From .............. National Catholic Reporter

February 2, 1996

pages 27-28

"Repartee" section

.................. I grew up in a time of great confusion and debate within the Catholic church. [Being born in 1970, I never knew the "pre-Vatican II" Latin Mass.] I listened to people complain about the "New Mass." I couldn't understand what they were talking about because I only knew one type of Mass. I liked the "New Mass." I enjoyed being able to participate, but I always wanted more. I was told that I couldn't serve as an acolyte because of my gender, something I resented until only recently. I always believed that the church spoke for God, so I could never understand why a God who loves me so much could or would utterly reject my services.

In recent years I truly felt that I had finally found my place in the church. As the result of church consolidations in my diocese, I found myself dealing with a new parish family, new church buildings and new priests. I no longer felt like a second-class citizen. I finally found my niche in the church. I do more for my church than most and my gender is not a factor. Since I do all the scheduling of eucharistic ministers, lectors and altar servers, I'm a last-minute substitute for any positions. But I still long to do more.

When I hear my priest give a homily, I envy him. When I witness my priest participate in the miracle of the Eucharist, I envy him. I long to be able to preach on the word of God to a listening congregation. I long to change the bread and wine into the precious body and blood of Christ.

I always kept hope of one day entering the seminary myself or living long enough to witness another woman achieve the same dream. I had waited for female acolytes and they are now a reality. I could wait for women in the priesthood.

But now I've been knocked down and I really don't know if I have the strength to get up. Pope John Paul II has told me and the entire female world that we are not as good as men. If I were not as strong as a man, I could accept his decree. If I were not as intelligent as a man, I could accept his decree. But to discriminate against me on the basis of gender, a decision that God made in making me a female, I cannot accept the pope's decree. I do not agree with the pope in this decision and I know that I never will. If this means excommunication, then so be it, because I know God would never turn away from me....

SHARYN L. BERTOTY .............. McKeesport, Pa.

I am saddened to see so many people in your recent issues questioning the official teaching of the church. They seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that we can have no certain religious truth without the church's infallible authority. One has only to look at Protestantism to realize the truth of this. Only God can interpret the meaning of his words in scripture and he has willed to do that only through the magisterium, through Peter. .........

To put one's faith in something of which one cannot be sure is simply gullibility. When it is a matter of life or death, especially eternal life or death, then we need and should require infallible certitude. Without the magisterium, such certitude is impossible.


What are we to do about the extremely unhealthy attitude the Catholic hierarchy has toward women? ..... How can any woman encourage her female children and grandchildren to become active in a church where they are second-class, at best? Why should any self-respecting woman motivate her male children to be priests in an institution that is hostile to her gender?


It is, of course, well-known by all NCR readers that NCR and its stable of writers have never been models of allegiance to the papacy. ..... The dam really burst when Rome had the audacity to declare an infallible ban on women priests. Every issue of NCR since has angrily chastised the pope for this and beyond that into outright, total rejection of it. The many outraged articles by your writers mostly zigged and zagged and deftly danced around the issue of the infallibility doctrine itself, while making fine, nitpicky distinctions as to why it didn't really apply in this case, no matter what the pope said or how he said it.

It seems such rejecters are using the following, flawed and mutant "syllogistic" reasoning: 1. The pope claims to be fallible; 2. we don't agree with what he says; 3. therefore, we infallibly declare that the pope is fallible.

JOHN R. KOLLER Albuquerque, N.M.

Isn't it ironic that the Vatican brief pronouncing women's ordination definitively and infallibly impossible was issued on Oct. 28, 1995, the feast of St. Jude, who is the celebrated patron of [seemingly] lost causes ? Surely this should be seen as the spirit's way of signaling us to continue the struggle.

[Sr.] JUDITH G. MARTIN, SSJ Dayton, Ohio

I was given a copy of the Dec. 22 NCR, in which there were many letters regarding the recent "infallible" declaration. While I am aware of the paper's liberal orientation, I am still saddened and somewhat appalled by the illogic, the quick reactions and the charge that our pope is an oppressor of women. The declaration must be evaluated in the context of all the pope's writings and his devotion to Mary.

I believe that if we as church truly reflect on Mary's singular dignity, her virtues, her role in the church, her relationship to the Holy Spirit and her strengths, we would as women and men better understand our own dignity in the sight of God and our present pope.

EDITH S. DALEY Haverville, Mass.

Karl Barth said it succinctly: "A church which maintains that its official decisions are infallible can commit errors which are irreformable. It has more than once done so." ['Church Dogmatics,' IV/I, page 626.]

EDGAR M. WEST Sonoma, Calif.


National Catholic Reporter

P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141.

Or via E-mail, the address