Letters to the Editor – Nov. 9, 2023


Protect our unborn brothers and sisters              

To the Editor:

Pray to end abortion. During the 40 Days for Life in Iowa City, two lives were saved, praise God. Two powerful examples of the power of witness and the power of prayer. Every Thursday morning, a group of prayer warriors prays and witnesses outside of the Emma Goldman abortion clinic. We have prayer warriors that drive from Dubuque, Lowden, Williamsburg and Davenport. Please help keep the momentum going and growing as together in prayer and witness we will one day, by God’s grace and mercy, close this place of death. Our faith calls us to protect and defend the most vulnerable, to pray for the least among us. Our brothers and sisters in the womb need to be protected from the violence of abortion.

Paul Breitbach
Iowa City


Objection to column on gender

To the Editor:

While a full and nuanced response to Patrick Schmadeke’s “A Tool for Dialogue on Gender” is most definitely in order, such a response will take some time to draft. In the meantime, for the good of the faithful I must ask, is the journal article he summarizes in his column meant to be understood as the official position of The Catholic Messenger and the Diocese of Davenport? 

I raise this question because much of what he presents is controversial, to say the least. The fact that it is presented as a guest opinion and offered in his capacity as a diocesan staff member lends it a certain degree of authority.  It’s one thing to hold as one’s personal opinion that biological sex is a statistical reality or that moral laws are the product of cultural determination.  But to do so would seem to ignore two very important voices that appear, thus far, to have been excluded from the dialogue — those of Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

Fr. Chris Weber


Disappointment with gender article

To the Editor:

 Recently our diocese, under the leadership of our now former bishop, released a document entitled: “Guidelines for Pastoral Accompaniment of Sexual and Gender Minorities.” It was a beautifully written document developed after several years of consultation with transgender Catholics, prayer and discernment. Many Catholic groups around the country praised this document. So, I was greatly disappointed to see the lengthy front-page article on the presentation by a visiting priest ethicist that, in many regards, negates the tone and substance of our own diocesan guidelines.

Father Tad Pacholczyk evidently concentrated on examples of people who had regretted transitioning or whom he interpreted as having regretted transitioning. He also does not support anyone changing their pronouns or using even a single-sex bathroom that does not correspond to their biological sex. He stated that we must “charitably challenge false assumptions about truth and reality.” Whose reality?

Much of this flies in the face of the guidance provided in our diocesan guidelines, which says about transgender individuals: “We also should give them the benefit of the doubt in regard to their experiences and motivations.” It concludes: “Blanket policies may prove ineffective and may risk doing greater harm” and that Catholic institutions “might include reasonable accommodations.”

This document realizes that judgements or policies that reflect an unbending binary way of thinking do not serve the pastoral needs of our brothers and sisters. I am very proud of the leadership that Bishop Thomas Zinkula showed in developing our diocesan guidelines.

Mary Lu Callahan
Iowa City

How we ought to minister to transgender people

To the Editor:

In a recent article titled “The ethics of the transgender question,” Father Tad Pacholczyk related stories of transgender people who regretted their decision to transition to the opposite gender and who even committed suicide. In my clinical experience as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I actually see dramatic improvement in the mental health of transgender children after they begin hormone therapy to transition to the opposite gender (no, not prescribed by or specifically recommended by me). Their depression improves, their suicidal thoughts and attempts cease, and they start to thrive.

In those children who do not seek hormone therapy, I find that when they are denied small accommodations such as being called a different name or referred to by preferred pronouns, they are more likely to be depressed and to contemplate and even attempt suicide. When such accommodations are allowed (Father Pacholczyk insists we deny them), their mental health improves, perhaps because they feel accepted as the beloved children of God that they are, created in the image of our creator who is neither male nor female. This is the “authentic core” of their identities that we must respect and honor as we minister to transgender people.

As the recently released Diocese of Davenport “Guidelines for Pastoral Accompaniment of Sexual and Gender Minorities” states, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. God loves and meets each person where they are. We too must love each person as they are and treat them as unique and valuable individuals. Father Pacholczyk’s insistence on one way for all may not be how we are called to love.

Julie Zude, M.D.


Pope Francis approach to gender issue

To the Editor:

Thanks for giving readers a good opportunity to think about what’s “normal” in human sexuality. There were two items on that topic in the Nov. 2 Catholic Messenger. One reported on what a representative of the National Catholic Bioethics Center told an audience in Davenport. The other, on the opinion page, reflected the views of two Catholic scholars on how to imagine the sexual “normal.”

I place quotes around normal simply to emphasize it as the topic at issue. Most of us grew up with the notion that normal is what we and the people around us do. We’re normal, not strange, not different. We are the norm, the measure of reality. And there is a truth to that — if we’re the statistical heterosexual normal. The great majority of humanity is clearly male or female and feels the way most males and females feel. A problem rises if we insist on this familiar reality alone as normal.

What does the homosexual minority do, then? This is a difficult topic for Catholics who want to be faithful. The Church’s guidance has been missing — or rather, it hasn’t been fleshed out. We are taught from the beginning to love everyone without exception, even the “sinner,” a category, we’re taught, that includes homosexual people who behave in a normal way for themselves. For several years now, this teaching of the Church has been under serious challenge — not necessarily as wrong, but as inadequate.

All religious faith and moral teaching is under great stress today. We have a pope who sees that and is leaning into new questions, not avoiding them. He has faith that honest searching for a way, perhaps a new way, is the path to Christ.

Frank Wessling

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