Assyrian Assimilation?

I think that you are quite mistaken in putting the Assyrian Church of the East “in communion with Rome” ("Christians Divided Over Iraq Invasion,” Aug. 4-10).

Since 1553, branches of that Nestorian church have been in and out of union with Rome. Finally, in the 19th century, three of its four branches agreed on one patriarch and were constituted the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church.

The Nestorian Church and our Chaldean Rite are people of the same Assyrian ethnic group. Around Chicago “Assyrians” seem to be pro-Israel and anti-Saddam, while the two Chaldean parishes do not make any such noises. When a second Chaldean church was opened in Chicago, the patriarch of the Assyrian Church attended, but the Catholic Ukrainian Rite bishop was in charge of the ceremonies. With his residence in Baghdad, Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid would oppose any invasion of Iraq. He was born in Mosul in the north.

When Israel has undeclared and uninspected nuclear weapons, I am not impressed with the fuss raised by our irresponsible politicians about the possibility of Iraq securing weapons of mass destruction. Even if Iraq got such weapons, their delivery systems could not get them to the United States. I am opposed to a never-ending worldwide expansion of the “war against terrorism.”

In a newspaper interview in Chicago, the Assyrian patriarch claimed good relations with the Vatican, but he did not claim union with Rome.

ROBERT J. GORMAN

Bad Bodings for Democracy

Regarding “N.Y. ‘Pill Bill’ Puts Church in Tough Spot” (July 28-Aug. 3):

I find it extremely disconcerting that our government consistently uses a methodology of smoke screens and distractions to pass highly contentious, and at times blatantly unconstitutional, legislation. Every citizen in this country should be outraged that state lawmakers have been cleverly masquerading the real issue of the right to religious freedom for some time now by passing it off as simply a private battle with the Catholic Church.

When legislators from each state enact laws that circumvent or distort the wording of our nation's constitutional laws, they have, in effect, acted to destabilize the foundation of those very laws. In so doing, they have exposed the rights protected by those laws to future abuses through governmental obstruction. We've just witnessed that domino effect in New York, but, viewed in the proper light, it is quite clear that religious freedom no longer exists when any part of the fundamental right to freely practice those beliefs has been usurped by governmental authority and those practicing their beliefs are forced to support something that is in direct opposition to their religious teaching.

Things don't bode well for a democracy when its citizens become a complacent people. As a nation that holds certain freedoms to be the inalienable rights of every human being, we cannot allow the heavy hand of our own government to assault the rights of any American or institution by indiscriminately dismissing the freedoms guaranteed to us by the constitution of this country. This is not an issue affecting just the Catholic Church. This is a fundamental issue about constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom. It affects every single one of us. This is not the time for complacency.

LITA MURAWSKI

Tonawanda, New York

War Horrors Beyond Number

I'm not sure if “A Bright Light in Hiroshima,” your Aug. 11-17 “Inperson” interview with Notre Dame Sister Lucia Akie Aratani, contains a typo — or if your correspondent, Paul Burnell, really believes that 500,000 people died when the atomic bomb was dropped on that city. Every source I have found sets the initial death toll at about 70,000 and the delayed death toll (five years later) at about 200,000.

It amazes me that we continue to memorialize the dropping of the atomic bomb as the worst event of World War II. The number of people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a small fraction of those killed during these brutal years.

The horror cannot come from the numbers — it must be due to the fact that these particular cities were destroyed by a single bomb from a single plane, as opposed to thousands of bombs from hundreds of planes. I'm sure that we all cringe at the possible destruction that will be caused if any country ever uses the “big brothers” of the “babies” that were used in 1945.

JEAN BRINZER

Verona, Pennsylvania

In God America Still Trusts

I would like to comment on the article “Pro-Life Law Protects Babies Who Survive Their Abortions” (Aug. 11-17), as well as on the separation of church and state, and the crisis in today's Church.

First, having been a registered nurse for more than 32 years, I'm very proud of nurse Jill Stanek, who stood up for what she believed in, although it cost her her job. Thanks be to God that I never worked in a hospital that allowed babies to die, but I knew it was going on in other hospitals. Many people are mistaken about the Hippocratic Oath in that they assume it is taken by all newly graduated physicians. If they take it at all, it is not something that is binding by law. It is very similar to the “Florence Nightingale Pledge” that some newly graduated nurses take: It is not binding by law, either. Rather, these two oaths or pledges are an ideal for doctors and nurses to try to live up to.

Second, people who argue that the First Amendment to the Constitution forbids any state-sponsored religion are correct. The term “respecting” in the amendment's wording is not used in the way that we use it today, i.e., “having regard for"; it means “concerning.” The next sentence, left out by those who have no regard for any religion, especially in public life, reads “ ... or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” One should not have to be a constitutional scholar to understand that our founding fathers, who were religious men for the most part, were justly concerned that no one be forced to become a member of a state-sponsored religion or denomination. They did not mean that religion shouldn't be a part of being a good citizen. On the contrary!

All of our money, coins and paper state “In God We Trust,” both houses of Congress have a chaplain, and all of the oaths taken by officers of the government or by witnesses in a court of law state “so help me God.” God, therefore, has been an important person in our nation's history from its inception to the present day.

SISTER GERALDINE M. WAGNER, OP, R.N.

Lompoc, California

Tough Pill Bill to Swallow

Regarding “N.Y. ‘Pill Bill’ Puts Church in Tough Spot” (July 28-Aug. 3):

Passage of New York's Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage (EPICC) bill forces New York's fully insured health plans to subsidize all FDA-approved contraceptive pills and devices. In addition to violating religious liberty and an individual's right of conscience, this law undermines parents by expanding government control of American children's sexual and reproductive health.

How dare Ms. [Assemblywoman Deborah] Glick get away with her comments in this article. The bill is not about religious freedom, she says, but about individual choice and health care.

This bill is not about individual choice nor health care. It is about state and federal control of our children and what we finance in health care. This is a totalitarian agenda, proposed by Planned Parenthood and the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

How does the Church get out of cooperating with a state law that interferes with parents' right to shape the conscience of their children? The Catholic Church still does have options of setting up self-insured plans that are regulated by ERISSA, the federal law that frees self-insured health plans from state contraceptive mandates. However, if Sen. Ted Kennedy and Congressman David Bonior get their way with S 104 and HR 1111, those options will quickly vanish.

President Bush could be forced to use his veto power — or every private and public health insurance plan that has prescription coverage will force employers and individuals, through taxes and insurance premiums, to confidentially fund unhealthy and morally objectionable contraceptive chemicals and devices for children, without parental consent or knowledge.

In addition to challenging this insidious New York EPICC legislation in the court and teaching the intrinsic evil of contraception, Catholics must unite to establish, administrate and control financing in their own self-insured Catholic health plan. Catholics must also unite with other faith-based organizations and defeat EPICC. If EPICC is not defeated, what will employers and individuals be forced to pay for next — euthanasia, artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, cloning and coverage for unmarried and same-sex partners?

America prides itself on assuring parents the opportunity to raise children without government intrusion and interference. A nation with the greatest political freedom is being undermined by a few powerful political-interest groups. At this critical time, when the health and welfare of the American family, our nation's future and our political freedom are all at stake, it is time for all Christians, particularly those in positions of leadership, to take charge of what we pay for in health care and “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.”

MICHAEL J. O'DEA

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

The writer is executive director of the Christus Medicus Foundation (http://www.christusmedicus.com).

Panetta Pathetic

Regarding “Panel Chairman Stands Firm on Prosecuting Bishops” (Aug. 4-10):

One of the members of the Church's national review board on clerical sex abuse, chaired by Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, is former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta.

According to a spokesperson for California Right to Life, as a congressman in that state prior to his Clinton-administration days, Panetta made 69 votes on abortion funding in various forms: the Hyde amendment, the Mexico City Policy, UNFPA and funding of abortions in the District of Columbia. He voted pro-abortion on 67 of those 69 ballots. Mr. Panetta also defended Clinton's vetoes of the ban on the barbaric partial-birth abortion procedure.

Mr. Panetta's public positions on abortion are a severe and direct contradiction to the Catholic Church's position that all human life is sacred, because it is created by God in his image and likeness. The selection of Panetta is an affront to God, the Pope and those Catholic legislators who risk their careers to vote pro-life.

How can someone who voted to abuse women and to pay for killing the pre-born in abortion be chosen to help in this crisis?

WILLIAM LUKSIC

Rockville, Maryland