Eyes Wide Shut

Week of November 27, 2002

Eyes Wide Shut
That Vatican rag: I was blown away by your article [Jeannette Batz, "The Reluctant Archbishop," November 13]. Maybe in reading this, the archbishop will open his eyes and heart to the people and realize he is one of the people, not the Almighty! I met Rigali at my daughter's confirmation in 1999 and found him to be unapproachable and just going through the motions. I come from a warm parish and remember Archbishop [John] May and the way he interacted with the people. My father is a Knight of Malta, so I did come from a strong Catholic background and do respect [Rigali], but I have to applaud you for having the nerve to stand up to one as powerful as he -- maybe you will open his eyes. I think the pope is very close but knows that if Rigali becomes a cardinal, there is a chance he could be the next pope and that would take the church back to the Middle Ages.
Mary Miller
Manchester

Get your hunting license: Deer season. Duck season. Catholic season. "The Reluctant Archbishop" reads just like another in your periodic series of anti-Catholic articles. I only feel compelled to write this letter because you have again treated assumptions like facts, thus calling into question the motives of an otherwise outstanding archbishop. Your article's title alone conflicts with some content in your story. You have entitled the article "The Reluctant Archbishop" and then state, "Rigali is a devoted servant of the church, loyal to the pope ...." The archbishop is not reluctant; he is obedient! He was sent and he went. That is all there is to it. Concerning the meeting of Faithful St. Louis, I agree with his stance of nonattendance. Sometimes, a leader's attendance and participation at a meeting is read by the media as acceptance of everything in the group's platform. With new groups, this platform is often dynamic. A short visit to the group's Web site [would show] the archbishop could not agree with the liberal, reactionary comments of this group. Also interesting is your apparent attempt to discredit Rigali by using a "slippery slope" argument to connect him with the Inquisition! How far will you go? The congregation's name has not included "Inquisition" for decades and has not been connected with anything like the Inquisition for centuries. Lastly, the Holy Father did not visit St. Louis to "apply balm to Rigali's stung pride." A pope does not make a visit to any diocese because the local bishop's pride is hurt. Rigali invited him and the visit was arranged because of his good connections in the Vatican. This visit by our Holy Father is and will be a source of great pride for Catholic St. Louisans for years to come. So much more to dispute, but so little space. Who is next on your Catholic hit list? Care to give the pope a try?
Michael Weidlick
Creve Coeur

Fleet like a pachyderm:I really liked your article on Justin Rigali, "The Reluctant Archbishop." A lot of thought and work went into it, and you've painted a realistic picture with aptly picked verbiage. However, it is unfortunate that the words you've chosen to convey weren't descriptive of a leader who had charisma, empathy, vision and inspirational spirit. In fact (and rightly so), those words describe a man who is anathema to the concept of emotional and relational leadership to a constituency now mired by inaction and paralyzed by dark disillusionment. Instead of being bound by stale tradition, ancient canon laws and the inability to act quickly with a Christlike sympathy, [Rigali] lets himself be chained down by a moribund bureaucracy, the reactionary speed of a lumbering elephant and the efficient compassion of the IRS. This is not my picture of a Christianity that we know and love so well. It is akin to something much more alien, unknowable and troubling. My prayers are with him and all the clergy for a renewal and strengthening of their spirit and new charisma.
Michael Hathman
Maryland Heights

Holy lessons offered: First and foremost, I wanted to thank you for what was -- all things considered -- a rather balanced and graceful treatment of the personality of Archbishop Rigali. You portrayed a very human element of a man who often appears almost robotic. For that, I thank you. In commenting on the archbishop's "reversal of the decades-long trend that has allowed lay ministers a greater role in the sacred rites of the church," you cited the archbishop's instruction that "only the priest may take the cup from the altar." For right or for wrong, the archbishop does things by the book -- and, in this instance, for a justifiable purpose. While it is quite acceptable for lay people to help distribute the Eucharist (which I do frequently), the priest is acting ... "in the person of Christ" when he consecrates the Eucharist. He is re-enacting the Last Supper, in which Christ distributed the cup and the bread to his disciples. Christ did this for a distinct purpose, and that purpose is carried on to this day -- the Eucharist is something we receive, not something we take. Christ didn't ring the dinner bell and say, "Come and get it," but passed the cup from hand to hand. There is something highly symbolic and deeply spiritual here that would be lost if the lay ministers just grabbed the cup for themselves. That the cup is handed, from one to another, is a reminder that our faith, though it diverges into many streams, all comes from the same source. Often the media treats church officials as if they were some sort of middle management of Church Inc. On the one hand, they are mere men and, on the other, men called by God to do great things with the little resources and time they have. I think this was quite clear from your article.
Anthony Basso
via the Internet

Clipped Wings
A different take: Thank you very much for the article about Bishop Wilton Gregory [Jim Nesbitt, "Tarnished Angel," November 13]. Those of us who have dealt with him during our own scandal in the Belleville [Illinois] Diocese in the early '90s were wondering when the rest of the country would realize he is not the golden boy the media has made him. The sexual-abuse policy [of] our diocese was put into place before he came to Belleville. Since he has been here, the policy has not been enforced. We still have "dismissed" priests dressing in full clerical garb, attending deanery meetings where they have voting privileges, presenting themselves as "Father" and joining the bishop and other priests of the diocese in the yearly convocation. It is very difficult for us to believe Bishop Gregory's insistence that the victims are his first concern when he invites or allows abusers to participate in activities as if no sanctions have been imposed. Thank you for seeing beyond the image.
Lena Woltering
Coordinator
Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity

They're only human:So what's your problem? Two same ol', same ol' pieces on Catholicism in one issue. As Ann Landers used to say, a church is not a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners. Anyone who has worked in a hospital knows nurses and doctors themselves need healing. It's called the human condition. Stories of their struggles or the struggles of the clergy are newsworthy only when the hospital or church does not spot, stop and correct the problem. No, I am not now nor have I ever been a Catholic. I must know a hundred, but I certainly won't give you any names, Senator McCarthy. You can find them yourself by checking out the Catholic Worker Movement or the Catholic Action Network. But corporal punishment by Sister Mary Mary isn't what is eating your reporters, is it? Maybe if they were taught to pound the pavement, ask questions, listen to missing words, interview plumbers, request records, they could write newsworthy articles. Heaven knows there are enough problems to be researched. You can't raise yourself up by tearing others down.
Connie Lamka
St. Louis

Double-Wide
Plays well with words: I'm a drummer for the band Trailer Park Travoltas. I wanted to drop a note to say thank you to Mike Seely and the Riverfront Times for the article "Illinois Idol" [November 13]. I wrote Mike telling him how it amazes me how writers can observe their surroundings, sights and sounds, note a few miscellaneous quotes, then create a story that puts people in that moment. His wordplay and subtle innuendo are priceless. The thing Mike did that blew me away was coming out to our performance at Frederick's Music Lounge on a late Tuesday night a couple days after the Millstadt thing. That was unexpected.... [To] mention the show at the end of his piece was something he didn't have to do, but we greatly appreciate [it].
Kenny Williamson
via the Internet

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