis until a bishop is removed as easily and forcefully for not handling a sex scandal as he is when he has a doctrinal difference.

A bishop who says we should think about married priests is removed promptly; but a bishop who offers to resign over the sex scandal finds that the Vatican rejects his resignation. Or a cardinal who is “run out of town” gets a high appointment in Rome and participates in the selection of the next pope. People up the line are not held accountable. Even in Philadelphia, the district attorney is afraid to indict the cardinal.

The issue is not unique to the church. How many on Wall Street who received bonuses because their investment banks did well selling toxic assets were indicted when things went south because of the fraud? It is only because we say that the church is different that it hurts so deeply.

Robert G. Blakey

South Bend, Ind.

Confusion, if Not Scandal

Reading J. Peter Nixon’s review of Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s The Mass (5/23), I was reminded how this sort of short-circuited thinking results in people being confirmed in their ahistorical understanding of the faith and the church. Oversimplified presentations are at the basis of the claims that Jesus “ordained priests” at the Last Supper, that the pope is the “vicar” of Christ on earth and therefore the closest thing to God on earth, and that bishops are “successors” of the 12 apostles, as if Jesus himself had instituted holy orders and cardinals (if not monsignors).

Ignoring the complexity and gradual development of offices, which were often based on Jewish and Roman models, and the sociological elements involved in the mono-episcopate under the guidance of the Spirit, for example, only adds to the confusion, if not scandal, when Catholics have their cherished beliefs challenged, expanded or clarified.

Robert Nugent

Baltimore, Md.

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