* Someone needs to ask the basic questions, "Where does the church really live?" Is it in the detached halls where the guardians of pure and rarified orthodoxy dwell, or, as Anne and Ed Reynolds (NCR, Nov. 5), good and honorable people, have realized, is it in the streets, backyards, workplaces and homes where all of us struggling with the vagaries of fate live out our lives?
I am not out to canonize the gay and lesbian population of the world who share the myriad characteristics of the rest of the human race. I have found, however, that those who truly seek a deep and vibrant spiritual way of life not only are offered neither support nor direction, but receive only excoriation from far too many religious leaders. Vocal and powerful clerics, moreover, often forbid association with the "lepers" of today.
Why are homosexual folks and those who care about them singled out for such vilification? I understand. I carry my own battle marks. I have loved, prayed with, eaten with, worked with, and counseled many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered folk who show true deep human characteristics: love, devotion to each other, excitement, creativity, spirituality, humor and time for one another. Why there is not support of such richness is beyond me. What are people afraid of? It seems to me that evil, disorder and depravity are in the eyes of the beholders. Are their mirrors warped?
Because of this chosen association, I was, within this decade, caught between churchmen who brandished the sexual dogma of the church and the spiritual needs of my marginalized minority community whom I have continually served as pastor for the past 30 years. Letters from, outsiders and homophobics brought the canonical heavies to my door, with an entirely soul-wrenching outcome.
I marveled aloud to my canonical visitors, "Are there so many priests that you can afford to throw some away? Who is better off for your purge?" To me, it was as though the capo were severed from the corpus. It seemed that service to the body of Christ was of lesser value to them than maintaining doctrinal virginity. I opined that these superior clerics were perhaps kin to those who derogated Christ's friends for picking wheat on the Sabbath. (They were invincibly displeased.) My father, a respected lawyers and judge, always said that the law must be administered with the heart. I believe that. I am still here but no longer wear proud letters after my name.
I am of the mind that the altar was always meant to be table of food for the hungry, not a podium of awards for the unsullied, doctrinally pure of the world. I am encouraged to see that folks such as the Reynoldses, honest, kind and well-grounded in faith and reality, are however reluctantly, taking a stand against the destructive courtiers in the hierarchy. I hope such stands will contribute to a growth and purification process for the Catholic church, force it to open its eyes to spiritual richness, encourage its tolerance for diversity and revivify its gospel roots where access to Jesus, by his own decree, was available to all.
TOM COMPOSTO Baltimore
* Your editorial on Ed and Anne Reynolds mocks Cardinal Francis George for describing the disciplining of Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent as a "clarification," but judging from the pronouncements of Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, perhaps even further clarification of the church's teaching is needed.
The magisterium has stated that the homosexual condition is objectively disordered, and that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil. These terms are not applied to homosexuals as persons. Yet the Reynoldses pretend that this is precisely what they mean. It puzzles me that they continue to do this. It is for the promulgation of self-pity?
It is disappointing that those who seek to justify their dissent from church teaching must do so by distorting the teaching. Perhaps another statement from the Vatican clarifying these issues will help to rid the church of such confusion.
JAMES H. LOEWE Indianapolis
* I am reminded of John 8:7 as I read the article about Ed and Anne Reynolds, who have a gay son. They wrote a letter to the editor of their local paper in support of the ministry of Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent and their relatives. The letter was subsequently published in the archdiocesan paper. As a result they were pressured to resign as eucharistic ministers. Why? Because they question a church teaching they see as justifying violence against their son and other homosexuals?
It seems that those parishioners who have complained about Ed and Anne and the pastor, Fr. Joseph Penna, need to be reminded of Jesus' words: "Those without sin, throw the first stone." These words are used by Jesus to show the hypocritical actions of those who want to quickly condemn others.
Has Penna ever been uncomfortable with church teaching? Have those parishioners ever been concerned about the all-too-human elements of our church that cause more discriminations? If they have, then they are being hypocritical in their condemnation of the Reynoldses' letter.
The Reynoldses have lovingly and faithfully served as eucharistic ministers for 20 years. Now, when people know they have loved a gay son, they are not worthy? The Pharisees of old were concerned about fulfilling the Law. I would suggest that Fr. Joe look at why he has acted as he did and quickly rescind his actions. These parishioners need to be taught about hypocrisy, not be supported in it.
(Sr.) DOROTHY JONAITIS, OP St. Louis
* The role of conscience in the moral life is continually a source of controversy when one enters a discussion about various issues in the church today. The latest issue, a revisited yet unresolved one, is homosexuality and homosexual acts. But this issue, while important, only illustrates the greater picture of a division between those who wish to follow verbatim magisterial pronouncements based on a deontological morality and others who have a moral vision based upon a relational/responsible method of morality.
Recently, Fr. Robert Nugent and Sr. Jeannine Gramick have been censured by gays and lesbians, And in a related case, Anne and Ed Reynolds, not nationally famous ministers or spokespeople for a cause, just good, faithful people of God, were pressured to resign from their ministry in the service of the church because they expressed their consciences.
The primacy of conscience is "very sound theology" according to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (NCR, Jan. 16, 1998) when considering the issue of homosexual acts. Yet, those who follow their consciences after discernment of study, reflection and prayer face sentences of anathema by the hierarchical leaders of the Roman Catholic institution.
As for me, if I must decide to listen to either "the divine voice echoing in my depth" (cf: Gaudium et Spes) calling me to act with love and compassion, or the voice of cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- even if unintentionally -- demanding judgment and exclusion, I will take my chances on conscience.
JEFFREY S. MONTOYA Milwaukee
* We know there are many choices that people make in their lives, some are good, some are bad. There are other aspects of a person that just simply are. Being gay or being straight or anywhere in between is not a choice but rather a gift that is given us by God to use lovingly and wisely (I was taught that sexuality is God's gift.)
Aside from that, that precious gift is but a small area of his of her life and does not diminish in any way any person's capacity to be great person and son (as is the case with Ed and Anne Reynolds' son). I imagine that the church has lost some fine, caring and Christian people over issues like this as well as several others.
One of the finest days of my priesthood was the day I went to speak to a wonderful woman, who I knew growing up. She was dying and she wanted to make some kind of peace with the wanted to make some kind of peace with the church she grew up with that said that there was something wrong with her because she was gay. I sat all day, listened and learned -- what a great opportunity for the both of us. she needed someone who would listen with patience and love. Perhaps, although I did not know it before, I needed to hear her experience so that I would listen with patience and love. Perhaps, although I did not know it before, I needed to hear her experience so that I would be able to minister better to our brothers and sisters who are judged by their lifestyles and sometimes feel that they don't fit in and are not welcomed.
Have we learned nothing from Matthew Shepard???
(Fr. BART BAKER Jersey City, N.J.
* Teresa Malcolm's article about the Reynoldses made me sad and angry, but most of all grateful to two people who simply love their son and in their loving demonstrate the love of Christ.
Thank you, Ed and Anne.
DICK HANSEN Palo Alto, Calif.
Facts about the Philippines
* I am happy to read Fr. Robert Drinan's column about U.S.-Philippine relations (NCR, Nov. 5). He has raised questions that should lead U.S. readers to a "guilt-trip" thinking about what the United States had done to the Philippines in the past.
Some historical facts are hidden about the U.S. role in the Philippines. While most Americans know about the victory of Admiral Dewey against the Spanish Armada in Manila Bay in 1898, only a few know about the massacres the Americans perpetrated to establish the Philippines as a "colony." The controversy about the Bells of Balangiga attests to this fact.
While older Filipinos are thankful to Gen. Douglas MacArthur for liberating Philippines from the Japanese, they are oblivious to the fact that the islands would have been spared Japanese devastation if the Americans were not there in the first place.
Filipino World War II veterans have discovered that they are being shortchanged as the United States continues to refuse payment of their pensions for fighting with the Americans. As a seminarian during Ferdinand Marcos' martial law regime, I joined the human rights groups marching in the streets of Manila asking the United States to stop sending aid to the dictator. They did not listen. Marcos and his cronies pillaged the country and deposited millions of U.S. aid dollars in Switzerland. What is left is a country that will take generations to rebuild.
The U.S. military is back in the Philippines in the thinly disguised Visiting Forces Agreement. If only the U.S. policy makers make honest and sincere answers to Drinan's questions, U.S.-Philippines relations will turn for the better of both countries. That sounds like wishful thinking.
(Fr.) ROQUE P. VANO Brawley, Calif.
* A growing collection of well-educated, vibrant and youthful senior citizens give the church a possible pool of potential priests who are widowered with no children to raise, who would consider the priesthood as a very satisfying way to serve the community in which they live.
Wide experiences in various professions have prepared them nicely to serve and continue to use skills learned over a life-time. I ask, "Why not?"
The issues over women priests or married priests or "circuit rider" priests sharing parishes become non-issues and bring current rancor, enmity and divisiveness to a welcome end.
Again I ask, "Why not?"
The U.S. bishops need to get off their duffs and initiate a national campaign to search for interested and qualified men.
DANIEL F. BEROW Townville, S.C.
Follow the bishops?
* My National Catholic Reporter arrives faithfully every Monday p.m. My first read is the back page editorial. Very food stuff to be found there, I tell myself. It usually gives me a jump-start on social justice issues.
While I found the Oct. 29 editorial well balanced in the approach to the bishops' latest publication on voter responsibility, I noted a certain queasiness rising in my gut when I read, "but Catholics can contribute richly to the process by following the bishops' lead."
Follow the bishops? You mean those fellows who have just recently discovered the death penalty and the poor who will inherit the earth? Why on earth, I ask myself, should I follow these bishops when my own moral compass set on social justice serves me so well?
Switching to my defense mode, I began my "what if?" mutterings.
Where, I ask myself, were they when the death penalty was reintroduced over 30 years ago? Did we hear dissenting voices from our hierarchy? Precious little -- and my memory serves me well. Let me see now, the NCR Death Watch tallies 580 executed since 1976. Nifty.
Where were they in the years of the arms race and the Cold War when education, health care, housing, hunger, child care and elderly issues were put on the back burner while the military-industrial complex feeds greedily at the trough? While the motley peace people called for economic conversion, our hierarchy accommodated themselves by blessing battleships and bombers.
Vietnam, Central America, Chili, Argentina -- their poor peasants suffering torture and death at the hands of U.S.-sponsored genocide. Our bishops? Dusting off their patriotism while following their hero, Reagan, in their contempt of communism.
What if, I ask myself for the thousandth time, they had lavished their resources and shrill rhetoric on these social justice issues as they have on abortion, contraception and the "intrinsically evil" homosexual? Would Matthew Shepherd be alive? Would we have a "culture of death"?
There is indeed a culture of death, but it has not just recently arrived on the scene. Our bishops -- or was it Rome? -- have carefully contrived their culture of death to suit their political purposes. In their inimitable way they have passed the culture of death blame to the "primordial evil" of abortion, and therefore women, while ever so cleverly and hypocritically denying their own role in the violence that has engulfed the planet.
Follow them? Not on your life. They haven't a clue.
MARY McDONOUGH HARREN Wichita, Kan.
Kids and guns
* Tom Robert's sobering story "Here, kid, try this machine gun," (NCR, Nov. 12) is powerful commentary that should jump-start us all to protest the way our military establishment propagandizes, especially children, with its state-of-the-art "be all you can be" hype.
But there is deep irony in the fact that the same article uses in a photo caption and without editorial footnote, in the words of our president (and commander-in-chief of those responsible for such questionable promotion) the admonition that "we must teach our children to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons."
Sadly, it is not that we don't need a strong military capability or that those words from the President's bully pulpit do not, in this case, tell the truth.
But they have a hollow ring when we look at the way he has avoided applying the same precepts to his own flawed stewardship, one primarily committed to military solutions to international conflict: his determined urging of NATO expansion his game-playing with the Rambouillet "negotiations," his incessant use of Serbia-Kosovo, and of course, Iraq an easy proving ground for our not-so-precise air power.
But as if to assure that his legacy will not be one of leading us into a more peaceful world as we start a new century, is his advocacy in lock-step agreement with the most hawkish elements of our society, of the highest-tech militarization of space.
Kids, get ready for the thrill of that!
ROBERT MAGIRL Albuquerque, N.M.
* I welcome Patricia Carol into the Roman Catholic church (Starting Point, Nov. 12). The lectionary is, indeed, both a life-giving and life-long means of divine guidance in prayer. I am happy for her that the daily Mass was a comfort in the aftermath of broken vows of marriage.
However, in welcoming her into the Catholic church, the church asked her to break vows again -- vows uphelp by church to be sacred and binding as those of marriage -- her vows of ordination. I wonder how Patricia Carol and church authority can justify this betrayal.
Again, I welcome her into the Catholic church. But my foreword to my heartfelt welcome cries, "Violation!" And my afterward to "welcome" screams, "Injustice!"
SUSAN FINN Maple Grove, Minn.
* Yes, I think Patricia Carol got it right. Her thoughtful account of her journey to the Catholic church in Why do I want to join this church?" was an apt ending to a busy Thanksgiving weekend.
Like Ms. Carol, my own heart "got stuck" on daily Mass when I "returned" to the church to claim my faith community as an adult. Her words kept on coming back to me this morning as I celebrated the first of two daily Masses. I saw those around me with a richer appreciation of what we bring to nurture the horizontal and vertical dimensions of Grace.
Why do we come? We come because this is where we begin to draw hope, healing and meaning in a church and culture often wounded, challenged and inspired by its contradictions. I believe the Body of Christ is enriched by Carol's decision Sept. 11. Her account gave me more reason to be grateful for my own. May her choice continue to keep her close to the love and vision that we share through Jesus Christ in His pilgrim church
(Rev.) THOMAS POWERS Reading, Mass
* While Anthony Padovano's article was excellent, (NCR, Nov. 12) I do think we should go back to the past. Back to a time when priests were sons of Levi, found only in the Jewish temple. Back to a time when Christians knew nothing of ordination. Back to a time when those with the gift of preaching preached; those with a gift of teaching taught. Back to a time when either Peter or Lydia could break bread for the gathering of believers.
Vatican II perhaps didn't take us back far enough.
MARTY MEYER-GAD Santiago Township, Minn.
* I have never identified so closely with anything as I did to Anthony Padovano's article in the Nov. 12 edition. As a 59-year-old cradle Catholic who has lived on both sides of Vatican II, this feature spoke to me as nothing else in my memory.
I have often wondered at my total acceptance of all the doctrines and dogmas handed down to us during our younger years. Why did it take us so long to realize that we were thinking people, capable of discernment and listening to the dictates of our conscience? Padovano addressed this in his description of his feelings as seminarian at the time the council was called. We were the perfect church; there was no need for change; we were the favored people, If we accepted this, then surly we would follow the rules without question.
We have definitely lost this older version of church, and I, for one, thank God. I pray that my answer to the fundamental question, "Do you love me?" helps bring about the church and the incarnation rather than a temple or an institution.
RIA SUTTON Stockton, Calif.
* I want to thank Anthony Padovano for his cover story "No Turning Back." I thoroughly enjoyed his insights and appreciate them immensely.
I met Anthony at the Boston College Institute for Religious Education around 1973 and enjoyed his courses. We do need hope today and some guidance in discerning the trends we either enjoy or suffer through. Please give us more of these insightful articles. Thank you for NCR and your ministry to us.
Also, thanks, to Fr. Richard McBrien for his column "Giving Thanks To God For Vatican II" (NCR, Nov. 19). He is always refreshing and insightful. This column made my Thanksgiving richer and helped me greatly with my Thanksgiving homily.
(Fr.) ARTHUR FLYNN Reading, Mass.
Heresy and infallibility
* A Nov. 19 NCR story on the recent Call to Action meeting in Milwaukee quotes Bishop Raymond Lucker as disowning dissent from infallible teaching and as labeling such dissent "heresy."
Lucker speaks as one more voice among those who for the past 20 years -- ever since the Vatican censure of Hans Kung -- have tried to defend themselves as "only" disagreeing with nonifallible teaching. Lucker then joins these dissenters in reducing noninfallible but authoritative teaching to the status of something like a well-meaning but tentative opinion put on the table by the pope and/or the bishop. In Lucker's words: authoritative means "the best we can do at this point."
Let's get real. Authoritative teaching is intended as more than tentative opinion, and infallible teaching also is human and as such "the best we can do." As the Catholic participants in the USA Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue on infallibility recognized, also some 20 years ago, even infallible teaching might so reveal the limits of human thought and expression as to cry out for revision from the moment of its proclamation.
Revision requires dissent. Real, serious dissent on core issues, rather than the kind that keeps on telling "the man" it is only about matters far down the "hierarchy of truths." If such dissent is heresy, then heresy has an essential place in the faith community. In which case, of course, it really isn't heresy after all.
FRANK REILLY St.Paul, Minn.
* Helen Hitchcock of Adoremus argues that "since the law of the church permits celebrating Mass in the ad orientem style, it's questionable whether a diocesan bishop has the authority to prohibit it" (NCR, Nov. 19). That's interesting.
Since allowing girls to serve at the altar is a law of the church, I guess Hitchcock now questions the authority of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and Mother Angelica to prohibit that practice? Or do the people of Adoremus pick and choose which church laws they'll obey or ignore?
Regardless, I was glad to read that we have at least one bishop in the United States with the proper male equipment to stand up to Mother Angelica's refusal to come in line with church teaching as promulgated by Vatican II. But the question now is, will the priests in his diocese obey his excellency or will they continue to follow Her Holiness?
ANTHONY R. STOJAK Montgomey, Ala.
* I just learned that your Oct. 15 "Destinations" issue failed to mention the excellent alternative travel organization, Global Awareness Through Experience (GATE).
Though inadvertent I'm sure, this was a serious omission.
I have been on two GATE trips. The first, to Peru in 1989, literally changed my life and led to my decision to leave my law practice for 3 years and do human rights work in Peru as a Maryknoll lay missioner.
I've just returned from the second, to El Salvador this November, which included the opportunity to participate in the procession and mass at the University of Central America in San Salvador in remembrance of the Jesuits and two women killed there 10 years ago. I will never forget the experience of marching with thousand in an eerily silent candlelight procession -- or the profound and courageous homily and other aspects of the mass.
The GATE program not only allowed us to literally walk in the footsteps if Archbishop Oscor Romero, the four North American churchwomen, the Jesuits and many others, but also offered a dynamic program of learning El Salvador's reality today by meeting with many dedicated people working on the numerous problems of this poor, yet in many ways very rich, country.
I enthusiastically recommend GATE for alternative tourism.
JOHN WAGNER Sacramento, Calif.
Office of Grandpa
* I hope the next pope will establish a new office, that of Grandpapa, where a pope can retire in dignity and peace at he mandatory age of 75 -- something like the Queen Mother. He should pledge to be the first to retire there.
BOB MAXWELL Washington
* One intention of the final "draft" of the bishops' statement on Catholic universities was to keep the colleges from going "secular" (NCR, Dec. 3). One needs to remember that secular is not evil word or concept. We priests have been called secular clergy for hundreds of years, basically because we must deal with the world. Catholic colleges are attempting to do the same.
One also needs to keep in mind that the vote of the bishops several years ago gave almost unanimous consent to the consultations between bishops and college presidents -- the vote was 210 for, 6 against. Most agree this was good compact. The Vatican would not accept this decision and said it must include legal restraints upon the colleges. Another couple of years went by and now we have this present draft, which includes what the Vatican wanted. The bishops voted this time 233 for and 31 against.
Some priests are asking why the bishops sold out to the Vatican, and I hear the word wimpish being used. I wonder when the Vatican will trust the unanimous decision of the bishops? I also wonder when the bishops will trust their own decision? This is strange leadership.
(Fr.) BILL FORST Foristell, Mo.
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