National Catholic Reporter
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November 2, 2007


Outdated theology

I would like to answer the $64,000 question John Allen asks at the end of his article, “The rise of China and India” (NCR, Oct.19). The question is “whether 21st century Catholicism will find a new voice to engage the changing world, or whether its internal preoccupations will leave it talking largely to itself?” The operative phrase in this question is “new voice.”

As long as Benedict XVI is pope, the church will be talking to itself, nursing its old tribal glory as the “only means of salvation.” As long as the antiquated system of electing the pope from the largely white male geriatric club called the College of Cardinals stays in place, the chance of a new voice emerging is unlikely.

With the explosion of globalization, India and China are rising and the world is shrinking. A theology and Christology that served the church of the Middle Ages and religious arrogance about being the “true church” cannot address the hopes and dreams of a world that is evolving fast. Yes, I used the word “evolving.” How can a church that largely believes in “creationism” and discards evolution understand and address the needs of a changing world?

Coral Springs, Fla.

Communion cops

Like church teachings on all things sexual, there is also only one category and one degree of sin, mortal, when it comes to the abortion issue (NCR, Oct. 5). Why is it then that there has never been any mention of the almost infinite number of mortal sins that priests who have raped girls and boys have committed? Has Communion ever been denied to those reprobates? No. They are still permitted to celebrate Mass privately. Why has there never been any mention of excommunication in regard to these pedophiles, some of whom have raped and molested scores of children over many years? I wish that Archbishop Raymond Burke and the rest of the Communion cops had had the chutzpah to protect our children from predator priests with the same single-minded resoluteness they have in denying “the sacraments to the unworthy.” Archbishop Burke’s words are not so much “a scholarly tour de force,” as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said, as they are an example of the definite loss of any credibility the bishops of the United States still possess. Do they really not know why no one is listening?

Havertown, Pa.

* * *

I am shocked by the article stating Archbishop Burke’s decision that all eucharistic ministers must deny Communion to all who publicly support abortions. Doesn’t he realize the heavy burden this places on Communion ministers? Didn’t Christ warn the religious leaders of his day about placing burdens on the people? Also why wouldn’t the archbishop include those who make and threaten to use nuclear weapons among the people to be denied Communion as well if he plans to go through with this strange and seemingly unfair decision?

Kingman, Ariz.

The Dutch proposal

Patricia Lefevere’s article about the Dutch Dominicans’ endorsement of the right of laity to choose their presiders at the celebration of the Eucharist was quite provocative (NCR, Oct. 12). While the suggestion for this expanded role of the laity will be most surely condemned by current hierarchical officials, the Dutch proposal is a reminder of the clerical church’s failure to evolve and create a new, practical model for celebrating Eucharist. The shutdown of theological inquiry by the Vatican on the topic of ordination has crippled Catholic thought, practice and devotion. I believe it has also bred a strong anticlerical sentiment in many educated persons of faith. Like Dutch Catholics, I am so tired of “widespread parish closings and importation of foreign priests to fill” gaps. At least, would the foreign priests speak English clearly? Perhaps the laity’s choosing their own eucharistic celebrants would have its own set of problems, but this Dominican proposal is a refreshing and heartening response to a genuine need in the church.

Henderson, Nev.

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What a bold and brilliant move the Dutch Dominican priests made in publishing “The Church and the Ministry.” Their approach is to go back to the beginning, which in one fell swoop, would eliminate all the excess baggage the church has picked up in 2,000 years. No more problems with the celibacy issue, women priests, homosexuality, and so on. I expect they will also ignore the Dominus Iesus document. It will be interesting to see how the Vatican now tries to silence the authors.

Clinton, N.J.

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Patricia Lefevere’s insightful article is accurate with one exception. When she states “that the nontraditional services are attracting many newcomers,” she should say that the nontraditional services are actually the current norm and the laity choosing their own ministers is the authentic traditional norm of the church of the apostles. Until the church became the official religion of the empire, the community chose its own celebrant and the imposition of an outsider as principal celebrant of the eucharistic meal was added after the early church became the imperial church.

San Antonio

Special Olympics

Thanks to Colman McCarthy for the article on Eunice Shriver and the Special Olympics (NCR, Oct. 12). It is one of the few large organizations that I hold in utmost respect and regard. To read of the tenacity of Mrs. Shriver and the countless others involved is a humbling reminder of what more I can and should do for my fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who face such difficult circumstances. How can one look at the picture that accompanied the article and not be moved by the appreciation and joy shown in the athletes’ faces -- appreciation for the respect they received to be the best they believe they can be, however few and far between those opportunities may arise?

The smile on my face throughout the article, however, was quickly wiped away. The poll result stating that 62 percent of Americans didn’t want their own child in a school with a so-called retarded child saddened me. How could those who want the best for their child deny someone else’s child? How many of those 62 percent believe in the “No Child Left Behind” program and what do they think it means? It seems the only thing worse than having these afflictions is being surrounded by a society that doesn’t understand them. Thank God for the Eunice Shrivers of this world. I pray they succeed in educating us in compassion as they celebrate and uplift these blessed individuals.

Belleville, Mich.

Lay theologians

I was struck by an interesting and overlooked issue in the article about Fr. Peter Phan (NCR, Sept. 28). Your sidebar providing a list of theologians who have been examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in recent decades revealed a fascinating fact: In an era when Catholic theology is becoming more and more the domain of lay theologians, not a single lay Catholic theologian has been examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Either lay theologians are more orthodox than their ordained or vowed counterparts, or it suggests a different attitude taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith toward the contributions of lay theologians. This is a matter worth further consideration and examination by NCR.

St. Louis


I started writing this in an attempt to attain some clarity and focus regarding the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill (NCR, Oct. 12). I find the idea of a private corporate army, equipped with its own weapons and accountable to no one, mind-boggling. I know how it happened. We as a country let fear and emotions overcome us. We sought simple answers and allowed anti-intellectual sentiment to guide us, suspended critical thinking on tough question like civil liberties, the role of the Constitution, the balance of powers of government. These are not esoteric ideas. They are things we learned, or should have learned, in high school.

These civic truths are not the sole domain of intellectuals, they are to be to be upheld and embraced by citizens of a truly free country. Have we citizens allowed ourselves to be anesthetized by the popular culture of entertainment? What are the consequences of essentially privatizing our military forces? Who will these forces be accountable to and whose will do they serve? How will it affect us as a democracy? What impact will this practice have on civil liberties? I have many more questions and I sincerely hope my fellow citizens have more questions.

Clearwater, Fla.

Sacred heart

I read with particular interest the review of Dr. David Richo’s book, The Sacred Heart of the World: Restoring Mystical Devotion to Our Spiritual Life (NCR, Oct. 12). Even though I consider myself a progressive Catholic whose faith was renewed in part due to the changes resulting from Vatican II, I have also come to a deeper understanding of the church’s rich mystical tradition and of the need for spiritual images and symbols.

I have had two profound mystical experiences centered in the Sacred Heart. The first occurred at Ballintuber Abbey in Ireland and the second, about 10 years later, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Minnesota. Both experiences happened as I gazed upon statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I was immediately enveloped in what I can only describe as Christ’s total love. I couldn’t speak; my eyes flooded with tears. I was completely disoriented. For lack of a better word, I must have been in a state of rapture. Even though the experiences only lasted a few minutes, it seemed timeless. It’s easy to dismiss the reality of these types of ecstatic experiences or doubt the authenticity of their origin, but I would caution against such assumptions. Their impact on me have been lasting and transforming.

Delta, Ohio

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National Catholic Reporter, November 2, 2007