National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
December 28, 2007


Homosexual lifestyles

The fascination some members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy have with homosexuality is unending (NCR, Dec. 14). Archbishop John Nienstadt did add something new to the discussion and now includes in his condemnation anyone giving support and encouragement to gay men and women. Well, you can come after me if you wish, but don’t you dare go after my mother.

Again we hear about the “homosexual lifestyle” and how “hating the sin but loving the sinner” is the only appropriate response to relating with gay men and women. Can someone please tell me what a “homosexual lifestyle” really is? The dictionary describes lifestyle as “the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group.” My same-sex partner and I have been together now for more than 21 years, and our lifestyle habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards and economic level looks more like an Ozzie and Harriet rerun than some implied dark and twisted lifestyle.

It’s time we start calling our religious leaders to a higher standard of Christian life based on the Gospel of Jesus and let go of this hateful, repressive attitude with its attempt to marginalize and exclude, which in itself is a scandal to the church. I, for one, will not be excluded from my Catholic faith or church by leadership that is grounded in a selective interpretation of scripture, tradition and theological discourse or that is focused on a preoccupation with condemning the loving human relationships of gay and lesbian children of God.

Edina, Minn.

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Kris Berggren’s article about the Dec. 2 rally in front of the Cathedral of St. Paul, Minn. (NCR, Dec. 14) captured the disappointment many feel as Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstadt slides into his chair here. His recent editorial located the cause of homosexuality in childhood trauma and then relied on the usual scriptural proof texts to drive the point home that homosexual people are disordered and those who support them are sinful. The archbishop chooses bad science that roots homosexuality in childhood trauma. This theory is accepted by few if any in psychology these days and rejected by gay men and lesbian women who know their own selves best of all.

Bishops can no longer afford to ignore clinical evidence and the testimony of homosexual men and women of goodwill. Enough questions about same-sex orientation in the human psyche have been raised by science that the teaching authorities of the church should be thirsty to know more. Bishops should be in active dialogue with science on this issue, both listening and challenging. They should also be in dialogue with homosexual people and their pastors. Don’t they have responsibility to the truth and healthy pastoral leadership to do this, whatever their unease with the issue?

St. Paul, Minn.

Mother Teresa

I appreciate Leo O’Donovan’s reflection on Mother Teresa (NCR, Dec. 14), but in the many commentaries and reviews I have read about her faith journey and doubts, I have seen little reflection about the right of those who had her letters to publish them posthumously when she had specifically requested that they be destroyed. Although they may have a salutary effect, are we to conclude that either her wishes were irrelevant because her records were in another’s possession or that one should never expect privacy, even with those to whom one has entrusted the most sensitive personal material?

Although I wish she would have willed otherwise, is there no moral obligation to respect her or anyone’s wishes in this regard when it only affects one’s most private relationship with the divine? Aren’t we all being rather utilitarian in our skipping over this discussion? Does her public persona negate her right to self-determination and privacy? Perhaps this cost to “canonization” displays our voyeurism more than her genuine holiness in faith and service.

Fayetteville, N.Y.

‘The Golden Compass’

Regarding “A furor over ‘The Golden Compass’ ” (NCR, Dec. 7), I doubt that this film will cause children, or anyone else for that matter, to embrace atheism. The film is a confusing story, sort of like Goldilocks and Flash Gordon meet the Nazis. While there is no bloodshed, it is a terribly violent film that has creepy relationships between adults and children who join together in scenes of fantasy killing that are perverse, seductive and, to too many, encouraging.

To be concerned about the film because it is “anti-Catholic” and suggests atheism to the minds and hearts of children is paranoia. The film, in my judgment, is just more spiritual pornography that reflects the hunger in our country for value and purpose, anything that can lift the human soul out of the banal mediocrity of a popular culture increasingly addicted to manipulated nobility, shallow, theatrical heroics and violence.

Catholics who are serious about their faith need to seek out life-giving liturgy and inspired preaching so they can create a meaningful conversation with this sad country and find life-giving alternatives to bad films, demeaning music, ridiculous television, and the awful, awful violence that plagues our children everywhere they go.

Dyer, Ind.

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Philip Pullman is an atheist. We know this because he has said so repeatedly. We know that the His Dark Materials trilogy is an attack on faith, Christianity and the Catholic church. We know because he has said so repeatedly. So it seems to me that anyone who claims he or she wouldn’t be Catholic if it weren’t for the Dark Materials trilogy or who finds them affirming of Christian values is either too dumb to understand it, hasn’t read it, or is being dishonest. Let us take Pullman at his word. I, for one, find it incomprehensible that anyone would not.

Sprot, Ala.

Women priests

Thank you for the Dec. 7 issue, from the cover photo of women priests to the last word. Like a healthy newborn, the Catholic church is making a loud cry. “Give me air, get air into these lungs and into my bloodstream.” This issue is a sign of a vigorous Catholicism, not a fearful, defensive or self-righteous one. To question traditional practices, to wrestle with doubt, these are honorable burdens as Mother Teresa, St. Thomas, Mark’s Gospel and so many prophets of our church have shown us. Renewal-minded Catholics don’t have an easy ride and maybe that’s good. Courageous women are helping us “take up our pallets and walk.” Why not let your bishop know it is not necessary to discriminate against half the church? Discrimination is not theologically sound, courageous or practical. I love these women for refusing to be silent, for letting their own lives be changed forever in order to follow Christ.

Ester, Alaska

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Congratulations on your feature story on the ordination of women (NCR, Dec. 7). To round out the picture, please note that there are currently other Catholic dioceses and organizations that are not asking to be Roman or any other rite but that carry on the essentials of Catholicity without the burden of the magisterium, with its practices and rules unknown to the early church.

In our progressive Catholic Diocese of One Spirit (, for example, we have had Catholic women priests for many years, ordain members of current Roman Catholic women’s religious orders as priests (although in camera because of expected persecution from their own church), have more religious sisters on the way to ordination, and also ordain priests for specific niche ministries not associated with traditional parishes or communities of faith.

Thousands of Roman Catholic-trained lay theologians/pastoral associates and religious sisters are fed up with the Vatican organizational structure and dictates and yearn for a Catholic priesthood that is free and realistically unencumbered. It is available, and it is growing pervasive, though simply not reported by the Catholic press and totally off the radar of the secular media.

Clifton, Va.

St. Joseph Health System

I was disappointed with the skewed picture that Rosemary Radford Ruether presented about the St. Joseph Health System and the sponsoring community of sisters (NCR, Oct. 19). There appeared to be a tacit and uncritical acceptance of the negative opinions expressed by four employees and the Service Employees International Union. Ms. Ruether would have been more credible if she had also met with employees holding a different view of the hospitals cited. I would like to offer another perspective for consideration.

I do not have an opinion about the necessity of union representation within the St. Joseph Health System. I also cannot predict the possible effect or outcome of such a presence. However, it is my experience that while employees of some businesses may benefit from union representation, it might be contraindicated within organizations that deal with employees in good faith and treat them in a just, dignified and respectful manner.

As a certified lay chaplain at St. Jude Medical Center, I have observed and been impressed with the genuinely respectful and affirming relationships between the administration and employees. This engenders a desire and willingness on the part of the staff to provide excellent and comprehensive care for patients and their families. I believe that ultimately this is a result of the core values inculcated and continually affirmed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.

Long Beach, Calif.

Liturgical practices

Robert McClory (NCR, Dec.14) reports on Word and Communion services in Dutch churches held without priests, wherein lay folk carry pre-consecrated hosts from the tabernacle and distribute them to communicants. Here in the Philadelphia church, if not elsewhere, one observes an odd liturgical practice. At Communion time on Sundays, the priest celebrant and a few others partake of the sacred species consecrated at that Mass. But the great flock of the faithful receive hosts consecrated at a prior Mass and taken from tabernacle to altar before distribution. Unlike the Dutch practice, there is a consecration, but the faithful’s Communion sharing is not an integral part of that Mass. The Dutch hierarchy and reformers disapprove of the Word and Communion service because too many laypeople mistake it for Mass. Locally, hierarchy and reformers overlook an ongoing liturgical omission.

Jenkintown, Pa.

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National Catholic Reporter, December 28, 2007