National Catholic Register


Letters 03.27.2011

BY The Editors

March 27-April 9, 2011 Issue | Posted 3/18/11 at 12:46 PM


Talking Subsidiarity

Congratulations upon the excellence of John Brehany’s comprehensive article on Obamacare (“What to Do About Obamacare,” Feb. 27), particularly its explanation as to the violations of the principle of subsidiarity — a principle repeatedly taught in papal encyclicals (e.g., Quadragesimo Anno, Deus Caritas Est), as he notes, and discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1883-1885, 2209).

We have not seen reference to this important principle appearing much, if at all, in the wordy emanations from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or from the so-called Catholic legislators.

Charles Molineaux

McLean, Virginia

Obey the Cardinal

Pertinent to “When a Pupil Has 2 Daddies” (front page, Feb. 13):

In the hierarchy of the clergy, a cardinal outranks a bishop. If Cardinal O’Malley says it is permissible for the children of gay or lesbian parents to attend Catholic school, then maybe the letter writers in the March 13 edition of the Register should take heed. I’m not a cardinal, but I had heard a long time ago (in Catholic school) to love the sinner not the sin. Also, the children of homosexual couples did not choose their parents in the same way that those letters writers did not choose their parents. Why should those children be discriminated against for something they had no control over?

Joseph P. Nolan

Waterbury, Connecticut

Bravo, Gov. Walker!

Thank you for your well-balanced article “Unions and the Church” (page 3, March 13). Until the 1950s, it was commonly accepted that unions have no place in government employment. In fact, FDR, Mayor LaGuardia and AFL-CIO’s George Meany agreed with that. Bravo, Gov. Scott Walker.

Public-sector unions that hold taxpayers hostage are not what was envisioned by Rerum Novarum and subsequent social-justice encyclicals. Google “How Public Unions Took Taxpayers Hostage.”

As one pundit said, “Government unions have nothing in common with private-sector unions because they don’t have hostile management on the other side of the bargaining table. To the contrary, the ‘bosses’ of government employees are co-conspirators with them in bilking the taxpayers.” It’s a classic example of conflict of interest.

The purpose of private-sector unions is to get workers a larger share of the profits they helped create. Government is a monopoly that earns no profits.

The best-kept secret of social injustice is our failed public school system, which disproportionately attacks blacks and the poor, thanks to teachers’ unions, which effectively make it impossible to fire incompetent teachers.

Everyone interested in social justice, the injustice of government-sector unions and the future of our constitutional republic needs to rent and watch the recent documentary about public schools, Waiting for “Superman.”

Paul W. Rosenthal

Augusta, Georgia

Great Service

Kudos in the extreme to the Register for bringing to light the issue of just process for priests (“Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” front page, Feb. 27). The wave of allegations, convictions and shame have obscured how poor the process is to substantiate or non-substantiate allegations. Joan Frawley Desmond does a highly credible job of detailing much of the broken process and how “in-house” it is kept, especially when the cases are elevated to Rome. Now, any sexual allegation is cause for a priest to be put on administrative leave. While the priest may be allowed his stipend, he often must leave the rectory and find habitation, usually at his own expense, unless generous parishioners come to his aid. There is no work, given the suspension, and the extended ambiguity of the investigation leaves its deep psychological mark.

These are the new ways a priest can join his sufferings to Christ’s, to be sure. It is ironic that the Church and her failure of process becomes the means to such purgative graces.

The reason for this is that many bishops now are fearful men. With millions of dollars and the fiscal health of the diocese in play, the tort lawyers and insurance companies have dictated the policies under which the governance of the diocese must show due discretion in dealing with allegations. With the need to find further ways to limit liability, the traditional relationship of a priest to his bishop is the first to suffer. The bond of fraternal charity based on trust, the need for reconciliation and spiritual strengthening, gives way to functional administrative guidelines. The failure to provide a transparent due process deepens the underlying erosion of trust substituting a functional relationship between priests and their bishops based on a pervasive “zero tolerance” mentality few discuss. Diocesan politics also plays a role, which is rarely discussed. The underlying politics of the chancery also skew the process, especially if there has been a sexual transgression, even if not against a minor.

What Joan didn’t report is the step that usually involves the priest being sent to a psychological testing and evaluation facility in the aftermath of the allegation. These institutions are favorable to the diocesan management’s protection from liability. While all psychological healing must proceed in an environment of trust, these institutions are biased from the beginning, by way of the contributions many bishops send to keep them operating. The priest never has a chance to either get a second opinion or seek reputable institutions that may be less biased. Here is where “guilty until proven innocent” really shows itself. The Register has done ordained ministry a great service by bringing a critical light to the current situation. In Christ is our hope. In his sufferings is our formation.

Father Edward Moran, U.S. Air Force-retired

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

Polygraphs Can ‘Lie’

In the Register’s Feb. 27 article “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” mention is made that “two accused priests remained in their positions despite failing a lie detector test, while another priest provided ‘evasive answers’ during an investigation.”

The American public is generally poorly informed about polygraph tests. They do not infallibly “detect lies.” They register physiological reactions (heart rate, perspiration, etc.), which can be triggered by many factors other than lies. A person might be shivering because of a cold room or might be suffering from sciatica or might be trying to suppress a sneeze. Distress over having been falsely accused, fear of consequences of possible “failure,” disgust at the almost pornographic detail of the questions can all affect the physiological reaction of the person being “tested.” The polygrapher is the one who makes the judgment, essentially an inference, as to what the physiological reaction indicates.

As to “evasive answers,” any slowness in answering a question because of not fully understanding the question or because the question was posed in a complex fashion can trigger a negative judgment of the honesty of the answer, even though the answer was completely truthful.

It is also possible that a polygrapher who has a bias against religion or who has a preconceived idea that someone who has been accused is likely to be guilty could interpret the physiological signs as “proof” that the person is guilty, even if the person is totally innocent.

A local polygrapher was queried as to the accuracy of the test. He was pointedly asked if the number of false positives was at least 40%. His answer was that it was actually much higher. A polygrapher can manipulate the readings to reduce the number of “false positives” or “false negatives.”

Polygraph test “results” are not allowed as evidence in court, but the majority of Americans probably believe they are “foolproof.” The National Research Council of the National Academies of Science has published an extensive study, “The Polygraph and Lie Detection” (2003), which shows that polygraph results are nothing of the sort.

To judge the guilt or innocence of a person on the basis of such a flawed instrument is unfair in the extreme.

Judith A. Smith

Fort Collins, Colorado

Lenten Commitment

Regarding the editorial “40 Ways for 40 Days” (March 7,

These are some of the best ideas I have heard of to help make Lent better. I can say I always give up some kind of food every year and will continue to do that, but my intention this year is to learn to pray the Rosary in Latin, all 20 mysteries daily. For me, this means getting up earlier and keeping my room quiet. These two things alone will be difficult, but I am committed to do the best I can do. Thank you for the list of the things we can do, not just avoid.

Cecilia Lamb


Bad Move on DOMA

Pertinent to “Is DOMA Really Dead?” (March 1, This decision by the Obama administration proves the never-trust-the-government theory. Their job is not to pick and choose the laws to be enforced. This decision runs counter to the structure of our governmental system; this decision is wrong and undermines our system. This is similar to the Wisconsin state senators skipping the state so that the system does not work as intended. As President Obama has stated, “Elections have consequences.” What we are seeing is a systematic attack upon our form of government.

As to the moral issue, marriage is solely between a man and a woman. That does not mean that we do not love all people. Same-sex “marriage” is not sustainable.

Michael Kelley



We included the wrong movie image for No Greater Love, British filmmaker Michael Whyte’s documentary that goes inside the Carmelite monastery of Most Holy Trinity in West London, in the Feb. 27 issue’s arts feature on the John Paul II International Film Festival. The Register regrets this error.