Re “Family Matters, Part 2,” (Editorial, 10/5): Having discussed Pope Francis’ recent reforms to the annulment process with a former member of an archdiocesan tribunal, it seems there are three major changes, not all of which, in his opinion, are for the good.
First, the removal of a second review is a good change, whose time has come. The review was essentially a time-consuming, expensive repeat of the tribunal’s work, and this priest and canon lawyer could not recall an instance during his time when the tribunal’s decision was overturned. Second, he does not support a free annulment process. An annulment process is a legal procedure, incurring the normal expenses of a law office. The church has more pressing needs than subsidizing an individual’s desire or need for an annulment.
Finally, he is very concerned that the third change, allowing a bishop to bypass the tribunal, do his own review and grant annulments, would subject the process to political and financial pressures and concerns. Will any bishop have the time and inclination to conduct a thorough review in order to render an expedited decision?
A Difficult Welcome
Let’s hope the new process is even more streamlined for divorced and remarried non-Catholics who seek to enter the church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is difficult to welcome inquirers and then announce that they face a lengthy annulment process.
What I most appreciate about Gregory Hillis’s article, “One in Spirit” (9/21), is the degree to which he gives painful witness to the scandal of division which continues to haunt Christianity. Too many of us for too long simply accepted the unfinished state of Christian unity as the normal state of being. Perhaps if more of us felt the degree of pain and division experienced by Mr. Hillis, more progress toward fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus, “that all may be one” (Jn17:21), would take place.
What We Carry
Firmin DeBrander, a professor of philosophy, posed well-crafted arguments in “Our Armed Society” (9/14), but they stem from his position that the right to have guns in this country is one that should be opposed. Why should one oppose that right when the gun violence is committed by people he describes as “unbalanced” and “hate filled”? These crimes are not “what passes for normal life” in our society. They are rare exceptions that capture attention.
I am a Roman Catholic man, and I enjoy gun ownership. Guns are fun to shoot. I enjoy developing the skill of marksmanship. Some of us use them in the hope of enjoying a successful hunting season or two. They are also a means of home defense in the rare instance that I might require them for that purpose. Above all, it is a feeble argument to say that having one, even carrying one, is a “disincentive to look for Christ in others.” Seeing the face of Jesus in others is at times difficult but is more dependent on one’s relationship with Christ than with some object that one might be carrying. Policemen and soldiers, as well as sportsmen, carry guns, yet their ability to find Jesus in “a rich, open public life” is not automatically compromised by that fact. What they carry in their hearts and minds is more of a determinant of their relationship with Jesus.
Waiting for the 28th
In February 2013 America published an issue with an unusual cover: the text of a proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It was very brief, and I paraphrase: The Second Amendment is hereby repealed. States shall have power to regulate the possession and use of firearms.
It is a marvelous idea whose time will come only when we have a population not mesmerized by the likes of Wayne LaPierre and not unfazed by sidearm on the hips of their “neighbor” and a Supreme Court that recognizes, along with most of the rest of the world, that we have arrived in the 21st century and no longer live in the circumstances that prevailed circa 1790.
In his article “Is the Shroud Genuine?” (9/14), James Martin, S.J., quotes the saying “For those without faith, no explanation is sufficient. For those with faith, no explanation is necessary.” He thought it came from either “The Song of Bernadette” or St. Thomas Aquinas. I was a teenager back in the 1940s when the movie “The Song of Bernadette” was being shown in our local theater. A non-Catholic boyfriend and I went to see it, and it began with that exact saying. It was not attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas or to someone in the movie. We looked at each other, thinking, “Should we be here?” I never forgot it.
Forming Whole Disciples
Re “Fostering Faith,” by Msgr. Francis D. Kelly (Vantage Point, 8/31): Monsignor Kelly was ahead of his time talking about “total religious framework,” which is now referred to as life-long faith formation. It includes all the seasons—adult, youth and childhood—integrated into “comprehensive direction” that affects the whole parish community and the world. As a teacher, principal, parish catechetical leader and pastoral life coordinator for over 45 years, I have always been concerned about the whole parish community, because we have boxed the programs into silos of learning, forgetting that each has an impact on the other.
After the Second Vatican Council, the church was called to a “faith that is living, conscious and active,” as Monsignor Kelly said. Despite all this, we still use a classroom model, and now the research shows it is failing to create lifelong Catholics. In a few areas of the United States parishes are forming disciples as a whole: in liturgy, in formation for the whole community and service in peace and justice. From my experience, when the whole parish is gathered, teaching and serving, we are one with Jesus and each other. This formation of disciples will last for a lifetime. Thinking outside the box takes us to the edge, and the risk is worth the kingdom of God.
The writer is a former president of the board of directors of The National Conference of Catechetical Leaders.
The New Normal?
Thanks to Joe Paprocki for telling it like it is in “Progress Report” (8/31). The religious education system is in dire need of major overhaul; more formation of parents and adults is absolutely crucial to stem the tide of departure of families after confirmation. But current staffing trends make reform increasingly unlikely in many parishes, where paid professional staff is shrinking. In fact, some pastors who attempt to support adult, child and youth formation by increasing paid staff to meet parish needs are even sometimes reprimanded by auditors for doing more than what is normal. What does that say about what is considered normal?
Regarding “Killer Robots” (Current Comment, 8/17), the editors failed to mention a fundamental aspect of the autonomous lethal weapons issue, namely, that the Obama administration has used these types of weapons for some time, although presumably not fully autonomous ones. The administration has, however, let the nose of the camel into the tent. In order to preserve his legacy, President Obama has used drones instead of sending U.S. troops to fight in foreign lands. In the process, his policies have resulted in the death of hundreds, if not more, of innocent victims of war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let’s give credit where it is due.
In “Doctrinal Challenges” (10/12), Peter Folan, S.J., explores how the theological insights of Karl Rahner, S.J., could help the Synod of Bishops on the family. He writes, “Doctrine extends to members of the church a helping hand rather than a wagging finger.” Readers respond.
I wonder if “doctrine” can also lend a helping hand to the suffering transgender Catholics who probably do not feel welcome coming to church. I would think it could.
A wagging finger can be the beginning of a helping hand, because doctrine requires obedience to something higher than yourself, as does love.