In “The Virtue of Staying Put” (October 7), Gerald W. Schlabach writes: “Unlike participating in other forms of Christianity, being Catholic necessitates a refusal to leave in protest when the going gets tough, or to start a new church, or to shop around for another identity, or to bandy about threats of schism.” But if a Franciscan decided to become a diocesan priest, or a Jesuit decided to become a Benedictine, would Schlabach regard the decision not to stay put as un-Catholic? Much changes for a cradle Catholic when he learns to regard the component churches of Christianity the way he once regarded the Catholic religious orders. No, they’re not all the same, but they are all parts of the same Mystical Body of Christ.

Jack Miles
University of California, Irvine

Gerald Schlabach replies:

The short answer to the immediate case Miles presents is that there are canonical means for priests and religious to transfer or change their affiliation. For an individual to try to make such a change autonomously, however, would indeed reveal the sort of unstable quasi-Protestant attitude that I would indeed argue to be non-Catholic in significant ways. Miles is hinting at deeper questions, though, which I treat at length in my book Unlearning Protestantism. In a tradition that traces back to Abram’s departure from Ur, Christians must of course anticipate that mobility can be a faithful response to God’s calling. But there are ways to depart that do not initiate the rupture of relationship, and ways to call the bluff of those who expel someone genuinely trying to stay in relationship. In hard times, stability may thus have to express itself as loyal dissent, which holds these tensions together. The new situation of ecumenical mutual recognition offers opportunities to learn new kinds of stability. I simply want to make sure we unlearn the habits of hyper-modern mobility so that Protestants and Catholics alike can benefit from these opportunities.



Thank you for Michael W. Higgins’s fine article on Henri Nouwen (“Priest, Writer, Mentor, Misfit,” December 16). However, while reading it, I was distracted by the discomfort that I felt from reading the announcement of the Congregation for the Clergy just a week earlier. It seemed to disqualify people with homosexual tendencies from being ordained priests. What a loss for the church and the world if Fr. Nouwen had been thus rejected!

Fr. Dennis Lynch
Diocese of La Crosse, Wisc.


Richard Haas’s recent letter to the editor on Trump (“What About Trump?” January 27) is a skillful satire. Making virtues of vices, he offers with approval a portrait of a figure who is Mammon personified, alarmingly immature, and a stew of the Seven Deadly Sins, especially pride and greed, and recommends him enthusiastically as a model of political behavior. I am afraid, however, that the irony will be over the heads of Trump supporters, who will relish the portrait and fail to see that Haas is kidding. He is kidding, isn’t he?

Peter Farley
Brooklyn, N.Y.


As much as I admire Professor Schlabach’s reasonable and balanced strategy for potentially fruitful discussion between both camps on the divisive issue of abortion (“Abortion & Social Justice,” January 6), I find it odd that he does not mention the problem faced by prolife, feminist Catholics for the past forty-plus years. Humanae vitae is the rope tying your arms and legs together as you attempt to swim the widening channel between “prolife” and “prochoice” Americans.

Lyn Isbell
San Francisco

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