National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
November 4, 2005

Letters Life in prison

Congratulations on your editorial about the many in the United States, particularly juveniles, who are serving life sentences (NCR, Oct. 21). You referenced The New York Times. Over a year ago, Arthur Jones wrote a series in NCR about juvenile justice and highlighted the story of Mario Rocha, a young man serving a life term in California for a crime many believe he did not commit. Perhaps, with the Times leading the way, you will continue to write the stories of the many young people for whom there is no hope under our present system of justice.

Pasadena, Calif.

Clare Pratt defense

When I read the “Katrina criticism” letter in the Sept. 30 issue of NCR, I was surprised to read about a Clare Pratt whom Fr. Thomas Doyle accused of serving the bureaucracy in Rome. Although I read and reread the entire issue to see what Clare Pratt might have said that was so egregious, I could find nothing.

The Clare Pratt I know who is in Rome is serving me and thousands of other alumnae and alumni from Sacred Heart schools around the world, including a beautiful old school in New Orleans, in her post as head of the worldwide network of Sacred Heart schools.

In the late ’60s she had infinite energy in trying to bring us sometimes less-than-enthusiastic students into the excitement of Vatican II in our Philadelphia middle and high school. I can’t imagine she has any less commitment now to those enlightened Vatican II ideals, especially working in an environment where it seems the tide is running strongly against them.

Boulevard, Calif.

NCR responds:
Clare Pratt, superior general of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, was quoted in John Allen’s The Word From Rome on for Sept. 9.

Conscience clauses

In his letter (NCR, Oct. 7), Howard Moon argues that Catholic politicians and judges should act as Catholics first and public officials second, that is, in accord with church teaching. By logical extension (supported by many of our bishops), we are all Catholics first and voters second and must vote as Rome dictates. Wherever we are in the majority, therefore, our denomination’s interpretation of God’s law must prevail over any constitutional protections for religious minorities. This institutionalized intolerance is known as theocracy; we see its effects in countries where radical Islamists enforce Shariah law on all citizens, including Christians. Conscience clauses, as discussed by George Bryjak in the same issue, are an example of our own society’s slide in that direction. Theocracy has not been good for our church in the past, and more of it is certainly not needed by our world today.

Silver Spring, Md.

Iraq embargo

The reference to the “prewar embargo against Saddam Hussein’s government” in the story “Peace group won’t pay fine” (NCR, Aug. 26) was inaccurate.

The main issue regarding the legal and moral controversy of the 13-year embargo is that it was a postwar blockade, which made it immoral, and it was against the civilians, mostly children, in Iraq, which made it immoral and illegal.

Now that it has disbanded, I wish to thank Voices in the Wilderness for their work to help the people who were suffering and dying from the sanctions.

Liverpool, N.Y.

Iranian nukes

Robert Royal’s column “Diplomacy, Iranian style” (NCR, Oct. 7) betrays thinking, American style. The United States has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons; we have withdrawn from nonproliferation treaties and declared our intent to research and develop new nuclear weapons; we have enunciated a policy of nuclear first strike, claiming for ourselves the “right” to attack preemptively nations or terrorists who threaten to use nuclear weapons; we are the only nation to use nuclear weapons; we have threatened to use them in other wars. Is it any wonder that other nations feel they “must” have them for their security, too? Apparently, we think France, Great Britain, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and China “deserve” Royal’s maxim “When you show responsibility, you get privileges.” Ha! Since when are immoral weapons “privileges”?

Sacramento, Calif.

Philadelphia cover-up

Do know that I appreciate what you do to help keep us informed. However, the Oct. 7 exposé concerning the cover-up of abuse in the Philadelphia archdiocese was, to my way of thinking, graphic to the point of exceeding norms of Christian decency.

What happened over those years was wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right.


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As I read the Philadelphia story, scenes from Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” came to my mind -- especially images from the third panel depicting Hell.

The tragedy is that the Philadelphia story could happen again both here and abroad. Let’s not forget the many good priests who need our support as much as we need theirs.

Arlington, Heights, Ill.

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It was extremely painful to read in your horrible cover story of Oct. 7 the title “priest” connected with such descriptions as “sexually abusive,” “intoxicated upon awakening,” “ejaculating on him,” “masturbating,” “continually molesting the boy,” etc.

As a mother of six and a grandmother of 11, I am certainly not a prude. But this is too much. As the angry father of one such victim, whom he beat to the point of unconsciousness, said, “Priests don’t do such things.” Now we know they do, and much more.

How awful it must be to the multitude of innocent priests to hear these accusations.

We apologize for not having been alert enough to reject such irresponsible leaders.

Oak Park, Ill.

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Thank you for your courage in publishing the news story about the grand jury report on the Philadelphia cover-up. It took courage to read it. As your editorial in that issue says: Forgiveness, yes, but we need to know the truth first. Bravo!

San Antonio

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Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the editorial decision to publish in such great detail the horrible story of the suffering of the Philadelphia church at the hands of hierarchical leadership.

We all remember the sanctimonious march to Rome by the American cardinals after the Boston affair, even though we remain totally in the dark about their actual conversation with John Paul II. We remain especially curious about the potential confessions made at the time by Cardinals Bernard Law and Anthony Bevilacqua. Were they as forthright as the facts squeezed out of their chancery records? The results would indicate much less than that!

Perhaps it’s time to call these leaders to a real meeting, this time with Benedict XVI. Perhaps the former inquisitor could more readily pluck the truth out of these men than his predecessor. Their penance: public confession of “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” -- with the admonition for all to go home and address this horrible crisis honestly for the good of the whole church.

Collinsville, Ill.

Intelligent design

Stafford Betty’s Viewpoint about intelligent design gets us nowhere (NCR, Oct. 21). Creationism requires a creator and intelligent design requires a designer, obviously, even as Darwinism required a Darwin. Darwin, however, can be scientifically demonstrated. The Creator can’t be. He’s too big for that. I know that my Redeemer liveth, but I don’t know it scientifically and would never expect to. I would think scientists have to suspect he’s out there, beyond their ways of knowing. But from that suspicion it would be impossible to make a single scientific step forward.

Betty actually undercuts intelligent design while defending it. That “we find hairy apes at the equator and the least hairy humans on the planet inside the Arctic circle” is supposed to undercut Darwinian evolution, but the misplaced hairiness doesn’t do anything for intelligent design, either.

So why is there a great hue and cry to place intelligent design on an equal basis with evolution in science classes, even though the former goes nowhere and the latter has been fruitful for more than a century? Because closed-minded fundamentalists are flexing their newfound political muscle, and this particular flex advances the goals of those who want to discredit science so they can keep doing to the biosphere all the bad things they have been doing that are coming back to bite us. Professors of religious studies shouldn’t get mixed up with such people.

Haverhill, Fla.

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It was really amazing to find an article extolling intelligent design in a Catholic publication. The Viewpoint by Stafford Betty misses the point of the controversy. For any Christian, the concept that there is an intelligent design to the universe goes without saying.

The author may be a professor of religious studies, but this does not make him a believer in the Judeo-Christian God. In fact, it is quite obvious that the true promoters of intelligent design are people who play intellectual games and who could just as easily begin promoting the idea that space aliens are to be credited with the intelligence that is behind the design of the universe.

People who call themselves Christian but who focus all their attention on human behavior may perceive intelligent design to be the way to impose their religious practices onto the public through the back door. In reality, though, this is an affront to true faith and an absurd concept to include in a discussion of scientific discoveries and theories.

Were the teaching of evolution not to acknowledge the fact that there are gaps in the fossil record, then one might see the point of challenging the teaching. But so long as the ambiguity remains, there is absolutely no reason anyone should insist that a philosophical proposition be introduced to fill the void.

Morgantown, W.Va.

Peace Corps volunteers

I support Colman McCarthy’s endorsement of the National Call to Service Act (NCR, Oct. 14).

It is time to tear down all barriers to any person of goodwill who desires to work as a Peace Corps volunteer. Ultimately, the benefits of individual friendships far outweigh suspicions of ulterior motives.

The enduring rewards of building bridges of understanding are gained by volunteers and host country nationals alike.

I know. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkey from 1968 to 1970.

Wellesley, Mass

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, November 4, 2005