Out of the Spotlight
Re “The Big Dig,” by Maurice Timothy Reidy (11/16): As a priest and native of Boston who happened to be visiting family there when The Boston Globe began its “Spotlight” coverage, I am not sure I will be watching this movie. I hope I am wrong, but I am willing to wager that it will not include the material that makes it clear that upwards of 90 percent of all priests were not involved in this kind of activity or cover-up. Nor do I expect that it will have a crawler at the end that informs the audience of the steps the church has taken to ensure that there will be safe environments for all our children in parishes throughout the United States.
Let me hasten to add that I had telephone and email conversations at that time with one of the Spotlight reporters to provide some background perspective. What the Globe did was commendable and necessary; what this movie will do is to stir up great pain and some animus towards the church, not all of it deserved.
Focus on the Victims
I continue to be utterly confused as to why priests who were “not involved in this kind of activity or cover-up” make the situation about themselves instead of gravitating towards the victims and their families. As for this movie causing great pain—that pain is already there.
Strengthen Lay Involvement
In “Strategic Opportunities” (11/2), Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., outlines several excellent strategies to strengthen the U.S. church. And he does include areas where the laity can play an important role in executing these strategies. But, as usual, there is one major area where the laity is often forgotten. He should have included a seventh strategy, namely, to strengthen the role of laypeople in church governance.
Too often, the role of the laity in parish councils and finance councils is given lip service. Furthermore, while diocesan synods are another mechanism for lay involvement, few of these are held in U.S. dioceses. Strengthening the church means more vigorous involvement of the people of God, and such a strategy speaks to the call of “Lumen Gentium” for an important and substantive lay role in the church.
I totally agree with Father Holtschneider’s article, but I would put, in order of importance, preaching as the number one priority. Poor preaching drives people away from church. And just as any person must spend time on his or her craft, I hope that priests and deacons spend sufficient time preparing their homilies. It shows when they do and when they don’t!
The Diesel Dilemma
Volkswagen indeed has a lot to answer for, and as the editors acknowledge in “The People’s Car Company?” (Current Comment, 10/19), there is some question about the company’s ability to survive, given the costs of fines, penalties and correcting the software in existing vehicles. The greater threat may be to the ability of Volkswagen and other makers of diesel autos to meet even the existing environmental standards. Lax enforcement has been standard behavior in European countries since at least 2011.
Some questions worth considering, even at this early date: Would/should the European Union or individual countries’ taxpayers bail out car companies that are financially unable to survive under current E.U. environmental standards, once these are actually enforced? These automakers are major employers in several European countries. Should E.U. environmental standards, which the Europe-based manufacturers cannot meet, be softened to save jobs? Should the environmental standards be preserved and enforced, and the companies that cannot meet them be allowed to die off?
The Parishioners’ Part
I have great empathy for young adult Catholics who struggle to find a parish they feel connected to. As a university chaplain, however, I found myself discouraged by Kaya Oakes’s “Church-Shopping” (10/19). It is the same discouragement we have to fight from week to week here. I encourage people all the time: if they feel put off or the liturgies are terrible, try another parish. Unfortunately that seems to encourage only more criticism: “This parish caters to young families”; “I’m the youngest person in the parish.” Yet I hear from other discouraged individuals looking for those very things!
I am not saying priests or parish staffs should get a pass on any of this—and I’m abundantly aware of the terrible experiences some have had when they have tried to get involved. But I keep trying each and every week, each and every semester to reach out to the people of God and build them up and our community. I just want to encourage all laypeople to do the same.
Re “Rhythm and Beads,” by Jeffrey Essmann (10/19): When we were growing up, we said the family rosary in May and October—while doing the dishes. One of us sat on the stairs to lead the rosary while the rest of us did whatever we were supposed to do to clean up from dinner. Years later, talking to my mother about the format, she told us that it “kept us from fighting.” But it did more than that. We have a devotion to the rosary that brings us together, particularly in those times when we need the strength of each other.
Another story: A friend who was not Catholic and went to religious education with his friends was learning the rosary. The sister sent them all off to say a rosary. He finished early. She grilled him about having used every bead. He had. She asked if he said a Hail Mary on every one. “Yes, Sister.” Finally, she asked to let her hear him. He promptly began, “Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary…” He has since entered the church and knows how to say the whole thing.
More Jobs, Less Work
In “Basic Justice” (10/12), Nathan Schneider reawakens the notion of a basic payday regardless of one’s employment status. This idea may sound great to most of us on the margins of the economy, but let us not forget St. Paul’s admonition: those who do not work shall not eat. I think there is an intermediate step to take before removing our human need to work. It is time for the six-hour workday, and the four-day workweek. Let Muslims have their Friday day of prayer, Jews their Saturday Sabbath and Christians our Sunday Mass. So many now are overworked, while others languish for lack of a decent job. Think of all the jobs that would be created this way.
The Wrong Question
I am Irish pursuant to my heritage, and I am Catholic by choice. Not everyone in my family is Catholic; it’s a choice we are all given. Being of Irish heredity is not. In “Tribal Combat” (10/12), the reviewer William Boles refers to the author of “An Unlikely Union,” Paul Moses, as “a third-generation Italian American on his mother’s side (he’s Jewish on the paternal side).” Although I hope this was unintentional anti-Semitism, it still is just that. My children’s father is Russian. His parents were Jewish; he is not.
If you are referring to someone’s national heritage, like the author did with Moses’ mother, then you name the country. If you would like to refer to someone’s religion of choice, then you can do that. But it frustrates me when people refer to one person’s nationality and another person’s religion, which is sadly and almost exclusively done to those who choose to be Jewish. My daughters have been asked, “Are you Irish, or Jewish?” Could you imagine being asked, “Are you American, or are you Catholic?”
It was a matter of some interest to us folk in Boston to read Judith Valente’s “Accused in Peoria” (10/12) about the priest accused of sexual misconduct. We in Boston have seen many cases of devastation caused by false accusation of and abrupt removal of clearly devoted priests. It seems strange that our traditional understanding of justice is regularly violated in this area.
Perhaps there should be a prayer for true vindication for the priests chosen to bear the cross of false accusation, which is ruinous to them, their families and all who love them. Would it not be good that Pope Francis’ tenderness and closeness might be applied to these priests whose hearts have been pierced with the lance of injustice?
America has shown itself open to all viewpoints, seldom more than in the letter I just read from James Bannon, which concludes: “The Second Amendment is a protection against government tyranny” (Reply All, 10/12). The Second Amendment was written and adopted in order to assure that citizens who were obliged to help protect the country from its enemies could keep weapons for use when they were called into militia service. More than 220 years later we have a standing army and enlisted militias (the National Guard), and no longer are the unorganized able-bodied males of the country expected to be first responders in military emergencies. And in this 21st century it is to me inconceivable that the writer’s tyrannized citizenry would match with their AK-47s and Glocks the military expertise and firepower of our professional soldiery.