Thanks to Anonymous for sharing her thoughtful story (“Sins of Admission,” April 23) about her intellectual and spiritual growth into adulthood. Her expression of the effect of the catholic and universal nature of the church on her personal and family life is quite uplifting.
I am personally struggling with bitterness about the failure of the church to stand up for its best values because of what seems to me to be venal interest in transitory institutional power. This bitterness has kept me from participating in parish life in the way I used to.
Ironically, the current institutional attacks do not target me, my personal circumstances, or my own family in the ways that they have targeted Anonymous—and so I am humbled by her faithful search for equilibrium with the church’s teachings. I can only hope that reflecting on how much the journey and the resulting gifts of that journey have meant to her helps me become more hopeful and more active in my own practice.
MARY K. HARTIGAN
Thank you, Anonymous, for your powerfully kind voice! Thank you for not giving up on our church with all its imperfections. Thank you for inviting me to qualify for inclusion in your statement that “I am you.” I am not worthy.
It was so wonderful for you to recognize Fr. Breslin’s statement as “timid,” and then to demonstrate the nerve of a true Christian by throwing yourself into the arms of the merciful God.
ROGER G. KLAUER
I was quite disturbed by your editorial “Seeking a Sign” (April 23), in which you cited several writers’ responses to the question of why they stay in the Catholic Church. Such questions presume the sexual-abuse scandal is a reason to consider separation from the church. I am a “victim,” and I find the notion of leaving the church unthinkable.
We believe that the church is the body of Christ. This means that to separate from it is to separate from the source of all our healing, Jesus Christ. It is fascinating to me how many people jump on the bandwagon of the “abuse scandals” in order to advance their personal criticisms of the institutional church under the guise of empathy. It is quite true that I was grievously hurt by a priest in the church and have spent a lifetime recovering. It is also true that it was Christ and his church that gave me back to myself. It would be wise for those who have not traveled this path to keep their doubts to themselves. They certainly are not serving my cause by promoting disparagement of the church.
With all the good the church does, I am disappointed that you have not given some time to those who have found the church to also be a way back from suffering. In doing so, you might offer a word of comfort to many who have been separated from the church.
K. M. O’BRIEN
THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD
In “Hyphenated Priest” (April 23), Raymond A. Schroth lists three versions of Fr. Robert Drinan. There is also another version: Fr. Drinan as retail politician. I was a constituent of his for a short time. I lived on one of the smallest and oldest streets in Brookline Village—White Place, a tiny backstreet next to the Green Line. Few of my friends had ever heard of it. I once ran into Drinan at Logan Airport on his way to Washington. We started talking and I said, “I bet you don’t know the street I live on, White Place?” He immediately replied, “Oh yes, that’s in St. Mary’s parish.” And then he mentioned several people who lived there. Fr. Drinan was a hero of mine and of many, many others. He still is.
Keene Valley, N.Y.
BISHOPS, NOT BUREAUCRATS
Toward the end of “Fraternal Correction: Lessons from the Irish Sex-Abuse Crisis” (March 12), Nicholas Cafardi references a proposed solution from Fr. Vincent Twomey—“some other way of choosing suitable bishops, which will involve some real participation by priests and laity”—that Cafardi says echoes the 2004 report from the U.S. Bishops’ National Review Board, which noted that “the process for selecting bishops should include meaningful lay consultation.”
The process does need reform. The current system works like this: the local bishop secretly sends three names of potential candidates to Rome. (The people he will lead have no idea who is being considered.) The bishop, of course, is going to pick men he can trust—in other words, men who are like him and share his values. Prophets need not apply. The pope then makes his choice.
Most of the bishops in the world today were chosen by Pope John Paul II. They are not bold. They have not spoken out on any forbidden issue. They are conservatively orthodox. They are often chosen from administration backgrounds devoid of any real pastoral experience. To remedy this, I suggest the following: First, all episcopal candidates must have spent at least ten years in parish work, and not just as weekend help. They must have experienced the people firsthand. Second, the people in every parish where a candidate has worked should be polled as to his pastoral style and sensitivity. Finally, like the threefold publication of banns of marriage for engaged couples, every diocesan paper throughout the land should be required to publish the banns of candidates for the office of bishop and list their names online. This way we might avoid another situation like the one that occurred in the diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, where the bishop who succeeded an accused abuser had a history of abuse himself. We badly need to replace the careerists and bureaucrats.
In the fifth century Pope Celestine I said, “No bishop is to be imposed on unwilling subjects, but the consent and wishes of clergy and people are to be considered.” In the same century, Pope Leo added, “On no account is anyone to be bishop who has not been chosen by the clergy, desired by the people, and consecrated by the bishops of the province.” A sixth-century church council declared, “No one is to be consecrated as a bishop unless the clergy and the people of the diocese have been called together and have given their consent.”
Maybe it’s time to return to the ancient wisdom.
(REV.) WILLIAM J. BAUSCH
Pt. Pleasant Beach, N.J.
I read both Commonweal and The Humanist—just to keep things interesting. And, because I read both publications, I know that Fr. Robert E. Lauder’s statement in “Woody’s Cold Comforts” (April 23) that “if there were no God, surely Allen’s extreme pessimism—and the extreme language in which he expresses it—would be right on target” is way off target.
Not believing in God (or god or gods) does not make somebody a pessimist. In fact, maybe a good case could be made that deists are more likely to despair.
To be honest, either statement would be false: neither believers nor nonbelievers are more prone to pessimism. We’re all just people—some feel optimistic and some feel pessimistic. I vary from day to day. And I’ll bet Woody Allen and Fr. Lauder vary from day to day as well. Let’s take the time to understand each other better.
New York, N.Y.
Reading Fr. Robert E. Lauder’s interview with Woody Allen (“Whatever Works,” www.commonwealmagazine.org/woody), I had the feeling Fr. Lauder was trying to lead Allen to see that he’s really a Catholic or something, but Allen wasn’t going there.
Without discrediting his life experience or the conclusions he’s drawn from it, I would hope that Allen sees that his bleak outlook is itself a belief, with alternatives.
A HIGHER LOVE
John Garvey’s fine column “Long Lost: The Decline of Friendship” (March 26) reminded me of a paragraph from W. H. Auden:
“One fine summer night in June 1933 I was sitting on a lawn after dinner with three colleagues, two women and one man. We liked each other well enough but we were certainly not intimate friends, nor had any one of us a sexual interest in another. Incidentally, we had not drunk any alcohol. We were talking casually about everyday matters when, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, something happened. I felt myself invaded by a power which, though I consented to it, was irresistible and certainly not mine. For the first time in my life I knew exactly—because, thanks to the power, I was doing it—what it means to love one’s neighbor as oneself.... My personal feelings toward them were unchanged—they were still colleagues, not intimate friends—but I felt their existence as themselves to be of infinite value and rejoiced in it.”
W. E. MUELLER