To the Editors: It was brought to my attention only the other day that Monsignor McCaffrey, chaplain to the women at the House of Detention in Greenwich Village, was very much hurt by my reference to him as not interested in the women under his care ["We Plead Guilty," Dec. 27, 1957]. I have written him a most belated letter of apology, but also explained, passing some of the blame on to you, that there were a few sentences deleted in my manuscript which changed the sense of that paragraph. If you will please print this letter, it may clear up his hurt, although I'm afraid it may hurt another priest!
I said that Monsignor McCaffrey had the care not only of the women but also of the St. Vincent's Hospital, besides his own parish, and that on that first Sunday morning, it was a young priest who offered Mass, who bowed no interest in the women, but walked in looking neither to the right or left and that I had a hard time getting a few words to him, begging for a visit from Monsignor McCaffrey, the chaplain. The message was conveyed, and Monsignor McCaffrey came to visit me, and was most kind, bringing me a Missal and magazines to read. I do not think that much more than a sentence was deleted from my original article, but it was enough to make it appear that it was Monsignor McCaffrey who was not interested in the women. When I finally got around to reading over the printed article, I was upset at the implication, but then it slipped my mind and I did nothing to rectify it.
Now the matter has been brought to my attention, at this late date. I have written to the Monsignor to apologize and I would be grateful if you would also print this public apology.
As for the "young priest" I spoke of. It is a hard assignment, to come into a prison of five hundred women, and one needs special interest and the special grace to do the work. Not every priest is suited for it. It is not especially the age of the priest. I can see a young Father Hessler, the missioner, speaking with fervor, and loving kindness and warmth to the prisoners, telling them the lives of the saints, giving them some vision of a life other than their own, trying to awaken in them longings and desires for the love of God and for a life of grace. I am praying for such chaplains for women prisoners at the House of Detention.
Do print this letter soon. It will serve to remind your readers to pray for us all, and for all prisoners, all over the world. It is a forgotten work of mercy.
New York, N.Y.
[For more of Dorothy Day's writings from Commonweal, see our full collection.]
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