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Legal aspects

* I have noticed that many of the articles on the mandatum do not discuss its legal and juridical aspects. If one looks at Canon 812, Ex Corde Ecclesia and the U.S. bishops' implementation document, it becomes clear that the mandatum is in essence a juridical and legal requirement. It is a legal procedure adopted by the institutional church. This means that accepting or rejecting it is not a matter of faith. Also, if the implementation document is read carefully, one sees that the mandatum is not intended by the bishops to be a test of orthodoxy. The bishops clearly state the mandatum "should not be construed as an appointment, delegation or approbation of one's teaching by church authorities. Those who receive a mandatum teach in their own name in virtue of their baptism and their academic and professional competence, not in the name of the bishop or the church's magisterium." Any logical mind will recognize that those without a mandatum (which at present is all theologians) will be able to teach on the same basis.

As a legal requirement the impression is sometimes given that Rome and the U.S. bishops, by requiring the mandatum, are exercising a juridical authority that they already possess. But neither Rome nor the U.S. bishops have any juridical control over the Catholic universities in this country, which are separately incorporated and governed by private and independent boards of trustees. At the moment, neither Rome nor the U.S. bishops have any juridical authority to stipulate requirements for the hiring or retention of professors in these universities. Through the mandatum the institutional church is attempting to gain a juridical control that it does not presently have.


John R. Connolly is a professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University.

Gluten and the Eucharist

* I am a pastoral associate in a parish in the Newark, N.J., archdiocese. I have been in parish ministry my entire adult life. I must challenge some of Tim Unsworth's rash assertions in his Feb. 23 column.

Unsworth blazingly asserts that Jenny "has been denied permission to receive her first Eucharist." I would be willing to bet that this is not at all so. That she cannot take the Eucharist under the form of bread, I would not dispute. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with receiving under only one species. The problem comes from lack of education on the part of the parents. This has all to do with appearances and emotions. "It just won't be the same for this poor girl! She can't receive both!" You know what, parents? Your daughter will pretty much know that everything is going to be all right if you would just tell her so.

Parents now believe that their decision about how to handle a matter is the final word, without regard to the solution's suitability to the community. And if they find that their solution won't be the one used, then they say, "We won't let any of these mean-spirited [well-educated, concerned with keeping a modicum of order in their community, having devoted their entire life to God, struggling each day to serve God's people] administrator types tell us what's best! Compromise -- forget it! We would rather [literally] excommunicate ourselves!" The drama of this new heresy, where the individual (especially the child these days) is the center of the universe around which all rules must bend, is played out in one way or another in my office on an all, too-regular basis.

How would I have guided staff and parishioners to handle this situation? How about something creative? Why not put the cup right in the center aisle and let Father hold it? The girl can come right up the center of the aisle like everyone else, receive and pass by the gluten-infested species -- just the way that many communicants presently pass by the alcohol-laden one.

If the staff won't go for switching the communion stations, then how about something more radical, and more suited to NCR readers? Many of the kids and parents can decide to pass right by Father and go to receive only from the cup. We currently allow parents to have their children not receive from the cup. It could just as well be their prerogative to stand in solidarity with Jenny and her family and choose to receive only the wine species.

On a day-to-day basis, people need to be a little more willing to work with those who have devoted their lives to doing God's work. Cut us some slack -- don't be so quick to run! I'm sure something else could have been worked out.


* Reading Tim Unsworth's article on celiac disease and Eucharist, I was reminded of the experience of a weekend helpout at a parish. During preparations in the sacristy, a eucharistic minister pointed out the special hosts made from rice flour and how I would tell for whom they were designated. After Mass she explained that she had taken on responsibility for making the hosts and getting them to the recipients. She was aware of some controversy over this procedure, but she said, "They just don't understand." And it was very evident that she does understand what the Eucharist is all about.

When rulings of the church get too narrow, restrictive or primitive, there is nothing like a warm bath in the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful).

(Fr.) KEN SMITS, Capuchin Madison, Wis.

* I look forward to NCR each week and have found most of the articles well reasoned and thought provoking, though I may at times differ with premise or conclusion. However, this Tim Unsworth's Feb. 23 column shocked me. Never have I read such vitriol in NCR, and rarely in other (mainstream) papers. It reflected a loveless spirit more typical of an extreme right-wing diatribe.

The unfortunate child in question was not being denied the Eucharist, unless Unsworth maintains that the wine is not Eucharist. Her parents do not want her to feel "different" in church? It is not difficult to turn "different" into "special" -- it's all in your attitude! Yes, anger that a child has a chronic disease that will require major lifestyle changes is understandable, but is the solution to leave the church because of a rule? Does Mr. Unsworth feel that all women should leave because a rule says we cannot be ordained?

But then I read Paige Byrne Shortal's Viewpoint piece, and my spirit rose. I ran for a scissors, and dipped it for my "memorable articles" file. Her tips for survival were worth the price of my year's subscription. I do hope Mr. Unsworth read it, too, and that he gets plenty of rest before he sends his next column in.


We won't buy it

* Paige Byrne Shortal's Feb. 23 article completely mirrored my own situation. When I recite the Nicene Creed, I pointedly drop the word men in "For us men ..." and instead speak firmly: "For us and for our salvation." The imposition of that one word on half the population of the church seems so mean-spirited. After having been director of the catechumenate for six years at my parish, I resolved that this is my church and no one was going to nudge me out by diminishment.

The subtext of this sexist language is an ever-present reminder to us women: We consider you less. Guess what! We won't buy it! Our authority is Jesus, who reminded us that the last shall be first. We don't even want to be first. We prefer no rankings, no categories. Once you impose such structures, it's too easy to slide into other ethnic, religious, racial comparisons.

I am reminded of the innocent words of my 6-year-old friend Julia, who had just learned how to wake the sign of the cross: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. All men."

NANCY WILLIAMS Springfield, Ore.

Co-opting the critics

* The article on the possible canonization of Dorothy Day in the Feb. 16 NCR reminded me of Bertolt Brecht's "St. Joan of the Stockyard." Brecht brilliantly shows how the system can co-opt its best critics and opponents. Those who give praise and honor to Martin Luther King drown out key parts of his message: integration and peace.


* The article by Jim Tull in the Feb. 16 NCR attributes a position to Dorothy Day regarding sainthood that is incorrect and misleading.

Mr. Tull writes, "Dorothy herself was consistently and genuinely hostile to any association with sainthood, and her hostility expressed a general aversion to the concept beyond its official or unofficial application in her case."

Dorothy Day consistently spoke about the call to become a saint, applying this to herself as well as all Christians. She also greatly admired those saints remembered in the church's liturgical calendar.

In a 1965 "On Pilgrimage" column, Dorothy describes paying attention to the saints throughout the ages as part of the solution to our age's dominant economic concern, the gap between the rich and poor: "To put it simply, the root cause of the gap is man's greed, avarice, acquisitiveness, his fear of insecurity and the lack of attention to the teachings of Jesus and the saints throughout the ages."

Dorothy Day was fascinated by the lives of the saints as models of following Christ and as concrete examples of what each of us could do in our lives. She not only read Butler's Lives of the Saints on a regular basis, often mentioning it in her writings, but relished reading the brief biographical notes in her St. Andrew missal at daily Mass.

Of all the Christian saints, St. Therese of Lisieux particularly inspired Dorothy Day. Her only book not centered on the Catholic Worker Movement is a biography of St. Therese. How is it that Dorothy Day, who led an active life of confronting the powers of the 20th century, should find a cloistered 19th-century nun's life and teaching so meaningful? She discovered in Therese, in her teaching of "the little way," a means of understanding her own life, centered on the works of mercy, and a method for holiness open to every person.

A lot more could be cited, both from Dorothy Day's writing and from the example of her life, but the above should dismiss the idea that she was hostile or had a general aversion to the concept of sainthood.

Regarding herself, a lot has been made of Dorothy Day's remark "Don't call me a saint, I don't want to be dismissed so easily." A lot of writers have used this as the ultimate proof text that Dorothy Day would not want to become a canonized saint. I am sure if someone called any of us a saint it would make us uneasy, just as it did Jim Tull when folks said the same thing to him. Given the evidence of Dorothy's words and intentions regarding sainthood, why isn't this remark of hers viewed as the expected response of someone rightly modest and fully aware of how far she still had to go in loving God and neighbor?

If Dorothy Day is not a saint, then we're all in trouble. Whatever accommodation we have made with our culture -- with violence, poverty, injustice and insensitivity -- will be harder to rationalize. Once Dorothy Day spoke of St. Therese as a "saint to be dreaded" once we got to know her. I suggest that Dorothy Day will be a saint to be dreaded.

Could it be that when many are lukewarm toward the institutional church that Dorothy Day's traditional practice of the faith -- rosary, daily Mass, weekly confession, reading the lives of the saints, praying the office -- is embarrassing? Does that seem too bourgeois for a radical?

I have little to quarrel with over much of the rest of Jim Tull's article and how a false image of sainthood can prevent rather than facilitate engagement with our society and culture. But I submit Dorothy Day's image of sainthood is the antidote and not the antinomy he imagines.

JIM ALLAIRE Winona, Minn.

Jim Allaire is a co-founder of the Winona Catholic Worker, co-author of Praying With Dorothy Day, and general editor of the "Dorothy Day Library on the Web" at

Jim Tull responds: Thank you for correcting my reference to Dorothy Day's consistent opposition to the concept of sainthood. With this correction, however, I continue to regard her view as inconsistent, but consistency is not a habit of which we should ever accuse her. I did not in the article make the additional claim that Dorothy did not recognize and/or take inspiration from the canonized. She dearly did, and so have I.

New theologians

* Thank you for your recent launch of the series about new theologians and what they are saying (NCR, Feb. 16). As a tail-end baby boomer, I find their insights fascinating and, admittedly, a bit frightening. I do, however, recognize their challenge and importance and will keep reading.

I am especially grateful for the comments of Kevin Hughes who asked, "Is Catholicism really this wimpy?" He rather succinctly stated some ideas that have been floating around in my head for a few years. As the coordinator of religious education in my local parish, I sometimes seriously question the "pal" Jesus attitude and "cute" liturgies that exist in some of our modern religious education programs. My question is, How do we teach children and young adults that Catholicism stands for something, that it is something more than just a thing that you have to do, or a thing that makes you comfy but something that gives you a framework for evaluating your own life, the whole world and existence in general?


Letters to the editor should be limited to 250 words and preferably typed. If a letter refers to a previous issue of NCR, please give us that issue's date. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Letters, National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141. Or via e-mail: or fax: (816) 968-2280. Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number.
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Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Apr 6, 2001
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