To the Editors


Bishops 1, Cardinals 0

Regarding your May 3 editorial "When in Rome": The Protestant churches seem to manage nicely with only bishops. Who needs cardinals anyway (except for Saint Louis)?

 
DORIS R. ASMUNDSSON 
East Elmhurst, N.Y. 

Courage needed

Peter Steinfels ("The Church's Sex-Abuse Crisis," April 19) takes seven pages to conclude: "There is a terrible vacuum of leadership at the highest levels of American Catholicism." No kidding.

What well did he dip into to recommend the need for a Lincoln or a Churchill to "make the necessary stand and speak the necessary word"? What about a Francis of Assisi or a Pope John XXIII, or perhaps Catherine of Sienna or Dorothy Day?

I must agree with Jane Vitale's letter, "Reader Blowback" (Correspondence, April 19). Your editorials must be taken from the teleprompters at Fox Television. If Catholic political thought can only echo the Pentagon or State Department, then there is another crisis in the church apart from the one Steinfels analyzes.

I hope Commonweal will recover some of the courage it once had.

 
T. DUNN 
Laurel, N.Y. 

Spread the word

I would like to add my voice to what I am sure will be many writing in appreciation of Peter Steinfels's fine essay. As a piece of informed, balanced, and reflective journalism, it is without par among anything I have read to date in the U.S. or British press.

Whatever one's view is on the causes and character of the current crisis, one's thinking about these matters could only be improved by reading this article. I'd like to think that it is on the desk of every bishop in America, and that a few complimentary copies are on their way to the bishops conferences of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

 
JOHN HALDANE 
Washington, D.C. 

A red hat

Steinfels for cardinal! Peter Steinfels has brought a comprehensive understanding of the tragedy not found in other coverage of the sex-abuse crisis. I join him in his indictment of the hierarchy for its vacuum of leadership "at the highest levels of Catholicism."

We haven't had it for years. People like the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, joined by Archbishop Rembert Weakland (of Milwaukee) and Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen (retired, of Seattle), who tried to open some serious dialogue with lay people about crucial issues confronting the church, were shot down by fellow bishops and cardinals whose ears were too attuned to Rome. Maybe Peter Steinfels should be the one to head up a commission to deal with the many needed reforms in the church. His ears seem perfectly tuned to me.

 
(REV.) GEORGE R. FITZGERALD, C.S.P. 
Vail, Colo. 

Balance & trust

Kudos to Peter Steinfels for his excellent summary on the sex-abuse crisis confronting the church. He pinpoints secrecy as the principal cause and suggests a way out, namely a national commission.

While his approach may put to rest the sex-abuse issue, it will not resolve the overall credibility question. What is at fault is the church's ongoing conflict concerning full implementation of Lumen gentium. The hierarchy (Roman and American) has not yet been able to overcome the historical division of clergy and laity and seems to be still operating on a "we/they principle." Have they forgotten that Lumen gentium starts with the premise that we are all "people of God" and that our various ministries are in service to them?

What we need is more focus on "lower-archos" and less on "hier-archos" so that an inclusive balance and trust can be established between us and we can better serve God's people. Had that been more in evidence, this crisis would not be facing us today. That may be what the Holy Spirit is in fact telling us.

 
BART MERELLA 
Bowie, Md. 

At the parish level

Peter Steinfels's April 19 article is masterly in its approach to the child-abuse scandal. …

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