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Political Choice

Your editorial The Political Season (8/2) distresses me. It is not so much a call for debate on the Iraq war as an opinion that the war was wrong and that the weight of evidence proves this. I must admit that I do not have an informed opinion on this. But I trusted Bush and his advisers, although I can admit that they may have been wrong. I do not believe all the facts are in yet, so I do not have as strong an opinion as you do.

In any case, assuming Bush was wrong on this most important of issues, one would conclude that he should be turned out. To turn him out, a vote must be cast for Kerry. For Catholics, is this wise? Not only Kerry but the entire Democratic party seems encamped on the side of the culture of death, as Catholics define the issues.

So we are left in a quandary. Vote for Bush or vote for Kerry. Which is worse?

Howard J. White
Queens Village, N.Y.

New Presumption

The editorial Never Again (7/19) is right. But I would append an additional element that would go further. In the moral theology of the past, one often heard that a government’s actions are presumed to be an exercise of legitimate authority. Thus, if a government declared war or went to war, soldiers were obligated to obey orders and so forth.

I think that today we must never make that presumption when dealing with governments. Most governments lie to protect their own interests. The 9/11 Commission has shown the limited basis for the pre-emptive attack on Iraq. The case for torture is no more substantial. I propose a new moral presumption: Government actions should be presumed to be abusing authority, until proven otherwise.

Daniel Kroger, O.F.M.
Manila, Philippines

Question Posed

Inspired by Catholic Consciences by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., (7/19), I would like to point out that there could be some difficulty persuading at least some present and future U.S. government officials (elected or appointed) and U.S. government employees not to support, obey and defend constitutional law, directives and documents that are pro-abortion. Many thousands of such persons in the U.S. government have been required as a condition of their employment to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution recognizes in the Fourteenth Amendment that a woman, under her right of privacy, has a right to abort a fetus according to certain conditions described in the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. So we have a head-on collision between the moral teaching of the Catholic Church and those Catholics, as well as non-Catholics, who must observe the oaths they take as a condition of their employment. So does this mean that a Catholic, as well as others who are anti-abortion, cannot conscientiously serve in the U.S. government? I pose the question. Do the bishops have an answer?

Charles R. Gellner
Silver Spring, Md.

Clear Conscience

I share my take on Catholic Consciences (7/19). John Kerry at least is hoping to get a single-payer, national health plan enacted, just as Clinton did, though he unhappily chose to have his wife as the point person on it. I have always worked in public medicine, serving the uninsured and poorly insured, and I remember Ted Kennedy at an A.M.A. meeting courageously calling for universal, one-payer national insurance back in the 1960’s. So how can I not support the party that, in most of its enactments, has served life? Now seniors go to Canada to get their meds. We have health services for the rich and for the poor, not for all. Bush has brought back segregation. Those who have, get more; those who don’twell, get charity, work three jobs, but don’t expect government to help. The Congress did not enact Roe v. Wade; the Supreme Court made it the law of the land. So with clear conscience I will vote for Mr. Kerry and work for more Rachel homes and an end to abortion.

Mary Margaret Flynn, M.D.
San Carlos, Calif.

A Better Way

A recent conference afforded me the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia and take in many attractions, including the Liberty Bell. I wasn’t much surprised when I found myself choking back heavy tears as I viewed the bell and considered my many freedoms, including that of religion. Truly, I’m the devoted son of two parents, the Catholic Church and the United States of America. Both have provided me tremendous gifts, the most sacred from each being the Eucharist and the right to vote.

Too bad my separated church and state folks so often quarrel and force me to pick sides.

Recently, my archbishop has insinuated that I will be in a state of grave sin and should not receive Communion if I vote for Kerry. While the archbishop, of course, would never think of naming Kerry directly (he is simply teaching the non-partisan faith, after all), I consider myself bright enough to connect the dots. What I’m not smart enough to figure out is, what happened to informing one’s conscience and the difficult but important process of prayer and discernment?

Another one that stumps me is what exactly is pro-life about unjustified, unilateral warfare? Moreover, I wasn’t aware that these and other complicated matters of state and soul could be so easily swept away by an archbishop’s edict. As one who has demonstrated with and contributed to anti-abortion efforts, I feel devalued. Perhaps the archbishop feels that pro-choice Catholic politicians pose such a grave and looming threat that a pre-emptive strike is required, exploiting the laity’s fear of damnation.

As my tone reveals, I’m like the alienated and angry youth, conflicted more strongly each passing day as November approaches. In my more acrimonious moments, I think of voting for Kerry, not in spite of my archbishop’s edict, but because of it. Fortunately, Father Kavanaugh, like a compassionate counselor working with children of divorce, provided me an article that helped me to appreciate better the church’s unwavering and adamant teaching while suggesting to one of my folks that they find a better way of making a point.

Joe Daus
St. Louis, Mo.

Justice and Peace

It will be a long time before I get over my anger over the bishops politicizing the magisterium in favor of Republican candidates. Truth in advertising, please! Preferring persuasion to a police state is not consistently to support abortion on demand (Signs of the Times, 7/5). As for politicking for a marriage amendment: once they concede that sexual orientation is not chosen, they have no developed theology of sexuality to speak from. Let them be silent or, if they will, politic for justice and peace.

Robert Brophy
Los Alamitos, Calif.

Return to Rehabilitation

Jens Soering is to be complimented for his fine article on the problems of men leaving prison, The Perils of Freedom (7/5). I am assistant chaplain at San Quentin State Prison. It pains me each day to see faces I have seen before, who are back in prison. The recidivism rate in California is the highest in the United States77 percent. Almost all of these are parole violators who have either had a dirty test or abscondedthat is, failed to show up for a parole date. In most states nothing is done to help men adjust to being on the streets. Housing, substance abuse programs, anger management, life skills, etc., are not being taught in prisons. The end result is the government is spending billions of dollars of tax money to do nothing to solve this ongoing problem. The time has come to return to rehabilitation, not retribution. That would be the response to the high recidivism rates throughout the nation.

(Deacon) George Salinger
San Quentin, Calif.

A New Life

There is nothing as depressing as finding oneself in a society that does not want anything to do with you, and a government that sees you as an outcast after being released from prison (The Perils of Freedom, 7/5). This article by Jens Soering throws more light on the frustrating state of these poor released prisoners who are finding themselves in a state of hopelessness after spending years of hardship behind bars.

With this exposure, one would hope that the relevant authorities would take urgent measures to address this ugly situation. It seems that these poor released prisoners are being pushed toward the open windows of vulnerability because they are not being given the necessary assistance they need to begin a new life.

Peter Ogbebor
Hirtenberg, Austria

Radical Hospitality

In The Perils of Freedom(7/5), Jens Soering captures the overwhelming and monumental obstacles facing incarcerated men upon release into a hostile and often judgmental world. The situation facing women, particularly mothers, is even bleaker without real residential and programmatic support.

Mr. Soering’s call for the radical hospitality is welcome. Why not have our parish houses (rectories, convents) take the first step?

Tesa Fitzgerald, C.S.J.
Long Island City, N.Y.

Correct Number

The story from CNS in Signs of the Times on 7/19 about the Archdiocese of Portland incorrectly gave 126 as the number of priests of the Diocese of Tucson against whom there are credible allegations of sexual misconduct. The correct number is 28. Allegations against 24 of those priests relate to the period of their service in the diocese.

Fred Allison
Tucson, Ariz.

Together in Respect

Jeffrey J. Guhin’s article, Living With My Sisters (7/19), offers great hope for the future of ministry and the Catholic Church. This inspiring glimpse of one man’s relationship with the Blauvelt Dominican Sisters is indicative of a new and changing attitude within the church. It is an attitude that we hear far too little about. An increasing number of people of all generations are becoming more aware of the need to work together in equality and respect in order to fulfill the example set forth by Jesus Christ. Barriers of separation between the male hierarchy of the church and all other members of this church have existed for years but are being broken down by those who seek to restore the true meaning of a community of discipleship to the context of Roman Catholicism.

Throughout the years, vowed women religious have worked tirelessly in a multitude of ways to build upon the ministry of Jesus Christ. As Jeffrey Guhin points out, their ministry has often been done amid a hierarchy and structure that would just as soon keep them down. Now, younger generations of women and men, like Mr. Guhin, are calling for justice, accountability and mutual respect for all who work on behalf of Jesusin other words, to live and act as Jesus did.

At Boston College’s Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, where I am enrolled as a graduate student, I am immersed with wonderful women and men, many of whom are the same ages as my adult children. Their quest to bring equality and justice to the institution of the Catholic Church is inspiring and hopeful and gives everyone a reason to believe that the future will be brighter and better for all generations, regardless of age, culture or gender. I agree with Jeffrey Guhin when he says, I don’t believe that women are holier than men, that women have a feminine nature’ men should imitate or that sexism is justified by its results. This intuitive statement highlights the reality that no one gender is superior to another, but that we should strive to coexist together in respect and harmony.

Nancy F. Gallagher
Quincy, Mass.

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Vincent J. Bartolini | 8/25/2004 - 2:54pm
Thanks to David Obey for his much needed perspective as a Catholic political leader in dealing with the abortion issue.(8/16-23)

It was gratifying to read the account of an articulate person of integrity in his discussions with Bishop Burke. I found the article particularly illuminating in putting into perspective how inordinate and offensive are the pressuring tactics of some bishops who would deny communion to those who don't conform to their wishes.

Let's hear from more David Obeys.

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 9/2/2004 - 4:39pm
Re: Howard J. White's and Daniel Kroger, OFM's letters.

After the understandable flamboyant bombast of the USA Democratic and GOP National Conventions we are faced with the reality of Iraq and the stark fact of the death of nearly 1000 young Americans and of thousands of Iraquis.

One serious and critical event, probably regarded by the media as rather inconsequential at the time, and quickly forgotten, was the March 2003 visit of Cardinal Pio Laghi to President Bush three weeks before the war in Iraq: every one of Laghi's dire predictions at that meeting are sadly becoming true.

That event was serious and critical for a number of reasons. Laghi had been sent by the pope himself to Washington to plead with Bush and his aides his case against the war. He had also sent Card. Roger Etchegaray to Baghdad with the same plea for Saddam Ussein. Card. Laghi did not think his arguments were given much weight: "I had the impression that they had already made their decision," Laghi said in a speech at Camaldoli (Arezzo), Italy on October 4 last year.

It was President Ronald Reagan who, in 1984, had urged the U.S. Senate to confirm William A. Wilson, who had been only his personal “envoy” to the pope since 1981, as the first US Ambassador to the Holy See: Reagan's reason was his oft repeated conviction that “the Vatican is the world’s greatest listening post.”

Laghi spoke at length with the president about the terrible consequences of a war quickly won: "Do you realize, Mr. President,” Laghi said to him, “what you will unleash inside Iraq by occupying it? Do you realize the difficulty of the language, the disorder, the conflicts between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds?" America’s formidable war machine would make quick work of Hussein’s inferior defenses, but unmanageable human problems would quickly follow.

President Bush had been offered the best Iraq intelligence available. What was sadly ignored was the fact that the Catholic bishops in Iraq are constantly in touch with the Apostolic Nuncio in Baghdad, and he with the Vatican; that they speak the people’s language and have their hand on the pulse of the nation; their knowledge of Iraq is more reliable than that of our highly paid intelligence agencies who cost us billions but whose information has been repeatedly proven embarrassingly wrong and misleading! That is what President Reagan understood so well twenty years ago when he appointed the first US Ambassador to the Vatican.

Card. Laghi recalls his sense of failure when President Bush tried to end the meeting on a positive note: although they disagreed about many points, at least they held common positions on the defense of human life and opposition to human cloning. The cardinal replied that those issues were not the purpose of his mission to Washington.

Vincent J. Bartolini | 8/25/2004 - 2:54pm
Thanks to David Obey for his much needed perspective as a Catholic political leader in dealing with the abortion issue.(8/16-23)

It was gratifying to read the account of an articulate person of integrity in his discussions with Bishop Burke. I found the article particularly illuminating in putting into perspective how inordinate and offensive are the pressuring tactics of some bishops who would deny communion to those who don't conform to their wishes.

Let's hear from more David Obeys.

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 9/2/2004 - 4:39pm
Re: Howard J. White's and Daniel Kroger, OFM's letters.

After the understandable flamboyant bombast of the USA Democratic and GOP National Conventions we are faced with the reality of Iraq and the stark fact of the death of nearly 1000 young Americans and of thousands of Iraquis.

One serious and critical event, probably regarded by the media as rather inconsequential at the time, and quickly forgotten, was the March 2003 visit of Cardinal Pio Laghi to President Bush three weeks before the war in Iraq: every one of Laghi's dire predictions at that meeting are sadly becoming true.

That event was serious and critical for a number of reasons. Laghi had been sent by the pope himself to Washington to plead with Bush and his aides his case against the war. He had also sent Card. Roger Etchegaray to Baghdad with the same plea for Saddam Ussein. Card. Laghi did not think his arguments were given much weight: "I had the impression that they had already made their decision," Laghi said in a speech at Camaldoli (Arezzo), Italy on October 4 last year.

It was President Ronald Reagan who, in 1984, had urged the U.S. Senate to confirm William A. Wilson, who had been only his personal “envoy” to the pope since 1981, as the first US Ambassador to the Holy See: Reagan's reason was his oft repeated conviction that “the Vatican is the world’s greatest listening post.”

Laghi spoke at length with the president about the terrible consequences of a war quickly won: "Do you realize, Mr. President,” Laghi said to him, “what you will unleash inside Iraq by occupying it? Do you realize the difficulty of the language, the disorder, the conflicts between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds?" America’s formidable war machine would make quick work of Hussein’s inferior defenses, but unmanageable human problems would quickly follow.

President Bush had been offered the best Iraq intelligence available. What was sadly ignored was the fact that the Catholic bishops in Iraq are constantly in touch with the Apostolic Nuncio in Baghdad, and he with the Vatican; that they speak the people’s language and have their hand on the pulse of the nation; their knowledge of Iraq is more reliable than that of our highly paid intelligence agencies who cost us billions but whose information has been repeatedly proven embarrassingly wrong and misleading! That is what President Reagan understood so well twenty years ago when he appointed the first US Ambassador to the Vatican.

Card. Laghi recalls his sense of failure when President Bush tried to end the meeting on a positive note: although they disagreed about many points, at least they held common positions on the defense of human life and opposition to human cloning. The cardinal replied that those issues were not the purpose of his mission to Washington.

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