National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
November 19, 2004

Letters Election results

Now that we are guaranteed four more years of George W. Bush, I hope the outspoken Catholic bishops who forbade their flocks to vote for John Kerry under pain of serious sin are happy. They should be held responsible for Kerry’s defeat. Inasmuch as these bishops abused their church’s status as a tax-exempt organization, their entire dioceses, including every church, rectory and school building should begin to pay taxes like the rest of us.

Columbia, Md.

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John Kerry has lost his bid for the presidency, and according to exit polls, he also lost the Catholic vote 53 percent to 47 percent.

This is, no doubt, the result of hard work from a handful of outspoken, headline-grabbing U.S. bishops. They helped turn a churchgoing Catholic from Massachusetts into a question mark for Catholic voters.

The bishops’ criticism of Kerry focused solely on his abortion stance. Now that their preferred pro-life candidate has won, I hope those bishops are prepared to deal with the other life consequences of Mr. Bush’s policies: war, economy, justice, respect for workers and social equality. None of these topics seemed to matter much to the outspoken bishops. Hopefully they will not turn a blind eye to these issues in the four years to come.

Studio City, Calif.

Exposé on torture

Thank you for printing the article on torture (NCR, Nov. 5). I was amazed by the amount of space that you gave the issue, as well as the damning photograph on the cover. However, I was chagrined that the article did not run a week earlier. Far too many people voted with blinders on -- looking at only one or two pieces of the various “life” issues and not at the bigger issues. The very same administration that purports to support life is responsible for more than 100,000 dead Iraqis -- mostly innocent civilians. And they are responsible for scenes like the one portrayed on your cover and in the article within that edition.

Gainesville, Fla.

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I just saw your article “Roots of Abu Ghraib in CIA techniques.” I noticed you had problems contacting me. Unfortunately, the U.S. phone number given to you by my colleagues in the Pentagon only works intermittently in Iraq, depending upon where I happen to be standing at any given moment. I sent them a note after reading your experience asking them to ensure they provide all my contact information to inquiring journalists. Although I don’t always have the answers journalists are looking for, I do pride myself on being available at any time to work an issue.

In all honesty, however, the current authorities for conducting interrogations remain classified and I’m not sure how much value you would have found my input to be. The methodology used in Iraq has evolved to one that relies on building rapport with the detainees and includes several layers of oversight to ensure abuses could not occur in the current environment. Whatever conclusions you may draw on what led us to the abuses of Abu Ghraib last year, this is not an environment that exists today.

If I can ever be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me.

Baghdad, Iraq

Barry Johnson is public affairs officer for detainee operations of the multinational force in Iraq.

Zambian example

The Zambian bishops’ eloquent defense of religious liberty and church-state separation (NCR, Nov. 5) contrasts sharply with the public positions taken lately by the Vatican and some American bishops. Interestingly, their stance seems to echo the views of Thomas Jefferson in his 1782 “Notes on the State of Virginia.” What a happy convergence.

Silver Spring, Md.

Global awareness

Hearty congratulations and many thanks for the excellent comprehensive overview of globalization and our Catholic higher education institutions’ responses to it (NCR, Oct. 29)! A great service to us all -- by NCR and our Catholic schools.

Is not globalization in its several facets one of the biggest signs of our times? In light of God’s incarnational ways with us, it is up to us all to make it function and develop in a way that benefits all on Earth.

Nazareth, Ky.

Rights of the disabled

I was surprised to see NCR, usually supportive of human rights, publish such a one-sided account of the Terri Schiavo case (NCR, Oct. 15).

Seventeen major national disability groups, including Not Dead Yet, filed a brief on July 13 urging the Florida Supreme Court to reverse the lower court and uphold Terri Schiavo’s right to food, water and rehabilitation.

These groups are among the nation’s leading civil rights organizations representing people with disabilities. They led the movement to enact the Americans With Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws protecting people with disabilities.

They claim that the standards on which Ms. Schiavo’s life or death may turn could be applied to other people with disabilities.

In an Oct. 27, 2003, statement, 24 disability groups signed a statement in support of Terri Schiavo. They said, “Terri Schindler-Schiavo is alive. She deserves nothing less than the full advantage of human and civil rights the rest of us enjoy as Americans.”

They allege that an independent guardian who was once appointed for Ms. Schiavo disagreed with the claim that she would not have wanted to live. They said, “It is clear that she is conscious and responsive beyond mere reflexes, as has been demonstrated by her ability to track with her eyes, respond to verbal commands by physicians who examined her on video, and react to those she loves.”

This writer, a former special education teacher, is concerned over the readiness of many to snuff out the lives of the disabled. I hope that Terri Schiavo will have a chance at food, water and rehabilitation.

You can read more about this case on

San Francisco

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Most of the time, NCR gets the social justice issues of our day right. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the article by Judy Gross concerning Terri Schiavo. The social Darwinist slant was hard to miss.

First and foremost, Terri is not dying. She is merely disabled. Her life is not ambiguous. As a mother of disabled young women, I am personally offended by the view that some life is more valuable and unique than others.

When did we Catholics embrace this culture of death and deny the dignity God gave us? As my daughter has said many times, “I don’t have to die to have dignity.” Our dignity comes from God and is determined by how we love one another.

As a pacifist Catholic Worker, I find the taking of all life unacceptable. It was not lost on me that the article on Terri was followed on the next page by a large picture of parents mourning the loss of their children in Iraq. Let us comfort all parents, including Terri’s. This is the responsibility of the community. It is my prayer that we value all life from womb to tomb.

Columbia, Mo.

There’s more to ‘moral values’

I had really hoped for better writing at NCR! I am really frustrated with the media continually referring to the “moral values” issue as the deciding factor in the election (NCR, Nov. 12). It makes it sound like right-wing evangelicals and conservative Catholics are the only people with moral values and the only people who voted according to their moral values.

It wasn’t “moral values.” It was two issues: abortion and gay marriage. For many of us, moral values include war, poverty, health care, education and the death penalty. Don’t sell us short! The media needs to be clear when speaking and writing about this; otherwise you are allowing all of us who try to be truly “pro-life” to be written off as amoral or immoral because we didn’t vote for Bush.


Photo correction

Congratulations on 40 years of reporting the whole story. To that end, please note that on Page 13A of the Oct. 22 issue the picture of the two Sisters of Loretto identifies only one, Sr. Mary Luke Tobin. At Luke’s side, not only in the picture but also as a faithful friend and colleague for decades, is Sr. Cecily Jones, a peace activist, writer and justice seeker par excellence.

So many women in this supplement (Pages 3A, 13A, 15A, 23A) are identified only by affiliation, whereas the men, almost to a man, are identified by name. At least in Cecily’s case we can correct the record so that the next 40 years will look different.

Ad multos anos.

Silver Spring, Md.

Mary Hunt is co-director of WATER, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, which is based in Silver Spring.

Parallel wives

Any doubts about the existence of a parallel universe were shattered by Colman McCarthy’s love story, “A nurse named Mavourneen” (NCR, Oct. 15). My wife and I have lived that existence.

Gail Curran was described to me as a nice Boston-area Irish Catholic who studied nursing and piano. Her student status and the fact that she was only 19 while I was 28, a much wider span than that of Colman and Mavourneen, meant we couldn’t replicate McCarthy’s whirlwind courtship.

But the wait for the nursing diploma was worth it. Like Colman, I became my wife’s patient. Although I too rode a three-speed Raleigh bicycle, it was not a crash that brought her sainthood out for all to see but the appearance of a large tumor in my abdomen.

After my surgery, Gail, like Mavourneen, was on duty 24/7 watching vital statistics and minding the tubes feeding me and keeping off infections. The process started all over again when I had further surgery, and again when I damaged my brain in a fall.

I don’t remember much of the serious things that went on with me during the ensuing years. But Gail tells me that kidney failure nearly did me in. She asked a friend, a fellow retired newspaperman, to write my obituary. I haven’t seen it. I hope he found a way to show my appreciation for Gail, but we old-line journalists aren’t much good at expressing sentimentality.

It was a tough time for Gail. She still worries about me. I never doubted her love. I’ve enjoyed it every day for 44 years.

East Hartford, Conn.

Parish closings

Thank you for your editorial regarding Boston’s gift to the church (NCR, Oct. 29). Events are beginning to gather speed. Since the editorial was written, four more churches have initiated round-the-clock vigils in their church buildings to protest closings with others getting ready to start. A “council of parishes” has been formed, with 10 members currently, to resist the archdiocese’s flawed closing process. Some of those parishes have banded together to sponsor billboards around the metropolitan area with the message, “Thou shalt not close vibrant parishes.”

As Richard McBrien notes in “Red and Blue Catholics,” there are a large number of “uncommitted” Catholics. The Boston archdiocese has managed to “kick them in the teeth” with its decision to precipitously close nearly one-quarter of the parishes.

Peter O’Reilly says that sexual abuse settlements and bankruptcies are threatening church workers. In Boston we have moved beyond just threats to layoffs. Hundreds of church workers have been let go in Boston because of the parish closings. Families are losing incomes and health insurance. The reasons go well beyond abuse settlements and include a loss of trust in the leadership of the church. Something indeed really is happening in Boston.

Newton, Mass.

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I follow the stories about parish closings in the Boston archdiocese with utter amazement. I am a United Methodist minister and longtime reader of NCR. For over 25 years I have attended Mass with my Catholic wife -- until recently, but that is another story.

The Oct 28 Boston Globe article on St. Therese’s closing informs me it has “only” 703 at weekly Mass! In my 40 years of ministry in northern California, I have never served a congregation that reached a quarter of that number. Our conference (diocese) has a little more than 350 parishes, about the same number as the Boston archdiocese. Our churches’ average worship attendance is 120. (As we have women clergy, we have more than
enough pastors to serve these churches.) This is not an unusual size for most Protestants in most of the United States.

A smaller size is actually appreciated by Protestants. It provides members with a real sense of fellowship in a community of faith and support.

Eureka, Calif.

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 19, 2004