Critique of pope's 20 years in Vatican is praised...

Letters to the Editor

October 24, 1998

Critique of pope's 20 years in Vatican is praised, criticized

The Opinion Commentary article by Father Joseph Gallagher "Pope John Paul II's reign" (Oct. 16) follows his Perspective article "Holy Father, holy truth" three years ago (Oct. 1, 1995), presented on the occasion of the Pope's visit to Baltimore.

In his earlier article, Father Gallagher virtually claimed papal primacy and authority to be a fraud, a "papal myth" foisted on the church over the centuries. In his recent article, Father Gallagher attempts to document the historical development of this presumed fraudulent teaching. This on the occasion of the pope's 20th anniversary.

As a historian, I cannot accept the validity of Father Gallagher's chronicle. It contains too many probabilities, too-vague documentation, unfounded generalizations and misinterpretation of facts.

He treats the church as a purely human corporation, with the role of its chief executive officer evolving over the centuries. Missing is any consideration of the church's mystical character.

Father Gallagher sadly emerges as a deconstructionist, intent on doing bodily harm to the Roman Catholic Church rather than serving it as its priest.

Charles J. Scheve

Towson

Father Joseph Gallagher's article evaluating the papacy of Pope John Paul II was objectively based in history and on the development of the role of popes and bishops in the church through the centuries.

It was a welcome balance at this time. The 20th anniversary of the reign of John Paul II has stimulated many well-deserved congratulations and an excessive amount of praise for him, with some predicting his early canonization.

Everyone will concede that he is a popular pope who has worked tirelessly to promote peace and good will among all people in all corners of the world, and his personal holiness and sincerity is beyond question.

But now let us look, not at the man, but at his papacy over 20 years.

Ideally, the church is governed by the pope together with the bishops of the world. Pope John Paul II has not always been mindful of this ideal. He has disagreed with suggestions made by many bishops in good faith and has interpreted these suggestions as dissension. He has answered them not with dialogue, but with repression with an iron hand. It is for canon lawyers to decide if this oppression is lawful.

It is true the church is not a democracy, but on the other hand, the pope is not an absolute monarch. John XXIII knew this when he wisely called his brother bishops from around the world to the Second Vatican Council and listened to them.

One wonders what history will record of John Paul II, not of the man, but of his long papacy.

Mary C. Baker

Baltimore

Intolerant to bash those who scorn homosexuality

Regarding "Hate speech can stir up hateful acts" (Perspective, Oct. 18), Steve Sanders is of a special interest group that preaches tolerance, yet it is quite obvious from his article that he is extremely intolerant of anyone who holds a differing view.

Rather than enter into an honest dialogue, he resorts to slander, name-calling and wildly irrational conclusions. Even those who left the gay lifestyle and are now married in heterosexual relationships are called "ex-gay charlatans."

Mr. Sanders also fails to make the distinction between legal, social and intellectual tolerance. Legal tolerance refers to First Amendment rights, such as freedom of speech and religion and the protection of minority opinion. Social tolerance refers to the rights of all individuals to be treated with respect and dignity. Intellectual tolerance is the belief that we must hold another person's belief as "true for them."

If we express a differing opinion and criticize the view we oppose, we are called bigots and hypocrites (the terms Mr. Sanders used to describe religious leaders such as James Dobson and Gary Bauer). Mr. Sanders writes that "pro-family" groups go to "extraordinary lengths to poison debate (and) sow misunderstanding."

After reading his article, however, it is obvious that Mr. Sanders is guilty of the very behaviors he condemns.

Janie Mock

Columbia

We don't need new murder category

This country does not need more laws to differentiate between a "hate crime" and any other murder. No life is more or less important than any other, regardless of color, religion or any other category that society wants to set apart.

It's time for our government to be consistent in its pursuit of criminals and very firm in the punishment of these offenders.

Does it really matter whether Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was gay, black, Jewish or Native American? He is dead. When this young man's murderers are convicted, their sentences should be consistent with this crime.

Tom Lusardi

Fallston

Concerted backlash of few victimizes Clinton, freedom

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