THE silencing of 13 American priests for their activities against Vietnam and in other protest movements is blamed on "a crisis of communication" by a leading U.S. magazine. Bishops and other authorities, it says, tend to "blunder" when they do not keep in touch with their people's
THE Catholic magazine Ave Maria devotes 31 pages to the cases of "The Silenced Priests". Among them is Fr. William Du Bay, who was relieved of his parish duties 18 months ago after asking that Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles be removed for "repressing" priests who tried to work for racial unity.
Another is FR. DANIEL BERRIGAN, Si., a pacifist poet, who was unexpectedly sent to Mexico last November on the eve of a conference run by the Clergy Concerned About Vietnam, of which he was co-chairman.
Both incidents caused a public outcry in the American Press. More than 1,000 Catholic prests and laymen signed a full-page protest in the New York Times against Fr. Berrigan's removal, The Catholic publications, Commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter, also protested.
As the number of "silencings" grows, so will the number of Catholics that protest them, says Fr. John Reedy— editor of Ave Maria in an introduction to the issue.
"Commentators debate the existence of a 'crisis of authority'," he goes on. "If there isn't a crisis of authority, there is at least a crisis of communicat ion."
The magazine then cites the cases of II other priests who were reassigned, disciplined or restricted after they spoke out on various issues: FR. JOEL MOELTER, allegedly banned from offering Masses at a Los Angeles church after he condemned a California law that encouraged racial discrimination in housing.
FR. J. CLEMENT BURNS, reportedly removed from the college where he taught at the request of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia after he was arrested in a racial demonstration in Maryland.
FR. JOHN V. COFFIELD, who alleged he was reprimanded by Cardinal McIntyre for preaching on race and civil rights, then went into "selfimposed exile" from Los Angeles to work in a Chicago parish.
FR. PHILIP BERRIGAN, brother of Daniel, reportedly ousted from the staff of a New York seminary for his outspoken criticism of the Vietnam war. He is now in a Negro parish in Baltimore.
FR. PHILLIP E. BERRYMAN, transferred two days after a sermon on racial justice from an all-white parish in California to a school for girls.
FR. MAURICE OUELLET, transferred from Selma. Alabama, last July for sheltering visiting priests and nuns during the demonstrations.
FR. GOMMAR A. DE PAUW, founder of the Catholic Traditionalist Movement and critic of English in the liturgy, who was ordered by Cardinal Shehan of Baltimore to leave the movement and the seminary where he taught.
FR. JAMES E. GROPPI, who was ordered to stop civil rights activities last October by the Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, but was later supported by his Archbishop who had been away in Rome.
FR. WILLIAM WHELAN, also forbidden to partake in Milwaukee demonstrations.
FR. BONAVENTURE O'BRIEN, 0.F.M., ordered to
stop his social work with an interfaith group he had helped establish and not to accept speaking engagements after he criticised the Albany, N.Y., city administration.
FR. DANIEL KILGOYLE, Si., formerly associated with Fr. Daniel Berrigan in the Vietnam peace group, now studying at the Protestant Union Theological Seminary in preparation for an ecumenical assignment.
The magazine then makes a heart-searching probe into the meaning of authority and obedience—and into a priest's place in social activities. Writers include a bishop, priests, a Lutheran minister and Catholic laymen.
Fr. Reedy regrets he could not get a wider range of viewpoints. "A number of authorities, for a number of reasons, chose to refrain from comment."
Mgr. Daniel M. Cantwell, who heads the Catholic Council on Working Life in Chicago. says one of the biggest problems is that Catholics have depended too much on their Bishops.
"Too often the church community is thought of as a family, but this it is not. The Bishop is not a father. Priests and people are not children. The only obedience conceivable is the obedience between adults, between husband and wife, not between parents and children."
He adds that not only is there a crisis of obedience but also "every bit as serious" a crisis of leadership.
"There is a crisis in the way a Bishop thinks about himself—whether he relates prim arily to an institution or to people—whether people. es
pecially the poor . can look to him as a friend."
What is needed "are openness and mature give-and-take between Bishops and priests. Bishops need to listen to priests who are close to human suffering. and they cannot afford to delegate this job to anyone. Not delaying tactics but effective answers for desperate human needs must be worked out." A public relations consultant, Mr. James P. Carroll, describes the Berrigan cases as "a disaster".
Church officials failed to understand public opinion, he said, by showing "a mania for secrecy" and "a note of mys tery . . quite often equated (in the popular mind) with skullduggery".
Speaking of "the spirit of obedience" Bishop Durick, Coadjutor of Nashville, appeals to priests to follow the middle of the road in working out when and where they must obey orders. In time of war, he says, some restrictions are necessary. So in the spiritual war against evil, but where they should begin and end he does not know.
Other remarks in the magazine: "It is a tragic irony that those who have been promised 'the truth shall make you free' have frequently imposed a tyranny upon the human spirit in the name of truth."—Pastor Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran, who is co-chairman of Clergy Concerned About Vietnam.
"What roust be avoided is the impression of treating persons as children incapable of making basic decisions."—Fr. Louis J. Putz, C.S,C., president of Fides Publishers.
"We can never hope that respect for authority will develop as long as the episcopal office is used to enforce personal prejudice or temporal advantage."—Mgr. J. D. Conway, noted U.S. columnist.
In an editorial, Ave Maria notes as an encouraging sign that a committee of American Bishops have been meeting to find "new ways to share decision-making procedures with lay people and with younger clergy".
At the same time, it says, theologians must study more deeply the connection between a priest's spiritual social duties. "How can priests be believed if they simply formulate principles and do not take on the leadership?"
AVE MARIA iv published weekly at Notre Dame, Indiana, by the Congregation of the Holp Cross,