Watching the Priest Watcher

The essay “Careful, Priest: The World Is Watching” by Renee Schafer Horton (Commentary, July 11-17) has troubled me on several levels.

First, a priest doesn't have a “job” or a “career.” As Mrs. Horton acknowledged, a priest has a calling or vocation. (See No. 1548 in the Catechism.)

Second, we as Catholics don't have “Sunday celebrations.” We have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that glorious moment when the curtain between heaven and earth is torn away, and we are in the living presence of the eternal God. (See No. 1552.)

Third, I'm not sure what Mrs. Horton means when she refers to “re-examining models of priesthood.” (See Nos. 1577 and 1579.)

Finally, and most important, the Catechism states that “No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. … Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.” (See No. 1578.)

I would like to thank every priest who has answered God's call, and who has sacrificed his time, his personal life and his strength to be a living channel of God's grace for the people he serves. I pray for my parish priests regularly and, after reading Mrs. Horton's article, I will now pray for them daily.

Thank you, especially, to the priests who come as missionaries among us from faraway lands. We need you, you are valued, and I'm sorry you were described in Mrs. Horton's essay as “foreign priests with heavy accents.”


Mercer Island, Washington

Outrageous Endorsement

Regarding “Don't Judge Politicians” by Father James Conner, OCSO, of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky (May 30-June 5):

How outrageous that he gives an under-handed endorsement to Kerry in his letter. He also makes the false accusation that President Bush's position on abortion is weak, and that Bush will do as little as possible to cater to Catholics.

Bush's nominees for federal judgeships have been rejected by the Senate Democrats because the nominees are seen as pro-life. Bush supported and signed the ban on partial-birth abortion. Bush reinstated the “Mexico Policy,” which stops U.S. tax-payer funds from going to international agencies that support abortion, something begun by Reagan only to be suspended by Clinton -- and destined to be re-suspended should Kerry win.

Bush supported the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, making it a crime if an attacker also injures or kills the unborn baby, and the Child Custody Protection Act, making it a crime to transport a minor over state lines to obtain an abortion with the purpose to elude laws that the minor's parents must be informed/consenting before the minor obtains an abortion.

The bottom line is this: If abortion is a heinous crime, then the bishops should stop those who chronically support abortion from receiving holy Communion. To do otherwise tells the rank and file that abortion is really not so bad, not a grave sin.

Would the bishops dally if the murdering were against, say, African-Americans, Jews or Hispanics instead of the pre-born?


Fayetteville, North Carolina

Destroy Dehumanization

I would like to comment on your editorial “What Would Reagan Do?” (June 27-July 3).

As a leader in the pro-life movement for 30 years, I have always been very aware of the power of words. Therefore, I come to you with a constructive suggestion.

In that editorial, you state that “research requires destruction of the boy or girl embryo.” In the following paragraph, you speak of “contributing to the destruction of nascent life” and of “without killing an embryo.”

Let me criticize the first two “destructions” and praise the final “killing.” When you use the word destruction, you subtly dehumanize the subject being done in. When you use the word kill, you very abruptly humanize the subject being done in.

Let me suggest that, in the future, you bear this in mind and always use the proper terminology when discussing abortion. Please remember that we destroy things, but we kill people.

J.C. WILKE, M.D. President of Life Issues Institute, Inc. Cincinnati

Willing Life

Regarding “Penitential Plea” (Letters, June 27-July 3):

This letter touched a weak spot inside of me. In asking for Register readers' advice on writing his living will, the writer (whose name was withheld) reminded me how, as a youngster, I would do almost anything to avoid pain. I hated fights, dentists, confrontations, whatever. When I heard mission preacher Father Stephen Barham spend a whole night teaching that the opposite of faith is not really unbelief but fear, he actually scared me. He made me realize that, by avoiding difficult situations, I was really trying to play God.

How can that be, you ask? Well, so did I. The good Father pushed me in the right direction, but it took me years to really learn that God does not allow problems to come our way without giving us the strength to handle them.

Jesus himself is our best example. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed to his Father that, if possible, he would not have to suffer and die for us. Yet he prayed “not my will, but yours” be done.

Being a good Christian takes a lot of humility, because we all know what is best for us. But God changes the subject completely by insisting that we are not our own God. He has better things in store for us than we can imagine, but we have to trust him, because in our earthly viewpoint, damaged by original sin, we just can't see it without grace.

It is unnatural to put our fears in God's hands and trust him, even to natural death. But if we really trust, he will never allow anything to come to us but what is for our good. Trust him, and he sends us his own strength to go through whatever is necessary. And finally: Pray, pray, pray.


Bakersfield, California

What's in a Headline?

Regarding “Democrat Kerry is Most ʻCatholic' in Senate” (June 13-19):

We are appalled to find this article in your paper. One would expect this Democratic spin to appear in publications such as the New York Times. As Catholics and Republicans, we take exception to that description of Mr. Kerry or for any of the claimed to be Catholics mentioned in the article. It is time the Catholic clergy and bishops realize that the Democratic Party has abandoned the principles that we were taught in our 70-plus years as practicing Catholics.

We are seriously considering not renewing our subscription to the National Catholic Register if this is the philosophy of your publication.


Pahrump, Nevada

Editors' note: The headline reflected not our own editorial position, but the dubious conclusion of Sen. Dick Durbin's report card. The article included remarks critical of the report card from Sen. Rick Santorum, Father Richard John Neuhaus and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Santorum's Strategy

Thank you for putting the question to Sen. Rick Santorum regarding his support for Sen. Arlen Specter over Rep. Pat Toomey (“Santorum Defends Specter Campaign,” June 20-26). I was as disappointed in Santorum's response as I was in his decision to support Specter.

Santorum says, “I think there are far too many churches, particularly Catholic churches, that are not teaching the faith and integral parts of the faith having to do with abortion.”

I don't know where he's been, but I think the Catholic Church has made it abundantly clear that we have a moral obligation to vote in a manner consistent with our faith. We need to support pro-life candidates over pro-abortion ones.

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs has even gone so far as to say that Catholics who vote for politicians who support homosexual marriage or abortion are banned from Communion until they have confessed their sin.

So where does that leave Santorum, who presumably voted for Specter and certainly encouraged everyone else to?

The Catholic Church has always taught that “It is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow there from” (Humanae Vitae). Santorum's reasoning seemed to do just that. His “more sophisticated approach” sounded a lot like political justification for abandoning his principles.

As for changing hearts and minds, I think we give a better witness by remaining steadfast in our convictions rather than hedging our political bets.

Arlen Specter has not gotten my vote in the past, and this year I will write in Pat Toomey.


Carlisle, Pennsylvania