As a longtime subscriber to the National Catholic Register, I was surprised to see a harsh and unjust attack on Justice Antonin Scalia given such prominence in its Letters section (“Scalia's Stance,” March 10-16).

John A. McFarland, noting that Scalia admires St. Thomas More, accuses Scalia of turning More's Catholic principles on their head: “It seems,” he says, “that unlike St. Thomas, Antonin Scalia is God's own good servant, but the government's first.” Nonsense. Has not Mr. McFarland read the life of St. Thomas More? What did More do on May 16, 1532? He resigned the office of chancellor. That is, he did precisely what Justice Scalia is saying a good Catholic must do if he finds that the requirements of his office conflict with God's law.

Like St. Thomas More, Scalia does not believe in forswearing himself. Judges are required to take an oath to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States. And the Constitution only gives judges limited powers. To strike down a statute duly enacted by Congress that is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution is to contravene the constitutional arrangements a judge is sworn to uphold.

Mr. McFarland says that Scalia's reasoning would allow him to uphold laws authorizing ethnic cleansing if duly enacted and made constitutional by Constitutional Amendment. Again, nonsense. Scalia is saying that he would have to resign his office rather than do such a thing.

To those who want a better understanding of magisterial teaching on the death penalty, I recommend the lucid analysis by Avery Cardinal Dulles in the April 2001 issue of First Things (and the “Exchange” in the August-September issue). These can be obtained from the First Things Web site (http://www.firstthings.com).

STEPHEN M. BARR

Newark, Delaware

The author is a professor at the Bartol Research Institute at the University of Delaware and a member of the editorial advisory board of First Things magazine.

Our Priests Need Prayers

The news report citing Bishop Wilton Gregory's Feb. 19 statement on clerical abuse (“U.S. Bishops on Clergy Sex Abuse: ‘Much for Which We Need to Be Forgiven,’” March 3-9) misses the essential issue in dealing with sexual abuse.

Pederasty is a serious crime and no one has the right to hide knowledge of the action from the authorities. A legal response, police action, and appropriate judicial assessment are a necessary first step. The circle-the-wagon mentality of our clerical leaders must stop.

The bishop's comments on seminary screening is on the money; that is where priestly formation begins. As Flannery O‘Conner, the great American writer, observed: “At times Catholics are called upon not only to suffer for the Church, but to suffer by the Church.” Today, this is certainly true.

Sadly, many Americans have known of this abuse for decades. Members of the Catholic press, e.g., The Wanderer, have published numerous comprehensive and accurate articles regarding both sexual abuse and seminary misconduct.

Finally, our dedicated and committed priests need our prayers as this is a terrible challenge for them.

EDWARD J. FITZPATRICK

Blauvelt, New York

Problem Priests

Regarding “Vatican Spokesman's Comments Highlight Problem Priests” (March 17-23):

It is noteworthy that the secular press is covering the matter of priestly pederasty and pedophilia quite widely. For example, Omaha's Sunday World Herald on March 10 reserved page 5A for this matter, running four news items on homosexual priests, pedophilia and the damage sexual abuse cases present the Church.

The items were from Boston and the Associated Press, one by the Boston Globe, which broke the original story on sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. To strengthen its stories, two articles offered specialists on sexuality and the priesthood — both were quoted quite liberally. Both are former priests, one is a psychotherapist, the other a former psychology professor. Both proffered dire consequences for the Catholic Church if — yes, if ? the Catholic Church's opposition to homosexual priests rules the day.

Yet the Bible states quite clearly in both its Old and New Testaments what the Catholic Church must accept in the matter of homosexuality. The fact is that the practice of homosexuality is not acceptable, and never has been, and can never be. Both former priests should have gleaned this bit of biblical knowledge while in seminary.

We Catholics must live with the tragic situation presented us in these times. But, we Catholics know our history. Our Church was brought into being through the passion and crucifixion of Our Lord. Here, in Lenten season, we live again the times that lead us to the Resurrection and Easter. As for the past 2,000 years, give or take a few, we Catholics made it through untold numbers of wars and persecutions — through the Hundred Years’ War, the Reformation, through fascism and communism.

We will make it through these times, too. Many do worry that this attack of evil on the Catholic Church will further wilt its numbers of priests. But, no — it won't. Rather, the new policies advanced by our great and charismatic Pope will attract more and finer priests. Catholic history teaches that poverty, persecution, and holiness always — yes, always — strengthen Christ's Church. The Church will make it through; after all, God is in charge.

ALLEN O‘DONNELL

Wayne, Nebraska

Men Aplenty, All Right

I was amused to see in the Register that Crowley County, Colo., is listed as a place where men outnumber women by 205 to 100 (“Where the Guys Are,” Facts of Life, Mar. 10-16).

I hope women won't be flocking to Crowley County in search of a mate. You see, Crowley County is home to two large prisons — one privately operated and one operated by the State of Colorado. Each prison houses approximately 1,200 men — but none of them are “available!”

JUDITH SMITH

Fort Collins, Colorado

China's Fear

Regarding “New Report Documents Beijing's Systematic Crackdown on Religion” (Feb. 24-March 2) and “Bush To Communist China: Stop Persecuting Church” (March 3-9):

There are many areas of contention between the United States and communist China: human rights, trade deficit, religious freedom and Taiwan, to name a few. The leaders of Red China invited President Bush to visit their country and give speeches.

Now America has the most powerful military in the world.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has no military. Yet they won't allow the Pope into their country. Why is that? The answer is obvious. This stooped, frail, infirm man is too dangerous. It is clear they are afraid of him. And they should be. Look at what our Polish Pope did to the Soviet Union. If our next pope turns out to be Chinese, they will be in big trouble.

LAURIE BATEMAN

Hugo, Colorado

Why War?

It was encouraging to read “Pope Interrupts Lenten Retreat to Meet With Syrian President” (March 3-9). This meeting should indicate to all Catholics in the United States that the Vatican supports Jerusalem's status as a city of Jews, Muslims and Christians. These ideas are contrary to our news media and the militant government we have in Washington D.C.

Pat Buchanan, in his book The Death of the West, makes this statement: “Sept. 11 was a direct consequence of an interventionist U.S. policy in an Islamic world where no threat to our vital interests justifies our massive involvement.”

In other words, one can say that terrorism started with our military actions in the Muslim countries. The beginnings started in 1991 by the first President Bush, and it was known as the Gulf War. Action was in Kuwait so as to settle the question of who controls the oil in that country.

I recall no noticeable Catholic opposition to that Desert Storm war in 1991, except from an officer in the Army: Capt. Yolanda Huet-Long, a medical officer. Because of her Catholic faith, she believed the war in Kuwait as being unjustified and immoral, resulting in her refusal to participate. She was court-martialed and sentenced to two and a half years in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Had our leaders in Washington chosen the same Christian heritage as Yolanda did in 1991, I'm certain the events of Sept. 11 would not have occurred. Military reprisals are not the solution to our present problems, only peaceful negotiations, as suggested by Pope John Paul II.

LEO KIMMETT

Canon City, Colorado

Lauding Doctors for Life

Thank you for the Brian Caulfield report “Transforming Catholic Doctors, One by One” (Feb. 10-16).

The leadership of Drs. Robert Saxer and David Harris with the Catholic Medical Association in Florida is encouraging. Ethics in the association and, for that matter, in all services and life in general, is both courageous and desperately needed for the welfare of humanity.

Freedom is obtained by truth, truth is in the person of Jesus Christ.

This comes from God, the source of all truth. In the absence of truth, man establishes the guidelines and our present state in this country reflects the peril when God is left out of the equation. Our U.S. Supreme Court has given us several decisions disregarding divine law.

TOM H. LINCK

Muskegon, Michigan