Re: “The Annulment Dilemma,” by Msgr. Paul V. Garrity (2/16): Finally, a seasoned pastor who is able to put a human face on the trials, tribulations and trauma faced by faithful Catholics seeking an annulment in our overly complicated and overly legalistic process. While I am fortunate to have been married for nearly 30 years to a woman I loved dearly, I can empathize with those Catholics who are not so fortunate. Monsignor Garrity does an excellent job presenting the problems faced by Catholic laymen and laywomen in negotiating the current annulment process.
The church has moved somewhat toward the exercise of subsidiarity in the process by no longer requiring archdiocesan and Roman tribunals to review and confirm findings of local diocesan marriage tribunals. I believe that there is still the need, however, for three members of the local tribunal to sign off on the decisions regarding a particular case. If a larger portion of the process could be done on the local parish level with a recommendation from the pastor or another representative of the clergy working on a case, this might expedite matters. I realize that this is additional work for the local clergy, but it would make the process less threatening to the petitioners.
No Federal Fix
Re “Among Schoolchildren” (Editorial, 2/16): Sending billions to the federal government to be sieved through a bureaucratic morass and then redistributed to the states has not helped students succeed in school. The Catholic social teaching of subsidiarity should inform how we address issues in education. Clearly, more money on its own is not working. Among public school districts that receive the highest per-student funding are the lowest performing schools in urban areas, even in our nation’s capital. I understand the desire to bring up the level of schools in low-income areas to that of higher income areas. This can better be done at a state or local level than in Washington, D.C.
Further, schools cannot make up for what is behind many students’ inability to succeed: chaotic, unformed or missing families. The increase in poor performance correlates to the increasing single motherhood, lack of father involvement and the poverty and chaos that this life creates. We should not expect the schools to do what society cannot.
Catholic social teaching would be such a benefit in society overall, but political leaders ignore the truth and effectiveness of this approach and instead ask for more money for yet another unproven, ineffective or wasteful government program.
Members on a Mission
Re “Pope Francis Sends Pallium Home,” by Gerard O’Connell (2/16): Long ago in my theological studies, I was taught by an eminent church historian that the pallium was introduced as a vestment of commissioning and communion that was given to missionary metropolitans, founders of new churches when they went out from Rome to “barbarian lands” as missionaries. We were taught that it was to be a sign of the mission church’s link with the universal church. I would suggest that today all of Christ’s faithful, whether in an archdiocese or diocese, are members of a missionary church, as we are all called to be men and women on mission.
“Take These Gifts,” by Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M. (2/9), provides interesting descriptive and statistical information on the status of women in the church. But regardless of the high-level positions held by women, church teachings and pastoral policies that affect everyone in the church are decided by the ordained male clergy. I celebrate that Pope Francis has appointed some women in the Roman Curia dicasteries and councils, but I doubt, given their minority status, their influence in governing the church will be significant, at least in the near future.
We are constantly reminded that men and women are not the same (biologically true) and are therefore called to different roles. It seems that in the secular world, those differences are not an obstacle to appoint or elect women for the highest political positions in most countries.
A Sister’s Gift
In an especially good issue of America (2/9), with excellent book reviews (Schmidt, Shelley and Himes) and fine columns (Padgett, Sullivan and O’Connell), nothing could match the marvelous “Take These Gifts,” by Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M. I cannot imagine a better synthesis of the pluses and minuses of the state of women in today’s church.
Sister Walsh has laid it all out as she, former spokesperson for the nation’s bishops, is uniquely qualified to do. And she has pointed the direction that the bishops of today and tomorrow must unquestionably move toward. Maybe, as we today rejoice in the “Francis effect,” we may eventually come to enjoy the fruits of the “Mary Ann effect.”
The Pope’s Presence
In “The Pope in the Poncho” (2/9), Gerard O’Connell describes Francis’ memorable visit to Tacloban, which was cut short by a tropical storm. The word that’s going around here in the Philippines is that he never even got to eat with the survivors. He was allotted 20 minutes with them (from the original one to two hours) because a hasty decision was made to fly him out before the typhoon made landfall. So he spent the 20 minutes walking around and individually meeting all the survivors assembled in the room. He then went to his place at the table and, instead of eating, spent the time listening to the survivors’ stories and responded with much silence and compassion. It is said that all he had to eat was the chips and water that the plane had on the flight back to Manila.
Pope Francis really did make time with the people. I read stories of survivors who recovered their faith not because Francis came to give them answers but because he came to be with them, in silence, in their pains, to bring to them the compassion of God.
Always a Pupil
Re “Following Faithfully,” by Michael G. Lawler and Todd A. Salzman (2/2): The authors want to provide Catholics with arguments to justify contraception and divorced and remarried people receiving the Eucharist. They present no understanding of why the church teaches that contraception is intrinsically wrong and why divorce violates God’s plan for marriage.
A responsible use of liberty requires the guidance of a well-formed, and truthful (non-erroneous) conscience. We do not establish or make up moral truth. We only discover it. God gave us the gift of reason, by which we can search for and attain moral truth. But conscience is always a pupil, not a teacher (John Henry Newman). When the teaching church repeatedly defines contraception as contrary to God’s plan for spousal love, then we are to accept that teaching while making every effort to understand it. One would think that dissenting theologians would be able to see the devastating effects that contraception and sterilization have brought to marriage, spousal love, families, youth and society at large. To ignore the consequences of a contraceptive society is not an exercise of prudence. Rather, it is one of folly.
Recognizing that we often make wrong decisions and engage in flawed reasoning should make us suspicious of following faithfully and relying too heavily upon frail, unaided human reason.
Readers respond to “Cruel and Unusual? Court to Decide on Lethal Injections,” (Signs of the Times, 2/16).