- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2002

The sins of the fathers, not the doctrine

Friday's article "Theology possibly an impediment to dismissing priests" may confuse readers who are concerned about the sex abuse scandal but are unfamiliar with Roman Catholic teaching.

The nature of the priesthood is no obstacle to removing priests who pose a danger to the young because parish priests serve at the discretion of their bishops. The Catholic Church's structure gives bishops the authority to immediately suspend a priest from active ministry. If a priest is proved guilty of misconduct, he can later be put through the process of laicization (i.e., defrocked).

When a man receives the sacrament of holy orders, by which he becomes a priest, it is true that his state of being is changed forever, and he remains able to administer the sacraments until his death. (This is similar to how a person is forever transformed by the sacrament of baptism.) However, that does not mean he has permission to do so. Also, the validity of the sacraments a priest administers is not dependent upon the state of his soul because the church holds that Jesus Christ works through him, and God is the source of the sacraments, not the priest.

"Once a priest always a priest" applies to laicized clergy only in that a defrocked priest can administer the sacraments in an emergency. For example, if a laicized priest were walking down the street and witnessed a car accident, he would be able to administer the last rites if the accident victim were near death and no other priest were available, but that does not mean he would be authorized to celebrate Mass for a congregation or carry out other priestly duties.

It is misleading to imply that the Catholic understanding of the priesthood or the administrative difficulties involved in laicizing a priest accused of misconduct have contributed to the current scandal. The problem is that too many American bishops have not exercised the authority they posses to remove from ministry priests who have abused minors. Catholic theology should not be the scapegoat. If the offending priests had actually followed church teaching, and if the bishops had enforced it, many young victims and their families could have avoided the devastation of abuse.


Dumfries, Va.

How to keep pests out of public housing

I was gratified to read The Washington Times' article "EPA approves safety of pesticides" (News, June 12), which reported that nearly all pesticides used in the United States were safe. This is especially good news for Americans living in low-income housing, as cockroach allergens were recently linked to the high rates of asthma among urban residents.

Unfortunately, low-income housing attracts more than its fair share of pests, because the housing tends to be old and in bad condition. Because minorities are disproportionately concentrated in poor housing, they suffer the most from pest-related health problems.

There are some important steps that everyone can take to prevent pests in their homes, thereby keeping their children healthy. Experts recommend setting pest traps, keeping food under cover, washing dirty dishes promptly, sealing up cracks and holes, keeping floors clean and applying pesticides when needed. A combination of steps is usually most effective.

It is up to us to create a clean, safe environment for our children. By taking these simple steps to keep pests out of our homes, we can all breathe easier.


Executive director

National Organization of African Americans in Housing


Spider-Man weaves web of father-son relations

Instead of giving Dad a tie this Father's Day, go with him to watch the entanglements of father-son relations depicted in the movie "Spider-Man." Critic Gary Arnold only gave the flick 2 stars. I say add one more. "Spider-Man" has plenty of web-slinging action.

After a rough start, Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), swings through the city with the greatest of ease, dispensing superhero justice to all sorts of lawbreakers and evildoers. Spidey even manages to snag Peter a job as a free-lance photographer by capturing his deeds on film.

Executive producer Stan Lee and writer David Koep skillfully move the story to the superhero stage via the chronicle of Peter's high school travails and metamorphosis, generated by a radioactive spider. Peter also has a love interest, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), whom he must win at all costs. I expected that. What I did not expect was the wild web of father-son relations.

Peter is an orphan being raised by his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). Complete with a good nature and a bad hairpiece, Uncle Ben tries his best but never quite fills the shoes of Peter's father. Uncle Ben does bequeath to young Peter the teaching that "With great power there must also come great responsibility." It is a lesson Peter learns the hard way by a deadly sin of omission.

There also is a bond between Peter and millionaire industrialist Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). In Darth Vader style, Osborn and his son, Harry (James Franco), are estranged. Harry is a bit of a letdown to his ambitious, weapons-dealing dad. He has been kicked out of every private school he has attended and has wound up in a public high school, where he befriended Peter. Pop Osborn marvels at Peter's independence and reaches out as a surrogate father.

This relationship, of course, is strained by the fact that Norman Osborn ODs on one of the not-ready-for-prime-time, industrial-strength secrets he had planned to sell to the government. He's transformed into a very powerful but very, very, insane villain, the Green Goblin. Talk about wacky relatives; Pop Osborn converses with his alter identity, the Goblin. This manic situation is played out at a traditional Thanksgiving family dinner that I'm sure made some guys say, "Well, I guess my relatives aren't so bad after all."

Finally, the male-bonding entanglements spin into a web of betrayal and death, producing some really, really bad feelings for Spider-Man but some true love-my-brother feelings for Peter Parker. I saw some guys sniffling near the end of the flick. Could it have been allergies? Enough said.



Reasserting dad's relevance

For many of us, Father's Day is a time to reflect and, if possible, personally thank the most important man in our lives. Sadly, for many, Father's Day is a painful reminder of a gaping void.

According to assorted studies and surveys, about one-third of U.S. children live in homes without dads. Some of the worst effects of this statistic may be found in the angry young street punk who hijacks cars or the soft-spoken little girl who never smiles because her daddy left her when she was 3. The images are poignant and all too familiar.

The roots of American fatherlessness are myriad, but one that is rarely mentioned is the 1976 Supreme Court case of Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri vs. Danforth. In Danforth, the high court ruled unconstitutional a Missouri statute requiring the consent of a husband when his wife sought an abortion. The implied message was that fathers were irrelevant beyond the point of conception.

If the highest court in the land holds that a father has no legal right to veto his wife's abortion of their unborn child, it seems rather ridiculous for lower courts to require him to pay child support if he divorces his wife after the child is born. Combined with cultural degradations such as the simultaneous trivialization and glorification of sex, court decisions such as Danforth contribute to the impression that fathers are irrelevant.

Of course, this is not true. Therefore, we ought to take some time on Father's Day to reflect on the devaluation of fatherhood by our laws and culture and make an effort to right this wrong. There is no better way to start than by telling our own dads we love them.



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