National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
October 14, 2005

Letters Baltimore agencies

Sean T. Caine is to be commended for the good work his Catholic Charities agency is doing. However, I beg to differ with his statement that “Our Daily Bread Employment Center will be the first one-stop resource center for poor and homeless people in the Baltimore region” (NCR, Sept. 23). Given his position in the archdiocese, my recommendation is that he check out as soon as possible the Franciscan Center, 101 W. 23rd Street, which provides a hot meal and take-home food for needy families, clothing for the men, assistance with jobs, a training program in food service and personal counseling. I don’t know what could be more “one-stop” than that. The center is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Milwaukee.

Greenfield, Wis.

Nuclear power

“Funding for nuclear energy is a flight to the past” by Linda Gunter (NCR, Sept. 23) is interesting, but is it really true that all nuclear power will always fail to be self-sufficient? Is it inevitably true that all nuclear power plants are as unsafe as Chernobyl? If nuclear power is that irretrievably bad, why is it that most of France’s electric power comes from nuclear generation and the French have never had either a safety problem or a financial problem with it? What do the French know that we don’t?

Smithfield, R.I.

* * *

Does the author of “Funding for nuclear energy is a flight to the past” understand the laws of physics and economics? Suggesting that wind, solar or biomass can replace nuclear power is illogical. Nuclear power is base load generation. The laws of physics state that base load generation must be available all the time. It cannot depend on the wind blowing or the sun shining. People who oppose nuclear power either must support coal (the other fuel used for base load generation) or come up with a truly viable base load alternative. Otherwise we must continue to invest in our present base load generation capability, which is coal and nuclear. Conservation is the other favorite solution. Unfortunately, electrical demand is rising because our economy is growing.

When discussing our electrical supply, it’s best to consult engineers, not politicians.

North Versailles, Pa.

Linda Gunter responds:
The laws of physics remind us of the inefficiency of stored versus renewable energy sources. Stored energy, whether fossil or nuclear, requires energy to move it. The result is that from mining to plant construction, through fuel transportation, generation and distribution, about two thirds of primary energy is lost en route to becoming end-use energy. Demand is not the same as need, but the former can unnecessarily raise the latter, for example, when heat losses from excessive city air-conditioning plants increase the temperature outside, thus requiring even greater air conditioning use to keep buildings cool.

The capital costs of nuclear power are so great it can never become cost-competitive without massive government support. Apply that support -- more than 60 percent of taxpayer research and development dollars for nuclear energy during the past 30 years -- to renewable energy and we might already have escaped the big grid dependence that blinds us to alternatives beyond coal or nuclear. Renewable energy, which uses distributed generation, frees us from huge energy losses and is less capital-intensive and faster and more economical to build. Decentralized power opens the door to a diversified electricity market, essential given the finite supplies of stored energy sources, whether coal, oil or uranium -- the nuclear fuel source.

France has not had its Chernobyl, but its record is by no means clean. In my 2003 report “The COGEMA File,” my colleagues and I recorded the lamentable safety and environmental track record of the French nuclear giant. Incidents included: venting tritium gas through a reactor chimney; dumping so-called low-level radioactive waste into the sea and into a commercial waste dump (the venting incident has caused leukemia clusters around its reprocessing plant that the company challenges); and refusing to close a plutonium fuel processing plant operating in a high-probability earthquake zone. Despite a culture of secrecy, French citizen groups have and continue to challenge the safety records of their country’s nuclear operations.

A different solution

In Cheyenne, Wyo., plaintiffs in a lawsuit relating to alleged sexual abuse by former Bishop Joseph Hart are asking that his name be removed from buildings in the diocese (NCR, Sept. 16). That struggle reminds me of a similar issue we face in Dallas.

There is at least one building in the Dallas diocese that has Bishop Charles Grahmann’s name on it. His actions, which allowed abuse to continue, and his refusal to accept responsibility were a significant part of the reasons for a $110 million liability judgment against the diocese back in 1997.

I have recommended we never attempt to remove Bishop Grahmann’s name from any building in our diocese where it may be. We should never forget what was allowed to happen to children in our church. Some day we may have the courage to admit what went on. Then we may simply add a sign under the nameplates on buildings with the names of such bishops who gave questionable leadership or directly abused children. The sign could read something like, “All Catholics must remain vigilant.”

Sadly, we can never say “Never again!” unless the history of abuse of our children by our bishops and priests is fully documented and given a daily presence in our lives so we remain vigilant. Having the names of those responsible on our buildings may be one step in that direction.


Bankrupt dioceses

Regarding the editorial “Bankruptcy: the gamble that backfired” (NCR, Sept. 9): To say the bishops of Portland, Ore., and Spokane, Wash., were merely trying to evade responsibility for the clergy sex mess is to look at the truth only from the editor’s standpoint. The Portland archdiocese paid out $60 million to a number of abuse victims. Subsequent victims have sued for $150 million. How many claims does this represent? A total of three. Should the archdiocese take on the claims of these individuals who seek such obscene compensation? We think not.

Where do the rights of parishioners of Catholic churches lie? How much more of our lifeblood is required? The victims of priest abuse deserve compensation, but does this merit victimizing parishes and parishioners who have worked hard to create community? And does the taking of parish lands not fly in the face of First Amendment rights -- that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”?

The editor’s search for truth needs to be more realistic.

Beaverton, Ore.

Sheehan’s motivation

I was taken aback by Colman McCarthy’s critique of the efforts of Cindy Sheehan to end the war in Iraq (NCR, Sept. 16). He presents her as a naive activist who should have realized that her son, by joining the Army, stood a significant chance of being killed. Taking his point a step further, he chides her for not having prevented her son for enlisting.

I am aghast at his condescension and insensitivity. Is this the classical schism between the intellectual peace scholar and the peace activist? If so, the peace movement is in real trouble.

New Rochelle, N.Y.

* * *

I admire Colman McCarthy, but I don’t know what to think about his analysis of Cindy Sheehan’s actions. Is he saying that because she was wrong not to keep her son from joining the Army, she has no right to question Bush about his being wrong to send so many sons to kill and/or die?

Mr. McCarthy assumes a lot. Has McCarthy ever tried to keep a young man of legal age from doing what he’s bent on doing?

As one who has lost a deeply loved husband, I can tell you that one tries to cope with the grief in whatever way one can. The pain is so deep that one can’t help wishing that no one else should ever have to suffer such pain. Cindy Sheehan has chosen her path; it is the only way she knows to keep other mothers from suffering the pain of losing a child -- which is her way of making her son’s death stand for something more than nothing.


* * *

When our son was in high school, he came home after being contacted by military recruiters who promised him lifelong security as well as the sun and the moon and informed us that if we did not sign for him, he would sign for himself when he reached 18. This after we had begun a file for him as a conscientious objector.

He was trained to be a medic. When he enlisted for three years to gain travel experience (which we could not afford), there were no openings for medics. He was then retrained as a cook. He reassured me that I should not worry, because this was not killing.

When he returned, he joined the California National Guard, where he served as his medical unit’s cook for nearly 20 years. Then a year ago, he and several others from his guard unit were transferred to an infantry unit. He did all in his power to avoid participating in this illegal war. He found he could not resist without risking the loss of his job with the sheriff’s department, his home and the security of his family. So against his will, he was sent to Iraq.

We love our son and respect his choices even though we have over the years done all in our power to dissuade him from military involvement. Am I to be blamed for raising a son with a mind of his own?

Felton, Calif.

* * *

In “Cindy Sheehan is just deluding herself,” Colman McCarthy is highly critical of Ms. Sheehan for her efforts to obtain a meeting with George Bush in order to hear his reasons for invading Iraq. However, he does not mention that her objections to that conflict have to do with the fact that it is based upon deliberate lies of this administration about Saddam Hussein possessing WMDs and having had a connection with al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on this country. The death of her son Casey in this illegal war, which she and many others believe is being waged to gain control of Iraqi oil, was, therefore, completely unnecessary. That is the essential issue that Mr. McCarthy ought to acknowledge if he is to fault Ms. Sheehan for not fulfilling his standards for nonviolent living.

Santa Fe, N.M.

* * *

Wake up, Colman McCarthy! Cindy Sheehan is not asking President Bush, “Is being a soldier a good moral act?” Her question to Bush is: “What did my son die for?” She is calling him to account for his government’s lie that the war is a moral good, a great crusade, evidence that America is the light for the world, making the world safe for democracy and all the similar assertions emanating from the Bush government.

With Sheehan, I say, “Not in our name!”

St. Clair Shores, Mich.

* * *

I am reminded of the parable of the landowner who paid each worker equally, no matter if they had worked all day or only the last hour. No matter when one comes to the position of peace and justice in this world, no matter when one comes to the teachings of Jesus in this world, the rightness of it and the reward are the same as they would be for those who have worked their whole lives to bring about social justice. It does not matter what Cindy Sheehan may have done years ago in the raising of her child, nor do the reasons why she stood behind him in a military uniform. What is important is what she is doing now.

Stony Brook, N.Y.

No nukes, ever

Regarding a letter applauding the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: I respect the writer’s motivation for serving four years of military service during World War II. However, I cannot agree with his statement: “Any means to stop war is right” (NCR, Sept. 23). The end never justifies the means. Morality may never be reduced to the decision to do what seems practical, especially when the results are so devastating to hundreds of thousands of human beings.

I’d like to refer the writer to the testimony of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the 37-year-old superior of the Jesuits living on the outskirts of Hiroshima in 1945. His personal account of that fateful day, Aug. 6, appeared in Recollections and Reflections of Pedro Arrupe (Michael Glazier, 1986), and excerpts of that account were carried in the August-September issue of The Catholic Worker.

I do not see anyone who is reading and reflecting on Fr. Arrupe’s words being able to acclaim the use of that bomb or any other nuclear device as morally justifiable in any circumstance.

Lake Park, Fla.

Cushing in Japan

Greetings from the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious of Japan.

Though I am aware the timing of this letter is late, we still want the NCR readers to know that we Japanese sisters fully support Fr. Bob Cushing (NCR, Aug. 12 and 26).

We are deeply impressed by the action to make peace, nonviolence and reconciliation tangible in the person of Fr. Bob. We feel saddened to learn that as a result, he has lost his position in his parochial ministry. Please know that he embodied the healing presence of Christ for our communities in Japan as we gathered for the poignant commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb.

We believe what Pope John Paul II said in his Hiroshima Peace Appeal in 1981: “To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future.” To remember Hiroshima also invites us to remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the cruel and dehumanizing colonization of the countries of the Asia Pacific region, the Nanking massacre, the Bataan Death March. As we remember, we also ask forgiveness for the crimes committed.

(Sr.) Filo Hirota, MMB

Sr. Filo Hirota is president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious of Japan.

Priests’ sexuality

Regarding the editorial “Of seminaries, gays and essential questions” and the article “Archbishop: Seminaries should not accept even celibate homosexuals” (NCR, Sept. 16): I know any number of priests whom I believe to be homosexual. They are among the best priests, the most spiritual and the most dedicated. In the areas of integrity, character, ethical and spiritual formation, they are some of the finest men I know.

Wasn’t the scapegoating of homosexuals done before along with other groups: the Jews, the Ukrainians, the mentally and physically handicapped? Yes -- in the pogroms of Nazi Germany.

New Castle, Del.

Letters to the editor should be limited to 250 words and preferably typed. If a letter refers to a previous issue of NCR, please give us that issue’s date. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Letters, National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141. Fax: (816) 968-2280. E-mail: Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number.

National Catholic Reporter, October 14, 2005