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Readers chime in

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 06, 2009

 Each week we receive scores of messages from readers, responding to items on the Catholic Culture site. In many (but not all) cases these readers give permission for us to reproduce their messages. In many cases our readers have very useful insights; in others they raise questions that others may be asking. So in this column I want to begin running some of those messages, with responses as appropriate.

I hope readers will feel free to comment on the way I'm handling these comments! The format may change as we develop this feature, and suggestions are welcome.

Responding to my Commentary essay, The Legionaries after Father Maciel, Christine Lowe writes:

As I understand it, in addition to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Legionaires take an extra vow of non-criticism of their superiors. Under this kind of constraint, I can see how the whole group, regardless of what they knew or didn't know, would think it virtuous to "speak no evil." It is always dangerous to put a lid on critical thinking. "Extra" disciplines and vows should be evaluated carefully and used sparingly, because pride wears many disguises.
You can see this same dynamic at work with the Islamic terrorists who are taught to stifle any doubt or pang of conscience in favor of "submission to the will of Allah." Independent thinking is not permitted, nor is it considered desirable or devout. Identification with a priest or a "prophet" can only be helpful if it does not conflict with or take precedence over identification with Jesus Christ who claimed to actually BE the Truth--and Jesus certainly spoke out against error and hypocrisy.

Phil Lawler responds: That vow against criticism of superiors was banned at the explicit wish of Pope Benedict in 2006. It may no coincidence that once the vow was gone, and internal criticism became possible, the Legionaries' own investigation into the life of Father Maciel produced evidence of wrongdoing. 

Responding to the News Brief, Bishops required by canon law to refuse Communion to pro-abortion politicians: Vatican official, Dr. Joseph Gentilini writes:

I disagree with Bishop Burke's call to refuse communion to politicians who vote for or against bills and positions that are in contrast to Church teaching. It makes the Eucharist a political ballgame and I doubt that Jesus would have the same reaction. He ate and associated with the sinners in his day. Bishop Burke is wrong and God help him.

Phil Lawler responds: Jesus, who drove the money-changers out of the Temple, would understand that Archbishop Burke is trying to preserve the sanctity of God's house-- or rather, far more important, the proper sacral treatment of His Body and Blood. As the archbishop points out, it is the politicians who pretend to act as good Catholics, while flouting the moral teachings of their Church, who make this a political issue-- not the clerics who enforce the norms of canon law. And notice that it is the law that is under discussion here. One may or may not agree with Archishop Burke's opinion about the wisdom of a particular pastoral strategy. But he argues it isn't a matter of opinion: that the proper steps are dictated by the Code of Canon Law. Since he is the top official in the Church's top canonical court, his word carries weight far beyond that of ordinary opinion. 

Responding to the same News Brief, Rev. Fr. D. Carl Heinemeyer writes:

"Roma locuta est. . ." but how long will it take to get all US ordinaries on the same page with this declaration? According to Archbishop Birke, there is no discussion possible. It IS the law of the church. Why are some bishops hesitant to speak out and proclaim the law of the church to all - clergy and lay? "Deep mystery this . . ." 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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