Regarding "Path to Virtue" (Letters, Nov. 18 issue):
The difference between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan’s views on abortion is not the conundrum, as the writer notes, but is one of an erroneous vs. a correct conscience.
Conscience was given to man not to determine what is objectively evil or good. Revelation, Tradition, Scripture and the infallible teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals tell us what is right, good and pleasing to God and what is not.
Faith and reason should make what we learn understandable and be seen as a gift.
One is not excused by an erroneous conscience. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, every terrorist (think 9/11) or sex offender of children were all "following his/her conscience."
With the writer’s view on conscience, there is no need for hell, nor is any soul experiencing its pain, because all were following their consciences. Jesus reminds us repeatedly there is eternal loss, and there will be souls choosing their truth over his.
The bumper sticker of every secular society that has ever guided people to ruination has been "Real Freedom Is Deciding for Yourself What Is Right or Wrong."
Symbol of Freedom
Regarding "Catholics Give Thanks to God in Maryland" (Travel, History & Saints, Nov. 18 issue):
Thank you for publishing that. It is just up the road from where I live.
It emphasizes St. Francis, but there is another story barely touched upon. That is the beginning and extensive history of the first major Catholic church in English America at St. Mary’s City and the staunch, even relentless effort of Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, to defend liberty of conscience for all citizens of 17th-century Maryland.
Although Rhode Island often makes the claim to be first, the true beginning of liberty of conscience, non-establishment and the free exercise of religion in North America began at St. Mary’s City in March 1634, when the colony of Maryland was founded. And, as a Catholic, I think it is very significant to teach people that it was Catholics who introduced this concept to America.
From 1634 to 1704, Catholics and other faiths, such as Puritans and Quakers, could worship as they desired in Maryland. This ended after Lord Baltimore lost control in a revolt in 1689 and especially in 1704, when the Maryland Legislature passed "An Act to Prevent the Growth of Popery."
The major brick chapel at the original capital of St. Mary’s City was then ordered closed and the door locked by the sheriff. At that time, the Anglican faith was made the official church of Maryland.
My profession is archaeology and history; and, since 1988, the state museum, which is my employer, has been excavating, analyzing and rebuilding the brick chapel, ca. 1667. It was the first brick structure in Maryland and one of the first classically inspired structures in the colonies.
Built by the Jesuits, the chapel was basically the heart of Catholic worship in 17th-century English America. I am still working on the design of the pulpit and some details of the altar, but the overall architecture is completed.
It was a key symbol of both non-establishment and freedom of religion.
My wife and I much enjoy reading the Register and thank you for the hard work and diligence it takes to produce.
Henry Miller, Ph.D.
St. Mary’s City, Maryland
Shepherd and Leader
Reading "San Francisco’s New Shepherd" (page 1, Oct. 21 issue), I was amazed to read the comment by Brian Cahill: that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone can either be an "outspoken leader" against "civil gay marriage" or "the shepherd of his flock," but "he can’t be both."
As King David learned at a very early age, a shepherd must also be a warrior, defending the sheep from predators and thieves (see I Samuel 17:34-36). Our Lord emphasized this by describing himself as the good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (John 10).
Can’t be both? With the state our culture is in, our shepherds must be both!
Anne G. Burns
Cos Cob, Connecticut
Drones and Terrorism
Regarding "Drone War vs. Just-War Teaching," (In Depth, Dec. 2 issue):
Terrorists, like pirates, are the enemies of all humanity. They have no rights under the Geneva Conventions or any other laws of war, except as given them as acts of grace.
Those "civilians" who shelter terrorists or are sheltered by them assume the roles and risks of the more active criminal. They are not innocents and are not "non-combatants":
If such persons bring children into such sheltering, then they are morally responsible for the deaths of or injuries to those children. The fault does not lie upon soldiers who are combating terrorism.
My prime objection to the current war against terror is that, unlike that against the Barbary pirates of the early 1800s, it is being carried on without a declaration of war by the Congress.
The covert nature of drone attacks avoids the killing of Americans, as was too common by the too-open nature of the Johnson administration’s politicization of tactics during the Vietnam War.
I mistrust President Obama in all areas, including his unwarranted arming of civilian agencies with unseemly stocks of military-grade weapons and armored vehicles, as well as the use of "surveillance" drones within the U.S.
The military understands its chief oath and loyalty is to the Constitution. Civilian agents’ loyalty is to their political bosses.
West Allis, Wisconsin
Thank you for the update ("Xavier Reverses Course," Briefs, Nov. 18 issue) on the restoration of contraceptive coverage at Xavier University (Ohio).
In 2003, the university allowed a vulgar play to be presented on campus. In 2011, an XU student editorial on a 43% increase in campus drug abuse in four years was noteworthy for the writer’s flippant attitude about marijuana.
EWTN’s Crossing the Goal recently mentioned the violent "basketbrawl" on XU’s campus last year.
In January 2012, the Cincinnati Enquirer documented a federal investigation on how XU handles sexual assault among students after several young women came forward to tell their stories. Thankfully, staff changes were made.
Maybe it is too late to restore the reputation of a once-respected school. Where does the buck stop at XU? If the university’s officials can’t do better, it would be less offensive to the image of Catholic education to drop its religious affiliation. Pray that the Cincinnati archbishop takes action.
With respect to "Religious-Freedom Amendments Tumble" (page 1, Nov. 18 issue):
In 1 John 3:2, it reads that in heaven we will be like God (our Father), for we shall see him as he is. We will become as our Father is.
Today, we see our fathers as they are. We see the current father of our country promoting abortion, "gay marriage," artificial contraception and other moral evils. The result: These evils become "normal."
We see the fathers of our Church not penalizing Catholic public officials who support/promote these grave evils. The result: The Church members no longer perceive these evils as gravely sinful.
The article reads, "Something is deeply awry in American culture." What is wrong? Fatherhood.
We see our fathers promoting/tolerating what is evil. Until fatherhood is properly understood, evils will continue to become "normal."
Flower Mound, Texas
In response to several excellent articles related to our Catholic faith and morals and our current American culture in the Nov. 18 issue of the Register:
As did Blessed Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI continues to warn us of the "dictatorship of relativism" that is rampant in our times — as we see in impositions from the very top of our federal government down to the majority of voting U.S. citizens, including many Catholics.
While we have all been given free will by God, both Sts. Peter and Paul tell us not to use our freedom as a pretext for doing what is evil. We hear the excuse: "My conscience tells me …" — more or less ignorant of the fact that to pit "conscience" against the principles of the natural law — that are non-negotiable — is spiritual suicide.
In this Year of Faith and the New Evangelization directed especially to many nations that were once predominantly Christian, it is imperative that we Catholics in the United States understand the importance of informing our consciences, of educating ourselves in the teaching of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church — whether in study groups at church, within our families and/or individually.
Today, especially, we must always be ready to give an account of our faith — and express it in our daily lives. Not to do so in our secularized and hedonistic American culture will mean we will continue to have more morally devastating consequences — and it may be very risky personally.
Pamela T. Haines
St. Petersburg, Florida