The Price of Power
Re “Of Many Things,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (8/3): Canon law as well as civil law in most jurisdictions makes the ordinary/diocesan bishop the actual owner or at least the principal trustee of all the property of the church, so that in many and varied actions that affect the faithful, e.g., the closing of parishes, the bishop must act, and be perceived, as a landlord rather than as a religious leader who is trying to follow Jesus Christ. Every consultative council or committee at the bishop’s side is there by his appointment, and any advice forthcoming is just that, advice. It is only to be expected that the bishop would tend to use his power as landlord to enforce his rulings as to what programs or opinions may be expressed in parish or diocesan settings.
The bishop’s role in the church has unfortunately been translated into one of exercising jurisdiction, not of service. Even the most fair-minded and virtuous bishop has to be ruefully restricted by the concentration of power placed in him. With Father Malone, we can all cite experiences with generous and caring bishops, but some obvious reforms would help to lift the bishop’s office in the church out of its present distress.
I must confess to approaching Maryann Cusimano Love’s “Building a Better Peace” (8/3) in a wary frame of mind. The idea of “peace building” is to move beyond the fusty old issues of whether a particular war is just or unjust and the morality of nuclear deterrence and instead, as Professor Love puts it, to “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.”
The problem with these fusty old issues is that taking too bold a stand on them would inevitably put you on a collision course with the government of the United States. Call the invasion of Iraq an unjust war in which it would be sinful for any Catholic to participate, which neither the Vatican not the American bishops did, or declare nuclear deterrence immoral, which Francis’ letter to the Vienna conference did not do despite Professor Love’s implication to the contrary, and see what happens. But “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue,” and you’ll be rewarded with a condescending pat on the head from the Pentagon and the White House. And while you’re dialoguing, we’re all living in sin and drawing closer to the abyss.
In “Eugene Kennedy’s Gift” (Current Comment, 7/6) the editors speak of Gene Kennedy’s diverse roles. He was indeed a priest, then a member of the laity; and during both he was a teacher, writer, columnist and friend to many. We assume it was an oversight that no mention was made of his 33-year marriage to Sara Charles, a distinguished psychiatrist. This relationship was a loving, caring one that modeled for many the blessings of married life. This partnership carried into their professional lives as they co-authored several books. In addition, family was one of their highest priorities and joys sharing their lives with brothers and sisters and over 50 nieces and nephews. We hope he will be remembered for all he was and all he accomplished, including his treasured marriage.
During the time of unrest following the tragic death of Michael Brown, countless members of the media and many others, looking for ways to enhance their public profiles, descended on Ferguson and St. Louis. In his letter, “Church in the Street” (“Reply All,” 7/6), David Kappesser seems to imply that Archbishop Robert Carlson had not responded well to the crisis in Ferguson because he did not personally walk in the streets of the troubled community. Instead, Mr. Kappesser points out, the archbishop offered a special Mass and called the community to pray for peace. In choosing this approach, I believe Archbishop Carlson offered a sincere response to the crisis at hand.
In “A Post-Traumatic Church” (6/22), Jeffrey Von Arx, S.J., argues that the use of “modern means of communication” after Vatican I “revolutionized almost every aspect of the church’s life.” While agreeing that the increased speed of communication made it possible for the Vatican to keep closer tabs on what was going on in the universal church, I would say the changes in the church over the “long century” were less systematic, absolute and upsetting to your average Catholic than the changes of Vatican II. If you looked at a typical Catholic Church or liturgy in 1760 and again 1960, what differences would you notice? If you looked at a typical Catholic Church or liturgy in 1960 and then again in 1970, what changes would you not notice? Sadly, the churches that were filled in my childhood are largely empty today.
The Blood of Christians
Re “The Persecuted Church,” by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz (6/22): I give my sincere thanks to Archbishop Kurtz for his call to action. In his conclusion, he wrote, “There are seven Latin and Eastern rite Catholic churches and several Orthodox churches still in the land where Jesus walked.” I would add that there are a number of historical Protestant and evangelical Christian churches there as well. As Pope Francis has said, “Today, there’s the ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don’t ask if they’re Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholic or Orthodox. The blood is mixed. For those who kill, we’re Christians.”
Re “The Gospel According to the ‘Nones,’” by Elizabeth Drescher (6/8): The distinction between Golden Rule and good Samaritan values is interesting, especially the contrast regarding a communitarian versus cosmopolitan outlook. I imagine the distinction is not 100 percent definitive. In my own life as a first-generation Catholic Asian immigrant, I hear this analysis of religiosity akin to the “model minority” ethos that pervaded my own post-Vatican II, pre-millennial generation acculturation and assimilation. My experience of church and being Catholic has always been about difference as well as a communitarian and often minority ethos, of moving from church to Church or catholic to Catholic.
Ecology Is Local
Re “A Planetary Pope,” by Christiana Z. Peppard (5/25): This discussion about Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment will probably get twisted by the global warmers and anti-global warmers. There’s plenty of room for debate as to the effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But the pope’s likely emphasis on “human ecology” is where something more local, not global, transpires.
Borrowing from the wisdom of former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who said “all politics is local,” we might do well to speak more of local ecology and less of global ecology. I’m not so naïve as to think that one doesn’t affect the other, but the immediate needs are for more ethical and moral use and care for the natural world as the place and space of human activity. A California drought may be due in part to global shifts in weather patterns, but it is also due to a poorly conceived economy and lifestyle on the part of millions of Californians and those of us who happily eat and drink of their produce. I hope we can all discuss this with an eye to having the “dominion” over nature that the Creator envisaged and not a powerlessness that is the result of our abuse or ignorance.
Readers discuss the undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, in which Planned Parenthood executives discuss the sale of fetal organs and tissue derived from abortions.
I hope these videos will open the eyes of the public and our politicians to the reality of abortion. When human beings are considered something less than human because of age, disability or illness, such perversions are the eventual result. Ironically, Planned Parenthood has long assuaged the guilt of the pregnant woman by claiming the fetus is little more than a “blob,” not a human being that is killed but akin to a wart being removed. By eagerly approaching the reimbursement for specific human body parts, the group shows its true objectives (making money) and the reality that they know exactly what is being done during an abortion: the killing of a human being.
I don’t know all the facts yet, so I won’t comment on the abortion issue. What I can say is that when I was in my 20s, I didn’t have health insurance. Planned Parenthood provided me with yearly exams that otherwise I could not have afforded. I went there once for an exam, to be screamed at by protesters as a “baby killer.” I gently explained that I was there for my annual exam and that I’m fairly certain that Jesus would be for that. The protesters tried to shame me and made me feel very small. To all the people who are saying that Planned Parenthood as an entire organization is bad, remember that the majority of their services are not abortions but care that women could otherwise not afford.