Safety and Forgiveness
Re “Children First,” by Deacon Bernard Nojadera (8/12): In 1992 a priest I knew and loved was charged with the sexual abuse of two boys. I was in disbelief. He was a gifted teacher and writer. He was my friend. He was found guilty and incarcerated for some time. When he got out, he told us that he was, in fact, guilty.
Eight years earlier I had been in his office on a Friday, late in the afternoon. Two boys were sitting on their sleeping bags in the waiting area. They told me they were going camping with Father as soon as he could finish his work. An alarm bell went off in my head, but it was muted by my admiration and friendship for this man. I dismissed the thought until 1992. Had I received safe-environment training, I probably would have heeded the bell.
Many questions remain to this day. What happens long-term to priests guilty of abuse? How can we apply our theology of restorative justice? Must we throw the whole man away because of his very serious crime and/or illness? Is there not some way in which he can still use his gifts to help build the reign of God?
“Upholding Vatican II?” (Signs of the Times, 8/12) covered only the press conference of the Rev. Helmut Schüller in Washington, D.C. He spoke at venues in 15 U.S. cities. He was enthusiastically received wherever he went, attracting large crowds, who listened intently to his message of reform and renewal in the Catholic Church, a church we all love and want to make better.
The group he founded, the Priests’ Initiative, is now 400 strong in Austria and is spreading across Europe. Perhaps it might be a good idea to discuss in a future article some of his proposals and the way we can start a dialogue, which would be a very healthy thing for our beloved church.
“The Root of Evil,” by William T. Cavanaugh (7/29), profoundly moved me. He gave words to vague ideas and impressions I’ve had, and he helped make me aware of cultural norms I unconsciously have transformed into alleged truths. I plan to share the article with a Muslim colleague and, hopefully, continue to grow. Thank you!
Re “Worse Than Death” (Reply All, 7/29): The Rev. John Koelsch advocates a 30-year prison sentence over death or life imprisonment. A humane, reasonable third way is work under supervision to benefit the world: reforesting, clearing roadside trash, developing dairy industries in arid third-world countries that now eat cattle and goats, working to improve trash disposal.
Stop feeding, clothing and lodging people free on my tax dollars. Instead have them do useful work for decent wages.
Allison Park, Pa.
Spread the Word
“Revolutionary Mercy,” by William O’Brien (7/15), touched my heart deeply, because it cut to the core of what is wrong with our society and our world. If only the content of this article could be shared with the wider community!
On the other hand, we hear the call of Jesus every Sunday, and then too often totally ignore his call during the week. Sadly, that is also true of our legal and criminal justice system, our political system and even our ecclesiastical system. We hear, “You broke the rules” or “We have to go by the rules; here’s the penalty. We can’t show you any mercy.”
It’s time to practice what we preach and what we hear preached to us! Thank you for this awesome article.
What Is Known?
Re “Justices Issue Seminal Decisions on Marriage, Voting Rights” (Signs of the Times, 7/15) and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone’s comments on the court’s decision on California Proposition 8: I wonder how likely it is that we are seeing in our time what was seen at the time of Galileo and Pope Urban VIII. The bishops can claim to have deep and thorough knowledge of many things, but what can they know of the experience of any two persons who deeply love and feel committed to each other? How would the bishops know if what they believe is wrong?
In “Another Diversity” (7/15), John J. Conley, S.J., expresses a desire for his diversity workshops to discuss diverse ideas. He says, “The celebration and testing of such dueling ideas through vigorous debate is the very reason for the university’s existence.” I would concur with that thinking, but it seems that such debate will exist in the church only if it falls within the parameters of what Rome will allow. For example, some very pertinent current issues within the church today are women priests, priestly celibacy, homosexuality and bishop accountability. These issues are very real for the young people of today.
The Rev. Helmut Schüller, a priest in good standing in Vienna, Austria, spoke about some of those issues on his recent tour through the United States. But not one Catholic bishop would meet with him, and they would not allow him to speak in Catholic facilities. So much for open discussion. The elephants in the living room remain.
Since when is conversation heretical? As Catholic school students, we were taught the art of critical thinking as well as proper conscience formation. Are those subjects now off the agenda? My granddaughter attends Loyola University Maryland, and I hope she is “testing dueling ideas through vigorous debate.” Good luck, Father Conley.
West Islip, N.Y.
Nothing to Fear
Re “A New Breed” (Vantage Point, 7/1): When I read the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley’s article almost 50 years ago as an Extension volunteer in a barren and desolate dust bowl town in southern Colorado, I remember being puzzled. I did not understand why he was worried about graduates in the 1960s who were so concerned with honest, authentic, open discussion and questioning of authority. This is what we were taught to do. John XXIII was our pope, and I had been empowered by Ursuline teachers at the College of New Rochelle.
As Father Greeley wrote, we had been told “You are the church” so often that we did believe it. I still believe it. At my 50th college reunion, I met classmates who continue to serve with the same spirit. While I have had my ups and downs with the institutional church and have been disappointed in the lack of equality for women, I have experienced a church that is relevant to the needs of its people and have known leaders whom I admire and love. So I cannot give up hope.
Rest in peace, Father Greeley. There was really nothing to worry about. We just wish we could have done more.
New York, N.Y.
Not ‘All Right’
Re “The ‘Nones’ Are Alright,” by Kaya Oakes (6/17): Am I so lost back in the 20th century that I missed alright entering the dictionary of accepted spelling? As I read tens of thousands of students’ papers from 1952 to 2010, I tried to get it across to generations of young Americans that there is no word in the English language called “alright.” There are two words: “all” and “right.”
Did I miss something? Was the copy editor asleep? Or is it a Generation X or millennial joke, in keeping with the way the “nones” spell these days? Oi vey!
Saint Paul, Minn.
Editor’s Note: You guessed it! It’s an allusion, provided by our Gen-X headline writer, to a 1965 song by The Who, “The Kids Are Alright.”
A response to “Revolutionary Mercy,” by William O’Brien (7/15):
What would Jesus think of our unforgiving penal system? Think of the violations connected to being homeless: “camping,” lying down in public, urinating in public (having no toilet), loitering, panhandling, trespassing and so on. Then there are those violations that primarily affect the poor: having an overgrown yard, having too many people in one dwelling, not having an auto inspection sticker, prostitution. Forgiveness is not part of the equation for the poor and marginalized.