Reach out: Show priests support, pray for vocations
As we deal with the news of clergy sexual abuse, my heart goes out to the victims of such abuse. But my heart also reaches out to the vast majority of Catholic priests who are living out the promises made at their ordination.
For these committed priests, this has been a gut-wrenching time. Almost every day, they hear about other priests who have broken their vows.
Feeling the pain. As critics blast the institutional church and some of its leaders for handling these cases poorly (and don't get me wrong, I do agree serious mistakes were made), good priests feel the pain and brunt of these charges falling on them, too.
They grieve for their fellow priests whose sins have hurt children, families, and communities. But they also grieve for the priesthood itself, being challenged on so many fronts.
Some priests notice people staring at them when they're at a store or restaurant. Their Roman collar used to be a universal sign of respect; now some priests are reluctant to wear their collar in public.
How we can help. How sad that these devoted priests should feel so vulnerable. How can we help?
First of all, Catholics should let their priests know how much they're loved and appreciated. Don't take it for granted that priests realize how you feel. Tell them, write a note, give them a call.
Secondly, tell your relatives, friends, and neighbors about the many wonderful priests we have. I've had an opportunity to do this with people who have asked me about the scandals. I admit that serious wrongs have been done, but I also stress that we have so many caring, selfless priests.
Thirdly, pray for all our priests and other men and women who minister in our church in ordained and consecrated life. They need our spiritual support as they persevere in their vocations.
Pray, too, for an increase in church vocations. This Sunday, April 21, is celebrated as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It coincides with the conclusion of the Third Continental Congress on Vocations in Montreal with the theme, "Vocation: Gift from God, Given for God's People."
Signs of hope. There are signs of hope. New statistics released by CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) show that enrollment in U.S. Catholic theological seminaries rose by 101 students this year, from 3,483 to 3,584 in 2001-2002. It marked the fifth straight year of increases. U.S. deacon formation programs grew by 39.
God is calling men and women to serve the church. If you know someone who would make a good priest, deacon, or sister, encourage them to contact the Madison Diocesan Vocation Office (see ad on page 5 [print edition only] for details).
Mary C. Uhler, editor
Israel is 'distorting' situation
To the editor:
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A very alarming situation is developing at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Press reports in Israeli newspapers, and information being given out by the Israeli Army to other reporters, are distorting the situation and speaking of the monks and nuns in the church as though they are being held hostage by the Palestinians.
For example, Reuters (news agency) was told by the Israeli Army that four "priests" managed to "slip out" of the church "with the army's help." The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz opened a story by saying, "Four of the sixty priests [sic] that had been held by those fortified in the church were released."
The Israeli Army seems to be trying to build up a story that the Catholic clerics are being held hostage by the Palestinians. To what end such a story? Presumably as an excuse to storm the church and "free" the "hostages."
An Associated Press story exposes the Israeli lies. The four priests were actually being kept in the church by the Israelis, not the Palestinians. After negotiations with the Israelis, the Army allowed them to leave. Two left for health reasons, and a third had to travel to Italy.
Rev. Gianfranco Pinto Ostune of the Franciscan press office in Rome said the clergy inside the church want to stay put to safeguard one of Christianity's holiest shrines. They're not being held hostage, they're not being threatened in any way by the Palestinians. What they would like is to have food and other necessary provisions delivered to them.
If Israel thinks it is going to fool the world that this is a hostage situation, and that it has to storm the church to "free" the "hostages," it is fooling only itself.
The situation must be settled peacefully. Starving those in the church, or any use of violence that might injure monks or nuns or the building itself, will deliver a severe blow to Jewish-Christian relations.
There's far more at stake here than Israel's security.
Al Geiersbach, Milwaukee
Thanks for coverage of birthday
To the editor:
Please accept both my thanks and congratulations on your coverage of my ninth anniversary of appointment as Bishop of Madison and my 75th birthday. The collage and coverage was excellent. I offer you my congratulations on a job well done by both you and your staff.
Many people commented on the balance, color, and quotations. It helped me feel very appreciated and brought joy to my Irish heart.
Bishop William H. Bullock, publisher
Real issue is church's response
To the editor:
Re your editorial: Confusing the Issue (April 4 issue).
It seems to me you're confusing the issue. The issue isn't pedophilia. Human weakness -sin - we will always have with us. The issue is the institutional response thereto.
That's what so many "Catholic factions" are seeking ways to "reform."
Lois H. Lenz, Beloit