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The quality of mercy.

I think that NCR did a great service to itself in printing "Finding empathy for Shanley" by Sr. Jeannine Gramick (NCR, Jan. 14). Her remarks were the first I've read that bring a deeper understanding of the abuser and a more Christian approach to understanding and charitable reconciliation. Most of the clergy who were suspended were not given sufficient information about their accusers, and the church became their judges. Sr. Jeannine speaks well when she says, "Each person is a blend of good that mirrors the divine and evil that needs redemption. When will we learn to balance justice, accountability, rehabilitation and reconciliation?"

Granting huge settlements is not the answer. We all have to realize that bad things happen. We need to correct wrongs and to question why someone after a lapse of 30 years or more all of a sudden becomes psycho logically disturbed. Once they are paid a large sum, they are suddenly healed. As the psalmist says, "If you, O Lord, mark iniquity, Lord, who could stand?"


Macon, Ga.

In a confused, childlike state of trust, two or more of Shanley's alleged victims, concerned about their orientation, sought counsel from a priest of the church. Did these young men, through that priest, encounter the loving heart of Christ or did they meet up with the predatory, seductive wiles of Satan?

For those of us who are survivors of priestly aggression, Sr. Gramick's reminiscences and protection of Shanley are an assault to the senses. Gramick appears to be enshrining her former association and current friendship with Shanley on the throne of Christian compassion and calling the rest of us to join her there. Must we?

Christ calls us to love our enemies. Having compassion for ignorance and the venial weaknesses of humankind is relatively easy. Compassion for those whom Christ verbally confined to the depths (with a millstone around their necks, no less) is a territory left only to the few called to that ministry. If Sr. Gramick feels that call, so be it, but only after the accused has been brought to justice in a court of law, not shuttled around awaiting payoffs to victims through the mediations of the church's lawyers.

If the church wishes to shelter these folks in places of penitential confinement after they have paid their dues to society at large, then the church must fulfill that merciful role. The victims, though, have the most compassionate calling of all: to continue telling about the atrocities they suffered in story and poetry so that future generations will be protected.


Petaluma, Calif.

The article about Paul Shanley, the pedophile priest, was most interesting. Sr. Jeannine speaks of mercy and compassion. This is all well and good, but we must be aware that what he has been charged with is multiple acts of sex perversion with children and pubescent youths. Shanley must be given a fair trial, and if found guilty, given maximum consecutive sentences.

Justice must take precedence over mercy. This is not a matter of two consenting adults having sex.

Not only should pedophiles and perverts who are in the priesthood be punished to the full extent of the law, but the bishops who concealed these crimes belong in the penitentiary also. The bishops are also guilty of giving a bad name to our church.

All of these guilty parties should be laicized and excommunicated, and at death cremated with the ashes flushed down a toilet.


El Centro, Calif.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick is a peacemaker--one of those people Jesus said are blessed because they will be called God's children. As a "reconciler," as she calls herself, she often espouses unpopular positions. She calls us beyond our comfort zones.

Some years ago she told a story about a meeting with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to several thousand people gathered for a Call to Action conference in Milwaukee. She attempted to convince this crowd that he is just a human being doing his best for the church according to his lights. This was the more impressive coming from someone who had been a target of Cardinal Ratzinger's persecution.

Her essay "Finding empathy for Shanley" is an example of her peace making. She asks us to see Paul Shanley as a human being, one with both good qualities and limitations. She is not saying that he is innocent, nor is she saying that those abused by Catholic priests should be ignored or uncared for.

She recalls to us what Jesus said in Matthew 25: if we visit someone in prison, we are visiting Jesus himself. Jesus made no exceptions, and neither does she.

Most of all, she is asking us to be open to the full truth of a situation and to see it from all sides. Richard Rohr has said that one of the most important sayings in the Gospel is Jesus' exhortation to love our enemies. Only thus can we see people as they really are.


San Diego
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Early, Herman; McGunagle, Nancy; Orton, James E.; Rieder, Linda
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Feb 11, 2005
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