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June 20, 2011

On Bishop Morris

The outrage over the removal of Bishop William Morris from his Australian diocese (Signs of the Times, 5/23) is not limited to Down Under. Almost 100 priests from 33 U.S. dioceses and five religious orders have sent a letter of commendation to the National Council of Priests of Australia. They wrote:

We write to bring our hearts into solidarity with the National Council of Priests of Australia, as it issued its 3 May 2011 “expression of sadness at the forced early retirement of Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba.” We admire this exercise of the NCP’s willingness to represent its respectful challenge to a papal decision....

Because we are not familiar with enough of the details, we do not pretend to comment on Bishop Morris’ public positions and performance which brought him Vatican disapproval, but we are most trusting of your communal reaction and pray that similar organizations of the clergy emerge throughout the universal church to give the Holy Spirit instruments to renew the Church that emerged from Vatican Council II.

Among the signers are a number of priests who are presidents of priests’ groups: Len Dubi, president of the Association of Chicago Priests; Dave Cooper of the Milwaukee Priests’ Alliance; Neil McCauley of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests; Thomas Ivory of the Newark Archdiocese; and Robert Perkins of the Richmond Diocese.

(Rev.) Bernard Survil

Diocese of Greensburg, Pa.

Priests Need Justice Too

In “The Bishops’ Priorities” (5/30), Bishop Cupich has well described the efforts made to protect children. But medications that heal can also have bad side effects. Efforts to protect children can have the bad effect of removing innocent priests from the ministry. The primary concern is children, but innocent priests must also be protected. Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., in “The Rights of Priests” (Am., 6/21/04) severely criticized the Dallas charter for putting innocent priests at risk. Some bishops remove priests with little or no investigation. Priests frequently say, “If you get an allegation, you’re dead.”

As a canon lawyer, I deal frequently with accused priests, some innocent, some not. One priest from outside the diocese was removed in a context that defamed him, because the bishop misread a letter from another diocese. I prepared an air-tight case against the bishop, but there is no avenue for appeal.

Bishops enjoy a special immunity. Only the pope can judge them. My priest suffered a grave injustice at the hands of the church structure. I wrote to the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and to committee chairs for three years urging that the charter be revisited. Each reply said “Revisit scheduled for 2010.” The meeting came and went. Nothing, nada, zip. The charter and U.S.C.C.B. procedures remain flawed.

(Msgr.) Harry J. Byrne

Bronx, N.Y.

It’s Murder

In response to the editorial “Slippery Slope” (5/23): Murder is murder. It cannot be sugar-coated or wrapped in a national flag. Vengeance is our nation’s official response to 9/11.

Michael Joyce

Sandy Springs, Ga.

Is This What We Stand For?

I read with much interest and agreement the “Slippery Slope” editorial (5/23). One thing that has distinguished the United States from other superpowers is our moral principles. I wish the administration had said, “Our plan was to take Osama bin Laden alive and put him on trial but, unfortunately, once the mission unfolded, that was impossible to achieve. As a result, he is dead.” I hope that was the plan; but the lack of clear articulation of it leaves me wondering whether the ultimate action really set the desired example of conduct that we want all countries to display.

Michael F. Vezeau

Bluffton, S.C.

A Clear Denunciation, Please

For years I have enjoyed a subscription to America only because in my poverty a friend provides it as a Christmas present. It is a Christmas that lasts—until you publish something like “Slippery Slope” (Editorial, 5/23). I longed for something on the rage and wrath over Obama’s “killing” Osama, and I got an editorial that was more the slow-livered slush of compromise. Every Christian principle concerning conflict has been violated in this nation’s raging, righteous furor over the slaughtering of Osama. And whatever is left of international law is swept away. It is not a “slippery slope.” It is indiscriminate warfare, when the United States can enter any nation with skilled troops to execute whomever we please. Could we not just for once have a plain, clear denunciation of willful revenge?

James McCormick

Kansas City, Mo.

Driven to Drink

Reading your editorial “How Old Is Old Enough?” (5/30), I remember conversations on this topic while our three children were at Middlebury College. It was said that when the drinking age was 18, students would wander from the campus on foot down to the local pub and have a couple of beers and wander back. I think our oldest son, a nondrinker, put it well. He said that if you knew you could have a drink when you felt like it, it was less likely that a lost weekend would occur on a Friday night drinking binge. Instead, when the drinking age was raised to 21, the small local bars closed for lack of business, and the students went elsewhere, in cars, on weekends to drink.

Winifred Holloway

Saratoga Spring, N.Y.

Beer on Deck

I agree with the editorial “How Old Is Old Enough?” My 18-year-old son and his friends will go to college this fall, and I am sure they will drink there. Yet I could be arrested if any of these young men had a glass of wine with dinner in my home or drank a few beers while eating crabs on my deck this summer. This would be a great time for them to learn to drink like adults. Instead they will probably do what my class did, the first under the new 21-year law in my state. When we could get our hands on alcohol, we drank as much as we possibly could. I would rather my children learn moderation at home than binge at college.

Cathy Stamper

Gambrills, Md.

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