Sep 142011

I am responding to seminarian Corey Close’s column on priests’ promise of obedience to their bishop, “putting into his hands the final say on where they go and what they do.”

The final say, of course, is not to their bishop but to their conscience. I am old enough to remember New York’s Cardinal Spellman calling upon his seminarians to do the job of the grave diggers who were striking for a living wage. While the cardinal insisted that the seminarians observe the counsel “to bury the dead,” he also succeeded in breaking the strike. How much courage was needed for seminarians to jeopardize their ordination by joining the strikers to witness the Church’s responsibility to observe its own teachings on social justice!

The column has an exclusively pyramidal perspective looking to hierarchical authority. I hope that seminarians keep in mind that while their bishop assigns them to parishes, the parishioners there have had no say in their appointment. Such obedience to the bishop carries the risk of unquestioning compliance in our current clerical system that reduces the people of God to voiceless invisibility.

James Magee

New Rochelle, N.Y.

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