Letters 01.17.2010

Moral Requirements

I appreciate Robert Kumpel’s Dec. 13 article about the “Manhattan Declaration.” I did, however, want to clarify one statement about imperfect legislation that was attributed to me in the article.

Pope John Paul’s statements in Evangelium Vitae address situations where an elected official, whose pro-life position is clear, might justly support imperfect legislation that limits the harm done by existing laws. Evangelium Vitae does not suggest, and I did not intend to state, that legislators are always morally required to support what may be imperfect legislation.

Research has demonstrated, however, that some of these laws, though modest in their ability to eliminate abortion, have had a significant impact on reducing the number of abortions. Such legislation is pro-life in its effect and reflects the pro-life intentions of the committed legislators and organizations that sponsor such legislation in efforts to build a culture in which all life is fully protected and respected.

Of course, our pro-life efforts will not be complete until all life is sacred and protected as such under the law.

Most Reverend Joseph Kurtz, D.D.

Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky

Model for Bishops

Your photo of Van Dyck’s painting of St. Ambrose forbidding the Emperor Theodosius from entering the Milan cathedral (“Power and Grace,” Nov. 22) inspired me to look up the story of this event: In the course of putting down a rebellion, the emperor had sent his troops to indiscriminately massacre several thousand people in the city of Thessalonica. After learning of the emperor’s action, Ambrose, probably not without risking his own life, confronted him on the steps of the cathedral of Milan, and prohibited him from entering. The very good news is that, due to Ambrose’s admonition, the emperor thoroughly repented and was reconciled to the Church.

It seems to me that this should be a model for bishops dealing with “Catholic” politicians who support the indiscriminate massacre of more than a million children every year in the U.S. Ambrose engaged the emperor in “dialogue,” but only after he had first laid down the law and banned him from entering the church. The result was a happy one for all: no more massacres, and, best of all, reconciliation for the sinner.

What more basic purpose is there to Our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross than reconciliation of sinners?

Let the bishops take notice!

Patrick Lahey

Krakow, Poland

John Jay’s Ignorance

I must first commend my distinguished colleagues for their exceptional collection of some difficult data to access, namely the number and characteristics of priest sexual-abuse cases (“John Jay Study Divides Observers,” Dec. 20).

But I must take issue with their less-than-neutral interpretation of the data. When 80% of the victims are postpubescent males, the sexual contact male-on-male, and access to girls was not restricted as in a prison environment, it is clear the acts were homosexual.

Only an academic can state that homosexual acts do not necessarily make one a homosexual. That is like saying sexual acts outside of marriage do not necessarily make one a sinner. It is due to the collective dogma of academia to treat homosexuality as mainstream that the researchers go out of their way to disassociate priest homosexual abuse with homosexuality. And, contrary to [David] Clohessy’s (director of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests) belief, the sexual orientation of abusers is relevant for understanding why these crimes occurred, providing us the knowledge for how best to prevent future abuse.

So, let’s call it what it is — homosexuality — and be forthright that homosexual priests are the cause and begin working to resolve the problem.

Willard M. Oliver

professor of criminal justice

Sam Houston State University

Strengthening Marriage

I would like to comment on your “Practical Help for Marriage” (Dec. 13) article.

The programs discussed are all very helpful for couples entering into marriage and also for sustaining healthy marriages. There are two other Catholic programs that do not get enough publicity: Marriage Encounter, a Catholic program to enhance good marriages, and Retrouvaille for troubled marriages. The latter is an outgrowth of Marriage Encounter in Quebec, thus its French name meaning “Rediscovery.” Retrouvaille places strong emphasis on the communications techniques needed to repair marriages in danger of falling apart, including 12 post-weekend sessions. My wife and I have been involved in both programs. The presenting couples share their deepest joys and hurts, showing by example how to build a successful marriage. (All the people involved in Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille are volunteers). The steps in Marriage Encounter are romance, disillusionment and joy. In Retrouvaille the steps are romance, disillusionment, misery and hope. These programs are open to people of all (or no) faiths. We believe everybody wants and needs a good marriage.

Gerald Hackert

Scottsdale, Arizona

Editor’s note: Sheila Hackert, Gerald’s wife of 55 years, died last August.

Uncharitable Reform

I appreciated the commentary “When Reform Deforms” (Dec. 20) that became all the more apt when I realized it was by Steubenville biology teacher Daniel Kuebler.

The concept of bureaucrat-run health care is not only frightening — it misses the whole point of Christian teaching regarding the virtue of charity. The act of freely giving benefits the giver much more than the recipient. Christ illustrates this in the parable of the widow’s mite, where she freely gives considerably more than the rich man.

Government-run programs use their ends to justify their means by forcibly taking money from citizens (taxes) and claiming that their purpose is to benefit some group of citizens. By depriving the citizens of the freedom of giving, don’t they also deprive them of the love that is essential to true charity?

Terry Hornback

Wichita, Kansas

Iconic History

I read the recent article on “St. Stephen’s Cathedral” (Dec. 20) in Vienna, Austria. It was a very fine article. I especially enjoyed reading about the icon of Mariapócs. I visited the village of Mariapócs in Hungary a number of years ago and saw the icon of Mariapócs in the village church. It is a Byzantine Catholic Church, and the pastor at the time I visited was a member of the Basilian Fathers.

The priest told more of the story of the miraculous icon.

It seems after the original icon cried in the church of Mariapócs, the emperor said that the icon should not remain in an obscure village but should be enshrined in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. When the people heard this, they immediately had someone paint a copy of the icon, and that is the one that is still in Mariapócs.

Mariapócs is still a place of large pilgrimages. The crowds are sometimes so large that the liturgy is celebrated outdoors.

Father Joseph Vamos

Diocese of Gary, Indiana

Light on the Womb

I noted with interest the Register’s front-page article entitled “When Human Life Begins” (Dec. 20). Over the years, a variety of similar articles on this issue have also been published.

One such article appeared in California Medicine, the official publication of the California Medical Association in September 1970, in which it urged its physicians not to deny the humanity of the unborn child from conception since to do so would be “a curious avoidance of scientific fact.”

Moreover, it is further worth noting that when the Supreme Court handed down the decision of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, 1973, it clearly avoided citing the scientific humanity of the unborn child from conception, but gave the right of “privacy” the rationale for legalizing abortion. (The right to privacy is nowhere mentioned within our federal Constitution.)

Today, it is an indisputable scientific truth that the unborn child is biologically human and genetically complete from conception. Significally, with the progress of modern-day sonograms and DNA, the unborn child can be readily observed as a light on the womb!

Thomas E. Dennelly

Sayville, New York

Corrections & Clarification

In our Dec. 13 story “Modern-Day Abolitionists Fight Slavery,” Kristyn Peck Williams of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services described the governments of the United States and other countries as being in the “baby stages” of responding to human trafficking, whereas our story quoted her as saying these governments were taking “baby steps” and paraphrased her as “likening it to the early stages of the campaign against domestic violence.”

Williams was misquoted in reference to policies that saw trafficking victims housed with drug addicts. Her reference was to the homeless, not drug addicts.

The Register regrets the errors.

Williams was also paraphrased as saying the U.S. government, “after focusing for years on imported victims … is only now waking up to the reality of domestic violence.”

Williams did not use the term “imported,” but the Register believes this is a neutral and accurate adjective to describe those who are brought into the U.S. under coercive conditions for economic exploitation. The Register believes the description of the U.S. as “waking up” conveys the sense of Williams’ comments that the government’s efforts to address the social-service needs of trafficking victims focused for several years on victims brought from other countries. Only recently has it provided programs to address the needs of domestic victims. Still, we regret any discomfort our choice of words caused Williams.

A story on the Books & Education page in the Jan. 3 issue identified the new president of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H., as Thomas Fahey. His name is William Fahey. The Register regrets the error.