‘Illegal’ Means Illegal

Gregory Byrne’s “Class Act” (Faith in Focus, 11/29) commits several fallacies that will prevent us from coming together in rational discussion on immigration. He appeals primarily to emotion instead of backing up his position with facts. He employs the fallacy that because life is difficult in one place, a person is entitled to go to another place and totally disregard its legal system, which has been put in place to keep order and make the place worth moving to.

Then there is the “yes, but” fallacy. Mr. Byrne acknowledges that his ancestors came here legally; but the only relevant difference he sees is that their papers were stamped by immigration officials. This is analogous to saying that a marriage license is “just a piece of paper.” Immigration papers signify that the new entrants were met by representatives of the society and found not likely to adversely affect that society, were cleared medically, had acceptable character and means of support. A society has a right to make these determinations. Mr. Byrne finds the word “illegal” offensive. But the word simply means they “came in an illegal manner.” If they came contrary to the law, say that. If they suffer, say that too. But let us face this issue rationally together.

Peter M. Blasucci

North Baldwin, N.Y.

The Mighty, Gentle Hudson

On the Slope With Teilhard,” by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (12/13), reminds me of the very moving experience of a visit to Teilhard’s grave at the former Jesuit seminary of St. Andrew-on-Hudson, now the property of the Culinary Institute of America, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Just to the west flow the waters of the Hudson, the ageless wonder of water containing sturgeon fish whose DNA survived many of the eras Teilhard studied. Their ancestors swam these waters while the Tyrannosaurus and its prey prowled the landscape, which has little changed. Looking at the high bluffs across the river shows the tremendous power of the river to create a sheer cliff, while simultaneously being gentle enough to carry the miniscule life code in the protoplasm of tiny creatures who survive into the future. Teilhard’s discovery of Christ’s immanence in the matter and energy of even the smallest parts of the universe is an inspiration to all.

William van Ornum

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Let’s Be Fair

I found “Kill Zone,” by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. (11/8), captivating but disturbing. Although our combat service men and women have been “trained to kill,” this has always been so in war. Their hypervigilance, black-and-white thinking and numbing of emotions are unfortunately necessary traits for both doing their jobs and surviving. Though many experience adjustment problems on coming home and should receive treatment, the vast majority carry on moral and respectable lives. Highlighting the atrocities by Calley in Vietnam and Gibbs in Afghanistan makes them seem commonplace in war, and to say that your “main fear” is that insensitive behavior will become “true for more of the young” seems unfair.

Kurt Chrismark

Nevada City, Calif

Don’t Give Up

Thank you for Nicholas Lash’s “Teaching or Commanding?” (12/13). Quoting Vatican II documents adds salt to the wounds of the faithful who took the council seriously. We accepted “the people are the church,” consensus, subsidiarity and all other efforts for understanding and being living witnesses of the good news to the world.

Pope John Paul II detoured all of this and was adamant about restoring centralized authority to Rome. He chose all bishops to be micro-managers of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Teaching for enlightenment and participation gave way to a leadership of obedience to instructions and commands. Such leadership and authority lend themselves to the temptation to rule and control rather than teach and encourage.

Mark Franceschini, O.S.M.

Denver, Colo.

Just Who Is The Teacher?

It is too much to expect, but every Catholic bishop in the United States should read Nicolas Lash’s “Teaching or Commanding?” (12/1).

With his usual brilliance, Lash makes the distinction that must be made for at least a conversation, if not reform, within the Catholic Church to occur. If any bishop disagrees (not dissents) with the teaching in the essay, he could write an opposing essay that has the same knowledge and clarity that Lash shows.

Gabriel Moran

New York, N.Y.

All Creatures Brit and Yank

The interview of Deborah Jones by George M. Anderson, S.J. (“All God’s Creatures,” 11/22) provides a valuable glimpse of a large realm of morality; but readers should not conclude that the British model of animal rights morality should be adopted in the United States. Ms. Jones’s reported emphasis on Britain’s “firsts” may appeal to an American type-A urge to “catch up,” but there has been a long, evolving sense of stewardship toward wild and domestic living creatures in the United States as well.

This country has been pre-eminent in applying the principle that wildlife “belonged to all” and that the “commons” could and should exist at the landscape scale. The creation of national parks, forests and wildlife refuges recognized the right to life of whole ecological communities. Similarly, the small, diverse family farm of the 18th and 19th through mid-20th century United States was a place where husbanded animals were generally accorded love and dignity. It is unfortunate that post-World War II American society allowed the “bigger is better” notion to callously steer the vehicles of its food supply.

Michael Lawler Smith

Lexington, Va.

Let’s Get Serious

Joseph G. Bock’s article, “The Church Rebuilds in Haiti” (12/6), was disappointingly uninformative. A far more helpful and interesting article would have been, for example, an analysis of why Haiti, a country with nearly the highest percentage of Catholics—nearly 80 percent according to the fact box in Bock’s piece—could be a country at the very bottom of the list of world nations in almost every important category: life expectancy, per capita income, education level, employment, desirability as a place to live. The seriousness of the problems facing Haiti deserves articles with hard-thought analysis and original critical thinking.

Carol Travis

Glen Head, N.Y.

The Stolen Marbles Mystery

I wish to correct the comment ”Retrieving Stolen Art” (12/20). The Breughel has returned to Canada’s Concordia University; but the Netherlands is the country of its origin. No problem about that. The British Museum houses the Elgin Marbles because they belong by sovereign law to the British nation, the Parliament of 1816 and again of 1963 having found that Lord Elgin acquired them legitimately. Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin, died in 1841; he was no thief, but dead men cannot sue for libel. If you sincerely think the Elgin Marbles to be stolen art, then please substantiate your claim. If you cannot, then please kindly withdraw it.

Steve Kay

Woodridge, U.K.

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