Don't abandon the Church

The continuing scandal in the Catholic Church has undoubtedly resulted in many leaving the Church. However, those who have left and those who are considering leaving should be aware that scandal is not new in the Church clergy. It has been with us since day one. Just think, one of the Twelve Apostles sold out the Savior. How big a scandal would that be today? I wonder why Judas sold out Jesus when any disciple or non-believer could have done so. Perhaps it was God’s way of letting us know that no one is above sin, even an apostle, or today a bishop, priest or layperson. Those who have left may find out that every church has its share of sinners and is not perfect. The second consideration of those who are considering leaving the Church is the Eucharist. If one really believes in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, how could one walk away from it? If the Eucharist is simply a symbol, then it’s probably no big deal to leave the Church. So my theory is that those who have left did not immerse themselves in the Eucharistic life of the Church. For me, I can’t abandon the Eucharist and won’t be driven out of the Church by these scandals. Warts and all, it’s still the Church founded by Jesus and yes, it’s full of sinners, myself included. And it’s good to remember that the vast majority of priests and bishops are good and faithful servants of God and us and they suffer from the scandal as well.  

— Robert L Eison, Huntsville, Ala.

Raising the alarm

I much appreciated your editorial on The New York Times’ fixation on negative news in the Catholic Church (“Scalp Hunting,” May 30). I agree entirely that The Times “is coming across as a little bit obsessed.”  

I also agree with your stated reasons why “virtually every legal system has a statute of limitations.” A number of courageous bishops have argued in opposition to retroactive application of revised civil statutes of limitations. Such revised statutes typically expose the Catholic Church to special liability while exempting public institutions. 

But I must raise the alarm here. As a body, American bishops lobbied the Holy See for retroactive extension of the time limits of prescription, the period of time in which a delict (a crime) exists and can be prosecuted under Church law.  

As an example of the egregious injustice such extensions have produced, a 74-year-old priest I know was subjected to a canonical trial in 2007 for an abuse complaint alleged to have occurred in 1972. The statute of limitations (prescription) expired under Church law for this delict in 1983. For the very reasons you set down in your fine editorial, this trial could not have been valid.

Many accused priests now face the possibility of forced laicization with no opportunity for defense or appeal because our bishops have embraced routine dispensation from the Church’s own statute of limitations. The bishops cannot argue this point from two directions. Some have defended this duplicity citing that the delicts involve criminal and not civil matters. This is so, but these men are also American citizens and the U.S. Constitution prohibits retroactive application of criminal laws as unconstitutional.  

Statutes of limitations exist in legal systems to promote justice, not hinder it. Our bishops cannot have it both ways on this issue.  

— Ryan Anthony MacDonald, Indianapolis, Ind.

Safety for prison guards 

I’m a longtime reader of OSV, and enjoy it very much. I appreciate that it is both orthodox yet balanced (neither slanted conservative nor liberal, either concerning the Church or politics). However, I felt that the cover story on prison reform was not as balanced as it should have been (“The Penitential Path,” In Focus, May 23). 

I am against the death penalty, both in principle and practice, and I agree that there are abusive prison guards and that there are, and should be, more efforts at rehabilitation, not just punitive measures. However, there is much emphasis on guard violence toward prisoners. But, it’s also very true that decent, hard-working prison guards are attacked, even murdered, by inmates. Also, while I think good behavior, on a case-by-case basis, should be a factor in determining parole for life-sentenced inmates, I believe that essentially they should work out their penance during their life term incarcerated, to protect potential future victims. 

— Tim Donovan, via email

'Cloistered' prisoners

Re “The Penitential Path” (In Focus, May 23). Having been in prison ministry for more than 20 years, it has been my experience that many of our converts come to the Church while in prison because of the Church’s love for all persons and its reverence and love for all of God’s creation. The Church extends the healing power of Christ’s forgiveness through the acceptance of these men and women no matter what they may have done in the past. When they are treated with respect, progress can be made.  

Make no mistake, these men and women are monks; they’re cloistered and live under a rule. It may not be a religious or monastic rule, but once we help them engage in a scheduled prayer life and Bible study, they can be on their way to holiness. Helping them initiate a daily pattern of prayer and Bible study stokes their faith and helps the healing to begin. 

— Deacon Ted Welsh, Madison, Tenn.