Panetta a 'Faithful Catholic'?

It was shocking to read that Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, referred to Leon Panetta, a proponent of partial-birth abortion, as a “faithful Catholic” (“No Wonder Granholm Won,” Letters, Nov. 17-23).

Panetta, who previously served as a congressman and chief of staff for President Clinton, is now serving on the bishops's national review board for sex-abuse monitoring.

Bishop Gregory's characterization of someone who condones the partial-birth abortion procedure (in which a doctor takes an almost delivered baby in his hands, punctures a hole in the baby's head and suctions out the baby's brains) as a “faithful Catholic” is inappropriate and an affront to millions of real faithful Catholics.

Bishop Gregory's labeling Panetta a “faithful Catholic” raises the question: Just what does one have to do to be considered an un-faithful Catholic? Panetta's presence on the bishops' board further erodes its credibility.

JAMES FRITZ Great Cacapon, West Virginia

Beyond Laissez-faire Faith

I have been reading the Register for two years. It is always informative, well-written, educational and loyal to the magisterium. In recent issues, several articles have pointed out that many Catholics support abortion and pro-choice candidates. The tone is one of dismay and confusion.

I am a convert and perhaps this is why I am surprised by this tone of disbelief. It has been my experience that “Catholic” is a relative term. For most Catholics, the faith is simply a cultural label. It is a characteristic like having brown eyes. It does not inform beliefs or affect attitudes.

When I first converted, I worked in a doctor's office with two other “Catholics.” They attended weekly Mass but remained pro-abortion and/or pro-contraceptive. Neither had any desire to learn the teachings of the faith. (I made several attempts to invite them and the “Catholic” drug representative to different programs, but to no avail.) They even went so far as to call the archbishop and the Legionaries of Christ “stupid” for wanting more religion classes in a local Catholic school. (They were commenting on a dispute involving the removal of students by parents when the priests attempted to re-Catholicize the school).

I also helped with a Catholic high-school retreat in which ignorance of the faith among the students was appalling, despite their nine years of Catholic education. It has been my experience that evangelical Protestants tend to be more pro-life because a personal decision to be a Christian has been made.

This informed, voluntary decision renders them accountable in a way the Catholic faith does not. Most Catholics think all they need to do is follow the order of sacraments and salvation is sealed. This is one reason I oppose confirmation before age 18! Sadly, I do not expect Catholics to necessarily be pro-life. My experience has taught me otherwise. I suggest that you redirect your focus to discussing the theological/philosophical arguments against abortion instead of wasting valuable space lamenting the views of laissez-faire Catholics.

CORETTA ALEXANDER Atlanta, Georgia

The Granholm Gang

As a former college instructor in Catholic social philosophy, I wish to clear up the confusion in Michigan Gov.-elect Jennifer Granholm's mind (“Pro-Abortion and Catholic?” Nov. 3-9). Her quoted comments show she knows little Catholic philosophy and less science. And, in light of their supposed training, the priests who support her may be more confused than she is.

To make clear what was common knowledge as long ago as 1970, before Roe v. Wade: An article written for physicians, “A New Ethic for Medicine and Society,” in the September 1970 edition of California Medicine, admitted (while espousing a pro-abortion position): “The result [of society partially rejecting the philosophy that human life is sacred] has been the curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intraor extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices.”

Even if, for the sake of argument, we pretend that we do not know that human life begins at conception, Granholm's support of abortion is morally indefensible: No one doubts that, as it is being born, the “being” in the womb is a human child. Is Ms. G opposed to “partial-birth abortion”? Would she promote laws to stop this form of infanticide? If not, how can she claim to be “Catholic” — much less a civilized person — when she would permit the murder of babies when there can be no doubt, not even a contrived one, about what is happening?

If she does admit that pre-born babies at the sixth to ninth months are human persons, and would indeed support laws to stop the butchery of such innocents, isn't that the same as “imposing her morality” on others — i.e., on the butchers? Or, would this woman who wants to govern the people of Michigan stand back and say, “No, let the murders continue?” If that is her view of what public morality should be, why not go all the way: repeal the laws against child abuse. Because to criminalize such conduct “imposes the morality” of the non-abusers onto the abusers.

Ms. Granholm is not qualified for public office. She is not qualified to call herself a Catholic. I doubt that the priests who support her are — philosophically and theologically, whatever their personal probity — qualified for the priesthood. They all should decide which church they want to be in: the Catholic Church or the secular-humanist church. Then choose one and leave the other.

WILLIAM A. STANMEYER, ESQ. Great Falls, Virginia

Death by Increments

Regarding “Pro-Life Stasis? It's Time to Do What Lincoln Did” (Nov. 3-9):

Dinesh D'ouza pleads the “incrementalism” approach to stopping abortion. Father Anthony Zimmerman also has a similar advocacy letter in that paper. In my opinion they are both off track for very basic reasons:

Law has not only an executory function but also a vital educative function. By identifying pro-life law with abortion exceptions (as an example, rape, incest and life of the mother) we confuse “thou shalt not kill” in the public mind. We splinter our pro-life identity and promote complexity and difficulty in later trying to re-educate the public about moving off that position.

Not everyone is a tactician, as the incrementalists seem to infer with their strategy. The average person takes things at face value and is confused by inconsistencies.

Incrementalists ever remind us that we live in an imperfect world. Let us remind them that we are trying to overcome imperfection, and that's why we don't pre-design imperfection into our pro-life laws. Imperfections will show up there naturally, defaults to our unsuccessful efforts.

Jesus, the paradigm of all moral strategy, never accepted evil for later good; as an example, to the adulteress, he said, “Go and sin no more.” He never said, “Let's cut that adultery down to 20% for now.” While understanding that there may be later failures and providing for recovery needs, Christ's strategy never involved appearances of compromising with evil.

While Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae frees moral culpability for incremental pro-life people whose goal is clearly to stop all abortion, he is not addressing this as preferred political strategy.

We must keep our goals simple and, above all, unambiguous to the whole public!

FRANK STRELCHUN, PH.D Canaan, Connecticut

No Room for Martians

Regarding “Brother From Another Planet: Redeemed?” (Oct. 6-12):

The search for life on other planets boils down to the basic question: Does life occur spontaneously as the result of chance — or was life created by an intelligent designer? We must not deceive ourselves, for these are the only two possible explanations as to how we got here.

Perhaps atheists search for life on Mars because they fail to find the “smoking gun” here on earth — where, if life springs forth from chance, they should have found at least one occurrence of this by now. They have not, and the Christian knows they will not — not here, not on Mars, not on any planet in any galaxy.

GREG DENT Reed City, Michigan

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