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'Rome's Command Silences the Hierarchy'

September 06, 1986

This is in response to Terrance A. Sweeney's article (Editorial Pages, Aug. 26), "Rome's Command Silences the Hierarchy."

Sweeney has done the Roman Catholic Church, the priesthood, and the laity a big favor. He has documented in an unrivaled way the concern of the hierarchy over the lack of priests, and over many other issues. Deep malaise is shown in the Church over the draconic attempt to silence Sweeney, when he is exposing issues already well known, if not documented by a survey of the hierarchy. Church authorities are hurting badly over these issues, but they are too proud to admit they cannot cure their own ills, and so they hide the problem, and punish those who come to help them.

I would like to compliment Father Sweeney on his obedience. He has discerned the Spirit of God moving in the Church, and in the world, and he has brought the truth to light. He is a Son of the Church whose obedience can be recognized by many, probably even by his own superiors who are only doing their jobs as superiors.

The priesthood is in bad shape, and Sweeney's study will bring this to the attention of those who need and love the priesthood, the laity, priests, and the hierarchy. I would also like to thank all the members of the hierarchy who participated in the study; you too are needed, loved, supported.

Recently I heard a sermon in my parish that told how God spread the seeds of vocations throughout the Church, but we the laity did not respond to our calling to the priesthood or religious life, and so the Church had so few servants because of our sinfulness and apathy toward God. As a former priest who teaches philosophy and religion at a community college, I was insulted. I would be glad to minister again, but I can't do so because I got married. I do the same work many priests do, but it is not officially recognized as ministry.

The Church is resentfully depriving itself of the ministry of thousands of former priests like me. Furthermore, there are several laypersons in almost every parish in this country who could be ordained tomorrow and minister beautifully. There is no lack of vocations in the Catholic Church, and there is no lack of willingness on the part of people to serve in the ministry.

What we have is intransigence in the hierarchy regarding the celibacy issue. Through the Second Vatican Council God has again revealed the goodness and beauty of the world, the body, sex, and marriage. It is sinful for certain members of the hierarchy to deprive the faithful of the priesthood they need to serve them.

I pray for Father Sweeney's provincial and for all those in authority, because I still believe they are acting in good faith for the sake of unity in the Church. However, the unity they preserve is a sick and cowardly one. They deny the malaise they are causing, suppress it, and pervert the virtues of loyalty and obedience by refusing to recognize it in Terrance Sweeney, Father Charles Curran, and the myriad other victims of their machinations. Out of love for the Church let us have many more priestly prophets stand up and say what needs to be said.



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