‘And other things Catholic’ letters disturbing
One of the advantages of being a "senior alumnus" is that you have time to think and explore issues unrelated to earning money and making tuition payments. I just finished reading some of the letters to the editor in the spring issue and was totally amazed by some of the statements. First, I must inform Mr. Burke that priestly celibacy does not date back to Christ or the apostles. The concept started in the fourth century. In fact there is evidence of correspondence between St. Augustine and a married bishop and his wife, who was a daughter of another bishop. If Mr. Burke would do some reading he would discover that the apostles ( including Peter ) were married so there is no historical or scriptural basis for priestly celibacy. Now Mr. Burke gets to "the church’s position on birth control". Before Pope Paul VI wrote Humane Vitae in 1968 Pope John XXIII, his predecessor, had set up a Pontifical Commission which included Catholic married women. The recommendations of the Commission were never followed by the small group of elderly celibate men who constitute the chief executive officers of the Catholic Church. To argue that the only acceptable method of birth control is the so called rhythm method destroys all expression of spontaneous physical love between a man and a woman and more practically it doesn’t work. To hold a position that all intercourse must be open to conception is akin to saying that all meals one eats are solely eaten for sustenance. If this were true all people would be thin and there would be no obese priests, bishops or cardinals. The exclusion of women from the priesthood is based on two erroneous concepts. The first is that the hierarchy considers women to be inferior and this has its basis in pagan antiquity. The second is ritual impurity which is based on Jewish temple practice. If Mr. Burke would have done his homework he would have found that Jesus did not exclude women but mixed with them ( even prostitutes ) and had women disciples. If the church hierarchy wants to use the apostles as an example for a male only priesthood how come they don’t use these same married apostles as an argument for a non-celibate priesthood?
Now, lest Mr. Burke thinks that I am "picking" on him, let’s get to Mr. Boucher who graduated in 1986 and who talks about "Magisterium" which is closely related to the erroneous concept of "Papal Infallibility". The concept of Papal Infallibility dated back to 1870: before that date popes were as dumb as the rest of us. Pius IX ( who was the greatest disaster in modern papal history ) lost his temporal power over the papal states during the unification ( Risorgimento ) of Italy. To compensate he had this decree of Papal Infallibility passed over great opposition in the Vatican Council. Furthermore, if Mr. Boucher would familiarize himself with history he would find the Pius IX, who was a temporal leader at the time, in 1858 kidnapped a six year old Jewish boy named Edgardo Mortara from his Jewish parents. It seems that when the boy was an infant he became ill and a Catholic servant had baptized him. The boy was subsequently raised by Pius IX and became a Catholic priest. The justification for this dastardly act was based on the baptism of Edgardo. This illustrates the character of Pius IX, the author of Papal Infallibility.
I don’t expect to ever see this letter published because it runs contrary to the Vatican line, it is based on historical fact and it refutes a lot of hogwash that Catholics have been "brainwashed" with.
Arthur Armento ’61
Hamburg, New Jersey
There is a clash between the secular and religious that arises amongst the ashes of the Spring 2003 editorial letters. Some claim the magazine needs to be more religious, support the Church’s teachings. Others disagree. But instead of talking strictly about ideas, many of the letter writers begin to attack. They accuse others of not being good Catholics, of being immoral, because others have expressed different opinions. They question whether others truly have the right faith. They criticize others for filling the pages with words that speak against the Church, when in fact their own words speak against the Church’s members. Their words become not so religious after all. We are the Body of Christ. Look again at the reflections written in that issue’s letters, reflections of how we love or rather do not love one another.
I was dismayed by the negative letters under “And other things Catholic” in the spring 2003 issue. Were there no other letters received that reflected a more knowledgeable and thoughtful response to the articles referred to? Personally I had to re-read the articles bring attacked to see if the criticism were referring to the same articles I had read. It was difficult balancing the rather vicious attacks in the letters, particularly the one relating to Jim Muller —one of the most deeply thoughtful and truly loyal Catholics in the public domain.
It seems to me and many other Catholics I know that Muller and the VOTF are “right on” with their objectives, particularly the one about the need for structural change in the church and more meaningful lay involvement as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council. The sex abuse scandal and the cover-up revealed major underlying structural flaws that were, and are, at the bottom of the scandal and many other serious problems in the church— the abuse of power of the hierarchy, lack of openness and accountability, and the marginalization of the laity. The latter problem seems to be identified with a certain group of our more “conservative” clergy and lay people who, under the banner of “orthodoxy,” would lead us back to the days of pre-Vatican II. Thye (and those who wrote many of the letters) do not seem to realize that the world has changed dramatically and that the imperious Constantinian structural governance model of the church was not ordained from above and should, in the normal course of cultural development, be a legitimate subject for serious examination and change without threatening our core Catholic beliefs. This, I believe, is one of the things that the VOTF is all about, and I for one am thankful and grateful to Jim Muller and the VOTF for their courage and witness in giving voice to the vital concerns of millions of Catholics in this country and throughout the world.
Guy V.Prisco ’53
Thanks for the excellent article on Jim Muller. He has been a global peacemaker, has tried to be the same in Boston, and he has my support that structural changes are a necessity for our church to meet the definition of Vatican II as the People of God.
I was, however, severely disappointed with the previous letters to the editor. They wer negative and theologically outdated. Loyalty to the church demands criticism. Thomas Aquinas,Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner and others all advanced new ideas that sometimes were met with church disapproval. Yet dissent fostered advancement in scriptural interpretations, acceptanceof scientific theories on evolution and the cosmos, promoted religious liberty and the relationship betweeen church and state, encouraged ecumenical understandings of savation and innumerable others. Change is a necessity for human institutions and more democratic structures will be beneficial to the church.
Hasn’t Notre Dame changed its structure to invest the laity with more authority and opened its admissions to women and minorities?
Let’s have more articles on Vatican II openness of the church in the modern world.
Charles E. Stimming ’53