Pope St. John Paul II wrote Pastores dabo vobis, which C.Colt Anderson and Christopher M. Bellitto cite (“Scarlet Fever,” April 12), largely in response to the longstanding crisis of pastoral identity. He resurrected a Counter-Reformation spiritual theology of the priesthood in which we can identify the roots of the current crisis.

I agree with Anderson and Bellitto that laity should be included in seminary classes, but they neglect one core problem: having young men live together for years in isolation facilitates psychosexual maladaptations, as studies have proved. No pre-testing or monitoring will counteract this.

It is easy to blame an ontological exceptionalism of the clergy and advocate a more humble anthropology—but cases of abuse and coverup have occurred under both.

Indeed, much exceptionalism can be found in the Reformation-influenced pastoral identity following Vatican II. It includes an antinomianism and an emphasis on the rule of the person of the pastor over the rule of canon law and tradition—which now is back in full force in the current synodal controversies facing the church.

The problems with pastoral identity run very deep. Moving the living arrangements of those in pastoral training outside of the seminary model is only a first step—but the most important step we can take is to prevent psychosexual maladaptations.

Reforming the theology of the priesthood will take nothing less than years of research by the entire brain trust of the church, working across brutal ideological divides to prepare in earnest for the next council.

Clare Mcgrath-Merkle, OCDS
Nottingham, Md.



In our Milwaukee seminary, men trained for priesthood alongside women and men for lay ministry. At the end of the program of studies, there was graduation for all and ordination for a few. The few were often not the brightest nor the most dedicated, but they were ordained while the women protested their ordination outside the cathedral. This divisive situation did not bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit for anyone.

Until the priesthood becomes both male and female, the clerical “boys’ club” and its sins will remain. Children need to grow up in a church that is served (not governed) by ordained male and female leaders. Only then will we come closer to a truly safe environment.

I see no other way forward other than to recognize the vocation of men and women to ordained priestly ministry. Ordination is not a women’s “right” nor is it a man’s “right.” It is a calling that the people of God need to lead us into a future full of hope. Let the vocations come. Discern them well. And let us be a family of God where adults and children can grow, learn, and worship safely and without fear.

Joan Mueller
Professor Emeritus,
Systematic Theology
Creighton University



Danielle Chapman’s “Anyway in Spring” (May 3) is a stunningly beautiful gift to your readers. My husband had just gotten out of the hospital (thankfully, not for cancer) and I told him I was going to read a reflection. He interrupted me halfway through to say, “It’s really a poem.” We agreed that it is both.

I thought about it again as I walked our dog on the Santa Fe desert, covered with tiny gold flowers, thanks to extra snowmelt from the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I pray we will get through this terrible period in our national life and start to work on the massive threats to our planet. Danielle Chapman has strengthened my resolve to continue.

Julie Fisher Melton
Santa Fe, N. Mex.

Published in the July 5, 2019 issue: View Contents
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