Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Letters Policy

The Catholic Virginian welcomes signed letters to the editor bolszewski@catholicvirginian.org. Submissions should be no more than 275 words, and writer’s address and phone number as all submissions will be acknowledged. At the editor’s discretion, submitter’s name may be withheld from publication. Letters should address topics reported in the CV or other topics relevant to Catholics. Personal attacks will not be published. Letters may be edited for style, length or content. Opinions expressed by letter writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Catholic Virginian or the Diocese of Richmond.

Letters • February 12, 2018

Tribunal replies to Father Doyle

In the Jan. 29 issue of The Catholic Virginian, syndicated columnist Father Kenneth Doyle of the Albany Diocese answered the letter of a woman from our diocese. She wrote that although she’s received a decree of nullity for her first marital union, her current spouse under Virginia law has been unwilling to submit his first marriage for consideration by the Church’s tribunal. She continued by writing that she wishes to participate fully in the Eucharist, and she asked for Fr. Doyle’s advice.

He stated many dioceses no longer charge a fee for the tribunal process, and suggested they speak to a priest, who could dispel misconceptions. He stated his belief that it would seem “unfair” for the woman to be excluded from Communion, referencing a 2016 letter written by Pope Francis to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region.

As canon lawyers of the diocesan tribunal, we would like to shout from the housetops that our tribunal has not charged diocesan petitioners a fee for more than 20 years. No one should feel held back because of cost.

Furthermore, prescinding from whether nullity could be proven in the tribunal process, it would be truly the exception for someone to be unable to bring a petition to the tribunal.

The 2016 papal letter speaks precisely to such impossibility. (There are, for example, regions in the world where there are no functioning tribunals.)

Thus, those in invalid marital unions in the Richmond Diocese should begin with an approach to the tribunal. If nullity is not proven, an additional possibility may exist, as the Argentine bishops to whom Francis wrote also teach: a Catholic could return to the sacraments after the couple agrees to live in continence.

According to the general norm in canon 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, one who is in an invalid marital union should not receive the Eucharist.

We believe it’s possible to draw mistaken conclusions from Fr. Doyle’s response. We write out of the same pastoral sensitivity he invokes, and pledge our willingness to assist all those who approach us. If you are in need of the tribunal’s help, please call on us or contact us through your local priest or deacon.

– Msgr. R. Francis Muench, J.C.L., Judicial Vicar                                                                                         Father Wayne L. Ball, J.C.L., Judith A. Douglas, J.C.D., Deacon J. Michael Fitzgerald, J.D., J.C.L., Jeffrey M. Staab, J.C.D., Elisa E. Ugarte, J.D., J.C.L.

‘Almost excellent’ coverage

Your coverage of the recent March for Life in Washington (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 29) was almost excellent. However, I feel compelled to criticize one aspect of it. No one can be simultaneously pro-death penalty and “pro-life.” The terms are contradictory.

Yet, the Catholic press, including The Catholic Virginian, persists in referring to an outspoken capital punishment proponent, Donald Trump, as a “pro-life president.”

This type of reporting is not only inaccurate, it is irresponsible and disappointing.

–  Frank Spaulding, Bedford

Thankful for Catholic schools

We’re thankful and fortunate to have Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Richmond, of which several are in Hampton Roads. Personally, my two children graduated from Portsmouth Catholic Regional School and Peninsula Catholic School in Newport News.

Why did we send our two children to Catholic schools? It was our choice, as parents who both obtained Catholic education back in the Philippines. My wife, Freny, who has been a chemistry teacher in Hampton City schools for almost two decades, and I graduated from Catholic schools in the Philippines. We taught at St. Paul’s College of Ilocos Sur, Philippines, prior to our legal immigration to the United States in early 1980s.

It was a sacrifice on our part, financially speaking. But Catholic education was an excellent choice, if not the best, for us and our children.

Father Ronald Nuzzi, executive director of the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame, notes that Catholic schools are good for children, families, communities, the nation and the church. Catholic schools provide religious and moral foundation in a world badly in need of Gospel values.

Catholic schools also promote personal excellence. Academic excellence is not a Gospel value in and of itself. Education must have an altruistic orientation. Students learn to help others and to make a difference in the world.

Catholic school students have been charged with the mission of evangelization. They are to go out into the world and share the gifts of career or profession they have received as doctors, nurses, lawyers, police officers, businessmen and women, writers, teachers, priests, nuns, etc. Catholic school graduates are a “leaven” in society, helping the broader community to the best that it can be. –  Chris A. Quilpa, Sufolk

Letters • January 29, 2018

Editor’s note: The article, “Does tax bill jibe with Catholic teaching?” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 1) elicited a huge response. Below is a sampling of letters received. The remainder can be found at www.catholicvirginian.org.

Bishop’s comment needs clarification

Yes, the U.S. Federal Tax Code has its problems. However, USCCB’s chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Frank J. Dewane’s “expressed concern that the law will raise taxes for those in the lower incomes while cutting taxes for the wealthy” is misleading, and needs clarity.

The way I read the new 2018 tables for tax “rate” by “income bracket,” all taxpayers will get tax rate reductions except for the lowest 10 percent bracket for income of less than $19,500, which has no change.

It looks like the lower incomes may actually receive less money from the government in the form of subsidies and not pay more taxes.

The standard deduction and personal exemption nearly doubles, from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples.  For single filers, the standard deduction will increase from $6,350 to $12,000. About 70 percent of families choose the standard deduction.

Family tax credits: the child tax credit is doubled from $1,000 to $2,000, $1,400 of which will be refundable. There is also a $500 credit for other dependents, versus zero under current law.

It is estimated that 45 percent of American households — roughly 77.5 million — pay no federal individual income tax, according to data for the 2015 tax year from the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan, Washington-based research group. On average, those in the bottom 40 percent of the income spectrum end up getting money from the government.

So, the issue appears to be that the lowest income bracket may receive less and not pay more taxes.

Is there injustice in that? –  Dave Tezza, Virginia Beach

Tax code shouldn’t drive charitable giving

The statement that “people and families with lower incomes” will generally be hurt is untrue. Doubling the standard deduction means the first $25,200 income or so creates no taxes. The weighted average poverty thresholds for individuals and families is less than that amount until you reach families of four and above, which is where the increased child care credit comes into play.

Tax credits are more valuable than deductions, as credits reduce the tax owed instead of income earned. They pay zero taxes both before and under the new bill.

Charitable giving should not be driven by any tax code. Christ gave the Sermon on the Mount not to the Sanhedrin, Roman governor, nor Jewish king, but to individuals who came to hear him.

Charity is our individual responsibility. It is the means by which we accomplish our purpose. A society relying on its tax code for charity is already lost. Similar arguments can be made for all the deductions mentioned.

Justice is the virtue by which each person is given their due. The Augustine quote is out of context. Societies (cities) governing as a bunch of robbers are those whose hearts are turned toward themselves (man) and not God, therefore producing injustice. Those proclaiming themselves politically liberal give significantly less and less often in both time and money. About 70 percent less money and 50 percent in time.

If we want to address the underlying issue, maybe we should start there — with the heart. –  Dan Wolf, Mechanicsville

Distorts Catholic social teaching

This article distorts both the reality of the bill and the cornerstone of Catholic social teaching. The fears of Bishop Frank J. Dewane that the bill will raise taxes of lower income families has been disproven by careful analysis of the bill, as presented in both print and television media.

The “Catholic teaching” element of the article would lead one to believe that Catholic social thought fully embraces socialism or the Welfare State, and sprinkled a few quotes from encyclicals to support this, notably presented by Nancy Pelosi, identified in the article as a Catholic, regardless of her strong and vocal support of abortion and gay marriage, two positions inconsistent with “Catholic Teaching.”

Pope Benedict’s encyclical is quoted regarding the responsibilities of the State, implying that it was centered on the idea of social justice; in fact, the encyclical focuses on the idea of charity as a function of subsidiarity, a tenet of the faith since the 1800s.

Catholic teaching posits that subsidiarity, meaning support or assistance, is to be performed by the lowest possible entity, be it an individual, a family, or a group, and that government should only involve itself in matters these entities can’t address.

Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical,“Centesimus Annus,”that social programs conflicted with the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving citizens of their responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

Pope Benedict, in the encyclical quoted by Pelosi, states “subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others”.

Catholic teaching identifies that each person should do what they can to take care of and better themselves, and that the rest of us should do what we can, individually or collectively, to help them when they can’t. This is the true charity Christ calls us to, not the coerced charity of taxes. –  Stephen Cady, Charlottesville

Bishop’s statements misleading, unfounded

Re: “Does tax law jibe with Catholic teaching?” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 1).

Several of the comments provided by Bishop Frank Dewane about the effect of the new tax law were misleading, unfounded, or simply inaccurate. Bishop Dewane stated that “The repeal of the personal exemption will cause larger families, including many in the middle class, to be financially worse off.”

Some families may be worse off, but many more will have a significantly lower tax burden as a result of the increased child tax credit and the increased refundable child tax credit. Those families who did not itemize deductions will benefit substantially from the doubling of the standard deduction.

Many families who currently itemize deductions will also benefit from the higher standard deduction; it very well may be greater than the currently allowed itemized deductions.

Bishop Dewane did not define what a large family is, but a family with several children under 17 will receive a tax credit (a reduction of the tax liability) of $2,000 per child. That is far better than the benefit of a $4,050 exemption which simply reduces taxable income. In addition, the relatively generous education credits remain for those over-17 dependent college students.

Finally, the article states that critics contend that “low- and middle-income families….will see their taxes rise beginning in 2025.” Although under current law the tax rates and provisions will fall back to the 2017 levels, the lawmakers have historically extended many provisions of tax law.

The critics can “contend” that the provisions will fall back, but I would “contend,” based on history, that there will be “extensions” in 2025 for the provisions in the current tax law. – Edward Merz, Moneta

Changes in tax laws will improve economy

Concerning your editorial “’Clean understanding’ requires us to act” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 1), as well as the Catholic News Service article “Does tax bill jibe with Catholic teaching?” by Dennis Sadowski:

In both pieces, there is a distinction made between “standard deduction” and “personal exemption.” Also, quoting Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Sadowski’s article speaks of the negative effect of the repeal of the personal exemption on large families.

As someone who has always prepared our family’s income taxes, I am confused by the above wordings. They make no sense to me. As to Bishop Dewane’s concern, if he is speaking to the deduction for local income taxes (capped at $10,000), I cannot understand how this is going to adversely affect larger middle-class families. (While it is not expected to be welcomed by wealthier homeowners in only a few states, I would guess that Bishop Dewane is not particularly concerned about them.)

Overall, I get the impression that some writers have been going over their heads. Quoting Nancy Pelosi is, in my eyes, going to the bottom of the barrel for unbiased comments.

Personally, my wife and I, both nonagenarians, expect no increase in our expenses, and to see a real upswing in the economy as a result of the changes in the tax laws. We will continue to contribute to charities as we have been doing, with no decrease because there will be fewer deductions under the law.

It is to us an insult to be told that we might act otherwise. – Edward J. Singer, Norfolk

Tone of article misleading

Re: “Does tax bill jibe with Catholic teaching?” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 1).

It is unfortunate that the tone of this article is so critical and misleading.

Today, approximately 70 percent of taxpayers take the existing standard deductions. As a result of use of the standard deduction, they do not itemize any deductions for such things as taxes or charitable contributions. They are making contributions to charities today not because they seek to reduce taxes by contributing, but because they believe in the work of the charities.

This standard deduction will double, as well the deductions for children, in the new law. The use of the standard deduction will certainly increase for considerably more people, and result in lowering the taxes of low and moderate-income people — especially those with large families.

It is sad that Bishop Frank Dewane seems to have so little faith in the members of the Body of Christ to think they only give to reduce their taxes!

The article goes on to selectively provide negative quotes by hypocritical members of Congress who claim to be “Catholic,” but who regularly reject Catholic teachings on such things as abortion and freedom of religion.

Please keep politically slanted articles out of The Catholic Virginian. – Tom Horsch, Norfolk

Argument falls flat

Not being a tax expert and only moderately attuned to the new tax bill, I read “Does tax bill jibe with Catholic teaching?” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 1) for the perspectives of those who are informed on this issue.

I’m confused at Bishop Frank Dewane’s support of the Affordable Healthcare Act that was anything but affordable for those who lost their insurance due to astronomical increases in premiums, which he fails to include in his narrative. The AHA was based on a lie, as well as being unconstitutional in nature.

I was also astounded at Sister Donna Markham’s invocation of Nancy Pelosi to bolster her narrative on the social ills of this new tax law, making sure she cited Pelosi as a Catholic, but failing to mention that Pelosi supports abortion and same sex marriage.

I’m sure intentions are good in this article, but the argument seems to fall flat in light of the progressive posits of those who profess their Catholic association while blatantly violating Church teachings when promoting their political agendas. – Gerald Pilley, Chesapeake

Few will be ‘worse off’

A Catholic News Service article (“Does tax bill jibe with Catholic teaching?”) and Brian Olszewski’s editorial (“Clear understanding requires us to act”) (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 1) report uncritically on remarks made by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Among other things, Bishop Dewane said the law will raise taxes for lower-income people and families while cutting taxes for the wealthy and that repeal of the personal exemptions deduction will cause larger families to be worse off.

Really? I can think of only one scenario, involving an unusual combination of previously itemized deductions, the new standard deduction, and the repealed personal-exemptions deduction, where what the bishop avers would be true.

As for other possible worse-off scenarios, consider these facts:

  • Most lower-income households will pay the same in 2018 as in 2017 – zero.
  • Near-doubling of the standard deduction and doubling of the child tax credit more than compensates for repeal of the personal exemptions deduction.
  • A married couple with six dependent children age 17 or under that uses the standard deduction could earn up to $115,459 in 2018 without paying one dime of federal income tax.
  • Various forms of income support for poor and needy families will continue to be tax-exempt, including food, housing, health care, disability and temporary cash benefits. For many families, such tax-exempt benefits amount to tens of thousands of dollars, far exceeding their taxable income. This tends to be overlooked by advocates for the poor and needy.

A benefit of the new law that many critics fail to mention is faster economic growth, meaning more jobs and higher wages, likely to result from business tax cuts. For someone currently unemployed, any job beats $0.00 per hour. –Thomas J. Laux, Charlottesville

Statements need clarification

I would like to clarify some misconceptions and or misleading statements in “Does tax bill jibe with Catholic teaching?” (Catholic Virginian, Jan 1.)

Although the personal exemption is gone, the standard deduction for a family is now $24,000 —up from $13,000.

The bill expands the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000.

New tax rates by percent: 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35 and 37.

Previous rates by percent: 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35 and 39.6.

Thus, the tax rates on ALL families are decreased.  It does NOT raise income taxes on the poor.

The bill retains the charitable contribution deduction.

The bill retains the deduction for student loan interest.

The deduction for medical expenses is expanded for two years. In that time, filers can deduct medical expenses that add up to more than 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. In the past, the threshold for most Americans was 10 percent of adjusted gross income.

In the past, funds invested in 529 savings accounts could only be used for college expenses. Now, up to $10,000 can be distributed annually cover the cost of sending a child to a public, private or religious elementary or secondary school.

The bill will likely increase the GDP, increase jobs and wages and this will greatly ameliorate revenues loses due to tax cuts.

More jobs and higher wages help the poor. – Michael Ball, Richmond

Too many factual errors in article

When it comes to tax law, the “devil is in the details,” and that’s why I suspect the author of “Does tax bill jibe with Catholic teaching?” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 1) failed to consult with a tax expert prior to putting pen to paper. The article contained too many factual errors to rebut each one, but a few points may be instructive.

The article mentions concerns that the tax bill will increase taxes on the poor and middle class. This is untrue. Yes, the personal exemption has been eliminated, but it is more than compensated by the increase in the standard deduction coupled with the enhanced child tax credit.

Furthermore, part of this credit ($1,400) is “refundable,” which means that the government will send you a check even if you pay no tax at all.

People are not taxed on every dollar they make. There is a “Zero Tax Bracket,” increased in many cases, below which taxes are owed, and any money withheld will be refunded to the taxpayer. There is also the Earned Income Tax Credit, wherein working families are given additional money that can amount to thousands of dollars per family.

Finally, taxes will not rise in 2025. This is a misleading claim, as the tax rates will simply revert to the present rate. In the meantime, people will have enjoyed several years of reduced tax rates and more money in their pockets.

With something as complicated as tax policy, The Catholic Virginian should seek guidance from those who specialize in this area. Poor information inevitably leads to poor policy. – Judy Vanderstar, Ph.D., E.A., Waynesboro

Neither party captures Catholic values

The bishops’ comments on the recent tax reform bill (Catholic, Jan. 1) are a timely reminder that the values of Catholics are not fully captured by either of our major parties’ ideologies.

Catholics are repulsed by the Democrats’ positions on abortion, marriage and religious liberty, but are likewise repelled by the Republicans’ frequently inadequate concern for the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, as well as the demands of environmental stewardship.

However, the tradition of Christian Democracy — found mostly in Europe but also in the US — offers an alternative. Inspired in large part by the Catholic social teaching of popes such as Leo XIII, John Paul II, and Francis, Christian Democracy affirms the family as the fundamental building block of society, the imperative to care for our neighbors — particularly the vulnerable, and the value of faith in the public square.

Living in the midst of American culture, we naturally gravitate to the narratives around us. Christian Democracy offers us another way of thinking about politics, one more in harmony with Catholic teachings. – Aaron Linderman, Ruckersville

Pelosi comments made article ‘amusing’

It was really amusing reading the article “Does tax bill jibe with Catholic teaching?” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 1). In this article, the reporter uses as a source, none other than Nancy Pelosi. The author further noted that Pelosi is Catholic.

Unfortunately, Pelosi is an ultra-liberal who supports any abortion and gay legislation that comes down the pike. She may be Catholic by baptism, but her legislative record is anything but supportive of Catholic teachings.

To cite her enunciations of anything Catholic as reasons to denounce the tax bill is quite ludicrous and hypocritical. The reporter could do better if he half tried!! – Bob Dubovsky, Disputanta

Catholic and Democrat?

Since the Democratic Party strongly supports abortion and same-sex marriage, please explain how one can be both a Democrat and a Catholic. – J.R. Fentress, Virginia Beach

Letters • January 1, 2018

Two reasons not to hold hands

This is in response to the question raised in Father Kenneth Doyle’s column (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 4) in the Dec. 4 edition of The Catholic Virginian.

We greet those around us (shaking hands) at the beginning of the service, pass the peace, and hold hands during the Our Father.

I’ve tried not to hold hands during the Our Father only to be poked in the arm and glared at. There are two reasons that I do not wish to hold hands: as a nurse, I am aware, as we all are, about germs on hands. But most importantly, some of us have arthritis or other conditions that make shaking or holding hands EXTREMELY painful. – Martha Berry, Richmond

Church need not be politicized

A provision in the House Republican tax bill would repeal the Johnson Amendment named, for the then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson and passed in 1954. The Johnson Amendment does not permit a church and religious group to endorse a candidate or financially aid their political movement — if they wish to maintain a tax-exempt status. It has rarely been used.

There is a positive side to it. This policy has successfully shielded our churches against the rancor of partisan politics but still allows them to freely address humanitarian, social, and community-specific problems in a nonpartisan manner.

The Catholic Church in the United States takes a strong (indivisible) pro-life stance that covers all of human life from conception to natural death. We fight for the poor, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the environment and for peace while we fight against abortion. We do not abandon the unwanted fetus after birth.

Our individual conscience and inspiration of the Holy Spirit motivate Catholics to work on our cause so both Republican and Democratic Catholics can feel welcome in our churches. Americans do not want our houses of worship, charitable nonprofits, and foundations to become points of leverage for partisan politics. Nor do they want our tax-exempt, charitable Church contributions to be funneled into political campaigns.

A polarized secular society does not have to result in a politicized Catholic Church in the United States, too. Political scandals, corruption and government favoritism do not have to be a part of our Church, too. If it happens, then I (sadly) might have to seek a nonpartisan church somewhere with emphasis on the Divine, not the secular. – Wayne Crone, Lynchburg

(Editor’s note: The final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed by President Trump on Wednesday, Dec. 20, did not include repeal of the Johnson Amendment.)

Letters • December 4, 2017

Christians chose Dec. 25 for Christmas

Re: “Christmas: holiday or holy day,” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 20):

A leading line of biblical research, summarized in Professor Joseph Kelly’s “The Origins of Christmas, and The World of the Early Christians,” reveals that early Christians chose Dec. 25 early on for the date of Christmas due to two significant and symbolic dates: the “date” of Creation and the vernal equinox.

For Jews and early Christians, both events were believed to have occurred on the spring equinox with the creation of night and day equally, then beginning the natural seasons. Early Christians believed Christ became incarnate then, in a symbolic and spiritual sense with the “new creation” of Christ as the “New Adam.” In the year they calculated Jesus’ birth, six days after the equinox would be on March 25, making Dec. 25 the date of his birth.

Professor William J. Tighe has noted, “The pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians… Thus the ‘pagan origins of Christmas’ is a myth without historical substance.”

A scripturally-based and perhaps more historical reason for choosing December was advanced by 4th century bishop St. John Chrysostom.

Luke 1 says Zechariah was performing priestly duty in the Temple when an angel told Elizabeth she would bear John the Baptist. The 24 classes of Jewish priests served one week in the Temple, and Zechariah was in the eighth class. Rabbinical tradition fixed the class on duty.

One can determine which class was serving when the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and, calculating backward, Zechariah’s class would have been serving Oct. 2-9 in 5 B.C. So, Mary’s conception six months later probably occurred the following late March, with Jesus’ birth nine months afterward around Dec. 25.

But the real message is that Jesus needs to be reborn in our hearts and souls. We can open ourselves, as Mary did, to his presence, to accept the Lord’s incredible blessings upon us, and as Zechariah and Elizabeth did, receiving the grace of God’s saving and enlivening presence in our lives. – Kurt Elward, Charlottesville

Moral compass needs to be rediscovered

Each Roman Catholic church in Virginia should be a special place of peace, faith and sacred goodness. Jesus once said that he came to heal the spiritually sick. Today, our sins appear to have no limits of lacking decency; they affect all people — faithful or not.

Our egos and selfishness fuel the fires of these sins because of self-interest and personal power. All the sexual harassment cases, along with all the government corruption, favoritism and the growing social economic gap between the poor and the rich, are disturbing to me. The behavior of not only some civic leaders but also some of my fellow Catholics is shocking.

I, as a veteran, a secular Franciscan and a Knight of Columbus, believe we all are sinners. That is not my problem with today’s situation. My problem is the lack of repentance or the want to change. We now shape our religious beliefs by our secular social opinions, we call the truth fake news and say lies are alternative facts. The acceptance of actions like disrespect of Gold Star Families, or a former POW, or the bullying behavior toward political opposition is disturbing.

My church should be a place of safety, being free from this cruel world. Christianity is the values of this world upside-down, where we love the sinner who wants the peace of Christ within their soul.

Churches should be an indivisible place of comfort for the immigrant, sick, poor, unborn, elderly, and struggling youth who want to discover their self-worth. Instead, many of my neighbors believe churches are filled with hypocrites.

Can we discover our moral compass again as a people? – Wayne Crone, Lynchburg VA

Father Tolton’s cause for sainthood welcome news

I was pleased to learn that the cause for sainthood is underway for Father Augustus Tolton (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 20). Folklore in my mother’s family in Quincy, Illinois, had it that a great-great uncle of mine, Father Thomas Cusack, baptized Tolton.

Forty years ago, a bit of library research I did disproved that story. Nevertheless, during visits to the family plot in St. Peter Cemetery in Quincy my aunt would invariably call attention to the nearby priests’ section noting both where Msgr. Thomas Cusack, my great uncle who baptized me, is buried, as is the first black priest in the U.S., Father Tolton. Despite Father Tolton’s negative reception in central Illinois, it was his wish to be buried in Quincy where Franciscans had nurtured his vocation.

Further information about Father Tolton’s cause for canonization is available at http://www.toltoncanonization.org/. – Jim Rettig, Williamsburg

Letters • November 20, 2017

Christmas: holy day or holiday?

It happens every year. Catholics and other Christians insist that we should “Keep Christ in Christmas” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 6) and are offended by greetings of “Happy Holidays,” and others that fail to acknowledge the birth of Jesus or wish all “Merry Christmas.” What to do? Shall we insist that Christmas is solely for Christians or at least recognition of the birth of the Savior?

That may be tempting, but be careful what you wish for. If it’s a holy day for Christians, forget about it also being a holiday and vacation day from employment or school. Remember, there’s a little thing called the First Amendment that prohibits the “establishment of a religion,” including giving preference of one religion over another or over no religion at all. There goes our Christmas holiday.

Christmas is a Christian observance grafted on the tree of a “pagan” celebration of the Winter Solstice which occurs about Dec. 21 each year. Principal decorations include candles, lights and trees, all of which date to this period.

If Christmas is to remain a holiday with time off from employment and school, it must be open to all, whether they observe or say, “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” “Happy Holidays,” “Seasons Greetings” or otherwise.

Our greeting to you, in the words of Clement Clarke Moore in “The Night Before Christmas,” is “Happy Christmas to all.” – James and Noel Cosby, Roanoke

What Catholics must do

Regarding Mark F. Hoggard’s letter “Catholics must speak about climate concerns” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 6): While I don’t argue against all Catholics, all citizens doing their part to be good stewards of all that God has given us, all of his creation, I do take exception to where we put our time, energies, and emphasis.

I do not doubt or question that Hoggard’s concern for our environment is well meaning and intentioned. Unfortunately, his concern that “Catholics must speak about climate change” only addresses a symptom and not a root cause for environmental concerns.

I freely admit that I do not know everything that Jesus taught as relayed to us through the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), but I’m pretty clear that God did not mention saving the planet per se or solicited “government programs” for his Church “to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Jesus came to save us from our sins and to establish his kingdom and for us to further his kingdom through his body, the Church.

The concern for climate change and social justice, another cause célèbre, are truly only secondary or even tertiary to the real problem of our current culture, sin and the need for the authentic cure to all that ails us, a deep and true repentance; a total, complete, and absolute conversion to Jesus Christ.

That is what Catholics MUST speak about! We must clearly and unequivocally call all sin what it truly is: death — the eternal death.

While climate change and social injustice may kill our temporal bodies, sin is the death that never ends. It denies us the eternal joys of life with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We must first repent of our sins and “be converted” ourselves, aid our fellow Catholics and Christians to total conversion, and then bring the world to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Then the social justice and proper care, stewardship of our fellow man, our natural resources, and all of creation will naturally fall into its proper place.

When all of the Catholic world repents and truly lives out our faith in our daily lives, then we will draw all men to Christ and the Church and live out authentic Christianity. Once this happens there will be no need for concern for social justice or climate change.  – Dave Tezza, Virginia Beach

Recommends reading catechism

As a new convert to the Roman Catholic Church, I recommend the Catechism of the Catholic Church as referred to in “At 25, promoting catechism remains a challenge” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 23).

I find the CCC much more common sense in its approach to God, faith, Scriptures, sacraments, etc. than any Protestant catechism or statement of faith I have studied. I was born and raised Baptist; converted to Presbyterian; then Lutheran; and lastly Episcopal.

I read the CCC in small chunks daily along with my discipline of reading the whole Bible annually. I recommend the CCC to anyone and everyone. It’s not as hard as some folks make it out to be. – Howard “Howie” Jeffries, Harisonburg

Letters • November 7, 2017

Rosary ‘powerful prayer’

Thank you so much for the beautiful reminder “Get it out of the drawer” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 23). The rosary is such a powerful prayer. Let us turn to it in all our needs and worries!  – Gertrud Harlan, North Chesterfield

Be careful not to judge

Thanks for your editorial “Get it out of the drawer” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 23) extolling the benefits of our devotion to Mary and our Lord in the rosary, and the prayerfulness it can facilitate, if it is retrieved from our dusty drawer.

I also appreciated Fr. Doyle’s article “Why the rush to leave Mass after Communion?” concerning the desirability of not rushing from the celebration of the Eucharist to the parking lot.

Having said that, the two pieces reminded me of the unfortunate compulsion that I and my fellow worshipers often fall prey to, by using every means available to us to judge each other, including even the sacred such as the rosary or the sacraments like the Eucharist.

The editorial recounted when the rosary was taken out at the store and special note made of the expressions of the cashier or customers upon seeing it, along with the resulting dissatisfaction, and the lost opportunity for catechesis. However subtle, there appeared in that moment a degree of judgment. I think you would agree.

This struck me as a very typical example of how I myself can use the sacred to serve my own judgmental tendencies, and often I must remind myself that I have departed however slightly from the Lord’s desire for my attention.

It may help us to recall Christ’s words in Matthew 12, when his disciples told him his mother wanted to speak with him, “Who is my mother?…whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is …my mother.” The rosary indeed awaits us in the drawer — without imparting guilt if it remains — though we might importantly ask ourselves why we do not get it out.

A similar dilemma befalls us, like the person complaining to Fr. Doyle about the distraction to his eucharistic prayer due to people rushing out of the church early after receiving the Eucharist. Christ, through his sacrificed Body and Blood, indeed calls us away from our guilt and judgments to thanksgiving and forgiveness.

We can recall Christ’s reason for the use of parables in Mark 4, because we “look and see but do not perceive, hear and listen but do not understand.” Again, in the host the Lord waits eternally for us, not imparting guilt when we are absent physically or emotionally, but continually asking us like he did of Peter, “Do you love me?” – Hartwell Harrison, Bon Air

Catholics must speak about climate concerns

All of us have witnessed with distress the extreme weather events in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and South Asia. While the silent catastrophe of 4.2 million people dying prematurely each year from ambient pollution, mostly related to the use of fossil fuels, gets relatively little media attention, the effect of heat-trapping greenhouse gases on extreme weather events is coming into sharper focus.

Amazingly, in the midst of this, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt intends to dismantle the Clean Power Plan (CPP) which sets standards for reducing carbon pollution, without a plan to replace it.

As we’ve seen in Nepal, Bangladesh and India, for those countries that are least developed, the impact of disasters is usually most severe, stripping away livelihoods and progress on health and education.

Even in developed and middle-income countries, the economic losses from infrastructure alone can be massive. For both, these events reiterate the need to act on a changing climate that threatens only more frequent and more severe disasters.

Catholic social teaching, in the words of Pope Francis, teaches us that, “Along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a ‘culture of care’ which permeates all of society” (“Laudato Sí,” 231).

Climate change is a major respect life issue. As Catholics, we need to lift our voices in support of strategies such as the CPP and the Paris Climate Agreement. Without clear initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, we are participating in structures that disproportionately harm the poor and marginalized at home and around the world. – Mark F. Hoggard, Hampton

Unintended consequences in war on child porn

An article (Catholic Virginian, July 3) opens one’s eyes to the pervasiveness of pornography: “90 percent of young men age 18 have been exposed to pornography….the average age these young men were sexualized by pornography was between 8–11 years old.”

A recent case involving a young man we know demonstrates the injustices in Virginia’s war against child porn — the only illegal form of pornography. The goal of this effort is noble but there are serious unintended, unjust consequences in the enforcement of these poorly drafted laws.

He foolishly, but not innocently, entered the dark web looking for porn, to which he has an addiction. He downloaded some pornographic images; discovering they were child porn, he deleted them. But in the “trash can” still counts as possession.

To download them he had to install peer-to-peer software that allows images to be shared with another computer. The police monitor the internet looking for those who have downloaded images they have tagged. Then they make use of the sharing feature of the peer-to-peer program and transfer the images to their computer.

This is called “distribution” — like a drug dealer selling drugs to someone. Thus, he is charged with “possession with intent to distribute child porn,” though clearly there was no intention to distribute or sell anything.

In Virginia, there is minimum mandatory sentencing for both drug and porn charges. Distribution of child porn carries a sentence of five years for each charge after the first. The judge is given no discretion to allow for extenuating circumstances or to suspend any part of the sentence. There is now no parole.

A charge can be made for each image. Since computer files can contain hundreds of images, a person could be facing hundreds of years in prison! Instead, the prosecutor goes easy and charges 10 counts (45 years in prison). To sweeten the deal, a plea bargain is offered, reducing the charges to three, which bears a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, five years’ probation. In addition, he is listed on the Sex Offender Registry, which brands him as a sexual predator for life, though no one has ever accused him of molesting anyone nor is there any evidence of his ever intending to do so.

Those who are battling an addiction to porn are hereby warned.

We also urge to contact your legislators about the injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing. It can lead to punishments more severe than for actual molestation or violent crime. – Name withheld by request

Letters • October 9, 2017

Confessionals always open

To sum up your editorial, “Our time of need” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 6), our need is holiness, union with God. The sins of contraception and abortion have reduced the number of Catholics in the pews, yet “The blood of Christ, the son of God, cleanses us from every sin” (1 Jn 1:7).

The doors of the confessional are always open. – Antoinette Cleary, Chesterfield

Pope, cardinal offer message of hope

I was encouraged by reading your article “Cardinal: Married Couples Better at Marriage Prep” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 6). Cardinal Kevin Farrell makes the point that Catholic lay persons can and should serve along with clergy in preparing parishioners for the sacrament of marriage.

He then noted that too many Catholics are judging the consciences of others when they call for certain Catholics to be denied Holy Communion, based on their opinion of the state of the prospective communicants’ souls. The cardinal stated that the Church offers redemption for all.

Cardinal Farrell’s words reflect Pope Francis’ message of hope, inclusion and salvation. I hope this message will continue to grow in our Church. – Ginny Zeller, Charlottesville

Letters • October 9, 2017

Finds encouragement in editorial

Wow! What a delight to read a vigorous defense of our beleaguered religion in your editorial (CV, Sept. 25).

It gives great encouragement to a long-suffering communicant tired of seeing our faith denigrated by unconscionable politicians, including hypocrites who claim to be Catholic, yet betray the basic tenets of our religion.

The time is long overdue for the leaders of our Church to speak out forcefully against the evils besetting us, such as Planned Parenthood, and begin to loudly champion fundamental issues like holy matrimony and the right to life.

Like Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, I’m confused by the term “orthodox Catholic” voiced by a critical politician of questionable integrity. I’m a practicing Catholic who loves God and his country. I kneel before my Lord, and stand in respect to the flag of our nation. – James R. Healy, Virginia Beach

Don’t dilute principles of Catholic Social Teaching

On Page 3 of the Sept. 25 Catholic Virginian, there is a banner proclaiming “Four Principles of Catholic Social Teaching.” Perhaps my memory is failing, but through Catholic elementary school (K-8), Catholic high school, a year of Catholic college, plenty of years of involvement in the Newman Club, and much parish activity in social ministry, I was and we were taught there are seven key themes of Catholic Social Teaching:

• Life and dignity of the human person • Call to family, community and participation

• Rights and responsibilities

• Option for the poor and vulnerable

• Dignity of work and the rights of workers

• Solidarity

• Care for God’s creation

We were always told that, as far back as “Rerum Novarum,” (Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical on the condition of labor) the Church was the vanguard in this area, the envy of other faiths.

This collapsing of the rich tradition to four principles, whether by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Virginia Catholic Conference, is a travesty, no matter how well-intentioned. – Paula J. Hughes, Virginia Beach

Editor’s note: Ms. Hughes is correct. There are seven themes (principles) of Catholic Social Teaching. The four areas listed in the piece to which she refers are summaries, based upon the U.S. bishops’ 2015 statement “Forming Our Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” of those seven themes.

Anti-Catholic bigotry is anti-American

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) owes an apology to judicial nominee Amy Barrett and an explanation to all Americans who condemn religious hatred (CV, Sept. 25). She insinuated an anti-Catholic stereotype that goes back over 120 years in the United States.

Feinstein contends that Catholics are unable to separate church and state because they put their religion before the oath of the Constitution. What appears to be going on with Feinstein and the Democrats is that they want to imply that Catholic justices are a threat to the landmark abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, and they want to taint Barrett’s nomination so she won’t be considered for a Supreme Court position in the future.

If anything, Catholics seem to sway the other way in judicial matters, e.g., Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor and the late William Brennan, by promoting and preserving abortion rights. Tim Kaine, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden — all servant Catholics, according to the media — strongly tout abortion rights, even late-term abortions.

Feinstein should acknowledge her comments resonated with anti-Catholicism feelings and retract them immediately. At this time, we need to come together, not be pushed further apart, by such accusations from senior Democrats. There is no place in this great country for that type of rhetoric by an elected official who should represent all their constituents! – Ralph Puccinelli, Richmond

Bishops must show us Catholic Christian way

I recently read the article, “A Century of Service,” (The WORD Among Us, Sept. 2017) by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl which highlights the 100 years of service to God’s people by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

I was grateful for their great accomplishments since 1917, and reflected on how I personally have benefited from their work and had been helped in becoming a better disciple of Jesus Christ. But, I was shocked upon reading their letter on DACA (The CV, Sept. 11).

I had to reread it several times, thinking that the author of this article was perhaps someone from our liberal media, from the “never Trump camp.” I read the words, “reprehensible, unacceptable, and not reflecting who we are as Americans.”

We don’t seem to know who we are as Americans. We are a divided nation. We need you, Your Eminences and Excellencies, to guide us and show us the Catholic Christian way; not to mix more vitriol to the conversation.

I have learned an important lesson about God’s justice from Fr. Emmanuel Patrick, a priest of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites. He explained to us, the Secular Discalced Carmelites Community of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, the icon of the Christ Pantocrator in which Christ is showing us the law on his left hand and blessing us with his right — law and mercy and that is justice.

President Trump is trying to be just in this case. He is showing mercy to these children by giving them six months reprieve and asking Congress to find a lawful way for them to stay here.

It is the role of the USCCB to convince our divided government to legislate a way to protect these children. That is something that we all can work together, and perhaps in this way, we can operationalize some Christian justice as the icon Christ Pantocrator is urging us. – Irma Silva-Barbeau, Blacksburg

Letters • September 25, 2017

Bishops must clarify immigration reform terms

President Trump’s actions to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are an opportunity that should not be wasted, not attacked with the usual vitriol. For eight years, Democrats abused the liberal Catholic vote and millions of immigrants by not enacting any meaningful reform.

President Obama’s DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents programs were unilateral and unconstitutional orders that were ripe for reversal at the whim of future presidents, and enshrined benefits to illegal immigration. For their part, Republicans have not shown initiative.

Trump has ended DACA, but hardly thrown people out on the street. Rather, he has given Congress six months to get its act together. It will be their fault and liability at the ballot box if they don’t do their job. That’s a fair incentive for both parties.

A coherent and specific policy of sustainable reform, combined with pressure on Latin American governments to reform their unjust and broken political and social systems, must be part of reform. To create still another wave of underfunded entitlement – for noncitizens – when we have so many already underserved is an abuse of the poor citizens we have now, and will be a travesty for children of all colors who will have to bear the brunt of our decisions.

To preserve credibility and not be used by political partisans, it is essential for the Catholic bishops to be far more explicit in what they mean by “just” and “comprehensive” immigration reform. When most Catholics hear these words, they have come to believe it means institutionalizing illegal and unrestricted immigration because there is no clear and practical policy outlined for immigration reform.

As a result, Catholic Social Teaching will be manipulated and used for partisan purposes. “Just” and “comprehensive” immigration reform is ever more essential, but it cannot be unfettered immigration nor can it involve shipping people back to Chiapas state on a fleet of flatbed trucks. – Kurt Elward, Charlottesville

‘Tired of the anger’

St. Paul wrote: “Do not let your anger lead you into sin” (Eph 4:26). I have noticed so many people who are angry because there has been change and I also noticed many people angry because they think there needs to be more change.

What does a good Catholic Christian do? From my personal experience, anger does lead into sin. Angry divisions over Confederate statues, southern pride, racism, immigrants, government corruption, abortion, helping the vulnerable, and modifying Catholic rituals can cause so many of us to be polarized and political minded in one way or another.

I am tired of it all — all the anger that individually or socially is toward others. I am tired of the encouragement of indifferences and all the talk of judging others. God help us! – Wayne Crone, Lynchburg

Address racism honestly, constructively

In response to “Teaching Love in a Time of Hate” (The Catholic Virginian, Aug. 28):

Hate is taught when the racism issue is used as a tool for political purposes, to divide people, and make them suspicious of one another.

When police are told to stand down, and preventing violence is not a priority, as in Charlottesville, elected officials are negligent of their duty to protect public safety.

As evil and repugnant as the white supremacists are, the violent counter demonstrators who infiltrated the peaceful counter demonstrators were allowed to cause harm to others. Shortly following their appearance in Charlottesville, Antifa was attacking those rallying with a faith and patriots group in Berkley, CA, where on previous occasions they had attacked anyone who expressed a different political point of view — nothing to do with white supremacy.

In this article, Pam Harris feels “there is more work to be done” regarding racism. She is hopeful we “will have an opportunity for everyone to come together and really be honest with ourselves.”

Father Jim Begley quoted Nelson Mandela: “… love comes much more naturally to the human heart than the opposite….”

People, if left alone, prove Mandela’s words; look at Texas after its tragedy. Story after story demonstrate self-directed, human kindness, knowing no distinctions used by those who work to divide us.

If the Church recognizes evil on one extreme and is mum on the other, it perpetuates the acceptance of lawlessness for some, and we will not have the peace the Church seeks, nor will we address racism honestly and constructively.

Let us pray for God’s intervention as both hateful groups continue to recruit others to join them. Let us pray that our honesty and insistence on law and order prevent other tragedies such as what happened in Charlottesville. – Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

Bishops’ letter ‘way off mark’

The emotional outbursts in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ letter on DACA (The Catholic Virginian, Sept. 11), calling the Trump administration’s decision “reprehensible, unacceptable, and not reflecting who we are as Americans,” is way off the mark. I agree that Congress must find a morally acceptable solution, but it was President Obama who created the DACA mess.

President Trump is actually cleaning up the unconstitutional decision Obama admittedly made when he failed to get the Dream Act through Congress. Trump is forcing Congress to do its job.

The bishops should turn their emotion and criticism to Obama and Congress, not President Trump. Better yet, the bishops should help Congress find a way for DACA youth to be justified in America. The bishops’ letter does nothing to advance their cause. Rather, it displays an immature, unthinking jab based on emotion, not logic, that only antagonizes, but neither informs nor suggests a solution. – John Michael Loh, Williamsburg

Spread blame for Charlottesville violence

Reference your Charlottesville coverage (CV, Aug. 28): all articles attribute the cause of this tragedy solely to Neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology and its manifestations of racism.

Come on, CV. You’re sounding like the leftist mainstream media. The legitimate protesters, i.e., those for or against remembering our nation’s history through its monuments, had their free-speech demonstration highjacked by two groups: the alt-right — KKK, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and the alt-left — Antifa, Occupy Wall Streeters and related anarchists.

Both of these groups of interlopers are responsible for the acceleration of hatred that resulted in the death of a beautiful young woman and many other injuries and destruction. Let’s spread the blame around to all the responsible parties. – Gerard E. McGough, Newport News

Letters • August 28, 2017

In Defense of Father Doyle

In Letters, August 14,2017 The Catholic Virginian, Geralyn Russo insists that Father Doyle is incorrect in stating that parents can attend the marriage of their child even if the marriage takes place outside the Catholic Church. She even goes so far as to state that sins have been committed; first by the married couple; and then by the parents. She comes to this conclusion without knowing any of the circumstances in each particular case. It might be well to remember that the marriage contract isn’t between the couple and the Church; the marriage contract is between the bride and the groom.

There is a special bond between parents and their children. In many cases that bond hangs on a fragile thread. To refuse to attend a child’s marriage is a sure way to tear that thread. Let’s not get too legalistic and presume to know the relationship between God and the couple. Maybe God is more understanding than we are. – Robert H. Verbeke, Lynchburg

Editor’s Note: The Church teaches that marriage is more than a contract. It is a covenant [with God] by “which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, [and] has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” (c.1055.1)

Catholic schools too costly in Diocese

While I found your article concerning Catholic schools operating in the Diocese of Richmond interesting, it is troubling that tuition at these schools is among the most expensive in the United States. Our children attended a variety of Catholic schools in Delaware, New Jersey and Northern Virginia as well as Catholic schools in Canada and England. In each of these locations, Catholic school education was substantially less than that demanded by the Diocese of Richmond, whereas in Canada and England it was absolutely free–not bad for a country like the latter whose Catholic population represents a tiny fraction of the whole. This is a sad state of local affairs, given that affordable fees would encourage far more parents than is currently the case to send their children to diocesan Catholic schools in the Richmond area. Which begs the question: why are Catholic schools so excessively expensive in the Diocese of Richmond? James Murphy, Providence Forge. – James Murphy, Providence Forge

Editor’s note: According to the National Catholic Education Association 2016 Data Report (summary tuition and cost for all Catholic schools in the US) and The Catholic Diocese of Richmond Tuition Assistance Fund Report tuition fees paid by families in the Richmond Diocese are in line with national averages. The stated goal of our Catholic schools is that with tuition assistance our schools are affordable to all who apply. In 2016-17, the Diocese of Richmond offered $5,521,972 in needs based tuition assistance. We encourage parents to contact the school directly to discuss individual needs for assistance.

We confront evil by taking action, not ranting

Hatred and violence done in support of heritage or a political view has no place in our society. If we truly want change, this is done by stepping up and actually doing something for the good of our communities. This will never be accomplished by social media rants, hate filled bloggers and mean and loud gatherings with the media and politicians on both sides stirring the pot for personal gain. I don’t understand all the issues and there are good points on most issues we encounter. But I do know this, at the end of this life we will not be judged on how we felt about a statue or the latest headline. We will be judged on our behavior and what we personally did to promote peace, goodness and love for each other all done in the name of Jesus. – John Edward Baird, Glen Allen

Letters • August 14, 2017

Reader disagrees with Fr. Doyle

I was both saddened and confused by the response Fr. Doyle offered (The Catholic Virginian July 17, page 10) parents seeking spiritual direction as to whether they can attend the wedding of their daughter who has decided to get married outside the Catholic Church. They were assured that since they expressed their disapproval, it was okay to attend. There are two glaring problems with this response, one involves scandal and the other is being an accessory to another’s sin.

Scandal is committed when we cause another to think that something which is sinful is not sinful or, at least, not that sinful. Attendance at a wedding celebrating an invalid marriage leads others into the false opinion that the invalid marriage is acceptable. It is not enough to say, “I disagree with your choice to marry outside the Church, but I’ll attend the wedding because I love you” – because anyone present will be led into the mistaken idea that there is nothing sinful about attempting an invalid marriage.

As for being an accessory to another’s sin, there are nine ways in which we do this, one of which is participation in the ill being done. Clearly, attending the ceremony or celebration and/or giving a gift recognizing the invalid marriage, constitutes one’s assent. One cannot claim that abortion is wrong, yet provide another with transportation to procure an abortion without necessarily taking part in that sin.

Last, to suggest it is okay to attend the wedding to keep peace is an example of misguided charity. True charity always leads a soul to Christ and His Church. Therefore, it is the ultimate act of charity for parents to lovingly instruct their children on the Truths of the faith and to lead by example. Leave the rest to God and pray, pray, pray! – Geralyn Russo, Chesapeake, VA

Mourning loss of Br. Cosmas

Thank you for the article about the late Brother Cosmas Rubencamp. “Brother Cos” was a true friend and guiding light to countless numbers of us who sought a faith connection and healing while struggling with our sexual orientations.

I met Brother Cos in the 1970’s when many communities of faith were also beginning their own journeys of dealing with the same issues of sexuality. Under the leadership of then Bishop Walter F. Sullivan, Brother Cos was the Diocese’s representative to Dignity, the Catholic support group for gay and lesbian people. The late Rev. Edward Meeks “Pope” Gregory was the Episcopal Diocese’s representative for Integrity, the Episcopal group. The two groups met jointly for years, first on Catholic property and then at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond.

Brother Cos was a man of peace and that was his main gift to us. Through our friendships and time spent with Brother Cos, many of us found reconciliation, something we had been searching for years to find. While some believed continued on page 7 gay and lesbian people could not live lives of faith, Brother Cos knew differently.

Looking back over our lives, we can easily count on one hand the people who left indelible prints on our hearts. I know I can speak for countless numbers of souls who were touched by Brother Cos and who will remember him always. I also know that he would be very uncomfortable with this public praise. That’s who he was. A true man of God.

Thank you God for Cosmas Rubencamp. – William A. Harrison, Jr., Richmond, VA

Death penalty

I was very concerned about the statement by our two Bishops in Virginia concerning the death penalty in Virginia. I address my remarks to their statement: “knowing that the state can protect itself in ways other than through the death penalty, we have repeatedly asked that the practice be abandoned.”

With all due respect to our Bishops, there is no practical way or ways to guarantee that convicted murderers will not kill again. Examples: two convicted murderers secured a metal object, sharpened it, and stabbed a fellow inmate 100 times, killing the inmate. The incident took place in our nearby prison in Craigsville, VA. At the same facility, an inmate escaped and managed to come close to our farm and hitched a freight car out of town. He could have just as well come to our home and violated my wife who was home alone.

In addition, how about in Texas where a condemned inmate escaped and murdered a Texas Ranger leaving behind a wife and two kids.

I could go on listing the many deaths, costs and destruction that have occurred. There is no such thing as a safe prison due to corruption, graft, mistakes, and faulty equipment. Drugs abound in prisons.

I listed above some of the reasons the State has the right and the responsibility to keep the public safe. Christ told that to Pontius Pilate and the Church can never take the authority from the State. – Francis Chester, Churchville,VA

Editor’s note:, While “the Church does not exclude use of the death penalty if it is the only possible way of defending human lives against an unjust aggressor,” the last three popes, Pope (now Saint) John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, have said use of the death penalty is rarely – if ever – necessary and have called on states to discontinue its use. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church 2267)

Letter to Bishop

Thank you for your support of the 2016 National Collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. The gift from the Diocese of Richmond of $1,681.50, dated 7 July 2017 has been received.

I am grateful to you and to my brother Bishops for the approval of this special triennial collection, because the AMS received no funding from the military or the government and must rely solely on private donors to support its programs and services for your people while they are in uniform, including the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program which provides for priests for the Church and U.S. military.

With more than 300,00 Catholics between the ages of 18-29 on active duty, the U.S. military provides the Church with a substantial pool of priestly vocations. I join you in continuing to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

Thank you and the parishioners of the Diocese of Richmond for helping me continue to minister to those who protect this great nation of ours, and who defend the freedoms we hold dear. – (The Most Reverend) Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA

Letters  July 31, 2017

Be sensitive to all loss of life

Catholics are pro-life; but I think that even with that agreement we tend to try to have a say in which life has a higher priority, whether it is the elderly, middle aged, young adults, children or unborn children. This ends up with various comments, some of which can be very hurtful. One I will call out based on recent discussions is that a miscarriage is not as bad as losing a child. I think it is important to understand that any loss of life is painful, not that one is more important or worse than another. In the case of the unborn child, it may be only the parents who wanted that child so badly go through the pain and suffering of knowing the life was ended prematurely. Depending on timing, they may not have even let anyone else know they were pregnant. The pain from the event may be so severe that they don’t try again. In the case of the born child, an active life that could be held/interacted with is taken from the parents and community to whom they belonged. It can in some cases happen directly in front of the community, which has little ability to stop what is occurring. In addition, depending on age and condition, the parents themselves may not be able to have another child at that point. The pain to those directly involved is real in either case. Please be compassionate when it comes to comments regarding either situation. – Jeremy Gustafson, Lynchburg, VA

Letters  July 17, 2017

Instead of protests, let’s do good reader suggests

In the climate of endless protests around the country, perhaps the people of the United States, instead of joining in protests where the main point is to make everyone angry, we could let our daily individual lives be a shining example of the Gospel. We were saved by Jesus, not by works, but to do good works for all God’s children. What better example of protest could there possibly be? – Eddie Baird, Richmond, VA

Father Kauffmann remembered fondly

Father James F. Kauffmann’s June 23 funeral Mass at St. Benedict, Richmond, was a deservedly glorious tribute and recognition of the good works of this man who was pivotal in my decision to leave the Episcopal Church for the Catholic Church.Fr. Kauffmann epitomized God’s reminder that each of us is given special gifts, and he arguably had been blessed by God with more than his fair share.  He was a musician, historian, scholar, intellect and a man entrusted with the ability to convey God’s immeasurable love joyfully and enthusiastically.  He communicated this love faithfully and effectively and in his unique way to people of all ages.Our travel-loving Fr. Kauffmann was described by Monsignor Mark Lane in his wonderful homily as a “theological National Geographic.” Perhaps it was our mutual Wanderlust and love for languages that inspired so many of our reflective and learning conversations (many in German), discussions that I will sorely miss.   A passionate and non-judgmental Christian who believed profoundly in God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation, he treated each person as a true child of God.  Fr. Kauffmann had a genuine zest for the life that he never forgot was a gift from God.  Referring to his unbounded energy, Monsignor Lane (who dubbed him the “Energizer bunny”) shared Fr. Kauffmann’s last words to him the night before he died:  “But I have so much left to do!”  One is reminded of Mother Teresa’s words, “Not all of us can do great things, but we all can do small things with great love.”  God likely smiled as Fr. Kauffmann entered His kingdom, pleased with his incredible accomplishments done through great love.Well done, good and faithful servant. – Carol Daugherty Rasnic, Richmond, VA

Letters  June 19, 2017

Climate change part of seamless garment

James Arsenault’s letter to the editor in the June 5, 2017 issue of The Catholic Virginian, warrants two considerations. First, Father Arsenault asserts the seamless garment theory as though it were a timeless maxim of Christian moral theology. It is not. First articulated by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in 1983, it has caused more confusion than clarity. In 2013 Pope Francis’ own top theologian, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, said the following: “…the ‘seamless garment’ has been used by some theologians and Catholic politicians, in an intellectually dishonest manner, to allow or at least to justify turning a blind eye to instances of abortion, contraception, or public funding for embryonic stem cell research, as long as these were simultaneously accompanied by opposition to the death penalty or promotion of economic development for the poor…” This brings me to my second point. When Father Arsenault applauded Senator Kaine as a Catholic who “has taken the Pope’s words to heart,” Father appears to have engaged in the same intellectual dishonesty criticized by the Cardinal. Senator Kaine may be ecologically friendly, but enthusiastically supports legislation directly violating every Papal word on abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and same-sex marriage. Being pro-environment does not outweigh or excuse Senator Kaine’s assault on human life. This is how the seamless garment theory confuses. It makes it seem as though Senator Kaine’s environmentalism balances out his assault on human life. The truth is two Catholics may disagree on how to protect the environment and remain faithful Catholics. Two Catholics cannot disagree on abortion and remain faithful Catholics. One is, one is not. Environmentalism admits of prudence. Abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage do not admit of prudence. They are intrinsically evil and can never be justified, no matter how environmental someone may be. – John Gordon, Gloucester

Pro-abortion writer needs to check her facts

The Catholic Virginian published two pro-abortion messages in its June 5 edition. First Father James Arsenault praises Senator Kaine for “speaking out for creation and climate-vulnerable communities.” For many years now Kaine has supported unlimited abortion, late term abortion and during the recent campaign with Clinton he supported removing rights for infants born alive induced by abortion. This aggressive pro-abortion action does not “speak out for creation” and robs the “climate-vulnerable communities” of unborn infants of life. How can Father Arsenault consider a politician who supports late term abortion on national television a member of his Catholic community? Second, a letter from Karen Trump, adding no facts to the subject, takes Bishop Conley to task for “An Irrational Ideology of Abortion” (May 22 issue). Ms. Trump supports Planned Parenthood by insisting they are not the “largest provider of abortions in America.” Am I to understand Planned Parenthood would be consistent with Catholic teaching if they are only the second or third largest abortion provider? Having followed this issue closely since “Roe v. Wade” I suggest she do a fact check. I do applaud the recognition of a need to extend compassion to women who have had abortions. Until our society stops treating sex like a recreational activity, and we make the birth choice more enticing for young mothers than abortion, we will continue to add to the shame of our 60 million abortions. Ignoring the public sin of aggressively pro-abortion politicians, who still want to be known publicly as Catholic, does not support Church teaching.  – James Hayes, Midlothian

The unborn and the ‘seamless garment’

It was clear to me that Father Arsenault was trying hard to get in a positive plug for Tim Kaine (Letters, June 5 issue). When Senator Kaine is “speaking out for creation” it’s too bad the unborn are not included. I would like to see him start there in defending “the seamless garment of life.”  – Judy Bugay, Richmond

Reader likes priest’s spirit but not message on climate change

I disagree with Father Arsenault’s take on Climate Change (Letters, June 5 issue). But not his spirit. He defends his flock and is united to their concerns. But I also recognize the “Climate Change agenda” for what it is – wealth redistribution veiled as concern for nature. In Nov, 2010, IPCC official, Ottmar Edenhofer, stated, “… Climate policy has almost nothing to do with environmental protection… The Climate summit in Cancun will discuss how the world’s resources were to be negotiated…” As to science, the IPCC President admitted in the 2012 IPCC Report “… we cannot account for a 17-year pause in global warming. Nor has any species been lost during that time frame, while sea level rise has proved negligible.” It’s time to recenter efforts towards the stewardship of nature and away from the spotlight of “protests.” We do need more parks and green space than ever. Instead of social activists, we need champions defending natural resources, re-planting forests, expanding fisheries, and managing wildlife, worldwide. And while I disagree with Father Arsenault and the Climate Change crowd, I agree Catholics should take a lead. To center efforts back onto the rails of authentic Christian conservation.  – Fran Rodgers, Virginia Beach

Reader thanks CV for article on abortion

I want to thank The Catholic Virginian for printing the article, “An Irrational Ideology of Abortion,” by Bishop James D. Conley in the May 22 issue. It was heartening to see a bishop express his teaching office in such an explicit manner. His explanation of the relationship between the abortion industry and the dictatorship of relativism was well reasoned and enlightening. And yet, there are those who would take issue with his point of view. Subjectivism is the idea that truth is not objective and only subjective opinions are valid. It comes from human pride and leads to relativism. With relativism nothing is true or false, there is no right or wrong, and there are no moral norms or absolutes. To insinuate, as some do, that confronting the evil of abortion somehow shows a lack of compassion for women who have had an abortion is inaccurate. While the issue must be treated with sensitivity, if the evil of abortion was more widely understood, possibly women would make more informed moral choices and avoid having an abortion. I hope Bishop Conley’s brother bishops, as well as our priests, find the courage to follow his example and be outspoken in taking a stand against the evil that our baptismal commitment requires us to fight. – Tom Trykowski, Greenville

Letters  June 5, 2017

Climate change part of seamless garment

Even after over 28 years of celebrating Mass as a parish priest, the Mass I attended last week at St. Dominic’s in Washington, D.C. might go down as one of my favorites.  Over 300 Catholics from all over the country, including a busload of parishioners from St. Elizabeth’s in Richmond, gathered that morning to pray and sing together before joining 200,000 people marching for climate justice at the Peoples Climate March.  Pope Francis has called all of us to an “ecological conversion,” and hundreds of Catholics felt called that day to join the faith contingent in the march, beneath giant banners with our Holy Father’s mandate to “protect our common home.” As a religious leader who has served throughout the Diocese of Richmond for nearly three decades, the urgent need to address climate change is personal for me.  Over the course of my career, I have celebrated Mass with our own neighbors on the front lines of climate change: from parishes threatened by sea level rise in Newport News, to those impacted by coal and gas extraction in Appalachia.  Today in Richmond at St. Elizabeth’s, we are united by our shared faith and its call to seek justice and to love one another. We are a diverse multi-cultural congregation made up of working class and poor people, deeply rooted in our Highland Park neighborhood.  We see air pollution worsening asthma in our neighborhood, hurting our most vulnerable children and elderly.  We’re grateful that one of our own parishioners, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, has taken the Pope’s words to heart, speaking out for creation and climate-vulnerable communities around the world, and working nationally towards a just transition to a clean energy future.  As a Catholic called to defend the seamless garment of life, I know that the poor and least responsible for climate change will be most impacted by the chaos and destruction it creates, here in Virginia and around the world.  Now that our church bus has returned home from the Peoples Climate March, I’ve gone back to the day-to-day priest’s duties in my community in Highland Park.  But I returned with a renewed commitment to advocate for the “least of these” and all of God’s creation, in the company of so many who share our common home. –Rev. James M. Arsenault

Article on immigrants omits other viewpoint

Your article “Welcoming the stranger among us is examined” (May 22 issue) completely omitted the opposing viewpoints that are behind the anti-immigrant sentiment in America.  These would include immigrant crime including MS-13, the Mexican Mafia and other Latino gangs; depressed wages for American workers from the increase in labor supply; the wages of American workers are determined by (labor) supply and demand.  According to Pew Research, a majority of Muslim immigrants want to be ruled by Islamic culture (i.e. Sharia Law). Therefore these immigrants are not coming to America to assimilate.  Islamic culture cannot co-exist with American values. Instead of promoting open border immigration, why doesn’t the Catholic Church take collections and provide aid to refugees in their home countries?  –Rick Kurek, Yorktown

Bp. Conley’s views not based on facts

I was disappointed to see that you would publish Bishop Conley’s commentary entitled “An Irrational Ideology of Abortion” (May 22 issue).  His tone of “angry politician” seems out of place for his profession.  His opinions were not based on any real data or facts such as his comments that the Planned Parenthood program exaggerates their services and is the largest provider of abortions in America.  The idea that we “live under the dictatorship of relativism” was equally ridiculous.  Perhaps Bishop Conley should keep his hands off the keyboard until a cooler head prevails and he can provide helpful input along the lines of what Catholic women need from their priests, namely a man of faith able to clarify the moral issues and able to extend the compassion needed to those women who have had abortions. -Karen Trump, Richmond

Letters  May 22, 2017

Father Nott loved by many who knew him

I felt honored to serve as an usher at the funeral Mass for Father David Nott (on April 25 at the Cathedral). Father Nott was often at my parish, St. Benedict, Richmond, when Father James Kauffmann traveled or was in some other way unavailable to celebrate Mass. I especially had the privilege of getting to know him well when he was “our priest,” even presiding over the chaos of Oktoberfest! After that I would tease him that he was “my priest,” and he would laugh. Father Nott was a compelling man. To say he was talented would be an understatement. He was intelligent and reflective. He was dexterous! He played the organ and crafted them by hand. He was fastidious and reminded one of the importance of the sacraments with his intense attention to detail. He was always beautifully dressed in his clerics. This may make him sound practically robotic but he was so kind. He loved literature and scripture and music. He was tender to me when I sorely needed it. I went to see him in the hospital and told him church news and we prayed. He was responsive. I told him it was dramatic to do this during Holy Week, and I knew he would laugh if he could. I was certain he’d pull through. He didn’t, dying Easter Sunday at 12:03 a.m. surrounded by the Little Sisters of the Poor. We will love and miss you Fr. David Nott but I hope you’re praying for us. – Waverly Burlage, Richmond

Letters  May 8, 2017

Renaming buildings should not be seen as ‘political correctness’

I have mixed feelings about Georgetown and other universities changing names of buildings but strongly disagree with those who assert that it is simply “political correctness.” First, universities have routinely changed building names during the past. This became clear to me during summer 1989 when, as a graduate student, I worked in the Special Collections Library at the College of William and Mary. One of my tasks was to catalog blueprints of campus buildings, a task complicated by the fact that some buildings had a series of previous names. Often universities rename buildings because naming opportunities attract large donations. Second, university communities are engaged in vigorous scholarly discourse as they focus on the significance of enslaved blacks in their histories. They have not imposed twenty-first century values on nineteenth century slaveholders. Indeed, careful reading of American history demonstrates that the debate over slavery is as old as the republic. Thomas Jefferson, who called slavery a “necessary evil,” argued that “we have the wolf by his ears and can neither hold him nor let him go.” Jefferson’s most powerful argument against slavery is in his Notes on the State of Virginia. During the early years of the republic, some southerners freed their slaves because they viewed slaveholding as morally objectionable. One excellent example is Robert Carter, III of Nomini Hall who freed 310 slaves in 1790. The debate over slavery became more vigorous and divisive between the years 1830 and 1860. Reacting to abolitionist criticism, John C. Calhoun rejected Jefferson’s assertion that slavery is a “necessary evil,” and boldly proclaimed it as a “positive good.” During the 1830s, Congress appeased slaveholders by adopting the so-called Gag Rule that tabled anti-slavery petitions. Unfortunately, abolitionist arguments did not deter Georgetown’s Jesuit administrators from owning, working, and selling slaves during the 1830s. Third, for more than a century Georgetown and other universities failed to acknowledge their dependency on enslaved people. That failure was a more egregious denial of history than Georgetown’s removal of names from buildings. Today’s discourse often includes efforts to repair past damage and make campuses welcoming to more diverse faculty members and students. There is an advantage, however, to maintaining the names of white supremacists on buildings. Renaming does not deny history; instead it deprives us of essential symbols of past injustice. – Theodore C. DeLaney, Lexington

Letters  April 24, 2017

CV Misses Opportunity

Thank you for noting Saint Mary’s Mental Health Prayer & Support Group Anniversary Mass in the March 13 issue. Our eight years experience with the Group fortifies our confidence in publicity to make known that 1) there are Catholic mental health ministries and 2) that it is as compassionate and worthwhile for parishes to consider ministry proposals for members affected by mental illness as to consider proposals for any other ministry focus. When well informed, prepared, and realistic about what they can offer, mental health ministries have potential to bear good fruit; even to serve others beyond their parish. A Saint Mary’s participant launched our holiday gift program, a gesture of remembrance and inclusion toward those in area mental hospitals and in group homes. Care begets care. We feel that an opportunity was lost, however, in omitting “mental health” or “mental illness” in the title. These words might have attracted more readers for whom mental health challenges are a personal reality and further enhanced awareness for these human needs. Stigma is a closely woven pall; we fray one thread at a time in our efforts to free ourselves. Additionally, a clarification is offered concerning the statement: “ … many … have passed through the group and have moved on with renewed confidence and hope.” More often “moved on” means relocation as members undertake new chapters in their lives. Many alums do tap into a new or renewed sense of confidence and hope, whether or not they “move on” in the sense of realizing recovery. We respect that each person’s experience of illness and path forward is unique. We exist to prayerfully, socially, and practically support participants’ maintenance and progress, peer to peer and prayer by prayer; not to define it for them. – Irma Silva-Barbeau, PhD, OCDS, Blacksburg

Writer chastises CV for “shrill” commentary

I was appalled, but not surprised, by Steve Neill’s paean to Georgetown’s genuflection to political correctness and the intolerant, left wing, political agenda for which the Georgetown Jesuits seem to be devoted (Commentary, April 10 issue). Neill’s commentary, which became more and more shrill the more he wrote, embraced the pension for judging people who lived nearly 200 years ago by our contemporary standards and assuaging perceived guilt by changing the names of buildings or tearing down monuments in both instances thereby denying history. I believe slavery is indefensible, but so is condemning by our lights individuals or classes of people, all of whom are dead. How do we know the mind or the heart of the mid-19th century Jesuits who owned and sold those humans who were their slaves? God is the prober of hearts; we are not! None of us can know why those Jesuits of old didn’t see the evil of slavery. Mr. Neill certainly has a highly-exalted opinion of our own self-righteousness when he concludes that the actions of the priests who baptized some of the slaves were “horrendous;” that’s funny, I thought the primary reason for the priesthood is to bring the sacraments and, therefore, sanctifying grace to the people of God, who included those slaves! I guess I wonder why, so far as I know, Mr. Neill has not condemned in a full-throated way, the Governor of the Commonwealth or Senator Kaine, both of whom purport to be Catholics in good standing, for their “horrendous” support of laws and regulations that enslave women and facilitate abortion under the guise of a woman’s “right to choose” and reproductive health. Perhaps it’s because unlike the Jesuits of 1830, Governor McAuliffe and Senator Kaine can punch back.  – Robert R. Kaplan, Midlothian

Reader pleased by Georgetown commentary

I just read your commentary in The Catholic Virginian (April 10 issue) on Georgetown (University) renaming buildings. So glad to read it and to know this will be happening. – Melody Duffy, Richmond

Letters  April 10, 2017

Second collections necessary

I know my response is late, but the criticism of the use of the 2nd collection during Christmas Mass to raise money for Catholic Charities strikes a chord with me for a few reasons. First off, for those who attend Mass on a weekly basis, it is common knowledge that the first collection is used to support the parish operations and the non-regular second collection is typically used to support a specific outreach ministry within the parish, diocese, or world. That outreach ministry may be a local pregnancy resource or homeless ministries, global solidarity ministry, diocesan mission (Eastern Shore and Southwest Virginia Missions), or even a youth, college, or young adult ministry. Without the second collection, none of the background ministries that make our parishes a place where “people feel wanted and at home in our church” would be happening. If a second collection offends the “one-timers” due to the confusion of passing the basket again, then maybe a simple announcement explaining the purposes of the 1st and 2nd collections is appropriate. Secondly, there has already been a lack of parishioner support of outreach ministries, particularly ministries where the donor does not have an immediate opportunity to see the effect that their donated time, treasure and talent has on beneficiaries. I am very involved in a global ministry at my parish while my sister is very involved in the same parish’s youth ministry. Guess who gets more donors and volunteers? The youth ministry. Christ’s last words on the cross to the disciple whom He loved and His mother commissioned us to serve everyone as if they were a part of our biological family, not just those within our family or social circle. Finally, providing the parish a second opportunity to give via a second collection on Christmas is a phenomenal way for the Church to encourage its parishioners (regular and one-timers) to not forget “the reason for the season.” The Father sent His only Son into this world to be the perfect tangible example of a Holy human life – a life that serves His creation with a pure Love. Isn’t Christmas about giving, not getting? Christmas and Easter are the two Holy Days that make the most sense of providing extra opportunities to parishioners to support God’s creation. -Grace Alexandria LaSienne, Richmond

How do Lenten dispensations work?

I have a question that I hope will be taken seriously. Why did some dioceses receive a dispensation from abstaining from meat on St. Patrick’s Day while other dioceses did not? Even more to the point — why in the Richmond diocese is this dispensation granted to specific groups like the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Knights of Columbus simply because they asked for it? Other Irish Catholics like me were not exempt even though I did ask. When I emailed a request to Bishop DiLorenzo all I received was more Catholic guilt when I was told to let my conscience be my guide. This has led me to question why we must abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent. If it is mandatory then there will be no grace received, but only sin if you do eat meat. Why would the Church think I need another reason to sin? Can grace be received when vegetarians refrain from eating meat? How much grace do I earn when I eat the lobster with drawn butter on Friday because I can’t have steak? Wouldn’t it be better if the Bishops would give suggestions during Lent and let adults decide which ones would be more meaningful to us and on which days that we would like to do them? Please help me understand what I believe is a misdirection of our church. -Gordon Flynn, Glen Allen

(Editor: A commentary “Our Lenten Journey” was published in the March 13 issue of The Catholic Virginian. The commentary by Steve Neill listed “Ten Things to Remember” which had been compiled by Bishop David L. Ricken which is posted on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The suggested 10 points for Catholics who wish to have a true spiritual journey during the 40 days of Lent included “time for prayer” in which we seek to grow closer to God; “time to work on discipline” in which people could visit a homebound or lonely person or be present for the Stations of the Cross on Fridays, “dying to self” which might be refraining from gossip or reconciling with someone who hurt us.” The entire list can be obtained by going to the website (www.catholicvirginian.org or usccb.org) In addition, it is important to note that Christians can still receive grace by abstaining from eating meat even if it is mandatory because the abstention is a sign of penance. Vegetarians can also receive grace by doing acts of charity or spending time in prayer — not just during Lent but at any time.)

Article on immigration policy said misleading

My comment concerns the news article on Page 13 of the February 27, 2017 CV entitled “Protecting Borders Must Be Balanced With Being Openhearted, Says Rabbi.” The author of the article, Mr. Ed Langlois, portrayed Rabbi Cahana’s comments and premises in a manner that focused not so much on the recent hysteria involving “Fake News,” but rather on its more misleading and subtly damaging adjunct, the misinterpretation of fact to support what appears to be the author’s personal pre-ordained conclusion. Specifically, Langlois used the Rabbi’s and others’ very valid comments on the religious tradition of “welcoming the stranger” to criticize our President’s Executive Order temporarily banning individuals from named countries from entering our country. Number one, in unspun truth, the temporary ban is for all individuals, rather than, as Langlois and others characterized it, a ban against Muslim immigration. Number two, Mr. Langlois, knowing that there are no Administration plans for a Muslim immigrant registry, plants the negative thought in the readers’ minds before dismissing it simply by stating that the Administration actually has no such plans. This is sinister, but effective in controlling a reader’s thoughts. In the article, Langlois also addresses Msgr. Brennan’s comments of equating the 19th Century Irish immigration, and subsequent assimilation into American society to today’s totally different immigration issue. The current immigration, but subsequent non-assimilation of many groups from the Middle East, cannot be honestly equated to the prior Irish immigration. It is obvious that Msgr. Brennan wishes the reader to subconsciously conclude that the 19th Century Irish immigration and the current Muslim immigration are parallel and alike. This is despite, again, the unspun truth that the Irish immigrants were not engaged in, or passively supporting, self-proclaimed Jihad. The temporary moratorium on immigration from the named Middle Eastern countries is based not on “who” is migrating, but rather on the country of origin’s ability to assure the United States that those who do come, and are welcomed here, do not come to constitute a clear and present threat to the safety and security of the very country those immigrants seek to enter. That is not asking too much, and that deserves to be set forth clearly and affirmatively by the Catholic Virginian! -Philip F. Koren, Midlothian

Letters  March 27, 2017

Minister not angry, but sad as Jesus was

The other day a chaplain from Louisiana was being interviewed on a morning news show. The day before he had been asked to give the opening prayer for a town hall meeting held by the senator from that state. At that gathering were many angry protesters who repeatedly interrupted the Pledge of Allegiance as well as the prayer offered by the minister. The clergyman was asked if the treatment he received while praying made him angry. He replied that it didn’t make him angry so much as it made him sad. And then he added that we must remember that Jesus encountered the same in His time. He endured jeers, taunts, threatening speech as well as the possibility of physical harm. And yet, He persevered. I have reflected on this gentleman’s comments a great deal this Lent and the very real and tangible connection he made between Christ’s journey and experiences in life and that of our own thousands of years later. Certainly we can say that we live in contentious times, and yet how much more, or less than in Christ’s day? The report of this incident and the minister’s response to it has made me more fully appreciate the rights we enjoy in this republic and the responsibility we all have in the exercise of the power innate in them. Are we promoters of respectful listening to others (especially with ones with whom we disagree) and dialogue with them? Do we use our freedoms in this country in kind, compassionate and peaceful ways, or do we wield our rights as weapons and become just another angry voice in the crowd? – Patti Peters, Roanoke

Letters  March 13, 2017

Governor’s veto outrages reader

Recently I sent an e-mail to Governor McAuliffe concerning his veto of a bill restricting the use of tax dollars for Planned Parenthood. I expressed to the governor my outrage that my money is used to fund abortion providers. There are many other free or low-cost health care options for women, so the argument that Planned Parenthood meets a compelling need that otherwise would be unmet is absurd. I reminded the governor that God’s law, supported by the church whose faith he claims to profess, is unambivalent on the subject of the taking of innocent life. What is in the governor’s heart and on his conscience is, of course, his own business, but his insistence on promoting this evil suggests that he answers to a power he considers more important than God. – Kim Leffler, Beaverdam

Legion of Mary seeks help from clergy

The Legion of Mary, Richmond Curia, is in need of Spiritual Directors from priests, deacons or religious who can be Spiritual Directors. We are hoping that we might interest especially retired priests in the Richmond, Petersburg, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg areas to give prayerful consideration to joining in this ministry. The Legion praesidium especially seeks to help a priest with his pastoral outreach to the marginalized in his parish. In this way, it acts as a catalyst to draw such people more deeply into the parish and its ministries. Currently, it is one of the largest Apostolates in the Universal Church, with some 4 million active members and 5 million auxiliary (praying) members, in over 170 countries. Long before anyone talked about the “New Evangelization,”  Frank Duff, founder of the Legion, saw the need for sanctification and evangelization to renew the Church. Pope St. John XXIII was obviously impressed enough with Frank’s work to invite him to take part in the Second Vatican Council as a lay observer. Being rooted in humility, obedience, reliability and hard work, in imitation of the virtues of Our Heavenly Mother and depending on the gracious fidelity of the Holy Spirit, the Legion of Mary has been able to fulfill its mission for over a century. We continue to assist our pastors through a variety of outreach ministries, some of which may otherwise be left indefinitely on the proverbial back burner. Currently, we have 10 parishes in the Richmond Diocese with a Legion presence. Our groups are small but resilient. However, because we have to be obedient to the rules in the Legion Handbook, a praesidium cannot continue to function without a Spiritual Director who is able and willing to be present at its weekly meetings. Anyone interested in helping the Legion of Mary in our diocese, please contact Helga Fallis, current Richmond Curia president, at 434-589-1668.  – Helga Fallis, Palmyra

Big business deals can hurt pro-life goals

The idea that Virginians should not pass laws to restrict abortion because it might cause businesses to boycott the state concerns me. Democrats talk about taking corporate money out of politics but isn’t this corporate money taking away states rights? If today big business dictates our laws about abortion, what will they want tomorrow? Maybe some day we will have little bracelets that say WWBBD (What Would Big Business Do?) If any business decides to boycott Virginia because we are pro-life, maybe all pro-life people throughout the country should boycott that business.  – Sarah Coleman, Pungoteague

Gracious and Heartfelt Thanks

To all the Catholic Virginian readers we send our heartfelt thanks for your prayers, good wishes and financial support during our time of great need. Our convent is almost back to normal and the once daunting flood damage repair bills have been reduced considerably. While we are putting the finishing touches on a variety of small items, it is a joy to be in our home. From every corner of the state, you were there for us and we want you to know we faithfully remember all donors in daily prayer. Please continue to pray for us as we continue to serve the poor, sick and dying in our community. Know we consider you as partners in this care. We welcome your continued support and encourage you to call for a visit at any time. May God continue to bless you abundantly.   – Sr. Everline Mboga, Virginia Beach

Reader displeased by lack of coverage

St. Jude, Mineral, is a rural Catholic Parish in central Virginia that has had its share of difficult times in the recent past. The embezzlement of a significant amount of money from the parish and from the adjoining Mission of Immaculate Conception by the former Pastor, Rodney Rodis, and a serious fire that destroyed the parish hall, kitchen, and bathrooms, and ruined the administrative offices, might have seriously affected the faith of some. However, our parishioners rose to the challenge, and through faith, lay leadership, and the encouragement of our pastor, overcame the loss of funds and the destruction of our facilities and committed to the construction of a new building. The culmination was the dedication of the buildings by Bishop DiLorenzo on the 11th of December. While I admit that we lack the size and flair of some of the other parishes in the diocese, I was nonetheless extremely disappointed in the publicity given our building dedication by The Catholic Virginian in the January 2, 2017 edition. One small picture of the Bishop with a tiny portion of one of the new buildings in the background hardly recognizes the sacrifices of the parishioners who endured outside portable toilets, limited parking, construction debris, and no meeting hall for more than two years. I’ve seen full page displays of other facilities of parishes who have endured far less hardship and inconvenience. There was a photographer here, as well as the Bishop’s retinue, but apparently we were not deemed worthy of more thorough coverage. – Vincent Fischer, Louisa

(Editor: The Catholic Virginian had a two-page centerfold parish profile on St. Jude’s, Mineral, in the December 13, 2010 issue. The Jan. 2, 2017 issue, to which Mr. Fischer refers, was a smaller than normal size paper because the deadline occurred during Christmas week. We recognize the hardships faced by St. Jude parishioners and admire the strength and perseverance they and Father Michael Duffy, pastor, have shown.) 

Reader grateful for spirit of parish

I enjoyed the article about St. Mike’s (St. Michael the Archangel, Glen Allen, parish profile, Feb. 13 isue). I think you got the spirit of our parish down pretty good. We are so fortunate to have Father Dan, and Father Jim, Deacons Dave, Andy and now Bob. Also, Tom Kaczmareck is just a musical genius, and our music is uplifting and includes all types of songs. You will have to come back and visit when we are selling our new CD, maybe in March or April. On May 21 at the Robins Center at University of Richmond we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. The staff at the office is super. The people are all friendly. I was so lucky to have found this parish when I did. I had moved to Glen Allen in 1989. I started going to St. Mike’s in the summer of 1992. When the choir started that September, I was there. Our parish went through a lot through the years,but I think it made us strong. Thanks for the article. Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. Hope you have some great plans.  – Virginia Nuara Hudert, Glen Allen

Letters  February 27, 2017

What has happened to Catholic morality?

The truth is always the truth because we are who we are, the Catholic faithful. I believe that we are the people that love God and love others, all others. We may not agree on everything; however, we are born from an ancient tradition founded by Jesus Christ himself. We are the people that have goals like the Golden Rule, like love your enemy, like the practice of forgiveness, like giving is better than receiving and like the turning of the other cheek. We live the Gospel of Luke that emphasizes love for the poor, the sick, the elderly, the disadvantaged and all those in need. We are the immigrants who started Catholic schools to protect our children from discriminating attitudes. We started Catholic Charities to help the needy and some of us walked with Martin Luther King Jr. (people like me) for civil rights or stood up against the death penalty. I believe that we are a people of prayer, of morality, of spirituality, of values and of unselfish acts of love. I remember going to a march against K.K.K. violence in Greensboro N.C. on Feb 2, 1980 with many other Catholics. I remember going to a very large pro-life / anti-abortion gathering at the National Basilica in Washington and I remember many nights of praying against capital punishment during the execution of convicts. Where is our morality today? I pray that we may not encourage the personal bullying of those we disagree with. I believe that we are a Catholic people who place confidence in our social institutions by demanding fairness, dignity and respect to be shown to all people, even if you do not like them. I pray that we should not encourage those who show revenge or grudges, or encourage corruption through financial conflicts of interest or encourage exploitation of those who are weaker. I pray that we may always be moral Catholic Christians who show mercy, civility, decency, compassion and sacrifice for the common good of all. I pray that we may live in a culture of hope, not fear; and in a culture of dignified life, not indifference, neglect, hate, death or harm towards the vulnerable or disadvantaged. I pray we can be the moral Catholics of action and love that we once were. -H. Wayne Gilman, Monroe

Challenges ahead for Catholic schools

Jesus Christ should always be at the heart of Catholic education. Everything that happens in Catholic schools should encourage the student to an encounter the living Christ. As we consider the great educational challenges in the 21st century, we must look at Jesus, the great Teacher. The world is facing serious problems. There is division among people, communities, families and the church. Religious fundamentalism is on the rise. Irreligious or secular values seem to be more attractive to younger generations. Globalization brought technological advancement and that seems to have dampened the spirit of unity and cooperation among people. Millions of families have been thrown out of their homeland and now live as refugees in many foreign lands. There is a call for us to look at our schools and recognize education as a “common good in society.” Catholic Education must focus more on spirituality, theology, and evangelization, with emphasis being placed on the sacramental character of education. Catholic education must develop at the same rate as secular education while at the same time providing a basis of faith for the poor, disadvantaged and diverse populations seeking the wisdom of God. The Congregation for Catholic Education and friends should find at the beginning of 2017 a suitable and invaluable opportunity to think seriously about our role in advancing the mission of our schools within the church. Congregation support provides inspiration for future educational projects and activities for all student learning activities. -Dr. Lois Williams, Virginia Beach

Article lacks ideas on helping children

While (“Where’s the Outrage?,” Jan. 30, 2017 issue) was a wonderful article presenting powerful statistics, research, and commentary from reputable sources on impoverished children in the United States, didn’t the author want a call to action? Or just merely to validate that we are “not treating our children very well?” Dr. Gary S. Smith states that “many Americans do nothing to help indigent children.” So, let’s assume readers would like to “work to make their lives better.” Surprisingly, nowhere within his 11 paragraphs does Dr. Smith share any recommendations or suggestions as to how we may help. However, in the final paragraph he does share the title of a book he authored that “describes numerous things we can do to help destitute children in the United States.” While I wasn’t outraged, I do think it would have been helpful if one or two of these numerous suggestions had been shared. Otherwise, it looks like an article where solutions are deliberately withheld that would benefit our precious children. -Leigh Hronek, Virginia Beach

Letters  February 13, 2017

Abortion restrictions do not hurt business

An unfortunate discussion erupted recently when a man we hired to work for the common good alleged that abortion restrictions inhibited the attracting of new business to the Commonwealth. Not at all. Babies are consumers of goods and services from the moment they are born! From “Mommy, Daddy, can you buy me ice cream?” to “Let’s go to the zoo!” to “If I had a car…”  Yes, Virginia, it will be “Mommy” and “Daddy.” Many Catholics allowed themselves to become radicalized because they were not immersed in the Scriptures and ignored the teaching of the Church which is based on the Divine Word, or they abandoned common sense because of persistent worldly clamor. Depraved doctrines are headed for the trash can of history. We need to seek rescue through repentance. Do we think God has grown old and forgotten how to use the sword? -Antoinette Cleary, Richmond

Thanks to Catholic schools for their great contribution

In American Catholic school education exploded in the mid-19th century from humble roots attempting to educate millions of immigrants who were “tempest tossed” upon the shores of America. The schools were often built from the labor of parishioners themselves, lending to the school buildings their particular construction talents. Sometimes, brick by brick, they built the schools in order that their children would have a haven against the harsh prejudices of the era and be able to learn their faith as well as their studies so that they might be prosperous and enjoy the fruits of what the United States could offer. The remarkable and effective efforts of sisters from an inspirational array of convents staffed the schools with very little cost making it possible for even the poorest of the poor to obtain a Catholic school education. Across the years this American Catholic school system became the largest private school system in the world as it remains so today. Catholic schools throughout the United States continue to carry out the original vision of American Catholic schools keeping its doors open to people of every faith and nation. At Saint Patrick Catholic School, we continue to do this proudly and steadfastly as a testament to Jesus’ understanding that no one falls outside of the mantle of God’s love. And now for all those connected in Catholic school education (Catholic or friends of other faiths), as we celebrate this Catholic School Week, let us recognize that ultimately we have come as immigrants from different corners of the world to join together with the mission of helping form the future of children and their families. We are the legacies of this great tradition rooted in the Gospel. Let us this day continue to steadfastly give what we have already been given and proudly say to the world, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  -Steve Hammond, Principal St. Patrick Catholic School Norfolk

No USCCB precedent on Orans posture

In response to the recent letters concerning the “orans” position for the Our Father, the Diocesan Office of Worship would like to reiterate a statement made by Fr. Doyle in his column in the January 3 issue of The Catholic Virginian. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) response to the question: Some people hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer, while others hold their hands out like a priest. Is there a prescribed posture for the Our Father?” “No position is prescribed in the Roman Missal for an assembly gesture during the Lord’s Prayer. The answer makes clear that there is neither a specific posture or gesture which is prescribed, nor is there a specific posture or gesture prohibited. Pastoral practice dictates the posture or gesture. -Fr. Sean Prince, Director Office of Worship Hampton

Letters  January 30, 2016

Writer takes issue with Fr. Doyle

In the January 3rd issue of The Catholic Virginian, Father Doyle was questioned from the “Show me State” of Missouri on the “orans” posture for the laity during the Our Father at Mass. I was curious what his answer might be. As a deacon standing in the sanctuary looking at the nave I have always been amazed at the different hand gestures Catholics exhibit during the Our Father. In my diaconate formation we were taught the “orans” posture was a priest’s position and we were not to mimic the priest. The rubrics for the Mass give the sole authority of praying with hands elevated to the priest, not to the deacon, nor the laity. Father Doyle is correct, there is no guideline in the Roman Missal for an assembly gesture, so I could stand on the pew with hands raised and God will be okay with it. I don’t think so. I have noticed over the years that the laity in the front pew use this gesture because they see the priest doing it and think or assume they are to do it also. Some priests have encouraged this practice and I ask why? “Father wants to abolish the distinction between the clerical and lay state.” Priests in some parishes have even encouraged the laity to take the “orans” posture because they say we are all priests. The people have been poorly catechized over the years. The Mass isn’t private prayer but a symbology of actions including gestures. The Mass reflects the unity of God’s people and the role of the priest who acts in Persona Christi. Father Doyle states “I can’t imagine that it matters a lot to God.” It does matter to God how we worship him. That is why he left his Church to guide us. -Deacon Paul Mahefky, Richmond

‘Pass the hat’ comments on church collections

The average Catholic does not tithe and gives less than 2 percent of his income to the church. Some goes in the weekly baskets, some through other means. We pass the “hat “ as it were. Many in other Christian denominations give in greater sums as a percentage of family income approaching 10 percent ( tithing) and don’t pass plates. Maybe that’s why we need to ask twice? I’ve never been a fan of pass the plate. I’d much rather drop it in a box on the way in. However, I believe these two Mass attendees (mentioned in Letter to the editor, Jan. 16 issue) didn’t just snub their nose at the plate out of misinformation, they were making very negative qualitative statements about Catholics and the Catholic Church. Their comments could not have been made by anyone who had been a Catholic of any considerable time as they show a profound ignorance of any standard Mass proceedings, let alone the incredible charity work done by our Church and the incredible costs to keep a parish solvent. Mother Teresa would be the first to acknowledge the church’s financial needs. Sadly the writer missed an opportunity to gently educate two adults who might otherwise been more accepting of what Mass is about and why we do what we do and for whom. Steve Restaino Chesapeake Thanks Deacon Jose Gonzalez It was inevitable that the day would finally come! Jose Gonzalez become Deacon Jose sixteen years earlier for St. Joseph’s Parish in Hampton. During his years there were fewer priests to serve the Richmond Diocese. The Redemptorists, who had served the parish for forty plus years, turned the parish over to Diocesan priests. Additionally, the Peninsula Cluster was formed to serve the parishes of St. Joseph, St. Mary, and St. Vincent. Because Deacon Jose is bi-lingual he was often pressed into service throughout the diocese, presiding at weddings and funerals of the Hispanic population. Jose was eighteen years old when he left Puerto Rico for New York City. After attending NYU for two years he decided to enter the US Air Force. After completing a military career he went to Christopher Newport University (then College) to complete his interrupted studies. He was then able to put his diverse language skills to work for the Social Security Administration, always there to help people. Just when he was preparing to retire from this second livelihood, the Redemptorist pastor at St. Joseph’s encouraged him to become a deacon. So it was back to studying and writing papers for Jose. Deacon Gonzalez, now 85 years young, retired at the end of 2016 and will be very much missed by the cluster. He and Frances, his delightful wife of 60 years, are planning to—guess what, take some classes. The cluster celebrated his ministry with a reception on Sunday, January 22. -Msgr. Walter Barrett, Pastor Peninsula Cluster

Letters  January 16, 2016

Writer Criticizes Catholic Charities collection timing

There is no question that Commonwealth Catholic Charities and Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia are worthy causes, but I seriously question whether Christmas Mass is the appropriate time to hold a second collection for this or any other purpose. We all know that there are a significant number of Catholics who frequent our parishes only on Christmas, Easter, funerals and weddings. These Catholics may refrain from weekly attendance for any of a number of reasons, but a frequent complaint is that “all the church wants from me is my money.” When these people bless us with their presence at Mass on major holidays, we should be reaching out for their souls, not their pocketbooks, and we should make every effort not to reinforce any negative stereotypes that they might have about the church. No one faults a parish for taking up a collection, that is needed and expected, but when the usher comes around for more, that only leaves a bad impression. My duties in the parish place me at the back of the church during Christmas Masses where I am among those left standing, and I can relate two actual experiences in the last several years. In one instance a woman was there with a young teenage daughter (both were obviously not frequent attendees.) When the usher came around for the second collection, the teenage girl leaned over to her mother and said something that I cold not hear, but the mother replied in a very loud, negative, and sarcastic tone “I guess they thought they did not get enough the first time.” The second incident involved a very well dressed woman who also was obviously not a regular attendee. When the basket came around the first time she put her offering in, but when it approached her the second time, she simply turned around in disgust and walked out of the church. We can do better that that!! If there is a need to have a second collection, it should not be held on those few days during the year that we have a chance to make people feel wanted and at home in our church. -Marvin Weniger, Virginia Beach

CCC/CCEVA directors respond to criticism of collection timing

As Catholics, we agree with Mr. Weniger’s desire to welcome as many people to or back to the Catholic Church. It is unfortunate but true that sometimes those attending Mass see the offertory and other collections as an effort to raise more money for the church, rather than a chance to share with the less fortunate. As Pope Benedict has written and Pope Francis has modeled, there is no Church without charity. As Catholics, we see the Second Collection and all offerings, for that matter, as an opportunity to learn about and act upon the tenets of stewardship. It is a voluntary, sacrificial act of discipleship that means we care about one another. The tradition of the Christmas Second Collection is to share information about the ministries of Catholic Charities at Masses where there is high attendance to reach more people. The USCCB recognized this when it created the national collections so that, by combining resources, the Universal Church can more effectively carry out its mission as Catholics. This once a year collection is vital to continue our mission of serving the poor. Perhaps what might be provided is a more thorough explanation of why the collection is being taken in addition to the offertory collection and the importance of our work as a part of our faith. Advent is a season that reminds us that God gave His only Son to a poor, unwed couple in need of help from others and the Bishop blessing our organizations with the Second Collection at Christmas Masses allows us to serve the Mary and Joseph at our doors every day. -Joanne D. Nattrass, Executive Director Commonwealth Catholic Charities        -Chris Tan, Executive Director Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia

Letters  December 19, 2016

Open you heart and give at Christmas

Open your heart and give at Christmas Open your heart, regulate your mind, and prepare for Living on Virtue Eternally (L.O.V.E.). the circle of light. Can you see yourself giving someone that insurmountable gift of hope? You can if you believe that the most unselfish endowment one can have is giving. During the last three decades the extraordinary vision and work of Saint Teresa is remembered. Helping others was the life and teachings of Saint Teresa, who was canonized 19 years after her death, and devoted her life to serving the poor. So much so, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a congregation mainly constituted of women dedicated to serving the poor and destitute in society. Saint Teresa believed we should live a Godly life of purpose by helping others in need. This means physically accommodating prayer and spiritual guidance. Her willingness to provide for the poor was her legacy. She believed that we have a moral duty and obligation to make less privileged individuals, mainly the poor, and those with disabilities, feel loved, wanted, and purposeful in society. Since Saint Teresa’s death her works continue to be manifested through the missionaries and related parish organizations. The parishes and Catholic Charities need your donations to help the numerous unselfish people involved in providing for the needy and poor. Although the parishes continue their ongoing ministry to the sick, dying, orphans, homeless, and abandoned pregnant women in over 150 countries, your charitable donations will provide food, shelter, and medical needs. In a world of hopelessness, despair, and darkness, you can be that light that shines and brightens the path for so many in need of help. Be someone’s Angel, help us help them. Love as Mother Teresa taught and give as she gave. Only by the grace of God are you in the light of day and not the darkness of despair. Show your purpose through L.O.V.E., give till it hurts you and helps them. Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to know you can change lives forever? We should be selfless in giving to better our lives and those of others. Loving one another in any society enables us to live in peace and work towards achieving our goals in life for the betterment of everyone. Be the light for others! Love God in the face of illness and suffering and extend the gift of compassion, and deepen your faith and trust as we evangelize with others through L.OV.E!  -Lois S. Williams, Virginia Beach

Human trafficking– why we’re involved

Some people wonder why Bon Secours is involved in the issue of human trafficking. As a Catholic health system, we believe, with our Founding Congregation, that “the struggle for a more humane world is not an option; it is an integral part of spreading the Gospel.” (CBS Constitution) Therefore, we are deeply committed to serving those who are vulnerable, and we believe those who are subjected to violence, threats, deception, debt, bondage and other manipulation at the hands of traffickers, forced to engage in sex or provide labor, are among the most vulnerable we serve. They need a voice, many voices, to build awareness about human trafficking. They need whole communities to be vigilant about where they conduct business and leisure activities, and they need all of our eyes to be wide open to trafficking that is happening all around us. And they need caring hearts and hands and resources to bring justice and wholeness to their lives. I also encourage every resident of the diocese to become more aware of human trafficking; to share information with your families, friends and neighbors about this issue. Be vigilant in your communities and work for justice. -Peter J. McCourt, Vice President of Mission, Bon Secours Virginia Health System, Richmond

U.S. Bishops’ response said disappointing

I’m disappointed in the response made by the church leaders in a recent article in The Catholic Virginian entitled  “U.S. Bishops dealing with election results.” Where were the church leaders before the election when all the hurtful things were being said by our now president-elect and supporters? Perhaps the nation would not be in this untenable position. Perhaps our Church leaders would not have to ask “what do we do now? Was there not anyone who would step forward and preach the mission of Jesus to love all mankind and respect all peoples in this context. Why were the church leaders not speaking out against the misogyny and the behaviors that were reprehensible to our Catholic mores and human dignity? I’m puzzled!  -Jeff Canon, Williamsburg

CV readers thanked for aid to sisters

Many thanks to you and your staff for the lovely article to help the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph in Virginia Beach. In just this short time more than $2,000 has come in from all over the state. This will be very helpful and at a later date, we will write a thank you update to your readers.  -Christine Medlin, Virginia Beach

Reader thanks CV for variety of articles

I want to thank you for an inspiring issue of The Catholic Virginian for November 21. I especially like the variety: KOVAR, Fr. Scalia, and an interesting article on Church design. I love hearing about different orders like the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Msgr. Keeney’s Mass reflection is also well written and helpful. I am very hopeful in this time of Advent, hopeful that our country will face God together! I am praying for a return of the U.S. to respect and worship God.  -Eric Davenport, Reston

Letters  December 5, 2016

The Society of Saint Pius X and Unity—A Response

In a letter to the editor (November 21, 2016), Dr. Jeffrey M. Staab argued that the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) should be considered “fully Catholic” because it substantially maintains the visible bonds of Church unity; namely, faith, sacraments, and governance. But Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have expressly stated that the SSPX does not possess full communion with the Catholic Church. In his letter concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988, Pope Benedict explained that whereas the sanction against its individual leaders was now lifted, the Society as a whole remained outside the full communion of the Catholic Church (March 9, 2010, no. 4). Just recently, Pope Francis, in extending permission for SSPX priests to hear confessions beyond the Year of Mercy, wrote that he was “trusting in the good will of their [the Society’s] priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion with the Catholic Church” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera [2016], no. 12). According to Benedict XVI, “The problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes” (Letter of March 9, 2010, no. 4). It should also be noted that the Society’s assessment of the post-conciliar liturgical rites is problematic, and its operating independently of the pope weakens the Church’s unity. It is for the reigning pope to judge whether the Society’s doctrinal positions conform to the essential faith of the Church. As Pope Francis has made no affirmative declaration to that effect, the status of the Society remains the same, even as official talks and signs of good will afford reason to hope. With respect to ecclesial communion—the principle that determines the status of the Society of Saint Pius X and other bodies—there are degrees of unity that correspond to the strength of an institution’s visible bonds with the Catholic Church. Thus, in the example I cited, both the Orthodox and Protestants lack full communion, although their status is different. The Orthodox, whose doctrine, sacraments, and governance largely coincide with Catholicism, are closer to the Catholic Church than are Protestants. The SSPX is closer still to the Catholic Church, given the reasons for its separation; nevertheless, the Society lacks full communion. Since Pope Francis, like his predecessor, regards the Society of Saint Pius X as being outside the full communion of the Church, it seems reasonable and fair to say that the SSPX is “not fully Catholic.” May ongoing dialogue and prayer achieve complete unity. –Rev. Anthony Marques, Richmond

(Editor’s Note: To clarify, a previously submitted letter to the editor written by Dr. Jeffrey Staab represents his opinion and not the official view of the Diocese or the Tribunal. The articles by Father Tony Marques were written with approval from the Diocesan Offices of Christian Formation, Communications and the Judicial Vicar.)

Letters • November 7, 2016

Bishops praised for civic duty lesson

I think a great big “Way To Go” is due Bishop DiLorenzo and Bishop Loverde for the fine article in the 10/24 Catholic Virginian. While endorsing a specific candidate is not permitted, it is the right and duty of the Church Hierarchy to point out issues of morality as defined by Church Doctrine. The person from Stuarts Draft, who wrote the letter complaining about the Church speaking on important issues that are facing voters, is missing the fact that it is the duty of the Church to do so, especially when intrinsic evils like abortion and same sex marriage are concerned. How one votes is obviously a private matter. However, there should be no ambiguity whatsoever in the effect or consequence of your choice. In more concise language, if you vote for a person who supports abortion, especially late term abortion, or same sex marriage, then you are supporting the exact same things. You may try to salve your conscience by rationalizing your decision but that does not make it right. You may not like any of the other candidates, but you always have the option of writing someone in or abstaining from voting entirely. – Bob Dubovsky, Prince George

Is the Church being silenced?

In response to objections of CNS article of Sept. 26, “High Stakes For Religious Freedom Seen in Election,” if we have “analysis of issues of concern to Catholics” and this analysis allows for conclusions to certain choices, so be it. It’s for each person to determine. How else can we have a discussion? The way to silence any discussion of the issues has been to label it political. The Church has been silenced this way since the Johnson Amendment was passed many years ago. Since that time, we have seen the incremental decline and erosion of our First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Christians can now lose their business and livelihood if they simply want to not participate in providing same sex marriage services. Not that they don’t serve everyone in every other circumstance, and not that there isn’t another business nearby ready to serve, but rather that they are deliberately targeted for punishment for simply wanting their freedom to choose, as those who want a same sex marriage want their freedom to choose. This is now labeled “discrimination,” but only on the part of the Christians, says the Court. The Court has had such a profound impact as it overturns statewide referendums and changes law instead of interpreting it. It has become our ruler, instead of a servant of a civil society. We vote for those who appoint these judges, and need to remember the impact our vote has. As someone said recently, “Christians have a responsibility to influence the culture around them and vote for Biblical values.” As long as we remain free, we can work to improve our lives and help others. We cannot help ourselves, much less others, if our rights to follow our beliefs and freely discuss important issues continue to be criminalized and regulated out of existence. That is why we must vote.    – Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

Third party candidates another choice

I was pleased to see that the Virginia Catholic Conference website mentioned the third party candidates on our ballot. As Bishop Conley of Lincoln has pointed out, voting third party can be a valuable tool for advancing the common good, particularly when the mainstream parties fail to conform to the Church’s moral vision. I was, however, disappointed to see no mention of the registered write-in candidates in Virginia, among them Michael Maturen and Juan Muñoz of the American Solidarity Party (ASP). ASP stands for the right to life, social justice, local government, care for the environment, and the pursuit of peace, positions that closely accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I think many Virginia Catholics would like to know that such an option exists.    – Dr. Aaron Linderman, Ruckersville

Catholic voters urged to be vigilant

Catholic voters must be vigilant this election season. It is likely that the President that we elect on November 8 (or the Vice President) will, through his or her constitutional power of appointment, shape the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on issues that are central to the Catholic faith for the next generation. Four years ago, I wrote a letter published in The Catholic Virginian reminding Catholic voters that the number of innocent, unborn American children who have lost their lives to abortion since the tragic, misguided 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court was 55.5 million. Since then that number has grown to over 58.5 million. We cannot allow this death toll to continue for another generation. I am very thankful that in recent weeks the Virginia Catholic Conference and The Catholic Virginian have reminded Catholic voters that human life is sacred, that abortion is never morally acceptable, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that the freedom of religion and conscience must be upheld. I am also very thankful that Bishop DiLorenzo has reminded us that the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year-old teaching to the truth about what constitutes marriage remains unchanged and resolute. Catholic voters must investigate the positions of the candidates and their parties on these crucial issues. The 2016 Democratic Party Platform, for example, states “we will continue to oppose and seek to overturn federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion” (p. 37) and “Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender] people “have the right to marry. We support a progressive version of religious freedom that rejects the use of religion to discriminate” (p. 19). Be vigilant. Become informed. Pray for guidance. Vote your conscience.    – Jeffrey A. Sunburn, Crozet

Some Catholic officials want it both ways

As we endure another election cycle the matter of candidates qualifications surfaces. There are some individuals who concern themselves about Catholic representation in official governmental positions. How we yearned for a Catholic President, Catholic Supreme Court Judges, Catholic Congressmen, etc., etc. Well, we have had our wishes granted and what have we got from it? Just look at the Right to Life/Right to Choose matter. Many of our Catholic officials cannot bring themselves to vote against the powerful Abortion/Planned Parenthood element. They stoutly acclaim their “conscience” position against abortion, but they cast their votes supporting both abortion and Planned Parenthood. By their fruits will you know them. Are they hypocrites, or just “practical” politicians who want it both ways? Vote for me because I’m Catholic; don’t worry, my religion won’t influence my vote. Would that they had the same courage as their Jewish fellow lawmakers, who seldom or never will support any legislation which criticizes Israel for its transgressions. So when it’s time to vote, don’t even consider what faith the candidates profess, rather, look at their record. Vote for the one who will represent you and your principles. Watch out for the wolf in sheep’s clothing.    – Robert H. Verbeke, Forest

Appropriate dress for Mass often ignored

Although I wholeheartedly agree with Father Goertz’s letter (The Catholic Virginian, October 10) on the dress code issue in relation to the situations in which he refers, I would like to know his position on the virtue of modesty and blatant irreverence at Mass concerning women who show more cleavage than you could see at the beach, people coming to Mass in shorts and flip-flops like they’re headed to the beach. Other attire includes short-shorts so short that they expose the bottom part of the buttocks, dresses and skirts so high that the underwear is exposed when sitting, tee-shirts with logos saying “Ship Happens” and “Budweiser”, and an assortment of different and equally offensive and disrespectful attitudes and sins toward modesty and reverence. At the same time that we welcome those who show up to Mass in attire that would lend credence to Father Goertz’s assertions, we at the same time must draw the line on the voluntary violations of Mass etiquette.    – Gerald A. Pilley, Chesapeake

Alumni have fond memories of school

Members of the Our Lady of Victory Association in Portsmouth traveled recently to Villa St. Michael in Emmitsburg, Md. to visit with the Daughters of Charity who had taught at Our Lady of Victory School in Portsmouth. This is a visit that “had to happen” as none of us are getting any younger. The Sisters were so delighted and energized by our visit, as were we. We took them scrapbooks of pictures and newspaper articles about Victory, many of them from your archives of The Catholic Virginian. They have so many wonderful memories of OLV, and at their ages could recall names and events that some of us hadn’t thought of in years. The school and church opened in 1930 in Portsmouth with just two grades. The school was so successful that each year a grade was added, and by the late ‘30s a second story was added to the school. The first graduating class was in 1940. The last graduating class of the high school was in 1960, and the elementary school closed in 1964. (The church closed in 1965.) Our Alumni Association was formed in 1978, and one of its goals is to keep the name of Our Lady of Victory alive.  – Cecelia L. Brown, Portsmouth

(Editor: Our Lady of Victory Catholic School was established for black students in the days of segregation in Virginia. It was closed in 1964 to promote racial integration of other nearby Catholic schools.)

Members of Our Lady of Victory Alumni Association who attended Our Lady of Victory School in Portsmouth (now closed) traveled recently to Villa St. Michael in Emmitsburg, MD, to visit surviving Daughters of Charity who taught at the school in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. They also enjoyed a tour of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the Daughters of Charity. In the front row, from left, are Sister Rita Bozel (age 89), Sister Edith Stricker (age 98), and Sister Jane Marie Otterson (age 90). Behind them are, from left, Jacqueline Stewart Brabson, Sandra Cofield, Celestine Scott Aden, Cecelia Livermon Brown, and Cynthia Vines Wilkins. Unable to attend was Sister Linda O’Rourke (formerly Sister Helen Joseph), who taught during the school’s final years in the 1960s, but is now assigned elsewhere.

Members of Our Lady of Victory Alumni Association who attended Our Lady of Victory School in Portsmouth (now closed) traveled recently to Villa St. Michael in Emmitsburg, MD, to visit surviving Daughters of Charity who taught at the school in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. They also enjoyed a tour of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the Daughters of Charity. In the front row, from left, are Sister Rita Bozel (age 89), Sister Edith Stricker (age 98), and Sister Jane Marie Otterson (age 90). Behind them are, from left, Jacqueline Stewart Brabson, Sandra Cofield, Celestine Scott Aden, Cecelia Livermon Brown, and Cynthia Vines Wilkins. Unable to attend was Sister Linda O’Rourke (formerly Sister Helen Joseph), who taught during the school’s final years in the 1960s, but is now assigned elsewhere.

Letters • October 24, 2016

St. Thomas More faced similar dilemma

An exhibit on “The Life and Legacy of Thomas More” is currently being shown at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, and it should remind us of the challenge Catholics face today in upholding our pro-life beliefs against a government that promotes abortion. “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s servant first.” These are the words that Thomas More uttered as he was murdered by King Henry VIII for his refusal to support the King in his abandonment of the Catholic Church. I believe that the pro-life Catholic position on abortion presents a similar situation to us as Catholics. Thomas More was faced with the dilemma of supporting his worldly King’s abandonment of subservience to the Pope—and the teachings of the Catholic Church—for the Church of England. While it ultimately cost Thomas More his life, we are not faced with that consequence. Hence the Thomas More dilemma—do I support abortion and the candidate’s disdain for the teachings of the Catholic Church, or do I support the pro-life teachings, and deeply rooted beliefs in of our faith? While your life is not at risk, much like Thomas More, you must decide whether “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s servant first.” – Garrett Doninger, Penhook

Logic for politicians with immoral laws flawed

The rationale for Catholic politicians supporting abortion rights does not hold water. If a politician personally—and religiously— opposes abortion, he/she should not uphold Roe v. Wade (1973) merely because it is the “law of the land.” What is truly puzzling is why don’t such politicians work to overturn unjust and immoral laws? Given the logic train they use, we would still have slavery in this country today because of the 1857 Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court of the United States which ruled that slavery was legal. Can you imagine a United States today with Dred Scott still in force? That decision, which was the “law of the land,” was eventually overturned because politicians (and citizens) worked to right a grave injustice. What makes this position even more egregious for Catholics holding political office is that the Catholic Church is firmly opposed to abortion.” – Ted Cors, Williamsburg

Issues vary widely in public arena

I have read and reread the article entitled “High stakes for religious freedom seen in election” in the Sept. 26 edition. The byline is that of Tom Tracy, but the content is virtually entirely that of Mark Harrington. No one doubts that the stakes are indeed high. Mr. Harrington’s article, however is riddled with predictions, assumptions and suppositions. I understand what Mr. Harrington is saying, but nothing is substantiated. Where are his valid conclusions? Aside from the fact that I wonder why this article appeared in The Catholic Virginian, I marvel at the naivete of both Mr. Tracy and Mr. Harrington. The stakes are high in other areas: the U.S. Constitution, U.S. position on the world stage, constant warring, poverty, man’s inhumanity to man, drugs, immigrants, refugees, etc. We are all in this together and the issues vary widely. This is not the time for single issue politics and what ifs. It is a time for mature thinking and sane judgment. And, it is a time for prayer. Mother Mary is the patroness of our great nation. Let us all have recourse to her. – Bonnie Tingle, Newport News

Is Church trying to take over the government?

Having read the September 26 issue, in particular “High stakes…” by Tom Tracy on page 5 and the VCC candidate introductions and issue positions on pages 12 and 13, I would like to express my views. As a 76-year-old life long Catholic I have seen our Church evolve and even change in its views and practices. We are a nation of immigrants whether through slavery, various forms of indenture, or personal choice. Therefore we are of different cultures, ideas and personal and religious beliefs. Our founders gave us freedom of religion. In my mind that means the right to have my own views and beliefs, and to practice my religion of choice. It does not give me the right to impose my religious views and beliefs on others. I feel that I have as much religious freedom today as I did 50 years ago. The federal government has not been taking away my freedom of speech or my freedom of religion. What I see is not my government trying to take over my religion, but the Catholic Church trying to take over my government. It is not surprising that taxation of the Church is becoming a question. Please stop telling me which issues should be most important to me. Please stop telling me how to vote. We may not be told who to vote for, but in Catholic material on voting we are being told which issues we must vote against. I can think. I do have a conscience. – Betty Schunke, Stuarts Draft

Article called ‘inspirational’

Having just read “Leaders in me…St. Matthew’s Catholic School (Sept. 26 issue), I am so impressed with this program and how students can grow not only educationally, but also physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if every school, Catholic and public, could adopt this program into their curriculum? I would venture to guess much of the violence and hatred would cease to exist and our schools and children would be safer, happier and healthier. They would get along as children of God and not of chaos and hatred. Thank you for publishing such an inspiration article.  – Dorothy Freeman, Virginia Beach

Tragic events of 9/11 shows courage

In recent weeks as we remembered the events of 9/11 I was easily transported to that fateful morning in 2001. Watching the documentaries about the horrific images from that day and the testimonials from those who survived, and of family members and friends of those who didn’t, brought me to a new appreciation for all that occurred. Such overwhelming violence and suffering and their lingering effects deeply permeate our memories and are readily brought to the surface 15 years later. At the time I remember feeling numb from the obvious disregard for life exhibited by the perpetrators and yet, at the same time experiencing glimmers of hope in those early hours and days gleaned from the stories of individuals risking their lives trying to save others trapped and confused in the devastation around them. Those of us with faith know the story of how one man laid down his life so that all could live. Each week we are reminded of it in Scripture and in the Eucharist and the call to do the same – to live from that place within us where God dwells, sharing with others the gifts we have been given for the good of the other. Certainly many of us never expect to die as Christ did or to encounter the horror of a 9/11, but we are called to the same compassion He demonstrated. We remember those who selflessly ran back into those buildings, ascended the stairs into harm’s way, and assisted others in the long trek down those dark, smoke-filled stairwells seeking the light and the safety beyond it. The greatest lesson of 9/11 for me is witnessing God’s presence lived out in so many that day. In the footprints of their sacrifice a beacon to that call for all of us emerges in the Freedom Tower, looming large in the NYC skyline.  – Patti Peters, Roanoke

Letters • October 10, 2016

CNS article called ‘highly political’

I am writing to express my deep concern that The Catholic Virginian has far crossed the line separating political reporting and analysis of issues of concern to Catholics and political advocacy, by publishing the article “High stakes for religious freedom seen in election,” written by Tom Tracy. In doing so, however, I want to begin by saying that, as a general matter, I greatly appreciate the news and information service that The Catholic Virginian provides, and that I am an avid reader of the paper. The Tracy article is highly political and could legitimately be titled “ALL CATHOLICS SHOULD VOTE FOR TRUMP.” My serious concern and objection is with the over-simplification of the moral complexity faced by Christians in the modern world, including and especially Catholics. The article narrowly centers on a sub-set of the morally complex issues we face, thereby tacitly condoning the policy positions held by some politicians whose names will be on the November ballot who call for outright exploitation, mistreatment, and, arguably, persecution of many classes of people, Catholics included. Tragically and sadly, Tracy ignores basic tenents of Christian charity and truthfulness when he advocates what “Trump has vowed…” Further, it is exceedingly painful for citizens of Virginia to read in the Tracy article published in The Catholic Virginian that Tim Kaine is “…openly anti-religious and anti-Catholic…” This is an exceeding callous and untruthful statement, along the lines of a smear. The Tracy article is more editorial than news and should, at a minimum, be identified as such. It is in stark contrast to the Virginia Catholic Conference’s objective comparison of presidential candidate positions published near the end of the September 26 issue of The Catholic Virginian. In conclusion, please, at a minimum, issue a notice to readers of The Catholic Virginian that Tracy’s article represents political opinion and advocacy, not balanced and objective reporting of issues of concern to Catholics. – Bruce J. Summers, Lexington

Reader bristles over CNS article

I was taken aback by the implicit endorsement of Donald Trump for president in the article “High stakes for religious freedom seen in election” in the September 26, 2016 edition of The Catholic Virginian. Really? This is the man that has been divorced twice and has had at least one affair while married. This is the bigot who wants to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. This is the man that has stated that he isn’t sure he has ever asked God for forgiveness, as he doesn’t “bring God into that picture.” His views fly in the face of Catholic values. With reference in the article to First Amendment rights being threatened, I strongly disagree. The primary impetus behind this argument was the disagreement on coverage of contraception between Christian organizations (not just Catholic) and the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. How does this issue rise to the level of a major threat to First Amendment rights? In any case, a compromise was reached and validated by the Supreme Court to allow female workers to receive cost-free contraceptive coverage without infringing on the religious rights of church-based employers. I commend The Catholic Virginian for publishing the positions of Clinton and Trump in the same edition.  John Byrne, Richmond

(Editor: The Catholic Virginian has not endorsed any political candidate in the presidential election. The article to which Mr. Summers and Mr. Byrne refer was from Catholic News Service.)

Vote for candidate with USCCB guidance

The signs are going up all around the state. People are choosing their candidates for the upcoming presidential and legislative elections. I would like to remind the Catholics living here that the United States Catholic Bishops provide a guide called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship and can be downloaded from their website, USCCB.org. In a nutshell, there are four things to consider, from most important to lesser importance, and they are: the dignity of human life (the unborn especially who have no rights unless they are given life); subsidiarity (this means defending marriage as a faithful union between one man and one woman; no matter what any politician says, this has always and will always be the teaching of the Catholic Church, because it comes from God); the common good (care for the poor around the world) and solidarity, (an end to imprudent war, persecution of religious and racial minorities, and the pursuit of peace, justice and the dignity for all people.) Don’t just vote for a candidate because you always vote that party. Find the candidates that best represent what the bishops teach is our responsibility as faithful citizens.  Marilou Schindler, Natural Bridge

Catholic politicians violate teachings

I agree with Robert Dubovsky’s comments in his letter in the August 29th issue on Catholic politicians that publicly support gay marriage and abortion. It is long overdue for our Church leaders to take a firm unequivocal stance with these men and women. While these politicians are not in direct violation of Canon 1398, which deals with the procurement and participation in an abortion, they are promoting a heretical position. Since these politicians have chosen to allow their public actions to manifest obstinate perseverance in grave sin, they are in violation of canon 915. It is about time for our leaders to make it clear that the Catholic Church cannot and will not permit this type of behavior. Our Church leaders must deny them access to the Eucharist and other sacraments until such time as these politicians publicly recant their past positions and affirm Church teachings.  Thomas T. Verga, Staunton

Catholic politicians seek votes wrongly

I was very taken by David Dubovsky’s letter in the Aug. 29 issue. I was also impressed by an article written by a priest and published in the Wall Street Journal. He related that many Catholic elected officials of both parties who say they are privately against abortion. Then in the next breath they say they will fight to the death for a woman to have the right to an abortion. To keep that right and fund the clinics, they want you to vote for them. The politicians also seek a lot of money from groups favorable to abortion. It’s not about children, it’s about money. All the politicians are doing is rent seeking. In the spring of this year Vice President Joe Biden was awarded an honorary degree at Notre Dame University. The local bishop (Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend) said he would not attend because of Mr. Biden’s stand on abortion. So the Archbishop of Washington stood in for him. These actions, on top of the sexual scandals, just continue to erode the clergy’s moral authority in the U.S. The clergy cannot shake our hands in Washington in January and let the politicians walk over us morally the rest of the year.  William P. Sharkey, Midlothian

(Editor: Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was celebrant and homilist at the May 14, 2016 Notre Dame Baccalaureate Mass, but he did not attend the commencement ceremony the next day at which both Vice President Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner received the Laetare Medal, Notre Dame’s highest honor.)

Parents dedicated to Catholic schools

In response to the commentary in the September 12 issue of The Catholic Virginian entitled “Hooray for Catholic Schools!,” I agree that Catholic schools in the Richmond Diocese are doing a tremendous job of both educating and reinforcing the Christian values that we as parents try to instill in our children. While it may be true that some parents can be described as “complainers,” it is my experience that the vast majority are not. They simply want the best schools possible not only for their children but for their posterity. This is evidenced by the significant number of parents who volunteer their time, energy, money and talents, however small or large, to the various Catholic schools within the diocese. Collectively, without the efforts and devotion of these parents working with administrators and teachers, our schools could not be nearly as successful. Perhaps instead of dedicating commentary to the few parents who complain without offering solutions, there should be praise for the contributions of the many parents who volunteer as homeroom moms and dads, coaches, school ministry leaders, HSA members, school board members, booster club parents, concession stand workers, etc. who are dedicated to ensuring and preserving the success of the Catholic educational experience. To that I think we all can say, “Hooray.”.  Michael Russell, Roanoke

Dress code for Mass would cause problem

Both the parishioner in their inquiry about dressing for Mass, and Fr. Kenneth Doyle in his response in the Sep. 26 issue of The Catholic Virginian, demonstrate the best of intentions. Above all, they demonstrate a reverence for Christ in the Eucharist, of which we sorely need more. How can this respect for Christ’s gift of Himself be balanced with Christ’s call to be poor and to serve the poor? Our parishes must be places where all people, regardless of their income or social status, can gather together to worship God. What about the battered woman who escaped her abusive husband with little more than an old sweatshirt, and came to Mass looking for strength? What about the migrant worker who only owns several pairs of tattered work jeans, who came to Mass to fight his loneliness? I cringe to think that our parishes might turn away such people who desperately need Christ’s love, for merely a superficial reason. Even an unwritten expectation is dangerous. A struggling college student might come to Mass looking for answers to existential questions. If the folks around her in starched shirts righteously glared at her because her tattoos were visible, this would encourage her to seek love and acceptance elsewhere. This attitude has no place in a parish that evangelizes. We need to meet people where they are on their journey, not where we wish they were. Pope Francis recommends that our parishes be like field hospitals, where all people can come to be healed by our Divine Physician. Scripture reveals that God is more concerned with a contrite heart and humble spirit than with the state of our wardrobe. Without question, society could do with greater reverence for Christ. Yet I fear that parish dress codes, either explicit or implicit, would create a far bigger problem than the one they intend to solve.  Fr. Jonathan Goertz, Pastor Sacred Heart, Danville

Letters • September 12, 2016

‘Rush to judgment’ said to ignores facts

I felt a need to respond to Dr. Mazzarella’s letter (cv, 8/29/16) in which he attributes a lack of sympathy on the part of the Catholic News Service when reporting on the killing of black youths by police. He writes that CNS’s reporting on Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, Mo. concentrated not on the “questionable” nature of this killing but only on expressing sympathy for the police facing the protests that followed the killing. There was nothing “questionable” about the findings of the Missouri grand jury nor that of a separate investigation by the Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General Eric Holder. Both of these investigative bodies agreed that the police officer involved in Michael Brown’s death acted reasonably and justifiably during the encounter with a threatening Brown. (As an aside, the “hands up, don’t shoot” incident never happened; it was a fabrication of Brown’s companion at the scene). Dr. Mazzarella’s rush to judgement in the Alton Sterling shooting is deplorable. He writes, as fact, that Sterling was shot multiple times “while he was complying with police instructions.” In this confrontation with Sterling, Baton Rouge police were not dealing with a 16-year-old juvenile. Court records show that Alton Sterling was a 37-year-old black man with over 20 criminal arrests plus a like number of probable cause affidavits, including one where he resisted arrest while in possession of a firearm. During the encounter, the firearm fell from his waistband. Sterling was a registered sex offender, convicted of having carnal knowledge of a 14-year-old girl. I agree with Dr. Mazzarella that “as Catholic Christians, we have the responsibility to talk and work to make liberty and justice a reality for all…,” but we must be careful in doing so that our zeal does not cause us to exaggerate supposed injustices. – Frank Solari, Richmond

Woman’s claim of racism doesn’t add up

Ms. Ferebee’s story in the article on the panel discussion dealing with racism (Aug. 29 issue) is a classic example of making much ado of nothing and why race relations do not improve. She stated that members of the Ku Klux Klan gather in a parking lot a half a mile away and it made her feel “unsafe.” How does Ms. Ferebee know that there are members of the KKK gathering in the parking lot? Are they wearing hoods? Or is it just rumor and innuendo? And it is 2016, not 1956, and in 2016 any regular gathering of the KKK is closely watched by law enforcement, the news media and usually a legion of anti-Klan protesters. And it should be stated again that the alleged KKK gathering was HALF A MILE away. How would she know they were gathering that particular night at all? Also Ms. Ferebee says she was walking after midnight and felt unsafe. Doesn’t everyone feel a little bit unsafe walking after midnight? If a white female said that she felt unsafe because she knew there was a gathering of black men half a mile away, she would be justifiably ridiculed and accused of being a racist. Even if the alleged gathering of the KKK occurred, nothing happened to Ms. Ferebee. She was not attacked or threatened. She just felt unsafe. How is she a “victim of bigotry?” If Ms. Ferebee gets a rude remark, a mean look, or poor service at a restaurant from a white person this doesn’t make it racism. Sometimes people are just rude, mean or just a lousy waiter. There are real racial problems, but Ms. Ferebee’s story isn’t one of them. – Jay Smigielski, Virginia Beach

Do some get ‘free ride’ to Catholic High?

We are hearing much about Catholic education in our diocese with the retirement of Annette Parsons and Francine Conway and the likely establishment of a Cristo Rey high school. But we aren’t hearing much about a hidden policy of athletic scholarships and the impact of non-Catholic athletes in our Catholic high schools. I refer specifically to Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia Beach where 20 football players transferred this season from Ocean Lakes High School when their coach received a new position there. These athletes, and ones that have been recruited in the years before them, pay $50 a month to attend Bishop Sullivan. I have several problems with this. First, Bishop Sullivan says it does not offer athletic scholarships, and, on their website, it says that only one source of funding is offered to non-Catholics – the diocesan McMahon Parater Fund. Don’t we members of the diocese contribute to this fund with the Bishop’s special collections? I know of plenty of smart young Catholics who would love to attend Bishop Sullivan for $50 a month – some of whom might possibly become future priests for the diocese. But that low cost door is not open to them. These athletes are attending Bishop Sullivan for athletic reasons only, and their sights are already set on getting athletic scholarships to colleges. I dare say that these athletes have little interest in a “Catholic” education per se. It would appear that these athletes get to bypass some normal entrance criteria, and I question the influence they might have on other serious students. Finally, what does this athletic recruiting do to other long standing Catholic students already enrolled who might want to play a sport, but the positions are already filled? How important are athletics to a Catholic high school? How many non-Catholics – those who have little interest in the Catholic faith or even a Catholic education are we going to give free rides to before we draw the line?  – Russell James, Virginia Beach

(Editor: Dennis Price, principal of Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School, responds:) There is no hidden policy of athletic scholarships. * All students, including athletes, who desire financial assistance must complete a financial aid application. Financial aid decisions are made on an individual basis and require confidentiality. Some athletes (and non-athletes) pay the full amount of $12,330 ($13,560 for non-Catholics); others may have minimal payments based on their families’ financial standing. The statement that all transfer athletes are paying $50 a month to attend Bishop Sullivan CHS is categorically false. * As a school with a high enrollment of children of military service members, we draw students from all over the world. In a typical school year, we have 25 to 35 transfer students enroll in our school. We have never had more than 13 transfer students from one particular school, including this year. * In hiring an accomplished high profile coach, it is understood that athletes would want to play under his guidance. * No faculty member, coach, or staff member is involved in recruiting students from other high schools. * Catholic students who would like to attend Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School should first apply for admission and then fill out the Facts Grant-in-Aid application and our scholarship application. If they have need, help is available. * No Catholic student who qualifies for aid has ever been denied funds because of athletes transferring in from other schools. * Bishop Sullivan CHS receives assistance from our local Catholic parishes and a variety of alumni and community-supported funds to help offset the cost of tuition. In addition, we sponsor a scholarship competition for both incoming and current students. At Bishop Sullivan CHS we make every attempt to make our school affordable for students to receive a college preparatory education rooted in the teachings of the Church. We are extremely grateful for the support of our community. * At Bishop Sullivan CHS, all students have an equal chance for a position on an athletic team or in an extracurricular activity. High school is a highly competitive arena. Our school offers over 40 sports teams and clubs to ensure that there is an activity available for each student. * What is the impact of these non-Catholic athletes in our Catholic high school? So far, we have found them to be rooted in their various Christian faiths, extremely grateful to be at Bishop Sullivan, and willing to work hard. Their coach insists on their excellent behavior and thoughtfulness. After our weekly liturgy Tuesday, several of our non-Catholic athletes shook Father Beeman’s hand and thanked him for saying Mass. These students add to the strength of our community. * We are an authentically Catholic college preparatory school. The implication that non-Catholics are changing our mission, curriculum, or admission standards is incorrect. Athletes do not bypass normal entrance requirements. An admission committee reviews the application of each grade 10-12 applicant. The review process includes rigorous entrance exams (normed on our own students), current grades and discipline records, access to all social media accounts, interviews with the family and the applicant, and recommendations from current teachers. For years, all of our printed materials have stated that Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School welcomes students of all faiths and does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, national or ethnic origin. It is no less true today.

Letters • August 29, 2016

CNS article said to lack sympathy for black lives

The Catholic News Service report on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri concentrated not on the questionable nature of the killing of a black youth by a white policeman but only on expressing sympathy for the Police facing the protests that followed the killing. The July 18th edition of The Catholic Virginian featured a CNS report on the recent killings in Dallas, Baton Rouge and St. Paul. Much appropriate sympathy was expressed for the Dallas policemen killed by a lone sniper, a horrifying act. But there was neither sympathy nor understanding expressed for Alton Sterling, shot to death while police had him pinned to the ground, or Alton Sterling, shot multiple times while he was complying with police instructions. These are only some of the most recent examples which show the prejudicial treatment exhibited by too many police of our black citizens. The statement by the Bishop of Dallas that “all lives matter” is true but misses the essential point: in practice and in too many instances in our society we demonstrate that black lives don’t matter as much. As Catholic Christians we have the responsibility to talk and work to make liberty and justice a reality for all, but especially for those who have been deprived of those ideals. There are those who don’t believe that such bias exists. I ask them to talk to their African-American friends about this; it might open their minds which may lead them to open their hearts. – Dr. Mario D. Mozzarella, Newport News

Catholic politicians should uphold Church teachings

This upcoming election (for the White House and Congress) presents another opportunity for Catholics to uphold some very basic tenets of their faith or to further undermine Catholic teachings. The article in a recent Catholic Virginian about VP Biden officiating at a same-sex marriage ceremony brings up a very important question. How can someone, who is supposed to be a practicing Catholic, do something that is expressly forbidden by the Church? We have politicians like Biden, Tim Kaine and Nancy Pelosi, et al, continuously siding with abortion supporters and supporters of gay marriage. Both of these positions are unequivocally wrong according to Church teachings. When asked about their stance on these moral wrongs, these people will say that they are personally against them but… Evidently their faith means less to them then winning votes. There is no difference between them and any Catholic voter who willingly votes for anyone who supports abortion or gay marriage. When they do vote for such individuals, they become facilitators for these travesties. I have spoken with Catholics who said that they can look past the candidate’s stance on these two issues because the candidate supports so many other worthy causes. I ask, what is more worthy than preserving human life or the sanctity of Matrimony? It is better if the voter stayed at home rather than vote for the continuance of these evils. If a Catholic candidate does not have the backbone to stand up for what is morally right as the Church teaches, he or she does not deserve, nor will they ever get my vote.  – Robert Dubovsky, Prince George­­

Catholic school leaders deserve much praise

Thank you for your excellent articles on our now-retired Chief Education Administrator, Annette Parsons, and her colleague, Superintendent of Schools Frankie Conway. With the steadfast support of Bishop DiLorenzo, these two women did an outstanding job in, first, stabilizing the Catholic schools in this Diocese; second, in assessing the considerable strengths of our schools as well as their areas needing improvement, and then embarking on ambitious initiatives to build upon these strengths and plug identified gaps in their programs. I had the good fortune of working closely with Annette over the past eight years as the Bishop established the McMahon-Parater Foundation and authorized us to launch its fundraising programs for the future of our Catholic schools. It was truly Annette’s vision and determination that made McMahon-Parater a reality. She understood that too many families who desperately wanted a Catholic education for their children could no longer afford it. If we were to preserve the Catholic school option, the Diocese would have to take the lead. And under our Bishop and Administrator, the Diocese has now done exactly that. Prior to the establishment of McMahon-Parater in 2008 and then the advent of the Parish Sharing Program, only a negligible amount of financial aid was available for our families in need of help with the tuition. Over the last eight years as McMahon-Parater’s endowment and the Parish-Sharing Program grew, and the Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit Program came online (among other initiatives), the annual financial-aid support for our families from the Diocese and McMahon-Parater has increased to over $3.7 million. Our schools are also receiving greatly enhanced support for their programs and facilities. The results have been the stabilization of our enrollment, the improvement of our school facilities, the strengthening of our educational program, and a refreshing feeling of optimism about the future of Catholic schools in this Diocese. In light of the Bishop’s dedication to our Catholic schools, I cannot say that none of this would have happened without Annette Parsons, but I do know that little of it was happening before Annette Parsons took the helm. As an eye witness to her service and leadership, I can testify that she was the Bishop’s essential agent for making the necessary changes happen. To Annette, on behalf of a grateful Diocese and Catholic school community, thank you  – Charles V. McPhillips Chairman, McMahon-Parater Foundation, Norfolk

Letters • August 15, 2016

Where has the conscience gone?

The DNC (Democratic National Convention) speaker Ilyse Hogue’s story, noting a human life as just not the right time is just wrong. There were probably things that were not right at that time, but what did the unborn child do? What is more disturbing is the vocal cheers in response to the story given while pushing very clearly a pro-abortion agenda. I pray our society will see this for what it is, which is encouraging the taking of a vulnerable human life. To somehow make an unborn baby less than human under the cover of it just being a simple choice is very disturbing. When my wife was pregnant, I saw my children through the ultrasound, I heard their heart beat, I can tell you they were precious and there. Unborn children are real, not an inconvenience. For those that have lost their children during pregnancy, my sympathy and heart goes out to them. For persons just saying this happened and this is not what I wanted, so I am going to end this life, where has conscience gone? – Jeremy Gustafson, Lynchburg

Thanks for Msgr. Keeney’s column on St. Alphonsus Liguori draws praise

Thank you for Monsignor Timothy Keeney’s Believe as You Pray column in the July 18 Catholic Virginian. His praise of The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri has inspired me to recommend two others by the great 18th century author. The first, “Preparation for Death,” is the first of his ascetical works. It gained special meaning to me after I sat with my father when he died peacefully in 2014, and I return to it often. Most sections are short, just two or three pages, but they are loaded with insights that challenge the superficial tenets of our modern culture. The second, “The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ,” expands upon the bare bone accounts in the Gospels to present deep lessons about the Passion. It also provides a powerful explanation of why our loving God sent his only Son to die such a painful and humiliating death. As Monsignor Keeney noted, these books were written over 200 years ago, but their insights are timeless. I highly recommend that folks take a look at them on the Internet. – Joseph Tokarz, Richmond

Anecdotes in commentary leave reader perplexed

I was left perplexed after reading the commentary titled “The dangers of social media,” in the August 1st issue. I agree that the possibility of doing yourself great harm by thoughtlessly posting something you shouldn’t is a very real danger of social media. What I’m struggling to understand is the choice of anecdote used to illustrate this danger. The writer talks about a person who lost her job after posting racist comments to Facebook, and another incident of a young person who lost a scholarship after posting derogatory comments. Surely a Catholic editor writing to Catholic readers isn’t trying to convey the message, “Make sure you keep your racist opinions private for fear of the consequences.” Is the most important lesson here to teach our children, “Don’t be mean to others on a public forum because it could backfire on you?” Social media was the reason the people in question faced consequences for their actions, but surely this was because those actions reflected attitudes that justly deserved condemnation. Using these incidents as examples of the dangers of social media suggests that posting to social media was the more serious error. But as people commanded to love one another as Christ loved us, isn’t it far more important to root out the prejudiced, hateful, and hurtful thoughts in our hearts, rather than just keeping them hidden behind polite manners and defensive silence? – Caroline Tobin, Forest

Police officer questions bias in commentary

I feel compelled to respond to your commentary of July 18, specifically your few paragraphs that reference Mr. Shelton Jones and the police officer that stopped him. I read it this morning and have steadily grown more and more disturbed by your rush to judgment of the officer’s reasoning and why such questions were asked. If Mr. Jones felt the stop was invalid and the questions asked were born from some prejudice of the officer, why wasn’t a complaint made to the department in question or why wasn’t the officer asked why he was asking these particular questions. Your quick rush to judgment has just added wood to the fire that is burning out of control across this nation. I also felt your judgment was beneath the professionalism of your position with the Catholic Virginian. I wonder, have you ever done a ride along with a police officer? Have you received a traffic summons lately that you didn’t agree with? I have been a police officer for over 21 years and have loved my career. All the domestics, fights, gun fights, execution of high risk search warrants, deaths, overdoses, traffic stops, child abuse complaints and more that I have been involved in, I have found one common denominator  and it isn’t race or gender,  it’s that you are missing in action on each one. I wouldn’t dare try to tell you how to be an editor and/or reporter so my advice to you is try to be a little more investigative before you pass judgement on an officer, especially when those that read The Catholic Virginian think you have a handle on this racial profile thing. How about showing your unbiased opinion by printing this?  – Sr. Cpl. Christopher A. Hake, Hampton Police Division, Hampton

(Editor: We checked with Mr. Jones, the St. Elizabeth’s parishioner who was stopped by a Richmond police officer as he pulled into the church parking lot. He says the article accurately described the incident and exchange between the two men. It ended peacefully with both men going their separate ways. Mr. Jones pointed out that he has several friends among the Richmond and Henrico police “who I know by name and who have visited my home when they’re not in uniform.” He says he has the highest regard for police officers, but “only one or two sometimes go outside the reservation.” We are including the final paragraph from the commentary in question: “And in fairness and respect for all, in light of the recent killings in Dallas, let us pray for the safety of all police officers and emergency responders. We are grateful for their presence and protection.”)

New postulant grateful for parish farewell

I wanted to say thank you for the wonderful article you wrote on my behalf (“Nurse and mother to joyfully enter religious order,” Aug. 1 issue). You did a great job with the history and all the facts I gave you. I was very flattered! I arrived at the convent yesterday, after a six-hour battle with driving in traffic. The sisters were full of smiles and had lots of hugs to spare. I was so happy to arrive “home.” They practically forced me to go to bed early and let me sleep late as well. I was exhausted not just from the drive, but from two weeks of giving and donating things to empty my household. You know, the funniest thing about giving everything away was how much I enjoyed doing so. I knew that those things were going to go to people who really needed them. Hopefully, it will bring them some comfort or joy. Giving up Skipper (my dog) was the hardest thing to do, but I know that he is adapting very well and he is making his new owner very happy. Father Dan (Beeman, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Norfolk) was so kind my last week at Holy Trinity. He told a brief story about what I was doing and had me come forward for a special blessing. I was in tears and so were my friends. On Tuesday at my last daily Mass, he told me that all of them loved me, wished me well and whether I came back or stayed in, they would still love me! I got more hugs than I could count and gifts and money and tons of love. I was definitely overwhelmed at the parish response. So, Saturday, the three of us are being “received” into the community. We will wear our postulant outfits and get our veils to get us through the next six months. I will keep you in my prayers of thanksgiving for your generosity and kindness in the article you wrote. Take care and my God continue to bless you with many more vocational stories! In Jesus, Joseph and Mary.  – Lynn M. Brooks, Washington, D.C.

Watching political conventions difficult

Watching the presidential primaries and conventions, it is obvious that a segment of our country is passionate about their politics, or more appropriately, their politics are their passion. Despite glimpses of what many of us might list in this category as family, love, faith, work, patriotism and God, a good number of our fellow citizens seem to have the 2016 presidential election as the main focus of their lives. During our national conventions when one might expect a time of affirmation and showcasing of that party’s nominees and their plan for America and her citizens, we were exposed instead to name-calling, flag-burning, peaceful and not so peaceful protesting, and surprisingly at one, the disruption of a moment of silence for fallen police officers. For those of us wanting to be inspired and to feel hopeful as to a unified and peaceful country moving forward, it was a difficult two weeks. Add to that are the endless Facebook postings by supporters generally advocating their candidate by angry, often vicious attacks on the other. We are a diverse, multi-cultural people in this country, so we can’t expect everyone to think the same, to react the same or to feel the same about any one topic or person. Our freedoms allow us to disagree with one another as long as we are accountable for them, while our faith demands that we treat one another with respect. Now that the primaries and the conventions are over these candidates have the money, time and resources to make their case to the American people as to why they deserve to lead our country. This is for them to do, not us. Our job, in my opinion is to listen, prayerfully consider and then vote.  – Patti Peters, Roanoke

Letters • August 1, 2016

Reader critical of CV commentary

The writer of the commentary in the July 18, 2016 issue of The Catholic Virginian takes two anecdotal stories, and uses them to support his position that policing and the justice system are inherently racist; as a letter to the editor this would be excusable, but writing on behalf of the newspaper his comments do nothing to advance a real discussion of these issues, and in light of recent attacks on police personnel was ill-advised. The writer has had no discussion with the police officer in the first example, so we don’t know why Mr. Jones was stopped; the implication of the commentary is that it was racially motivated. Do we know if a crime had been committed in the area? Was a similar vehicle observed during the performance of a crime? Like the writer, most of the readers of this newspaper, myself included, find it sad that an upstanding member of the community could have been stopped solely because of his color, and absent any of the other circumstances above, we would share his concern, but we just don’t have enough information to make that decision. As regards the alleged disparate treatment before the judge in the second example, the writer takes great pains to identify that she is both white, and high-ranking, yet tells us nothing about the other people’s race and what type of work they do, and what kind of financial resources they have, if he even knew. What is worse, is that the writer portrays her ability to escape court with only a fine and a lawyer’s bill as a result solely of her color and affluence; if this is true, we should all be concerned. However, what we don’t know is the previous driving histories of all of the people in the example, including frequency and severity of the violations, etc., and anything else that may have been germane to their individual cases. The writer closes with the comment that there is a disconnect in our society, as if this is a fact, and ignores that there is a wealth of data available from the US DOJ and others that would inform a different opinion. A commentary is the wrong place for this discussion. – Stephen Cady, Charlottesville

Letters • July 18, 2016

Reader thanks all for Holy Year pilgrimage

I want to thank the Diocese of Richmond for sponsoring the Holy Door Pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Sacred Heart in Richmond and the Basilica of St. Mary in Norfolk. The pilgrimage was led by Deacons Frank Nelson, Charles Williams and Mary Harris, who made sure everyone was safe and counted for during the entire trip. We learned brief histories of both places, crossed the doors of mercy, prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and more. We were treated to hot meals for lunch at the pastoral center in Richmond before leaving for the Basilica in Norfolk. At the Basilica, we were welcomed by the parishioners, celebrated the Mass with the choir that provided exuberant and beautiful music, and treated to a scrumptious dinner after Mass. Father Jim Curran, pastor, welcomed us pilgrims and his homily was so moving and inspiring. We could tell how much he enjoyed his ministry. We later found out that usually there is no choir music on Saturdays but the choir came and sang especially for us that day! You rocked! I did not know what to expect before I went but it was worth my having gotten up at 3:30 in the morning to drive from Roanoke for the event. I hope the Diocese will have many more events like this in the future. – Anna Yu, Roanoke

Does God’s love extend to everyone?

In a June 13 statement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced: “Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is.” Apparently, what was also unspeakable was any mention that the massacre occurred in a gay night club and that most of those murdered and injured were gay. Forty-nine precious humans gone in an instant, 53 others wounded and our Church cannot fathom uttering the word “GAY.” For thousands of years, we followers of Jesus have demonized homosexuals. We find justification for our hatred in both the Old and New Testaments. Conveniently, we also rationalize that when it comes to gay men and women we can ignore the second of the Great Commandments to love our neighbor. In our Church culture, homosexuals have become our modern day equivalent of the Samaritan. Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg got it right: “Sadly, it is religion, including our own, which targets ‘mostly verbally’ and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.” Almost immediately, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami strongly rebuked Bishop Lynch, citing him as “one bishop who should know better.” Days later, Pope Francis stated that “the Church must apologize to gay people for marginalizing them.” Given the Holy Father’s comments, perhaps the Archbishop will amend his comments to read “two bishops who should know better.” At a Catholic Church sponsored memorial service in Orlando, a speaker offered the view that there are far too many people who do not believe that God’s love extends to those of His children who are gay. A friend, who was pondering why there are gays, could provide neither a biblical nor a science-based answer. The fact is that, as yet, neither theologian nor scientist has provided a definitive answer. However, for now, he remains content to faithfully embrace the wisdom of his grandmother who taught her family to judge no one and to love all “because ‘God doesn’t make trash.’” Has the Church ever engaged science in an effort to unlock the mystery of why God, who we believe created us in His image and likeness, created humans of all kinds? Until science can provide the answer, I am endorsing grandma – and trying my best to live life according to the Great Commandments. All of God’s creations are worthy of His love – and ours.  – Peter O’Connor, Virginia Beach

Church scolded for taking political positions

In response to Father Doyle’s column that answers the question “Can a priest promote a liberal political agenda?”(July 4 issue), the real question that should be answered is: Should the Church promote a liberal political agenda? Or better yet, should the Church take non-religious-related public policy positions at all? Father Doyle says that the Church supports a living wage but conservatives and many economists don’t agree with this policy because they believe raising the minimum wage will lead to job losses and higher unemployment followed by more dependence on government. With regards to helping the poor, sick and the elderly, the Church should be doing that instead of lobbying government to do it. Constitutional conservatives do not believe the Constitution gives government the authority to tax for the purposes of giving the money to others (as opposed to taxing for public purposes such as building roads and paying police and firefighters). Once it is decided that the government can tax for the purpose of giving money to others, the determination of who should get money from the government is what causes large campaign contributions, crony capitalism and government corruption. The Church should stop taking political positions because it is forcing members to choose between the Church and what they think is best for America. Church members are much less likely to tithe if the Church is working against their political beliefs. – Rick Kurek, Yorktown

Letters • July 4, 2016

Jesus’ mercy said ‘powerful medicine’

The writer of a letter to the editor (Mr. John Stec, June 6 issue) is concerned about too much mercy. Here’s the problem. Sober believers might consider it a grave, maybe even unforgiveable sin, to equate God’s mercy with condoning sin. In Jesus’ parable, the generous father didn’t know every foolish thing his son had done after leaving home. Those actions were not what pierced his heart. His heart ached, rather, over the absence of his son from home and family. If the generous father finally took his son aside for a scolding, the parable does not say. It goes to great lengths, though, to tell us the father’s first action was to wrap his returning son in love. Mercy is a powerful medicine. Judgment without mercy, rightly labeled as condemnation, is a toxic brew. It is one thing to hold back medication, another to administer poison and call it a cure. The Holy Father is not a feckless minstrel asking us to dance a tune with mercy as the solitary note. To quote his anthem faithfully, he wisely urges us to discover the grace-filled power of divine mercy: “How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy? We have to put mercy before judgment.” (Homily before opening the Holy Door of Mercy, Dec 8, 2015) – Father Pat Apuzzo, Henrico

World’s problems need people of faith

When I was growing up extending until recently I believed there was nothing worse than the violence of the Old Testament and the putting to death of our Savior. Even now, Jesus’ Crucifixion, and the demeaning that preceded it, represents the ultimate horribleness. But, given the events around the world and within our own country just in the past year, I think we have surpassed the evil run amok of our ancestors. And what is truly worse is the feeling it is getting worse – growing unchecked – which brings the feeling of hopelessness. What is there to do? How can I, how can we possibly restore civility, kindness, selflessness, dignity and sanity to our world? As I listened to the readings this Sunday morning, I heard of individuals being called … and following. It wasn’t in huge groups of people but in personal, individual invitations to a Life in Christ. They, probably less than we do because of hindsight and formation, knew so much less about what this journey would entail – what was required and expected to be considered a disciple. And yet, they went – one by one making a personal choice, a commitment to the promise of a Life beyond this one … a Life in God. It occurred to me that the Scriptures were similarly calling me to follow Christ, instead of my anxious waiting for someone else to come rescue us from the mess we have made. Our world’s problems, our nation’s issues seem so incredibly huge – a daunting task it seems to return it to a Life in the Spirit. We face times seemingly devoid of viable choices, resulting in feelings of hopelessness and oppression, evoking responses often aggressive, mean and violent from those who see no other way out. But those of us gifted with Faith, called as our ancestors were, need to point to and work toward an alternative way for solving life’s problems – for freeing those shackled and oppressed – for living a Life in and from the Spirit, not one stymied by our own self interests. I often need reminding that this journey is about the Life we will live with God someday, not about my fretting over things of this world. Why do I give them so much importance in my life? Maybe the answer is prayer – for discernment, for strength, for the courage to get out there and try. The answer I believe is the world on its knees … and one nation under God.   – Patti Peters, Roanoke

Implementing Laudato Si?

In the June 6th publication of the CV, Fr. Doyle was asked if we parishioners should be looking for something from our bishops and priests regarding the implementation of the encyclical, “Laudato Si.” Fr. Doyle responded by naming various actions we parishioners can take. However, he did not address the question about our bishops and priests leading the way. He made reference to the document issued by the Ottawa Diocese, “Care for God’s Creation; a Guide for Parishes,” which suggested that parishes form “green teams” that would be responsible for environmental stewardship in the parish, that Catholic teaching on the environment be incorporated into homilies and that the parish consider such measures as an energy retrofit program and an investment in solar panels. My concern is that he had to go to Canada to find an example of the action that a diocese is taking. If our bishops and clergy along with Parish Councils assumed leadership in this area, giving direction, cooperation and support to the implementation of the encyclical, all the efforts suggested in Ottawa would be addressed and more. The bishops and priests have much influence over what happens in a parish! Hopefully, the question presented by the writer will soon receive an answer through the programs and actions our dioceses take. – Ed Marroni, Norfolk

(The following letter to Barbara Hughes over a recent column is being published with the permission of its writer, Ralph Connelly:)

Dear Barbara, Rarely do I feel compelled to express my opinion about an article or opinion piece I read in the newspaper. But in this case I really feel that I want to let you know how I reacted to your piece in the June 6 Catholic Virginian (entitled) “Nature: A Unique Library.” That reaction pretty much goes something like: “YEAH! Barbara! Right On!” Yes, you really touched a chord close to my heart. The importance of children being exposed to the beauties of nature, the spiritual refreshment that can come from being in the outdoors, the glory of God and His love as revealed through the natural world he created; these are all things that I have believed and felt deeply for many years. A number of years ago, I was visiting my friend, Fr. Luke Uhl, in Denver, Colorado. As we looked out on the Rocky Mountains, rising high above some low lying clouds, he remarked, “Ralph, how can anyone look at this beauty and not believe that there is a God? “Animals do not appreciate beauty. God created this beauty for us, mankind, to enjoy.” Rarely do I feel closer to God than when I am out in His nature. Your article captured many of my thoughts. I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for writing it. – Ralph Connelly, Virginia Beach

Letters • June 6, 2016

40 Days of Life has many stories

A prayer of praise left my heart as I heard one of my students tell another in a nonchalant way that “one girl changed her mind and decided to have her baby.” As part of his service project, this student had volunteered during the 40 Days of Life campaign at the Planned Parenthood in Virginia Beach. Later, I thought of how our politically correct society has distorted our outlook on life. After all, Michael’s actions had saved a life! Where was the celebration? For example, let’s say Michael saved that same child’s life from a burning house one year later. A cute little baby who will go on to live a full life because a college student stepped out of his comfort zone and reached out to save a baby. News reporters would flock to cover the story and grateful, teary eyed parents would say they owe everything to this brave young man. Social media would light up with posts of pictures of Michael and the baby. That week, Michael could be David Muir’s “Person of the Week” on ABC News. But Michael did not save a baby from a burning house. Michael saved a baby from abortion. Michael showed courage by standing in front of an abortion clinic and praying while ignoring the passing cars with drivers or passengers yelling obscenities at him. No reporters scrambled to interview Michael and he did not get a million Facebook likes. Instead some of his friends said “nice job” while others probably responded negatively. This is only one story from this year’s 40 Days of Life. I know there are many Michaels out there humbly trying to save the lives of babies and there are other success stories out there. Along with Michael, you are my heroes and my “Persons of the Week.”  – Jeanne Johnson, Norfolk

Should we ignore sinners in Year of Mercy?

A September 2015 Pew Research Center study revealed that over 50 percent of American Catholics believe it’s OKAY to contract, remarry without a nullity declaration (annulment), and romantically live with a partner outside of marriage. Other surveys indicate a very high percentage of young adult Catholics believe gay “marriages” are OKAY. None of the above are considered sins? Pope Francis has the Church in a Year of Mercy. Forgiveness is a cornerstone of mercy. Are unrepentant sinners always forgiven by God? Do we show mercy to those in egregious sin by ignoring them? Do we tell them God loves them “unconditionally”? Didn’t God remind us of our responsibility to warn wayward souls in Ezekiel 3:18-21? Our work is to save souls from hell and bring them to Jesus. This is real love. I suspect working to keep souls from marching lockstep into hell would be considered an act of mercy. May God give us courage and guide our efforts in the public forum. And may we always have the good fortune to have someone care enough to correct us when we stray.  – John Stec, Covington

Ground burial needs diocesan promotion

Regarding the article on “Catholic burial concerns spark new diocesan office” in the May 23 issue, I am aware that there are several parishes which have a columbarium for cremation niches. However, it is disappointing (and I would add now, too, a dereliction of duty) that our diocese appears to be pushing cremation over in-ground burial, at least in this (Eastern) vicariate. I am aware that a number of years back the Church approved cremation, but it certainly did not recommend it above burial. In the 100 miles between Richmond and Norfolk, Catholics have no choice of local burial unless in a memorial park with the gravesite blessed. Am I alone in this observation?  – Tom Galayda, James City County

Editor: The Diocese of Richmond is not promoting cremation over in-ground burial. Bishop DiLorenzo has approved a new diocesan initiative which calls for the hiring of a director for the newly created Office of Cemeteries. The initiative is to make sure that the 24 parish and regional cemeteries are in good financial condition as well as other burial options. Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Palmyra three weeks ago had the dedication of a new cemetery on church grounds. As a sign that in-ground burial is being encouraged, the new cemetery has room for 1,000 burial plots and the columbarium has 204 niches in two structures.

Letters • May 23, 2016

Georgetown should not uphold abortion

Steve Neill’s May 9 column, “Slavery at Georgetown,” was hard to read. It is gut-wrenching to learn that a Jesuit institution of higher education could own plantations with slaves and sell them in such a callous manner. The current administrators of Georgetown are right to denounce this episode in the university’s history. But before they get too self-righteous in their denunciation of their predecessors’ actions, they should examine their own policies concerning abortion and how close these policies conform to the moral teaching of the Church. It is equally hard to read of the scandals Georgetown is perpetrating in this area. They are just as egregious as the slavery scandal. Abortion and slavery both deny the humanity of certain individuals. Slavery treats human beings as property. Abortion considers that fetuses are not human and are expendable. Abortion is the slavery of our time. But Georgetown inconsistently deplores the slavery it practiced in the 1800’s while at the same time it supports abortion today. Georgetown invites pro-abortion speakers and awards honorary degrees to such people in defiance of the Bishops’ teaching prohibiting this practice. The university says it is committed to the free exchange of ideas, but apparently some students haven’t been exposed to the authentic Church teaching that abortion is a moral evil. They think abortion is a human right. Georgetown is trying to make amends for its past record on slavery by renaming buildings and considering other means to recompense the descendants of these slaves. Due to the passage of time, such efforts may be largely symbolic. A concrete action Georgetown could take would be to restore its Catholic identity and commit itself to be faithful to Church teaching. In today’s environment of moral relativism, rather than cooperating with evil, Georgetown and its graduates should be a strong influence promoting Christian values in our society.  – Tom Trykowski, Greenville

Capitalism defended as being anti-poverty

In response to “Dorothy Day: Working For A Christian Moral Order” (April 25 issue), Day’s granddaughter described our country’s economy as “a failing capitalistic system that leads people to strive for profit and not social justice.” Principles of capitalism are based on human nature, so they never need to be forced on a people. Participants benefit themselves by filling the needs of their fellow man at the best price. It’s a win win. If they do not do the job, they lose; if they over charge, they lose. It’s a voluntary system embraced by all who want to better their lives and are willing to work hard. It has been a magnet for those around the world who can lift themselves up, no matter their origin or status. Other systems require force and people become servants of the State. We are on our way to this reality now, because interference and distortion of the market by crony capitalism, excessive crushing regulations and special tax treatments that pick winners who buy favors, squeezing out smaller, less “connected” competitors. This is costing jobs, and growth in our economy, hurting working families and future generations. Our young citizens who struggle have never experienced true capitalism, where incentives and opportunity abound, as in our history. It is easy to convince them that capitalism is a failure. What is needed is a revival of free market capitalism – a return to the pure economic system that has lifted more people out of poverty than any in world history. The young should be at the forefront of the effort to purge the corruption that has given capitalism a bad name, and restore our God-given right to the pursuit of happiness. God’s will is to have each person’s unique gifts discovered and used to the fullest. Man’s opportunity to use his intellect and creativity in a free market system must be why God inspired this idea, among others, in our Founders. It is easy to cancel The Catholic Virginian and give up on our Church. But we are the Church. We can instead be thankful for this opportunity for dialogue. To be silent is to agree and enable a minority of misdirected problem solvers to dominate and destroy the hopes for a future with the freedom God has given us, and wills us to keep. .  – Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

Muslim faith pillar rebukes the Trinity

The March 28 issue of The Catholic Virginian had an article on St. Mary Star of the Sea School (Hampton) featuring a presentation of the Muslim culture and Islamic faith by Mr. Ahmad Yusuf. In my Catholic women’s Bible study we have finished studying “Beginning Apologetics 9: How to Answer Muslims” by Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham. It talks about the five pillars of Islam and states specific passages from the Koran, the Islamic sacred book. The first pillar is meant to rebuke Christians for believing in the Trinity which Muslims consider to be blasphemy. I have learned tht the similarities in our religions are great but the dissimilarities are even greater. Each pillar of the Koran’s teaching has many things that are not in the Catholic teaching. One example: In the Koran it teaches that God made man superior to women and a woman’s testimony is only half of a man’s (Sura 2:282). I wonder if in this 8th grade classroom questions were asked regarding the specifics of the Muslim religion? It is true that in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, that we as Catholcis must open ourselves to dialogue with others including the Muslim religion. Isn’t it also true that we should defend our Catholic faith and ask questions of other religions that clearly go against Catholic teachings? This is not hatred or intolerance. I encourage all Catholics to to study the Muslim religion. Two excellent resources are the book “Beginning Apologetics 9: How to Answer Muslims” and Dr. Scott Hahn’s CD talk on the Muslim religion. I hope you will print my letter so that other Catholics will have the opportunity to defend their faith..  – Liz Gill, Richmond

Mr. Yusuf was invited to speak to the 8th grade students in their World History class to share his knowledge and lived experience as a Muslim. He is the parent of a current 7th grader. His wife is Christian and they have sent all three of their children to St. Mary’s and Peninsula Catholic High School over the past 23 years. Throughout that time, both he and she have also been very supportive parents, appreciative of the outstanding faith-based education that their children have received in Catholic schools. Inviting Mr. Yusuf to speak provided a way to respond to the Holy Father’s persistent encouragement “to open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better” (n.23, Misericordiae Vultus).

– Annette Parsons, Chief Administrator Office of Catholic Education

Letters • May 9, 2016

Pastor grateful for help in food pantry

It was with great pride that just recently I heard Pope Francis encourage Catholics throughout the world to engage in some sort of physical act of mercy during this year of mercy. Through the generous and helpful assistance of Bishop DiLorenzo and offices of the Diocese we have been able to do exactly what the Holy Father requested. Some 25 years ago, two very committed individuals (Vi Allen and Ruby Leonard) established an outreach ministry in order to feed the elderly and hungry (at first from their homes). Some 45 Churches in Powhatan formed a coalition to respond, and St. John Neumann did the same thing. We have now successfully united the services of both pantries in a new facility located on our property. Sacrificial gifts from literally thousands of families has enabled this union to bear fruit. Without the support of the Diocese, Bishop DiLorenzo and his staff, we could never have done it! A new facility, with over 2,000 square feet is almost ready. Congratulations to all those who have helped to create The Powhatan Food Pantry, a physical response in mercy toward those in need.  – Rev. Walter G. Lewis Pastor, St. John Neumann Powhatan

Honoring past history requires forgiveness

We are confronted daily with illustrations of our fellow citizens’ injudicious refusal to embrace the shadows of our history, in addition to our blessings, through their insistence upon the removal of memorials to leaders of the Confederacy. Most recently is the effort in Louisiana to remove statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard. All of these leaders made constructive and enduring contributions to our society, despite their darker moments of support for slavery or segregation. Robert E. Lee, after his gracious surrender, strongly supported legislation for the education of African-Americans, and insisted upon expulsion of white racists from his Washington College. Jefferson Davis led ardent efforts at reconciliation between the previously warring factions. Princeton University’s President Eisgruber, in announcing the school’s refusal to remove the name of a predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, from the school grounds, based on his reputed racism, has encapsulated our challenge—to discern our history, indeed our identity, by accepting the paradox inherent in our human condition. Eisgruber has said that we must be willing to “honor people, but be honest about their failings,” lest “we honor nobody.” The Bible provides a fruitful lesson for our perspective of the paradox to be found in ourselves and others through the relationship between Jesus Christ and Peter. The New Testament relates Christ’s question of Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” followed by Peter’s answer (“the Son of God”), and then Christ’s declaration, “So you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” However, a mere four verses later, when Peter dismisses Christ’s foretelling of His death and resurrection, Christ rebukes him, “Get behind me Satan!” Later, as Christ is seized by his killers, Peter denies any association with Him on three occasions. Yet, when the resurrected Christ appears to His apostles, he asks Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” And Peter answers thrice in the affirmative, concluding, “Lord, you know that I love you.” Peter’s ultimate professions are made so very much stronger by what has gone before. We may infer from the Bible that the failings of those we honor don’t detract from our memorials to them. In fact, they embolden those tributes, when clothed with our ability and willingness to forgive, and to recognize the redemptive and loving power of human shortcomings. – Hartwell Harrison, Richmond

Legion of Mary seeks to evangelize

The officers and members of the Legion of Mary, Richmond Curia, would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to Father Gerald F. Musuubire for inviting us to hold this year’s Acies celebration at Sts. Peter & Paul Church in Palmyra and for concelebrating at Mass. We also thank Father David Stanfill for being our main celebrant and for his beautiful homily and Father Tom Collins, our spiritual director, for leading us in prayer. It was another memorable event enjoyed by approximately 100 participants (spiritual directors, active members, auxiliary members and guests) who all renewed their promise to be faithful to their mission in this beautiful ministry, the Legion of Mary. While we hear many talks about the New Evangelization and serving the marginalized, the poor and the sick and the forgotten, the Legion of Mary has been doing the works ever since its inception in 1921 in parishes around the world in over 170 countries. The approximately 4 million active members support their parish priests through the spiritual works of mercy such as visiting the homebound and the sick, bringing Jesus to people in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons, evangelizing, educating and bringing people back to the sacraments and into the Catholic faith community. Many auxiliary members support our ministry through their daily prayers. The two-fold mission of the Legion is to sanctify its members and to evangelize. We bring Jesus to the people and the people to Jesus through Mary. For more information of how we can help our Parish priests in their pastoral work, please contact Helga Fallis, president, Richmond Curia, at 434-589-1668 or send e-mail to helga.marysgarden@yahoo.com  – Helga Fallis, Palmyra

Letters • April 11, 2016

Predators need to be removed

The grand jury report from Altoona-Johnstown Pa. detailing hundreds of incidents of clergy sexual abuse is appalling. It seems as there is a never ending trail of betrayal by clergy who do this and by diocesan leaders to cover this up. Bishop Bartchak does a good job of asking parishioners not to feel abandoned or to forsake the church. But I ask where is Bishop Bartchak’s call out to the victims? Where is a simple statement of remorse on the part of the church? It seems that again and again the clergy and leaders minimize the responsibility of allowing this to have happened and then to continue to happen. It saddens me for the victims that apparently there has been no public “mea culpa” offered to these innocents. I hope that this does happen. I hope the diocese in Pennsylvania fully admits to the acts of terror that it inflicted on these church members. Finally, I hope the diocese itself pushes for legal action against the perpetrators, removes from the priesthood those who committed this and those who concealed this. In our society today sexual predators are charged, convicted and incarcerated for their offenses. Should this not also be true of the priests who committed the crime and also those who concealed the crimes?  – Carl R. Ackerman, Woodford

Catholic parishes respond in aid to tornado victims

On March 2 at 3:30 p.m. a tornado touched down and devastated the little town of Evergreen, just outside the town of Appomattox. Soon parishioners from Our Lady of Peace in Appomattox, the Knights of Columbus and parishioners from St. Theresa’s in Farmville, Holy Cross and St. Thomas More, both in Lynchburg, Holy Cross Regional Catholic School and St. Victoria’s in Hurt stepped up to help the wounded area. St. Victoria sent funds to Central Baptist Church of Red House, Va., which lost its roof and had severe water damage. Our Lady of Peace sent funds to Evergreen Baptist and Dr. Chris King who is leading the recovery effort. St. Thomas More also sent funds to Evergreen Baptist along with $2,500 worth of gift cards to those who lost their homes and need supplies. Holy Cross Regional School and Holy Cross parishioners collected van loads of personal sanitary items, non-perishable food items along with batteries and flashlights as both the school and the church partnered with Gleaning for the World. St. Theresa’s in Farmville and the K of C are helping a family who lost their home in the storm. Other individuals also have sent checks to Evergreen Baptist. As one Our Lady of Peace parishioner said, “While seeing the devastation had me crying tears of grief, the Catholic response has brought tears of joy.” I am grateful that our own Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church was not harmed. Let us pray for the recovery of Evergreen, the people who live there and our continued efforts of Christian unity. – Father Jim Gallagher Pastor, Our Lady of Peace Appomattox

Governor’s veto allows abortion funding

Sadly, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed the bill to restrict state funds for abortions, according to the Page 1 story in today’s March 30 Richmond Times-Dispatch. The Governor made the announcement at the Richmond headquarters of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood. Governor McAuliffe’s veto means that Virginia tax funds to pay for abortions in the Commonwealth will continue, including tax payers who respect the dignity and sanctity of human life and those who uphold the right to life as set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Members of the Virginia General Assembly are asked to override the Governor’s veto at the special one day session of the legislators on April 20. – Geline Williams, Richmond

SHINE 2016 called ‘a blessing’

I had the good fortune to attend Shine 2016, Social Ministry Summit at St. Michael’s Church in Glen Allen. The agenda included all of the typical aspects of a conference: registration, breakfast, vendors, keynote speaker, panel discussion, lunch, and breakout sessions. At the end, it also included a significant amount of time for prayer and reflection, offered as Eucharistic Adoration. Many people left before Adoration began. The Summit began early on a Saturday morning, but I am so glad that I stayed! What a special time! My invitation to anyone is to learn about Social Ministry and participate in outreach opportunities offered at your church. Make prayer part of your work. And, if you have not attended Eucharistic Adoration recently, try it now. You too may be surprised by the blessings Jesus gives to you. – Laurie Weeda, Richmond

Letters • March 28, 2016

Reader thanks CV

Thanks to Annie Dixon for a very comprehensive and provocative article (Parish profile on St. Gerard Parish in Roanoke, March 14 issue). With reference to the first Spanish Mass at St. Gerard, I would like to indicate that the Redemptorist Fathers celebrated Mass in Spanish in the 1950s for Mexican Migrant workers, their families and the Cuban boys who lived here in Roanoke at St. Vincent’s Home for Boys. – James B. Keeling, Roanoke

Praying the Rosary for peace suggested

Thank you for sharing Tom Kallus’ excellent article “Looking at Ourselves in America” in the Feb. 15 edition of The Catholic Virginian. While I agree with every word he wrote, I feel that there is something missing and that is: “What are we going to do about it?” Did not our Heavenly Mother Mary ask and beg us in all her apparitions to pray the Rosary for Peace (daily)? And, did not great saints like Padre Pio tell us that “the Rosary is the weapon for our time?” So, if we really believe that “there is strength in numbers,” why do we not get together in all parishes of the Diocese once a week, in great numbers, to pray the Rosary for Peace (maybe after daily Mass or weekend Masses)? Maybe we could all become part of the solution! Dare we ask our Bishop and priests for a call to action? – Helga Fallis, President Legion of Mary Richmond Curia

How can this be?’ is reaction to death

Recently a friend and fellow parishioner died. She was a unique gift to our community and to our lives. Her husband lovingly attended to her every need as she slowly remembered less and less of the details of their adventurous time together. Watching him care for her these past years was such a testimony of their love, and what it meant to be loyal and faithful and merciful— every day, in every moment. When we arrived at her funeral a friend shared the news that this woman’s husband had died the afternoon before from a stroke. What? How could that be? To say we entered that service in a state of shock and disbelief is a gross understatement of our conflicted emotions. It was easy to empathize with our pastor as he struggled to make sense of something that we all knew was beyond our understanding. His heart ached as did ours. As the liturgy progressed my general numbness was replaced gradually with the feeling of being unburdened. The Eucharistic Prayer in the familiar voice of our pastor and the feeling of oneness and belonging it brings at God’s altar reminded me, as it always does, that this journey is about much more than ourselves. Perhaps all of this was just a reflection of God’s mercy. They were inseparable in life and so they are now. As I left that day my heart was overflowing with the awareness of God’s Presence. I prayed that God would give us the courage to live beyond the designated time constraints of the Year of Mercy, seeking that compassion in every corner, around every bend, in every moment and in every person, and then witnessing to it as our friends did, and as our God calls us to do. – Patti Peters, Roanoke

Letters • March 14, 2016

Basic human rights includes those of the unborn

Upon receiving my last issue of The Catholic Virginian dated 2/29/16, I read the headline above and looked with amazement at the photo of our Governor, Terry McAuliffe, praying at Virginia Vespers in the Cathedral. The intention of the Vespers was to seek basic human rights for all. Here is a man who professes to be a Catholic, yet speaks openly about his position on abortion: no restrictions, for any woman, for any reason, at any point in the pregnancy. Yet he stands and prays at Vespers for basic human rights for all? The blatant hypocrisy is stunning! May I pose the question to the Governor: What about the basic human rights for the unborn? Do you not see a conflict in your position on abortion and the doctrine of the Catholic Church, of which you profess to belong, regarding the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death? I do not expect a reply. – Delia F. Laux, Charlottesville

Reader raps CV’s judgment on front page photo

I open my copy of the Catholic Virginian today to see a picture of Virginia’s Governor in a front page picture, attending Vespers at the Cathedral on February 17, 2016. Somehow I cannot reconcile a Governor who stands for Planned Parenthood and abortion rights attending a Catholic service for basic human rights. If the Governor wanted to attend the service, that is his personal right, but to put him on the front page knowing his stance on a basic Catholic principle was poor judgment on your behalf. You have sent a very mixed message. We cannot pick and choose which of God’s children get human rights and which do not. – Susan Yungbluth, Newport News

A pure heart and right motivation don’t need a ‘brick wall’

The front page article in the February 29 issue of The Catholic Virginian describes the Vespers service and the Liturgy of the Hours at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond including a picture and text that identifies only Governor Terry McAuliffe by name. More than once during his election campaign for Governor of Virginia in 2013, Terry McAuliffe is quoted in multiple media sources as saying that he would stand as a “brick wall” against efforts to erode women’s rights to abortion. He also stated that “Planned Parenthood is a strong voice for women in Virginia and was a key partner in my run for governor.” Planned Parenthood, the largest franchise provider of abortion in the United States, reportedly spent $2.4 million on Governor McAuliffe’s election. One can only wonder how many abortions were performed to generate those funds. Furthermore, as a member of the Virginia State Board of Health, I have observed the Governor appoint a majority of new members over the past two years who have voted as a bloc to weaken the Abortion Clinic Safety Regulations. The homily at the Vespers service by Bishop DiLorenzo is abstracted in the CV article. The Bishop described Jesus as loving, forgiving, gentle, patient, and self controlled. He had a pure heart and right motivation. The Bishop suggested that those who seek to address the needs of the Commonwealth of Virginia should “have a pure heart and right motivation.” We must pray that it was God who drew the Governor to this service to hear this important homily. We must pray that the Governor and other legislators present will be moved to consider prayer for basic human rights for all to include the unborn. I pray the Governor, as well as all citizens, will become more loving, forgiving, gentle, patient, and have a pure heart and right motivation. – John W. Seeds, M.D. Richmond

(Editor: In response to the three above letters, Virginia Vespers was a prayer service and people of all religious faiths and beliefs were invited to come together to pray for the people of Virginia. There was a good ecumenical representation and all were welcome. Both Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington feel it is important to meet with people with whom we don’t always agree.)

All things possible through prayer

In his commentary “Looking at Ourselves in America” in the February 15 issue of the CV, Tom Kallus tells us that our country is being referred to (by some) as “The Great Satan,” and I hear all the gloom and doom rampant in the world today. In common parlance this is called the “new norm.” The corollary is conventional wisdom’s compliant advice to accept this; it is what it is. The truth is dismissed. The truth is that there is an enemy out there to be defeated. My question is this: Have we forgotten prayer? Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” (Matt. 5:43-48) I grew up praying every day and after every Mass for the conversion of Russia. Things are not so different today. Why isn’t the message from every Christian pulpit in the world telling us to pray? As Catholics, we know the efficacy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the many blessings wrought by our devotion to the rosary and by the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. In his article, Kallus concludes by saying “Do they (our allies and opponents) see a nation abandoning God and His commandments as the basis for the laws and culture with Satan filling the vacuum?” Could we really be “The Great Satan?” This is not necessary. It can change. All things are possible with God for those who believe. – Bonnie Tingle, Newport News

Many benefits to Eucharistic Adoration

As a life-long Catholic and a former parishioner at St. Joseph’s Church in Hampton for 50 years, I want to thank The Catholic Virginian for the many articles that you have published on the tremendous spiritual benefits that a person gains through Blessed Sacrament devotions. As a former member of the Nocturnal Adoration Society at St. Joseph’s, I know personally the tremendous spiritual growth that I have gained in my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is saddening to see so few people take advantage of this beautiful “one-on-one” time with our Lord. I hope that your articles will be seen as seeds that will grow, and that the flock will be more in tune with future articles that will be published on Eucharistic Adoration. – Jerry Gallagher, Summerfield, FL

Christ pre-dated onset of Sharia law

The letter writer defending Islam and Sharia law in the February 29 issue (Dolores Machik) is correct that Christ did not say “Love your neighbor as yourself, except Muslims” because Islam didn’t begin until 610 AD and therefore he couldn’t possibly have. Christ predated Islam and therefore made that statement before Islam existed. The issue is culture, not religious freedom. Islamic Sharia law in some countries makes it illegal for women to drive cars. Islamic Sharia law in some countries permit women to be treated as property and be lawfully beaten by their husbands. How can any freedom loving American possibly support this culture anywhere it exists? Loving your Muslim neighbor should not prevent you from disagreeing with Islamic Sharia law culture. Muslim males justify modern day child marriage (marriage to 10 year old girls) because their prophet (Muhammad) had a child bride. An Egyptian-born Muslim co-worker of mine, who I actually like a lot, confirmed this. Don’t take my word for it, ask a Muslim male and/or research it yourself.               – Rick Kurek, Yorktown

Parish radio article needs clarification

Many thanks for including St. Patrick’s Radio Evangelization article in the Feb. 29 issue of The Catholic Virginian. It was greatly appreciated. St. Patrick’s Parish Adult Choir in Lexington was inadvertently omitted from the recent article ‘St. Patrick’s radio show airs weekly.’ Their Director of Music and Liturgy, Luci K. Majikas, and 14 choir members have faithfully contributed traditional and contemporary music to the program. – Father Joseph D’Aurora, Pastor, Lexington

(Editor: The original article written by Lori McAnnally mentioned the choir’s contribution. Due to lack of space, the article had to be edited and that fact was unfortunately omitted.)

Letters • February 29, 2016

Remembering Claudia Trznadel

Claudia Trznadel, the Eastern Hispanic Regional Coordinator for the past three years, was born in Honduras. Before joining the Diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, she was ministering at Holy Trinity Parish in Norfolk for many years together with her loving husband, Vance Trznadel. The Hispanic community thanks both of them for their dedicated service in our Diocese. Claudia died this past February 11th, the day of Our Blessed Mother of Lourdes after fighting for thirteen months against an unexpected cancer. During a very crucial moment in the State of Virginia’s growing population of the Hispanic people, Claudia was very responsible and organized about her ministry with the Hispanic community. She used to tell me, “Sister Inma, I always keep our community and our office in my prayers.” Claudia was known for being very loving, and kind with each person she encountered and very faithful to the mission of the Church and her family. During her time of illness, she showed us how to be a good faithful servant to our Lord and a living testimony of God’s mercy through her time of trial. Now in the embrace of our loving God, Claudia will always remain in our memory as a faith filled, loving disciple of Jesus and Mary. – Sr. Inma Cuesta, CMS Director, Office of Hispanic Ministry Catholic Diocese of Richmond

Forgiveness praying for God’s grace

I was dismayed at the response of Father Kenneth Doyle in a recent column in The Catholic Virginian when he was asked how he could ever forgive ISIS. Father Doyle’s response was “he didn’t have to because forgiveness (in my mind) presumes remorse on the part of the perpetrator and a pledge of changed behavior, both of which are noticeably lacking in the ISIS terrorists.” I do not believe that his response is appropriate or true. One of the greatest gifts I’ve received as a Christian is being able to forgive someone without the expectation of remorse from the offender. I’ve learned that forgiveness is about my mental, physical and spiritual well-being and my relationship with God. Forgiveness removes the anger in my heart which was displayed in my actions. What forgiveness means is that, with God’s grace and living His Word, I can even let go of anger and the desire for revenge. What forgiveness does not always result in is reconciliation with the offender; however, it does result in me having a more intimate relationship with God. For me, forgiving requires a lot of praying for God’s grace. This Holy Year of Mercy is an excellent time to publish articles about forgiveness. A beautiful, inspiring and courageous example of Christian forgiveness was shown to the world by the family members of the victims of the June 17, 2015 attack on the Bible study group at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. As a Catholic who returned to the Church in 2009 after being away all of my adult life, I know that if I had not learned about forgiveness in a twelve-step program and then later sought Biblical applications of Christian principles to grow in practicing forgiveness, I would have headed for the Church’s “exit door” after reading Father Doyle’s comment. – Barbara Older, Virginia Beach

Sharia law not pertinent to U.S.

In response to the letter concerning Sharia law (Feb. 15 issue), the United States is a nation of laws, Sharia is not one of them. Sharia law does exist in many countries, i.e., Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iran and Iraq. However, depending on the culture and education of the people of these countries, radical Sharia is not always strictly adhered to, such as stoning. Sharia law will not be the law of the United States so there is no need to write inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims who have lived in peace in our country. Muslims who come to the United States do so out of fear and to practice their faith. Christ said “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and when He said this He did not say “except Muslims.” Don’t Google it! Just read your Catholic Bible. – Dolores Machik, Virginia Beach

Fr. Doyle faulted for flawed reasoning

With each edition of The Catholic Virginian, I look forward to Fr. Kenneth Doyle’s column. However, I would like to point out a flaw in reasoning in his recent discussion of forgiveness. Fr. Doyle states that we do not have to forgive (in this instance he is speaking of forgiving ISIS) because forgiveness presumes remorse on the part of the perpetrator and a pledge of changed behavior. I agree that we are not always compelled to forgive, but I do not agree that forgiveness presumes anything on the part of the perpetrator. Fr. Doyle’s first statement is true, but not for the reason given. Miriam-Webster defines forgiveness as the act of giving up resentment or anger against an offender. Anger is a powerful emotion, and God has given us anger as a powerful tool. Jesus displayed His anger in clearing the temple of the money changers. Anger motivates and empowers us to right the wrongs we see in the world, and certainly ISIS is one such wrong. So clearly we are not always compelled to forgive; there are certainly situations in which we should act on our anger to further God’s will. However, anger can also be destructive to the bearer, and resentment can eat at our soul. Forgiveness is often a necessary step in healing an emotional trauma. To require that forgiveness presumes repentance leaves many victims without hope of this healing. What about the raped woman who has no knowledge of her attacker? What of the families of victims of a suicide sniper’s final rampage? What of the families of those exterminated by the Nazis? These victims cannot hope for their perpetrators pledge of changed behavior. We cannot deny these victims their chance to forgive the unrepentant and thus to heal. As much as we would like to rely on simple formulas to guide our actions, the real world is not so simple. I think Solomon said it pretty well in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The tough job for us is to discern when is the time for righteous anger, and when is the time for forgiveness. – Thomas Joly, Norfolk

Climate change view should allow skeptics

I applaud Dr. Anthony Russo’s letter in the February 1 edition of the CV in regard to climate change, “Laudato Si,” and Bishop Sanchez Sorondo. Of note was the fact that no scientific evidence was presented or footnoted in this long letter. To say that “many good studies” support their position is non-critical and must be peer reviewed and proven first. Church committee meetings, etc., were extensively documented, however. The impact of Bishop Sorondo on the recent climate change summit by excluding skeptics from attending was most bothersome. I wonder what Mr. Morroni, whose letter followed Dr. Russo’s in the February 1st CV, would say about this in light of his call for “open exchange” of ideas. The earth has been going through cycles of warming and cooling for millennia—this has been well accepted. The real issue here is not “global warming,” it is the human impact on global warming, if present. The human impact (carbon production) of industry on the environment is not settled truth yet and should not be used as a tool for political ends. What is needed are well designed studies that correctly compare the impact of industrial development on environmental change. Only then can we reason from a basis of truth. Merely making self-serving statements in public is disingenuous at best. The Vatican is not a scientific organization. Galileo showed that. Just as we need studies to evaluate new drugs, treatments, surgeries, etc., so too do we need science first, then the application. – Charles W. Keblusek, MD, Richmond

Letters • February 15, 2016

Sharia law espoused by many Muslims

Regarding Dr. Mazzarella’s support for the defense of Muslims in the Letters section (Jan. 18 issue), everyone should understand that Islam is a religion but it is also a set of laws known as Sharia law. Sharia or Islamic law defines the culture of Islam and legalizes such things as child marriage (50-year-old men take child brides as young as 10 years old, justified because their prophet did it), polygamy, wife beating, treating women as property, stoning of adulterers, death by hanging as punishment for homosexuality, limb amputation as punishment for theft and death for Apostasy (Muslims converting to other religions). These are not extreme views. These are widely accepted views by Muslims in Muslim nations all over the world. “Google” it and look it up for yourself. According to Pew Research, most Muslims want Sharia law to be the law of the land. Chapter 1: Beliefs About Sharia. Do your own research then decide for yourself if Islamic culture is something we want in America. – Rick Kurek, Yorktown

Slippery slope with classroom prayer

In re: Patriotic words challenged (Commentary, Jan. 18 issue), it’s very disturbing to read an article pertaining to the flagrant violation of our Constitution and the blatant attack on our religious freedoms by secular, communist founded organizations like the ACLU. It further disturbs me to see how uninformed and ignorant the average person is concerning these rights and freedoms, including the Supreme Court Justices currently on the bench and their erroneous interpretations. It’s a slippery slope when we mix the establishment clause with the free exercise clause, and more ambiguity arises if mixed in a governmental setting, in this case a school. As a result of this slippery slope, it’s easy to confuse what constitutes an establishment of religion, and the free exercise of a religious liberty, also protected equally by the first amendment. Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying: “To consider judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy…the Constitution has erected no such tribunal.” This is the first problem…they have become just that. Any right-minded person with any sense at all would easily be able to discern the difference between an establishment of religion from the free exercise thereof….the second big problem. The third and most dangerous threat to our freedoms is the atheistic, progressive movement that has been advancing in our country for the last 100 years, polluting the minds of the feeble and simple-minded with entitlements, making them nothing more than mindless government cattle, sheltered in a government barn and fed with government hay. Then they systematically and incrementally, over this extended period of time, promote hostility towards religion, promotion of decadence and immorality thus weakening resolve and reason by appointing progressive, activist jurists on the highest court in the land to subvert, pervert and all but eradicate any semblance of a constitutional republic. As a political activist with The Heritage Foundation, I’ve had the pleasure to observe the prayers invoked in the beginning of government proceedings including the Congress of the United States where a chaplain is on the payroll for just that purpose. The Constitution of the United States is in no way hostile to religion, and on the contrary encourages it as a fundamental pillar of good government. As long as any government entity does not promote the establishment of a religion, according to the common sense of the 1st Amendment, there has been no Constitutional violation. – Gerald Pilley, Chesapeake

Conflict conditions hurt persecuted Christians

Conflict conditions hurt persecuted Christians In response to “U.S. Bishop Says Palestinians Have Lost Hope,” Jan 18, 2016, it is very sad to see how innocent people’s lives are torn up by conflict. In this case, it is Christians in Gaza who are also being persecuted in many parts of the world today, more than ever in recent times. I remember not too long ago reading about how Israeli and Palestinian children grew up together in Israel as friends, went to school together. Palestinians there had businesses, worked, took part in voting during elections and were treated as people in a Democracy should be. Perhaps some normalcy still exists. Today, however, there are violent knife attacks by Palestinians on Israelis on the streets of Israel. ISIS may be part of the current influence, but I’m sure security has become more intense and uncomfortable for everyone. The Palestinians today, residing in Gaza, are the victims of their own government’s refusal to accept an agreement acknowledging Israel’s right to exist. Over decades several American administrations have attempted to broker a peaceful solution to no avail. Israel has made many concessions, hoping for peace, by giving up land, the latest being Gaza. The response has been constant rocket attacks and tunnels used to attack Israeli soldiers. Cement slabs and barbed wire barriers have been necessary for Israel’s survival and consequently disrupts the lives, land, jobs and farming of people near the border, as described by Bishop Cantu of New Mexico. One wonders how people could endure this ugly existence without losing hope on both sides of the barriers. Israel needs our continued prayers and support for a solution so all may live in peace and freedom in the region. Israel needs a change of heart and desire for peace from the leadership of the Palestinian people, perhaps a miracle.  – Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

Climate change seen as political issue

Although the subject of “climate change” and the Church’s decision to support the actions governments plan to take to address its predicted consequences have been presented in The Catholic Virginian and in subsequent letters, I feel compelled to offer another perspective. When the scientific investigation behind climate change is carried out almost entirely by government agencies and by researchers who are funded by these same governments, and when the political leaders from these governments gather to determine what must be done to solve a self-defined problem, it is evident that climate change is a political issue. Given this context, I am troubled by the Church speaking out in support of the current climate change agenda. In its almost illogical simplicity, climate change is said to be caused by too many humans utilizing too much of the earth’s carbon based resources. It follows that if governments are to address the projected dire situation being attributed to climate change, they must first act to reduce the use of “dirty” energy, while promoting the use of “clean” energy, and second move to discourage the growth of the earth’s population. Both of these strategies are fraught with unintended consequences for the Church and two of its primary teachings, addressing the plight of the poor and being open to life. As good Catholic Christians, each of us should seek guidance from the Holy Spirit as to what we as individuals can do to protect God’s creation. We should be sensitive to the amount and types of energy we use, as well as how we discern what the secular world puts before us as truth. Our relationship with God is a personal one, not one abdicated to government so it can control and direct us to do what it determines to be in the best interest of what we refer to as the Body of Christ and the future of the planet upon which it resides. – Robert DeMauri, Charlottesville

Church rightly addresses climate change factors

Climate change meets statistical standards as a valid scientific phenomenon and cannot be brushed aside as a political ploy. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si encourages good stewardship of our planet and is consistent with Biblical teaching. Yes, variables such as cloud formation and ocean dynamics are little understood. But it is possible to detect pollution from the industrial plants in India, China and the U.S. as far north as Barrow, Alaska. There is growing concern that extreme weather patterns may be the product of climate change. Holy Mother Church has good reason to be concerned. Conservative and liberal Vermont farmers witness how climate change affects their maple sugar operations. Maple sugar bush operations at Highland County, Virginia are doomed. American bird watchers have documented the march of bird territories 400 miles north thanks to global warming. Virginia’s Tidewater regions are watching sea level changes from combined forces of glacial melt and bay subsidence. St. Peter and several disciples were fishermen who understood the dynamics of fish yield. They would have cautioned modern fishermen against the use of technology and habitat destruction that can take a fish population to the point of no return. Moses secured the food of Egypt by understanding that Nile River variations affect crop yield and he wisely prepared for years of famine and good harvest. Climate change will have a major effect on global politics as the winners and losers fight over resources such as water. Pope Francis challenges us to remember the poor because they will pay the most immediate price as their food, water and living space deteriorate. Pope Pius XII and his successors examined the evidence regarding evolution and declared that the theory of evolution is not at odds with Church teaching. Denying climate change joins evolution denial as a rejection of scientific fact. Climate change deniers can beat their drums in the political arena but they are wrong to claim the Catholic Church is in error for addressing the subject.  – Robert E. Benoit, Blacksburg

Letters • February 1, 2016

Vatican support of climate change questioned

I am writing in response to Father Doyle’s letter discussing climate change and the Pope’s encyclical in the January 4, 2016 edition of the Catholic Virginian. As a family physician, I have seen the ramifications of scientific fraud. In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and 11 co-authors published a peer-reviewed medical research article in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet,linking autism to vaccinations. This led to a decrease in MMR vaccinations, and a significant increase in the cases of measles in the U.S. and Great Britain. It took over a decade for the study to be discredited. I am not sure which side of the anthropogenic climate change issue has the “bad” scientists, but here are some things to ponder. The 34 national science academies you mention basically accept and rubber-stamp the findings of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ). Many in the scientific community believe the conclusions of the IPCC were agenda-driven, based on unproven modeling predictions, and riddled with political corruptness The guiding force behind “Laudato Si” was Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Science, a prominent figure in the Pope’s close circle of advisors, and a strong proponent of wealth redistribution. Bishop Sorondo systematically removed or prevented climate change skeptics from attending the recent climate change summit. In addition, Bishop Sorondo is actively involved with the United Nations’ initiative, the Sustainable Developmental Solutions Network, headed by abortion and population control advocate, Jeffrey Sachs. Last, the bishop chose Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, an atheist and population control advocate, to author the sections on climate change in the Pope’s encyclical. It took more than 350 years for the Vatican to admit Galileo was right. I wonder how long it will take this time- maybe when Hades freezes over from global warming! – Anthony Russo, M.D., Chesapeake

Climate change view needs open exchange

I commend the CV for publishing more articles in the past couple issues regarding the environment, such as Father Gerry Creedon’s article and two letters to the editor. Certainly this was one major direction given by Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si”, – that there be open discussion on climate change. Our CV in its last edition published a couple of letters challenging and questioning the reality of climate change and its relation to religion. Father Creedon in his article wrote that he sees climate change as both an ethical and moral matter. The encyclical stressed the responsibility that all Christians have to care for our Earth. Then how much more religious can one be than seeing and experiencing the presence of God in the breath-taking wonders of our Earth? One letter questioned the validity of the Paris summit agreement, remarking that no scientists participated in the summit. The summit was intended for national leaders, who, like Pope Francis, in his encyclical, consulted with and were advised by teams of scientists. There is not an issue which does not have people opposing it and those favoring it. Climate change, as all issues, benefits from the debate between opponents and proponents. Debate can, and often does, result in people becoming more educated and forming stronger positions where they stand. So, letters questioning and challenging climate change are welcomed. – Ed Marroni, Norfolk

‘Best kept secret’ needs to be taught

On May 1 of 1991, Pope John Paul II wrote the following in his Encyclical Centesimus Annus: “To teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church’s evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message. . . The ‘new evangelization’. . . must include among its element a proclamation of the Church’s social doctrine.” Those are strong words and it would be hard to make this matter more clear. However, I found that all the social encyclicals were written, released and put in a drawer to collect dust. As a priest — who happens to be a close friend of mine — wrote in a letter: “This is the best kept secret of the Catholic Church that must not be a secret any longer.” Furthermore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2419-2463) includes a few things that we need to know about the Social Doctrine of the Church, but in my humble opinion, is no substitute for the study of the related Encyclicals. I firmly believe that the following 10 encyclicals must be studied as part of all Dioceses’ Peace and Justice Committees’ area of knowledge, and Adult Education programs. It must also be proclaimed, and taught to many people. I recommend that this study, discussions, examination or whatever name is used, should be conducted in chronological order starting with Rerum Novarum and ending with Caritas in Veritate adding Laudato Si. Leo XIII – Rerum Novarum – 1891 Pius XI – Quadragesimo Anno – 1931 John XXIII – Mater et Magistra – 1961 John XXIII – Pacem in Terris – 1963 Paul VI – Populorum Progressio – 1967 John Paul II – Laborem Exercis – 1981 John Paul II – Solicitudo Rei Socialis – 1987 John Paul II – Centesimus Annus – 1991 Benedict XVI – Caritas in Veritate – 2009 And I would include Francis – Laudato Si  2015 If we don’t establish a continuous program to teach, proclaim and spread the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, we are totally missing the point that all these popes are making for a reason and with a purpose. – Ysaac J. Chabo, Newport News

Letters • January 18, 2016

Climate change not a ‘political agenda’

I find it very disappointing that educated people believe that climate change is a “political agenda,” a myth, or not part of religion. God created the earth and we should be protecting it. I don’t understand why people are convinced that clean air, clean water, and the future of our planet is a waste of time. If we can’t breathe the air or drink the water, what do we have and how would God feel about our stewardship of the planet? If they can’t see the connection, shame on them! – Betty Taylor, Richmond

Bishop DiLorenzo thanked about Muslims’ concern

Kudos to The Catholic Virginian and to Bishop DiLorenzo for their authentically Catholic Christian defense of our Muslim brothers and sisters who, as the Second Vatican Council declared, share with us the worship of the one God. In this time when so many succumb to fear that makes them abandon the ability to distinguish a tiny minority of abusers of a religion from the vast majority of peaceful practitioners of it, it is good to hear an intelligent voice opposed to unjust and unfair discrimination against that community. As you pointed out, American Catholics suffered such oppression in the past; it would be a cruel and unChristian irony if we became oppressors ourselves. Let us say peace, Salaam, to all. – Dr. Mario D. Mazzarella, Newport News

CV needs more on Year of Mercy

When I received my last Catholic Virginian (Dec. 21, 2015) I was looking forward to an article on the Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis. However, neither the Diocesan paper nor my local Parish Bulletin gave information on this important year. Every day we read about violence, shootings and killings both in the press and in social media; humanity longs for healing, for peace and for mercy. Our church could be an instrument to help bring about a more compassionate world. The pope speaks about a “revolution of tenderness.” It would have to start in the parishes. The paper could feature ministries that are “ministries of mercy” to be an example to other parishes such as ministries to the sick and to people in nursing homes, ministries to prisoners, support groups for grieving, support groups for caretakers of Alzheimers or dementia patients, groups that work with people with disabilities, etc. The pope said the Church must be a “field hospital,” a place for healing and redemption. Our world longs for it! – Margrit Anna Banta, Norfolk

(Editor: The Jan. 4, 2016 issue has a front page photo and article which highlighted the worldwide Year of Mercy and the Holy Door of Mercy at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart when it was blessed by Bishop DiLorenzo on Dec. 20.) 

More important issues need to be addressed

I am responding to the December 21st isssue of the Catholic Virginian. The front page’s bold title “Pope says more work is needed on climate change pact” was really an eye catcher to me. Being raised Catholic by really strict faith loving parents, I along with my seven siblings were taught by their example the true meaning of the “golden rule!” We live in a world now where there is terror, ISIS, Christians being persecuted and beheaded, abortion, baby parts being sold for profit, cultural divisiveness and corruption all around and the Pope’s concern seems to be “climate change?” Granted this may be a global problem, but perhaps our priorities are not in the right place. Why is the church and clergy not standing up and speaking out on these issues as much as they are on global warming? After all, major fatal attacks, candle light services are held and people are seen gathered in groups praying, as our government leaders were seen praying as they gathered on the Capitol steps after 9/11. Why be shown praying only after a tragedy? I would prefer seeing the Pope, Bishops and clergy place more emphasis on “spirituality.” More spiritual teachings among all people could not cause any great harm. Global warming appears to be more of a political issue rather than a spiritual issue. I feel it is our “spirituality” that builds ones strong Christian foundation. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) – Monica Keyes, Salem

Letters • January 4, 2016

Reader has questions on climate change

Excellent article on climate change in the Dec. 21 issue of The Catholic Virginian. I will not argue or debate “climate change.” I simply do not have the knowledge. In the article and at the recent Paris UN climate change conference, where were the scientists? Rather, why are politicians, numerous non-scientific groups and even the Church so involved, and why do so many seem so ready to spend likely trillions of dollars addressing climate change before important questions have answers? What is actually causing the apparent climate change? Is it “human activities?” And to what degree can mankind actually address climate change? – Thomas A. Gaylada, Williamsburg

CV headline article had no mention of God

In the Dec. 21, 2015 edition of The Catholic Virginian, four days prior to the celebration of the birth of our Savior, the headline article on the front page was “Pope says more work needed on climate change pact.” In the article, the words “Jesus, Christ, Christmas, God” were nowhere to be found. Amazing! Absolutely Amazing! Instead, the article contained a plethora of ideological political idioms. – Patrick Shea, Henrico

Catholic Church should stick to religion

The Catholic Virginian’s headline on your December 21, publication is “Pope says more needed on climate change pact.” Then, on page 12, is the headline “Clean Power Plan protects the vulnerable.” The Catholic Church has lost its way and focus. Stick to religion, NOT this political correctness propaganda. It is neither here nor there if climate change or if a carbon footprint is real or even matters. Why is this Pope and the Catholic Church shoving this down our throats like a political party over and over? I have said this before, and I will repeat it again—Catholic Church participation is at an all-time low because its new “Religion” is Climate Change and elimination of fossil fuels, not things that really matter to true Catholics. The Catholic Church leadership has lost its way and focus. SHAME ON YOU! – Dr. Vince Cammarata, Mechanicsville

Letters • December 21, 2015

Moment of silence at Mass questioned

I was heartened to read the headline of the November 23rd Catholic Virginian, which stated U.S. Catholics offer prayers for the French victims of terrorism. During a recent Mass away from my parish, at another church within the diocese, I admit to being discomforted when the deacon called for a ‘moment of silence’ for them prior to his homily. – Dennis J. O’Connor, Prince George

Christian leaders urged to avoid extremism

It’s no secret that in light of recent terrorist attacks around the world carried out by radical Islamists, anti-Muslim rhetoric is on the rise in this election year. Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country may be the most extreme example of this rhetoric, but it’s hardly the only example. It is surprising and disturbing to see prominent Christian leaders in this country not only fail to condemn such rhetoric, but actually contribute to it themselves. One recent example of this is Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s remark that he always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill. Another is what Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said in a recent sermon, “Islam is just not another way to approach God. Islam is a false religion and it is inspired by Satan himself.” To say the least, I don’t think these remarks are a good reflection of the example set for us all by Christ. While people within the Church might recognize that there are differences between Christian denominations and that people like Jeffress and Falwell don’t speak for all Christians, many people outside the Church will not make that distinction. For many people around the world, remarks like that shape their opinion of all Christians, including Catholics. For enemies of the Church, statements such as these provide them with all the ammunition they need to make the case that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites. I hope and pray that both Catholic clergy such as the USCCB and individual Catholics in this country will have the courage to stand up and condemn anti-Muslim rhetoric. Let’s show the world that we are Christians by our love and compassion instead of tolerating hateful speech. – Kevin Jordan, Farmville

Response to shooting at Planned Parenthood

Although the motive of the suspect in the recent shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs remains unclear, pro-life activists must nevertheless condemn the actions that led to this tragedy. Acts of violence are antithetical to the very idea of being pro-life. The loss of innocent blood is never justified, and we cannot end violence against preborn babies and their families by ending the lives of our fellow citizens. Pro-life advocates stand against abortion to save lives, not destroy them. For this reason, the actions of the alleged shooter are not only heinous by their very nature but also because they strike at the core of the pro-life movement. They perpetuate the false image of irrational extremism that upholds the rights of the preborn at the expense of their parents. This image could not be farther from the truth, and yet these shootings cast a shadow on progress in the pro-life movement toward a world in which all lives have value. Abortion must remain the target for our peaceful fight for life, but we would be delinquent in that fight if we did not stand up for the victims in this tragedy by honoring their lives and denouncing actions that result in injury or loss of life. Our weapons are our words, our compassion, and our conviction, not guns and not hatred. We have a chance now to show our respect for life and family, our true purpose for opposing abortion. We must not remain silent, letting the media define pro-life values by the reprehensible actions of one who is not our ally. We must show the world what pro-life truly means by calling for an end to all forms of violence against all of our peers, whether or not they share our resolve to end the violence of abortion. – Lauren Catlett, Charlottesville

Children’s book called ‘a gem’

Thank you for the very nice article on Elizabeth Grapes and her newly published book,  “ABCs by Jesus and Me” in the Dec. 7 Catholic Virginian issue. I learned of the book, called the publisher and purchased a copy for our youngest grandson as a Christmas gift for him. When I looked through the book, I was immediately awed and captivated by the words chosen for each letter of the alphabet, the Biblical references and the lovely artwork. I quickly ordered three, one for a friend for his three young children, one for a friend for her great-grandchild and one just to have for myself as an inspirational read. “ABCs by Jesus and Me” is a gem, a treasure for all ages. – Ruth M. Ambrogi, Glen Allen

LettersDecember 7, 2015

Mental health issues affect entire family

Thank you for your article about persons diagnosed with a mental illness and the importance of including them and supporting their families. There is no other illness that can cause such isolation due to the stigma that surrounds this diagnosis. I am the daughter of a man who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was 6 years old. I grew up with this illness and know first hand the heartaches, challenges and loneliness that families encounter trying to get help for their loved one. While in nursing school, I was introduced to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I cannot say enough good things about this organization. I have never felt more at home than with other NAMI families that have travelled a similar path to my own. There is such an acceptance, validation, and understanding that exists among the loved ones who have had this unwelcome and unwanted lived experience. Finding others that you can confidentially share your stories with and know that they will not judge you, or your relative, is such a help. Families carry a heavy burden, often silently, due to the stigma that surrounds these illnesses. NAMI offers support at local support groups that meet regularly, education through the many programs they have developed, and advocacy to improve the systems of care that families and their loved ones depend on for treatment. I am a retired psychiatric nurse. One of my clients once pointed out to me that my life had come full circle. Their observation was so true. Mental illness was thrust upon me as a young child creating chaos and confusion in our family. I grew up and went off to have my own life, which was much more peaceful. Then in my midlife, I returned to school to become a nurse. Looking back, it is amazing to see how God put people in my life that nudged me toward the very thing that I had escaped years ago, my father’s mental illness. I now take that experience and use it to help others. Sharing my experiences through NAMI’s Programs is personally rewarding and also healing for me and I hope for others. – Barbara Bartnik, Rural Retreat

Mental Health First Aid can support families

Thank you for publishing Jennifer Neville’s article, “Our common brotherhood with the mentally ill.” My hope is that the Diocese will continue to offer the Mental Health First Aid course to pastoral leadership so that these leaders will not only recognize the signs of addiction and mental illness, but also know where and how to provide support.  – Nita Grignol, Richmond

Reform, not expand, affordable healthcare

The panel discussion Oct. 8 in Norfolk with Judaeo Christian and Muslim clergy, addressed that affordable healthcare would be available to almost 400,000 more individuals, if the Virginia General Assembly expands. “The Federal Government would cover most of the costs,” according to the director of VA Consumer Voices for Healthcare. The panel needs to know VA Medicaid is already in trouble due to millions going to fraudulent, unqualified recipients. There’s also the issue of legitimate patients finding it harder an harder to locate doctors who will take Medicaid, due to very poor payment policy. Those on Medicaid and really needy are struggling now to get care in a system that needs investigation and reform. Adding 400,000 more people, who had affordable care before ACA, because they now find their policies unaffordable, makes no sense. It would be adding to the number of people getting poorer care if any, unnecessarily, while further hurting those most in need. The panel should put its influence behind Medicaid Reform in Virginia. The Wall Street Journal has reported 23 states are now trying to back out of Medicaid Expansion, as federal funds will come to an end, and costs to the state are much higher than stated predictions. These states now see themselves being bankrupt in the near future. The greed of our state leaders for federal funds should not be allowed to take priority over really helping those in need of good healthcare, when they know Medicaid is already in trouble, and any federal funds are temporary. Hopefully a replacement for our current Affordable Care Act, with much lower costs through free market competition across state lines, Tort Reform, and optional Health Savings Accounts, (a system working very satisfactorily before ACA), will lift the heavy burden of unaffordable healthcare costs from everyone else, including employers, in the near future.  – Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

CV commended for raising awareness

I commend you for your recent story on mental health issues (Our common brotherhood with the mentally ill, Nov. 9, 2015) and how Catholics have numerous opportunities in the local parish to minister to those who need support when they are in the midst of lonely and troubled times. This is a subject that is particularly meaningful to me as I am a clinical social worker at Commonwealth Catholic Charities in Richmond. Along with others counselors in Richmond, Charlottesville and Norton, we daily serve those who find themselves in need of professional counseling. We work with individuals on issues that run the gamut of anxiety, depression, family crisis, marriage counseling and bipolar disorder. In addition, we hold group meetings that provide anger management, batterers’ intervention counseling and counseling for other destructive behaviors. As we listen to our clients and community, we respond to their ever-changing needs. In the last two years, we have increased the number of our bilingual Spanish counselors to three and because we have seen an increase in childhood anxiety, we have two play therapy rooms that make counseling more adaptable to the needs of children.  – Mehr Niazi, LCSW Counseling Program Manager Commonwealth Catholic Charities, Richmond

LettersNovember 9, 2015

Roanoke Catholic article promotes Catholic faith

Thank you for the story in your latest CV about my visit as Mayor of Roanoke to our sister city of Wonju, South Korea, and our effort to connect with the families who have sent their children to Roanoke Catholic School. We’re making a lot of good efforts out west here to promote our Catholic faith, and we appreciate the Catholic Virginian taking notice. Thank you so much. – Mayor David Bowers, Roanoke 

Rudeness and disrespect another form of violence

Recently a journalist and a photographer were murdered in our area. Although the perpetrator of the crime passed a background check, legally purchasing the weapon used, this horrific event prompted renewed discussion as to how to toughen the laws in order to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. To his credit, the father of the slain journalist vowed to devote his life to this cause in her memory. It is hard to imagine how families cope with such violence. One can only hope that by focusing the deep sense of grief and loss into trying to prevent other families from facing similar tragedies, an enormous emotional toll is lessened somehow. As this father continues to openly grieve for his daughter while championing the cause of more gun control, his anger and frustration at what is perceived as unwavering positions by public officials have begun to spill into his words and postings on social media. Some of these postings have been perceived from the language and tone to be threatening rather than challenging. When an elected official, out of concern for himself and his family, reported such statements to the police, the governor, rather than attempting to cool the rhetoric, suggested the official was being overly sensitive to a distraught father and told him to “man up”. Regardless of whether the postings were threatening or not, the governor’s admonishment could be perceived as condoning the use of disrespectful language (too crude to reprint in this newspaper) toward another citizen. Is this what our world has come to? Accepting rude and disrespectful verbal attacks toward one another for any reason? Aren’t we replacing one form of violence for another? We counsel our children in their conflicts to “use their words”. Maybe we should add “choose your words wisely.” – Patti Peters, Roanoke


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