Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Letters to the Editor

(From the April 29, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

How to write to us

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  • Inland Register, P.O. Box 48, Spokane, WA 99210.
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    Catholic politicians


    I wish to add my voice to the requests of other readers who would like a discussion about the morality of Catholics voting for pro-choice political candidates. Can voting for such candidates ever be morally justified?

    It appears that abortion, with the possible exception of partial birth abortion, will not be an issue in this campaign. It also seems evident that Roe vs. Wade will not be overturned in the near future. This means that pro-life candidates can promise anything, knowing they will deliver nothing and that citizens who choose whom to support based solely on a pro-life stance will be casting empty votes.

    Meanwhile, there are other pro-life concerns which can be productively addressed: access to health care and quality education for all; homelessness; hunger; safeguarding the environment; and war issues, to name a few.

    We are fortunate in this area to have Catholic scholars with the competence to discuss this matter. It would be most helpful if the Inland Register would seek their guidance to present a balanced discussion of this issue.

    Patricia Cain, Spokane

    Need for change


    The present crisis in the Catholic Church, locally and globally, goes far beyond the present sexual abuse crisis and indicates great need for change. One of the changes necessary is in the practice of educating men for the priesthood.

    Priestly candidates formerly were removed from the People of God, the greater Body of Christ and given special elitist treatment, often from the age of 14. Isolated in ivory towers, their education and formation were handed to them with all their needs met, except for the most important need: to relate to the whole of humanity and to learn compassion and love. They often developed a distorted idea of their own importance.

    The results have not been the servant leadership exemplified by Jesus in washing the feet of his apostles, but an elitist, power-on-a-pedestal leadership whom people were told “took the place of Christ” (and therefore could do no wrong). The results have been a left brain, intellectual, man-made “law and order” discipline. “This is the way we do things.” It was far from the message of “love one another” and “love your enemies.” And the heart, the compassion, the empathy with wounded and struggling people was lacking in much of the priesthood, with many wonderfully notable exceptions.

    It was this idolatry of the priesthood that is one of the causes of the present sexual abuse crisis. A tiny victim of clerical sexual abuse, I was punished by my parents “for saying such things about such a holy man” (“Spokane woman hopes her story of abuse helps others to heal,” IR 12/4/03). Other parents of victims, I now have learned, were in similar denial and withheld from their children the love and support they so desperately needed. Or the children, having been brainwashed into believing that the priest must always be mindlessly obeyed, were led to betrayal by the very persons whom they were called to love and protect. We, all of us laity, are guilty of priestly idolatry, as well as are the ordained.

    Some practices have changed, I’m told. I’m open to correction if mistaken. Currently, a priest aspirant or his family must pay for his college degree but he continues to be housed and fed by the diocese in the Bishop White Seminary building. After completing his bachelor’s degree, the candidate is sent to a theological seminary of his choice in the United States or abroad, for four years of formation funded by the diocese.

    We People of God are now being asked to fund a luxury boarding house for present priest aspirants which plan seems to me to still be pedestalizing priests. Yes, the present Bishop White building needs extensive repair, but it will take far less money to restore, renovate and bring this treasure up to code, than $3 million currently being planned for a new building. More and more buildings nationwide are being preserved in this manner, as historical preservation becomes a high priority. And this will also prove good stewardship of Earth’s resources to reuse a present building than to use new construction materials.

    Bishop White Seminary is a beautiful historic building, dating from early 20th century when attention was given to graciousness and craftsmanship. It is a holy building, having seen almost 100 years of prayers and study by men whose lives were dedicated to serving God. The walls and halls, the windows and doors resonate the sacred life of decades. It is a treasure of beauty and historicity and can be placed on the local, state, and national Historic Registers and be a proud heritage for future generations.

    And this will demonstrate to the world the Church’s recognition that the latest, the most luxurious, is not the best choice for a people who follow a poor Jesus, who “had no place to lay his head.”

    Bernadine Van Thiel, Spokane

    Prophetic voices


    When we speak of vocations in the church, most often we think of more formal positions such as youth ministry, religious education, Religious life or priesthood.

    In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we are told prophets are a part of the gifts that are given to the church. This is not a comforting ministry, as the work of the prophet afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. We know from the Scripture and from life that prophets are seldom honored or welcomed by the community.

    In the midst of the church’s struggle with the abuse issue there have been prophets among us who have had the courage to speak what we do not want to hear. These people could have chosen “slash and bum” tactics or they could have simply walked away from the Catholic community.

    These prophets are people with deep faith and roots in the Catholic community. Instead they have chosen the difficult path of continuing their journey in the catholic community while they speak their invitation to a conversion of heart. I am grateful for people such as Rita Flynn, Barb Hutchinson, Val and Larry Pember, and Rebecca Nappi.

    I am sure they did not seek to be in the position they now find themselves, but as faithful disciples they chose to be faithful to the Gospel and to the call to be people of justice. No one seeks the pain and hurt that comes with speaking the truth in difficult times.

    My hope in the future of the church resides in knowing disciples such as these still choose to stay and work to bring about a conversion of heart in our faith community. I thank them for their courage, faithfulness and love of our shared faith. Their presence is an act of hope.

    Linda Kobe-Smith, Spokane

    Priests: Respect, not adoration


    When is enough enough? Or is it ever?

    For months now we have read and heard reports of the abuse by our priests – some of them. We have heard of the anguish and suffering of those abused – suffering that they have had to deal with in one way or another for decades. We have heard or read about our need now to forgive the perpetrators and be compassionate and understanding of those who have suffered, and yet there are some who have doubts as to the authenticity of some of the claims filed because of the long time lapse between the event(s) and the revelation of such. Doubts that become even more pronounced when recognizing that many of the accused are now deceased and unable to say “yea” or “nay” to the accusations.

    However it appears that most, if not all, claims are true, many have suffered, and healing needs to take place. While those priests are certainly to blame, and many bishops share that blame for their unwillingness either to take immediate action to address the problem or for their deliberate cover-up of the devastating activities, there is still a vital ingredient missing in the whole episode.

    Consider this: for years, centuries, we, you and I, have placed our priests on pedestals of worship (almost), because they are our spiritual leaders, our proclaimers of the teachings of our Christ, dedicating their lives to leading us to the road of salvation and the eventual sharing of God’s Kingdom. We, you and I, have proclaimed them to be ever more infallible than our pope, whose infallibility is only in matters of faith and morals. On the other hand, our priests, by our placing them on a pedestal, cannot err in financial matters, administrative matters, or any other area of our lives. Need examples? How about who decides on how contributions are spent? Who decides on all administrative matters (hires or fires, times and kinds of activities, where and when, etc.)? Remember the old TV program Father Knows Best? That’s what we’ve perpetuated. Father (priest) knows best. In other words, he can’t be wrong.

    So what’s this got to do with our role (yours and mine) in this sad affair? Simple: you and I pass the pedestal, Father Knows Best attitude on to our children and others’ children who, when confronted with a totally unacceptable and sinfully damaging situation, have nowhere to go. Not to their parents or other adults who cannot accept or have not accepted the reality that priests, like us, are human and can do wrong.

    Our only and needed recourse is to smash the pedestals, face the realities of their being human, and treat our priests and bishops with respect, not adoration. On their part is the mandate that they heed and follow through any complaints of improper behavior and not be subject to a misguided philosophy of protecting the “brotherhood” at all costs.

    D.R. Dehmer, Spokane

    Justice for youth?


    On the evening of Wednesday, April 7, 2004, a most disturbing report was broadcast on CBS-TV. In the State of Washington, two 12-year-old boys, Jake and Evan, are being charged with the death of their thirteen year old friend, Craig. This is most certainly sad, but there are two factors in this situation that are extremely troubling.

    One is, these children are being tried as adults in court. A violence being brought upon them that is just too inconceivable. Many foundations have done studies on this subject, stating that children indeed should absolutely not be tried as adults. One of these was the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Plus there are numerous organizations on the internet who piously agree.

    The second troubling factor is, the statement made by the judge when he decided to try these boys as adults. He said, because of the seriousness of the crime, he believes that the juvenile system will not be able to rehabilitate them. As soon as I heard that, I dropped to my knees and began praying for the judge. What an uneducated pronouncement! What an insult to the intelligence! How proud and presumptuous of the judge to think that he was righteous because of his “beliefs.”

    His lack of works and observance of the law has caused him to sin against these children. Only mental health with child psychologists and psychiatrists can determine what can or can not be done for them. A judge is to listen to the facts, not come to his own beliefs.

    What is before the court in the Evergreen State is truly horrific, but the remark made by this judge was totally hideous. He should recuse himself before he brings any more harm to these boys, or any children in the future.

    Prayers are needed here for all involved. Let us come together as Jesus Christ would want, a community in tune with the love, forgiveness and justice that is necessary for a sane society.

    We in this country are a wise and erudite people. A more mature nation. With all this knowledge and understanding, there should never be a child tried as an adult, nor a need for the imprisonment of children.

    Francis Edmands, Norfolk, Mass.

    Participating in ‘The Passion’


    I have participated in The Passion of the Christ now for the fifth time. “Participated” is the only appropriate word for this film. Disappointing are negative responses to this work, which is so unashamedly Catholic. Have they not looked beyond the violent sufferings Jesus willingly went through to its mystical quality and its great depth which instructs in the science of love? I suggest another viewing, or more. See in it the sacrifice of the Mass. Note especially Jesus’ flashbacks in the context of this sacrifice. One striking example is at the stripping of Jesus. He takes us back to the uncovering of the bread he makes his own sacrificial body at the Last Supper. The stripping on Calvary is this preparation of himself, the living sacrifice, the true Bread of life, in the Mass. It is all, in the end, the sacrifice of holy Mass.

    See the effect of Our Lady upon Jesus. She is definitively the strong, great, queen mother of the Lord; supporting him, spiritually united with her Son, so intimate they know one another’s presence through thick stone floor. When scourged, his body beaten and ripped, at the sight of his mother’s support his strength is renewed and he rises again, offering himself to his Father, our Father. So touching the meeting on the Via Dolorosa as he, exhausted, says to her, “Mother, ‘...see, I make all things new’” (Rev. 21:5).

    As a Catholic bookstore owner I am asked the meaning of the ugly baby. I see it as a clear reference to Genesis, which tells of this enmity between the seed of the Woman (Mary the new Eve and Jesus the new Adam) and the seed of Satan. Others suggest another meaning, which traces back to Genesis as well. It is that in Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress, Satan’s bride is Sin. Their child is Death, “...through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death....” (Romans 5:12). Death strokes Satan’s face and both appear together tormenting the battered Jesus with an “in your face” claim to victory. In the end Satan’s defeat is clear in the scene from the pit as he screams defeat when Jesus, his sacrifice complete, never succumbing to the temptations Satan poses to him up to the very end, dies on the cross for our sin and our redemption.

    Our antiseptic culture has largely forgotten there is no redemption and no resurrection without first devastating suffering, passion and death. We no longer comprehend the redemptive value of Jesus’ sufferings nor our own. We have forgotten the Holy Mass is first of all the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

    The violence is “over the top” for many children. However, several mothers relate taking young children of six and seven. They found no difficulties for them. Not all should. Perhaps some might.

    If you didn’t understand the first time, see it again until you are able to see the truth in it. Sin is always a riddle. How could the same folk who cheered on Palm Sunday scream for blood on Good Friday? How can any of us turn from grace to sin so easily? So much speaks to the heart.

    I appreciate Pilate’s wife Claudia’s lines which say that if you cannot see the truth, no one can show you.

    This is a deep and prayer-filled film about redemptive love. A gift to all with eyes and heart to see it.

    Katherine Melton, Walla Walla, Wash.

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