"The average layman/laywoman is now able to smell the hypocrisy that all the incense in all the thuribles in all the churches in the world can't cover up and they're sickened by it."

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

February 9, 1996

page 17

Teresa Malcolm's article in the Jan. 19 edition, headlined "Conservative priests let down by Vatican," might seem to most of us to be dealing with molehills. Yet to those conservative priests who hewed to the Vatican's line in the use of boys only as altar servers, the change of mind that now allows young girls to participate must have been shocking.

These priests were only doing what they thought the pope wanted, despite the fact that their flocks had long been ready for this change. What did they get for their orthodoxical zeal? Crapped on, that's what. I don't believe it was the change in the rule that appalled that particular priest who may now be leaving his priesthood behind; rather it was the callous way his orthodoxy was thrown over the side of Peter's barque with the rest of the garbage.

Same thing happened to me and many other married guys in the '70s when the church quietly scuttled the idea that the large family was the only truly Catholic family. We, the fathers of the '50s and '60s, were frequently counseled that "God would provide," so continue to procreate. This statement was a lot more comforting to the hierarchy than to those of us who had to stretch already inadequate paychecks to feed new arrivals. At the same time, we were expected to put more money in the collection plates each Sunday. Talk about Catch-22.

Having been thoroughly indoctrinated in the no-artificial-contraception dictum, it wasn't long after child-rearing days that I realized that no bishop had ever lost a morsel of food nor a night's sleep over whether I and many others like me were forced to scrimp and scrape to feed ever-growing families....

So, when contraception crept in and was accepted by many - and now most - Catholics, the church quietly stopped promoting the large family idea. It quietly dropped the whole question from Sunday sermons and tacitly accepted the concept that Jews and Protestants had been promoting for years: Have only as many kids as you can clothe, feed and educate....

That was yesterday. Today it's the conservative priests who fought the Vatican's battles for them who are being screwed. And tomorrow? Tomorrow, I predict, the hierarchy will adopt a nuanced approach to the abortion question and decide that, no, it is not human life that is being aborted in the initial postconception period but a lower form of life in utero that will eventually become human life. It won't be considered laudatory to abort this early life form but it won't get you kicked out of the church either.

And the poor devils who chained themselves outside abortion clinics, who suffered the indignities of arrest and subsequent punishment upholding the church's "doctrine," what about them? Well, they may - if they are lucky - be thanked. But even this little bit is not certain since they will have become a sort of embarrassment to changed thinking.

And the bishop ? They'll continue to dine well and sleep well knowing that as celibates, they'll never have to face the question of abortion with their wives or daughters, since there won't be any. Or at least not to speak of.

No wonder there are many organizations similar to Call to Action springing up. The average layman/laywoman is now able to smell the hypocrisy that all the incense in all the thuribles in all the churches in the world can't cover up and they're sickened by it.

What can be done? Not a whole lot, it's true. But 32 cents will carry your message to your bishop or any American bishop; 60 cents will carry it to Rome. Write to them. Tell them why you're unhappy.... Eventually they have to take notice and wise up or Peter's barque will be without a crew to man the oars.

FRANK M. ESMONDE Merion Station, Pa.