National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
February 22, 2008


Inactive Catholics

We were delighted to see the articles focused on ministering to inactive Catholics (NCR, Jan. 25). This hemorrhage in the body of Christ is long overdue for serious scrutiny. As someone who has ministered to these good people, whom we choose to call “seekers,” for more than two decades, I recognize the value of their voices and experiences. Redemptorist Fr. Bill McKee, whom I consider the grandfather of this ministry, calls the seekers “prophets”: “They are calling attention to abuses ... in the church that need to be remedied.” He was a pioneer in providing reconciling ministry to our separated brothers and sisters.

At the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, home base for Catholics Coming Home Ministries for the past 12 years, returned seekers are everywhere, blessing our community with their faith and their gifts. Seekers are looking for an honest faith experience that brings them purpose and meaning. They want to learn, to give back, and to worship in communities that are welcoming and inclusive. In our closing liturgy we ask their forgiveness. It is deeply moving that they are so willing to forgive. This is Catholic evangelization in motion, always inviting, always listening, always relating and validating the sacredness of one another. It is exhilarating to be a part of this process. Our book, Catholics Can Come Home Again (Paulist Press), chronicles our experience here in Minnesota, offering step-by-step suggestions for parishes that are interested in this ministry.

West St. Paul, Minn.

Anointed to ministry

I liked your editorial “Baptism leads to ministry” (NCR, Jan. 25). Good theology and excellent examples. I have one little quibble. Instead of “leads to,” better to say “anoints for” ministry. Anointing with chrism as a symbol for ministry goes back all the way to the Old Testament. It signifies strength, healing and the “fullness and diffusion of grace.” The Constitution on the Church says: “The body of the faithful as a whole, anointed as they are by the Holy One …” This last phrase, taken from 1 John 20, points to the chrism, which in turn recalls the anointed Messiah, the Christ.

Las Cruces, N.M.

Bishop Braxton

I am elated to see in Briefs that the diocesan council in Belleville, Ill., was willing to blow the whistle on Bishop Edward Braxton (NCR, Jan. 25). I await the action of the papal nuncio. Will he rebuke the bishop or just shove it under the rug? A pointed beanie and a walking stick are not licenses to misuse the church’s assets. I’m sure there are any number of deserving charities in southern Illinois who could use some of that money. Why not give them half the money and the bishop wear a plain white alb and a multicolored stole and meet using some decent used office furniture?

San Marcos, Calif.

Peru’s bishops

Barbara Fraser’s article, “Catholics line up against mining operations in Peru” (NCR, Jan. 25), tells a sad story of systemic abuse of poor people in the name of a definition of prosperity that is built on exploitation of both people and the environment. But two items shed more light on the problem. Having seen the conditions of the miners and their families in Peru, I can assure you that they are not the ones who are prospering from this process. That President Alan Garcia, who was elected in his first term as the head of American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, the historic political party of the working people, is now in bed with multinational big business is a disgrace to the party that gave him his political life.

But even more telling for us is the fact that Ms. Fraser admits, “Peru’s bishops are not united on environmental issues.” This is obvious when we see that the churchmen she names who are defending the people and the environment are religious order men whose dioceses do not represent the most powerful and prestigious dioceses, which are dominated by members of the ultraconservative Opus Dei prelature. These few good bishops who speak out against such injustice are following in the footsteps of Archbishop Oscar Romero and I hope and pray that they also do not have to die suddenly to prove that as Vatican Council II told us, “God has a preferential option for the poor.”

San Antonio

Communion on the tongue

In the People section, Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan argues for people to receive Communion on the tongue while kneeling (NCR, Jan. 25). He compares receiving Communion on the tongue to breastfeeding. You feed infants and small children; adults feed themselves. I often wonder if those who advocate Communion on the tongue aren’t, at least subconsciously, wanting to keep the laity in an infantile state, being taken care of and fed by the ordained “adults” in the church. It sure helps keep the ordained in top place. Today more than ever, with current problems in the church and with the priest shortage, we need communicants who are going to receive Communion standing up and in their hands as a sign of their adult commitment to their journey of faith with Jesus and each other.

Covington, Va.

Condemning soldiers

I appreciate Fr. John Dear’s opinion piece on the Society of Jesus’ renouncing ties to the military and applaud his goal of ending war (NCR, Jan. 25), but I must suggest some additional considerations. We don’t blame police for crime or firefighters for fires, so why do we blame the soldier for war? Our Constitution clearly gives control over the military to our civilian government. Secondly, most U.S. military personnel see themselves as peacemakers, as in “Blessed are the peacemakers,” who have far more to lose than the civilians who deploy them. In the real world, if you eliminate the soldier, you also eliminate those who protect civilians, who can quickly respond to disasters such as the Christmas tsunami or Hurricane Katrina and even the National Guard who respond to floods, tornadoes and blizzards. If Jesus did not feel it necessary to condemn solders, perhaps the Jesuits shouldn’t either.

Last, in regard to the “evil program called Reserve Officer Training Corps” which “train[s] young people how to murder other people”: As a former ROTC instructor, I can assure NCR readers that leadership, management, ethics and history, not murder, are in the curriculum. I personally hope that ethical, moral people, including Jesuits, continue to shape our future soldiers. Remember, the scythe can be used for good or evil depending on the wielder.

Newport, Minn.

Bernard Law

When I saw Cardinal Law on the front page I felt nauseated, to put it nicely (NCR, Jan. 25). How could you?

Midland, Mich.

* * *

Just who is it in the Italian culture that misunderstands what Mr. Allen refers to as the Anglo-Saxon concept of corporate liability? He does not say. But for whomever they are to put back onto the priests what Cardinal Law himself did and did not do suggests a problem with another culture, the one having to do with the hierarchy. Mr. Allen also reports that the cardinal struggled over whether to step down or not because of his concern “to do whatever was in the best interest of the church.” Let me suggest that it was his distorted notion of what was good for the church in the first instance that caused untold additional pain and suffering, so why should that decision be left to him? Finally, Mr. Allen defends the cardinal’s salary and living accommodations, including a number of Mexican nuns to take care of him. This may be ordinary for a cardinal but it is certainly not ordinary for the overwhelming majority of God’s people and I wouldn’t equate it with penance. Maybe Mr. Allen has been in Rome too long.

Fort Myers, Fla.

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National Catholic Reporter, February 22, 2008