Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 13, 1999
WCR Letters to the Editor
Student nurse runs into a snag
I am a second year student in the University of Alberta Nursing program. At present I am in my practicum at an Edmonton Public Health Centre. I have been working with the community health nurses and have been fairly impressed with the number of health promotion/prevention services offered to the community.
I have however run into a snag. Myself and one of my fellow nursing students have informed our instructors that we will not be manning booths in schools put there by Planned Parenthood and the Birth Control Centre.
We also have refused to counsel new moms who come in about artificial contraceptives except to let them know the dangers they cause, their side effects (which in the case of the pill and Preven the new morning after pill are many and frightening).
We have been told by our instructor that we will not be working in the community health setting unless we bow down and accept the contraceptive mentality and agree to teach it to others.
We are allowed to stay at our placement but I can only imagine what our marks are going to look like at the end of this semester. Frankly, doing the right thing is worth anything. It's very freeing to do what is right even when no one else seems to agree with you.
Considering the first nurses who were willing to come to Canada were Catholic nuns who are probably rolling in their graves to see what has become of the health system in this country.
I can't help but feel sad that there is not more resistance from our Catholic people over having this information pushed on teens and young families. Not once do they mention natural family planning as a viable option over artificial methods.
I have not even mentioned the fact that the birth control pill and the Preven, or the "morning after pill" work as abortafacients to take the life of the newly-conceived child. If anyone has any helpful ideas I would appreciate it.
Songbooks bound for the recycler
At St. Michael's Parish in Leduc, we have just received our annual shipment of new Breaking Bread hymnals.
I love the music in the books and I like the idea of having an updated version of the book in our pews, but I'm troubled by the agreement we have with Oregon Catholic Press, which requires us to destroy all the old books. Most of last year's books are in fair to excellent shape.
As I thought of this, I had in mind a friend who is working in a parish in Meander River (way up North). These Catholics have not had a new hymnal in their pews since John the Baptist was a baby.
So wouldn't it be great if we could make an agreement with Oregon Catholic Press to hand our old copies of Breaking Bread over to my friend's parish up North. In turn, they could agree to destroy the books in the following year-by that time they would probably be getting kind of ratty anyway.
So, with a glad heart, I called Oregon Catholic Press. At the press I spoke to the operator for awhile, then I talked to a customer service representative for awhile, then they passed me on to . . . Let's call him "Ted."
We chatted. Apparently, we can do nothing - they have agreements with composers who want to sell songs.
I observed that the good folks up North haven't the faintest hope of purchasing a song book because they don't have any money to do so and . . . Well, you know how these conversations go: "Yes, isn't that environmental issue, justice issue, common sense issue, unfortunate."
"We have been trying to do something about this for years." "It's been nice talking to you (please don't call us again and bother us with this problem)."
So what shall we do? Does your parish destroy old Breaking Bread books? Is it really impossible to do something about this?
I just thought I'd ask the question before I head off to the recycler with our songbooks. That is, unless you have a better idea.
No point to self-flagellation
John Kloster writes, "I sometimes wonder whether Christianity and the world wouldn't be better served if we were to recognize Jesus simply and lovingly as an extremely great prophet and left the divinity to the one Jesus called 'Our Father'" (WCR, Nov. 29).
I'm glad that he only sometimes wonders about it, and I hope he resists the temptation to go along with that position.
Kloster has written books on the questions he raised in his letter, and it would take a book-length answer to reply to them with the same degree of seriousness and thought he applies to these issues. But I could sum up the counter-argument in two or three short observations.
First, as St. Paul writes, "But we hold this treasure in earthly vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Had the Apostles waited to become perfect, they would still have been in the Cenacle waiting to become perfect. As the Acts of the Apostles tell us, they continued being earthen vessels even after the Holy Spirit came to them.
We must not allow the errors of the past or present to stop us from doing what good we can do, despite our imperfections.
Second, the Hindu groups to which Kloster refers, object to anything which is not Hindu, and have the approximate status that the Rev. Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church has in Northern Ireland, with the exception that they may be more extreme.
That doesn't mean they don't raise some good points among many bad ones: so does Paisley. But they are the classic examples of ill-meaning people who wish only for excuses to vent their ill temper. I would not go into throes of self-flagellation over them.
Third, any Church which cannot believe in its own central tenets will earn only the contempt of others, whether they believe in God or not. In any ecumenical exercise I have ever participated in, progress is only made when the participants are true to their beliefs and traditions.
There is much truth in the old adage, "He who tries to please all will please none."
John Patrick Day
Church 'staffing problem' must be addressed
It is with sadness that I read "Guidelines approved for merged parishes" in the Nov. 15 WCR.
I was born and raised in the Hardisty parish, and attended Mass frequently there until I left Alberta several years ago. The parish has seen ups and downs - family numbers fluctuated, smaller families replaced large ones, priests came and went - but people were faithful to the Church.
It was understood that the Church was about more than a single priest; it was a spiritual community that reflected the presence of God in our lives.
So what has happened? First, the church is closed permanently for the celebration of the Eucharist because of the priest shortage. The original Transformation of Parishes report recommended that Hardisty be kept open because it was a financially viable church with active ministries, numerous Baptisms and first Communions each year, and it was 30 minutes or more to the nearest church.
Yet the church was closed anyway. Even lay-led liturgies, which had been acceptable (if less than ideal) for years, were banned, for reasons I have yet to hear articulated.
Now the "small communities" such as Hardisty are to be given Draconian new rules on how they will function as part of the merged parish, even to the point of being told how money will be spent. What is the intent of this? And why now?
Surely we can trust the local parishioners and parish leaders to resolve parish merger issues on their own without having their hands tied by onerous new "guidelines." Space does not permit me to comment on each of the strict conditions outlined in the article. However, several of them sound like blackmail or bullying tactics that could kill small communities completely.
Is that the "rational and systematic" intention? If this was a corporation or government forcing this kind of restructuring on people, there would be scores of social justice advocates within the Church wringing their hands and writing letters. Where are they now? What would Jesus say about this?
The shortage of priests is understood, but ultimately, implementing restructuring and instituting new guidelines will do nothing to solve the fundamental problem - why the Church cannot attract individuals to serve it and the people of God.
Other institutions would be asking some serious questions as to why they cannot attract and retain staff. What is the institutional Church doing to answer those questions?
Brian de Kock
A distorted view of priests, nuns
Re: "Priests, nuns should respect their dress codes" (WCR, Nov. 29).
The priests and nuns that I know are not the ones described in that letter. The ones I know dress very simply, and the ones that drive cars do so for the same reason you and I drive ours - because they need transportation.
I don't know any who drive luxury cars, and I am not interested in taking a survey to see how many have phones (I suspect you mean cellular phones?) because I frankly don't care.
I for one don't need to see them in a habit to recognize them. I recognize them by the sign that Jesus gave in John 13: 35 - "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
The Gospels also tell me that Jesus ate and drank with the common people.
I have a suggestion. When you travel, bring yourself a good book to read. This way you won't have time to speculate on the amount of money people spend on clothes or count the drinks that they consume, thus avoiding the temptation to judge them.
You will have to agree with me, though, even if all the nuns that you witness on your frequent flights are wearing fancy clothes, hairdos and perfume, they must be doing something right because you do recognize them as nuns!
My husband and I had the opportunity to visit my sister (a nun) while she was working as a missionary in Dominica two years ago. The affection and respect that the simple people of Soufriere showed my sister (who does not wear a habit) was truly touching. Everywhere we went she got warm smiles and the friendly greeting, "Hi, Sister."
I am proud to have many priests and nuns as good friends. I know they chose their vocations because they understood the message of Christ. They do their best, as all Christians should, to imitate Christ and to spread the good news of God's unconditional and never-ending love for each and everyone of us.
I think we all have the responsibility to set a good example to others, and what better way than by loving one another, and not judging others by what we perceive as unacceptable. Let God be the judge.
Harold MacNeil was a giant
Your Nov. 8 issue carried news of Harold MacNeil's death, and a good description of his life and work. Belatedly, I want to commend him to the memory of all Albertans.
One of the many things Harold did in his retirement was chair a committee I appointed, to review the governance of the Northland School Division and make recommendations. (I was minister of education at the time.)
Harold did a wonderful job, reflecting his experience, his compassion, and his insights into human nature. All of it was informed by his faith.
The result was the institution of school councils and a democratically elected trusteeship for Northland, for the first time in its history. A small number of people living in a huge area (one fifth of Alberta) were directly touched by Harold MacNeil.
I went to Harold at the time because, across public and separate school boards, he was recognized as a giant - a man of integrity who was committed to education and community.
Let's celebrate male, celibate priesthood
It appeared to me as I read the letter in the Nov. 22 issue, "Church too reliant on old theology" that Darlene Starrs' feminist views have caused her some confusion in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
I wondered why anyone would have the need to attack with such fury the theological teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
I found my answer in the Encyclopedia of the Catholic Church that defines feminism as "a system of thought that seeks the same social, political, and economic rights for women as those exercised by men. Authentic Christian feminism advocates these rights within the scriptural and traditional understanding of the differences between men and women as created by God."
It goes on to say: "Whereas radical feminism seeks to obliterate these differences by viewing them as being artificially imposed by a patriarchal understanding of society."
Radical feminism in the Church is not new. Heresies are common in the Church as well.
Regarding Starrs' "new theology." she has forgotten one major fact - unaltered Scripture and tradition are the foundation of our beliefs. Christ, our God, was the same yesterday as today and will be the same tomorrow.
Jesus stated when speaking of Peter our first pope and "patriarchal" leader - "Upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
It appears very clear here the Roman Curia is to guide us. We have been given the unchanging word of God, and God's word cannot be altered nor can the meaning of his word be changed by any other God.
It appears to me the issue it not a "new theology" as is stated in Ms. Starrs letter, there appears to be a problem of wanting control and what better way than changing the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
To be honest with you, I am quite tired of listening to such nonsense. Let us not waste our time abusing Our Lord's gift by attempting to change in the Church what we do not like. We are called to be united within the teachings of the Church.
As for feminism, I am an authentic Christian feminist based on my beliefs. I believe in the established Holy Roman Catholic Church and its teachings. I believe in those living a life truly consecrated to God, be it married or single, men and women who love and serve God.
I also believe in the men whom God has chosen, those ordained to serve in his Church as priests. These men who give totally of themselves for love of God.
I live in a location where I have to travel at least 40-km round trip daily to receive the transubstantiated body and blood of Jesus, and I do.
I believe in his Eucharistic presence and I pray daily for all vocations at every Mass, in particular, I pray for celibate male priestly vocations. The priesthood with its celibacy is a great grace given by God.
Let us celebrate the Priesthood.
A sure knowledge of where we're headed
In response to Marc Ratusz and David Laurence (WCR, Nov. 29) I would like to say that I deliberately under-emphasized the "change" in the bread and wine because since the Middle Ages, the Church overemphasized it, creating this mystery and grandiosity about it, and therefore creating an exclusive group of people that could conduct the ritual.
Of course, a change takes place in the bread and wine. In other words, Communion is simply not just a commemorative act of what Jesus did at the Last Supper.
However, we need to have a current understanding and theology of the bread and wine changed. Rather than using Thomas Aquinas' explanation, we could use modern terms of relevance like "channeling."
In fact, the bread and wine are channeled to possess the Christic spirit. The point is: the change is not as big and mysterious as Aquinas would have understood.
The theology of Vatican II changed its emphasis from church service being fundamentally "the holy Sacrifice of the Mass" to a liturgy celebration of Christ among us. The Church changed its emphasis from recognizing Christ in the Blessed Sacrament to recognizing Christ in the people.
Therefore the most important condition for receiving Christ in the bread and the wine, is that, that is what people intend. So, first is the intention of the people, and second is the person needed to actually do the words and actions.
It's really not that difficult because as we are taught by Holy Mother Church, Christ is among the people. It is the community that ultimately consecrates the bread and wine. The person who does the signs and actions acts on their behalf.
Therefore, it is okay to find other ministers in our midst who are credible to conduct this ritual.
If our seminaries are bursting at the seams, then all seminarians should be well versed in the Vatican II documents and should be prepared to do theology. Might I add, that excommunication is not a pastoral approach and therefore has no resonance with Christ and serving the people of God.
There really is no honour in blind obedience. If you are content to accept this statement when you hear it - "There will be no Eucharist because we have no male, celibate priest" - then that is your prerogative.
However, for those who give themselves permission to think and to question, then examine this statement very carefully. If it is the community that intends to receive Jesus in the Eucharist and if Christ is among us, then perhaps we need enough imagination and courage to change the way we choose ministers.
There are few essentials about the Church and orthodoxy tends to remain the same but orthopraxis has evolved all through the history of the Church and ultimately it is the sense of the people, the sensus fidelium that moves the practice of the Church in the direction it needs to go in whatever period of history it is in.
Rest assured I know where we have come from, where we are now, and where we ought to go.
Fitting in is not our goal
Darlene Starrs brought up some interesting points about the priesthood and vocations in her Nov. 22 letter to the editor, "Church too reliant on old theology." However they have more to do with popular opinion and secular theology than with the will of God.
In the entire history of God and his people, he has never been swayed by popular opinion. In fact the opposite is true.
For example, popular opinion when Jesus was born was that the Messiah would be an earthly king whose rule would be established on earth. Even Peter bought into this vision as is apparent by his reaction to Jesus' prophecy of his death.
However, God had something much more spectacular in mind than an earthly kingdom: the resurrection. As it says in Isaiah 55:8-9 - "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord."
One thing we can be reasonably certain of is that God's solution to the vocations crisis in the Church will have little to do with either earthly power or popular opinion.
In her letter, Ms. Starr made this statement, "I don't think the Catholics of the new millennium should have to suffer." The best response to that comes from Jesus himself, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).
St. Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I failed to see how the attitudes and actions advocated by Ms. Starrs, including what amounted to a bishops' mutiny, would produce any such fruit.
I am reminded of something Archbishop Thomas Collins was quoted as saying in the WCR several weeks ago. Something to the effect that if you're fitting in pretty good with the world around you, chances are you're not on the right path.
Our prayer should always be, as Jesus taught us, "Father, thy will be done."
The answer to the vocations crisis will not be found in earthly solutions, but in a return to prayer and total devotion to the Lord of the harvest. Jesus tells us to "seek first (emphasis added) the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides."
God is a Father who keeps his promises. I choose to place my trust in him, not in current popular opinion.
Obedience and loyalty needed
In the Nov. 22 WCR the front page headline is "How to build a church." The Page 12 headline should have read "How to destroy a Church." Darlene Starrs' letter shows us how.
The same week a quote from the Edmonton Journal states, "Pope John Paul issued a stern rebuke Saturday to grassroots Catholic reform movements, rejecting demands for female priests and a greater role for the laity. These groups are trying to provoke within the Church through concerted action and insistent pressure, changes that run counter to the will of Christ."
This statement is nothing new. He has said it many times before.
This is the Vicar of Christ speaking, successor of St. Peter, the rock upon which God build his Church, and he speaks with divine authority. Why do some find it so hard to accept?
To be a faithful Catholic we must adhere to the teaching and tradition of the Holy Mother Church, and have respectful obedience and loyalty to the pope. Our spiritual life depends on it.
Many Protestants have joined the Catholic Church after researching and studying its history and have come to recognize it as the foundation and pillar of truth. Many now go around the world telling in their testimonies and through their books about the richness and beauty they have found in the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church.
Steven Ray, the keynote speaker at the Family Life Conference held in August at Lac St. Anne, has written two books - Crossing the Tiber and Upon This Rock. Surprised by the Truth by Patrick Madrid has many testimonies. Scott Hahn has some excellent books.
Everyone who finds the teachings of the Catholic Church unacceptable should read these stories and perhaps come to understand the faith better through the eyes of these converts to the Catholic Church.