April 7, 2017

Letters to the Editor

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Reflecting on the Church’s teaching about a male celibate priesthood

Regarding the March 17 article in The Criterion with the headline “Priests and marriage: Pope’s response not so new after all,” it is good to hear that it is the wrong road to take for our Latin rite Catholic priests to be married, let alone not dispensing with active venery while remaining married. By the way, every marital act—open to the transmission of life—does not beget a child. So what makes a man think that because he’s entered matrimony he has a right to children?

In 2016, we had a speaker at our Serra Club in Indianapolis who fielded my question regarding deacons and Code of Canon Law (CIC) 277.1: “Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are obliged to observe celibacy, that is a special gift of God, whereby sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and can more freely dedicate themselves to the service of God and mankind.”

His response was to remind me of the conjugal debt owed according to 1 Cor 7:3. According to my spiritual director, there is no connection between 1 Corinthians and CIC 277. This is why we must discern and on occasion seek clarification on what to do when confronted with moral irregularities.

St. Joseph is the perpetually chaste spouse of the thrice virgin (before, during and after) Mary, mother of the Master of celibates, Jesus. This is not a time for double-mindedness, and Scriptures are as clear as canon law: The man who is married is concerned with pleasing his wife, not the Lord.

Celibacy, generally speaking, has two parts: not being married, and being continent. In 1995, an apostolate discovery was that 25 of approximately 200 dioceses in the U.S. do not support the male celibate priesthood. Over the course of the next 20 years, being proactive has been the best remedy to stem this anomaly within his holy Church.

Pope St. Gregory VII of happy memory decreed “perpetual celibacy for holy orders,” and “no married man should assist at the priest’s Mass.” In “Gaudium et Spes” of Vatican II, we see: where God’s priest is, there is the kingdom of God.

St. Francis of Assisi had a solution for those married men who were “called”: third orders (CIC, 303). We tertiaries have our own shortage, and I may assure you, marriage is not the answer to the crisis of removing God from our midst.

These are not trivial matters, and theologians may opine all they care to. This is why The Criterion must serve as the vital tool of exegesis, so that our faithful will not be scandalized nor find another reason to believe “merely mortal men” govern Jesus’ Church.

- Stephen Kappes | Indianapolis

Compassion is a reliable moral guide when informed by good judgment

When The Criterion weighs in on the morality of our nation’s immigration policy, it seems that every featured article defines the issue solely in terms of hospitality and compassion.

To be sure, we should feel compassion for those in need and “welcome the stranger” whenever possible, but it is absurd to suggest that we should welcome all strangers, regardless of their intentions, proclivities or legal status.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in #2241, “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able [emphasis added], to welcome the foreigner in search of” a better life. In other words, the United States is not expected to be more generous than it can afford to be. A nation can remain generous only if it remains intact.

It follows that we should feel the moral tension between our compassion for the needy stranger, and our concerns about the economic and social costs of receiving an unlimited supply of newcomers that cannot or will not assimilate into our culture.

How can we maintain respect for the rule of law when unlawful intruders force their way inside our boundaries while lawful applicants, who wait their turn, are crowded out? It is a strange kind of compassion that is reserved only for lawbreakers.

How can we protect our citizens from the gangsters, rapists and drug dealers that invade our borders if we refuse to call things by their right name? Criminal trespassers are not “undocumented immigrants,” and they certainly don’t deserve our hospitality.

How can we preserve our middle class if we allow foreign workers to displace American workers and drive down wages? If the middle class disappears, who will fight back against the self-serving political elitists? Poor people don’t have the power, and rich people don’t care.

On matters of immigration policy, compassion is a reliable moral guide only when it is informed by good judgment. I hope that the editors of this newspaper will keep that point in mind.

- Stephen L. Bussell | Indianapolis

Uncomfortable encounter leads to Lenten story of mercy and forgiveness

Recently, a couple of people at church were rude to me. As a musician, I play and sing at Mass each week, and these folks said they did not think I was particularly good at either.

For the next several days, my inner monologue was dominated with thoughts of “What should I do about this?” I thought of going to the priest, and “telling on them.” I thought of saying something rude back. I thought of quitting my playing and singing, or quitting that particular Mass and going to a different one, or going to a different church, or going nowhere at all and quitting church.

Then I heard a still, small voice that seemed to say, “You know what the central theme in all of this is? It’s ‘you.’ You’ve given no consideration to what their issue may have been. You’ve given no consideration to what their day was like, or what other problems they may be going through. You’ve not forgiven them. You’ve not prayed for them. You’ve not considered others there who may like your singing and playing.”

“You’re right, Lord,” I said out loud, and then and there stopped the obsessing and let it all go.

The Church is made up of all kinds of people, and for many of these people Sunday church is their only social contact. It is the only place they have to share their feelings, and sometimes it just comes across as rudeness. What they’re really saying is: “Something’s bothering me.”

I forgave them and prayed for them, and will be looking for them next time at church to offer them a smile and ask if they’re OK.

I thought it was interesting that this all happened during this time of the year—a season or reflection and preparation, preparation for the coming of our risen Lord! This year, this is my “Lenten story!”

- Sonny Shanks | Corydon

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