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"Shameful and unchristian". .

The unusual boxed item in the December issue did not go unnoticed by our readers. That the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith required U.S. CATHOLIC to reprint two documents explaining the church's teaching on the inadmissibility of ordaining women as priests irritated, incensed, or amused most of them. The following is a sampling of responses:

It is no doubt a great relief for the staff of U.S. CATHOLIC and for the Claretians to have resolved the investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (You May Be Right, December). The shameful and unchristian thing is that there should ever have been such an investigation.

That the letter of an unknown accuser, too cowardly to come forward publicly, should cause the heavy-handed political arm of a billion-member-strong organization to take this mischievous coward seriously and inflict on a well-meaning religious order and a well-respected Catholic publication the anxiety, expense, and inconvenience of such an inquisition is a travesty that mocks the church at a time when it doesn't need further indignity.

One does no favor to U.S. CATHOLIC by mincing words here. A small number of Vatican bureaucrats, by insisting on the publication of the two documents, are not only interfering with the editorial freedom of the Catholic press; in a raw demonstration of naked ecclesial power, they are forcing the magazine to eat crow. This forced publication of the two Vatican documents is not a teaching moment for anyone concerned; it is, rather, an act of willful humiliation.

Loyal Catholics ought to protest this farcical inquisition. I mean, Catholics who are loyal to what Christ stood for--the very word loyal has been hijacked to mean siding with the pope willy-nilly.

For every cowardly letter-writer there are many Catholics around the world who think that indeed it might be a good idea at least to discuss the issue of women priests. Some new pope will eventually muster the courage to consider this possibility. Common sense and the divine Spirit will then do the rest.
Michael J. Farrell
Kansas City, Mo.


What's to say, of any real use? The incident smacks of the worst corporate paranoia of our church, the same shrill shouting-down of open discourse that ultimately is cousin to the cowardly evil that hid and lied about the ubiquitous rape of our children.

We will soon have no church at all, I am afraid, unless the very men who vowed to be servants begin to serve not by dictating what subjects are forbidden in public discourse, put by learning to listen to the men and women and children who have the exact same standing before the Christ we believe in utterly: awed and hopeful.

A Catholic press that cannot report openly on matters in the heart and on the lips of the faithful is no more than a cheap newsletter, a gaudy fraud, a mumbling house organ. Was it not Christ's best friend who wrote, veritas vos liberabit ("The truth will set you free")?
Brian Doyle
Portland, Ore.


My father used to warn me that if I will be hung for stealing a lamb, then I should steal a sheep. By his reasoning, then, U.S. CATHOLIC should have explicitly disputed Rome's teaching about the ordination of women. Would you be in any less trouble if you had?

Such hobnail-boot reactions are typical of totalitarian dictatorships, not good shepherds. I am always willing to learn, but I am never willing to have honest discussion silenced.

Perhaps you should also publish Saint Thomas Aquinas' famous claim that to act contrary to one's own conscience is always wrong. Under any circumstances, please continue publishing what you think it is right to publish.
Catherine M. Wallace
Skokie, Ill.


I was humored in many ways by the "rebuttal" you printed as directed by the CDF. You should be "honored" that big brother is watching what you say very closely. That is a sign that your magazine has arrived. How many people can say that the Vatican cops are looking into their conduct? Gee, I have been trying to get their attention for years.

We must always remind ourselves that even Jesus could not satisfy the religious authorities of his days. I honestly believe that Dostoyevsky had it about right with the legend of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov. If Jesus came back today, this group in Rome would tell him that the church no longer needed him.
Bob Hertz
Ellicott City, Md.


Let me get this straight: Because Jesus is not recorded in the Bible as having selected any women as apostles, women cannot be priests. Yet our church freely uses titles like His Holiness, His Eminence, His Grace, and Father, when Jesus specifically said, "Call no one on Earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). And he warned on more than one occasion about avoiding such titles and terms of dignity.

Then there is that troublesome verse in Romans 16:7, where Paul writes, "Greet Andronicus and Julia, ... they are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me."

If the church hierarchy wonders why the faithful are becoming what they consider to be the "not-so-faithful," perhaps it has to do with a lack of credibility on the part of church leadership. The CDF need not be concerned that laypeople are not clear about the church's stance on the ordination of women. Rest assured, we are painfully aware.
Teresa Hoffelmeyer
Winterset, Iowa


I am glad to see that the Vatican took some action about your magazine. I was also glad to see some actual church teachings appearing in the December issue. Too bad it took force for you to do that! You are willing enough to use the word Catholic to sell your magazine, so you also have a duty to present Catholic teachings fairly and accurately.

While it is not possible to prove in a scientific sense what Christ intended His priesthood to be, it is very clear that the idea of a woman being ordained faces serious logical and scriptural problems.

My experience is that most Catholics readily accept the church's teaching on the priesthood when it is explained to them. The church has always valued reason, and everything we believe is reasonable. It is high time that you started showing more balance when you write about the priesthood.
Father Matthew Kowalski, O.S.B.
Marvin, S.D.


The apostolic letter and CDF response document you obediently reproduced in the December issue represent one of the most blatant examples of hierarchical power abuse witnessed in a while.

It is well known that many theologians look favorably upon consideration of the inclusion of women in the clergy. But such a consideration is openly repugnant to the fundamentalist faction of the Roman curia, particularly the CDF.

What's the motivation here? Why would this statement about women's ordination need to be proclaimed as infallible? How about: If it's infallible, it can never be changed.

More and more of us are recognizing our obligation to question pronouncements made by our leaders when they require a compromise of our honest, prudently informed personal conscience. There are those who call this "cafeteria Catholicism," but a close, prayerful look at it might reveal another description: "responsible Catholicism."

Unless our shepherds wake up to the reality that the faithful can no longer be bullied into accepting without question any and every pronouncement "officially" promulgated by the Vatican, they may one day look back at their flock and discover two things: 1) We are not sheep. And 2) We are not there.
Tom Roller
Amboy, Ill.


It amazes me that the Vatican has taken the time and effort "to set things straight" on this issue but declares an episcopal amnesia when confronted with its neglectful oversight in numerous child-abuse cases.

It also amazes me that our bishops are so caught in a gridlock of the mind that they fail to see what is truly important. Loyalty to the pope must not take precedence over loyalty to Christ. Documents and numerous "I'm sorrys" don't make up for this unbelievable blindness and lack of vision.

I pray the Holy Spirit will prevail and that we will someday have these dangerous attitudes behind us and will read about them only in books on church history.
Shawn F. Gearing
Greensburg, Pa.


You missed a splendid opportunity. The formal request by the CDF deserved a formal response: Your verbatim publication of both documents should have been in their original Latin.

The only way our church will straighten out this private club of male clergy is by ordaining married deacons and females to full priesthood, which will happen in God's good time. Such action will also help correct our idolatrous attitudes toward popes, bishops, and infallibility.
Keith Burbridge
Valrico, Fla.


I hope you were able to laugh when you received the communication from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. What a threat you people are! How you undermine the faith (as though this were a matter of faith)!

I wonder how many of your readers will plow through those documents that, always obedient servants, you printed. Really, does the CDF have nothing more important to do? Keep up your fine work, and know that there are others out here who read the rest of U.S. CATHOLIC.
Father John Pesce, C.P.
West Hartford, Conn.
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Publication:U.S. Catholic
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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