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 Personal attacks will not be published.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 • June 29, 2020

Consider the impacts of returning to Mass

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, including how we worship. It has been challenging with the abrupt interruption of our ability to come together once a week to celebrate mass and be able to receive the Eucharist.

I struggle with now that we have permission to attend public Mass with modifications. Is it time yet to return? Will people, particularly those in a vulnerable population, feel like they must attend now that they have the opportunity?

More than 100,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States and many more have suffered. I beg that gives us pause. Despite the challenges, more of us are alive and well because of the measures that we have taken, lessening the impact of the disease.

As we debate and return to our places of worship to celebrate in a communal setting, I hope we think less of ourselves and our desire to return to public Mass and think more of others with whom we may come in contact in doing so.

As Catholics we hold all life sacred. Are we putting others at risk by the decision that we are making to attend mass again? Are we thinking of our pro-life stance as we make that decision? I pray that we are. -Sandy Wittig, North Chesterfield

Put first things first

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). How do we do so? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Anything that deviates from rather than illuminates those unmodified commandments is not of God.

From our progenitors’ Original Sin to the present day, all of our ills are directly attributable to disobedience to the commandments of God. Our personal disobedience may not necessarily be the cause of our ills. In those occasions where others’ disobedience causes our ills, we should rejoice that Christ calls us to share in the sacrifice of his own innocent sufferings.   

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things.”  

Certainly, social ills such as abortion and racism need addressing. Possible solutions abound with unintended consequences aplenty. Calls for implementing anti-racism and racial justice sound good on the surface but have no substance.  

What is justice other than “the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor” (CCC 1807)? What special racial justice exists before God who sees us entirely, without the veneer of flesh? What is anti-racism but a politically expedient term for loving one’s neighbor as oneself?  

The only surefire way to address past, present and future ills without losing peace, justice and our souls is to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.”

– Timothy Olmsted, Farmville

Value, respect everyone

Racial discrimination affects one’s life chances and the stress of contracting and dying from COVID 19. The stressors associated with being discriminated against on racial ethnic issues affects mental and physical health. Mental health services should be readily available to those in need of therapy. 

Can you understand the impact on black families affected by these three issues with no jobs, no resources and no home to go to because they cannot pay the rent? Picture a black family. The husband is looking for work, he may not return home because he was just killed by a white police officer. 

Likewise, the impact of the pandemic that can be explained by social and economic stigmas, risks at work, inequalities in the prevalence of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and asthma can increase the severity of the pandemic. 

Many blacks are dying because they cannot afford health insurance. Many white physicians close doors on low-income black patients. Black doctors are needed. Our key issues are racism, health care and economic equality.

Recommendations for state and local leadership: act now against racism and inequalities against minorities. Each person must be valued and respected. There is no place in this world for historic racism, social inequalities or ending one’s life.  

Individual dignity and self-respect are strengthened by the respect and affection of your neighbors. Let us live in peace and love for each other.

– Lois S. Williams, Virginia Beach

Find a ministry, make a difference

Re: “All Catholics must work for racial justice” (Catholic Virginian, June 15): My brother is named after St. Martin de Pores. Do you have a clue about American Catholic history? 

Catholics have been working for authentic social justice for centuries! Who do you think educated families on the frontier and in the rural and prejudiced South, along with a prejudiced America?  

Recall, Thomas Jefferson said, “While we might differ in philosophical approach and type of governance, we are united in one thing, our despisement of papists.”   

It was courageous Catholic nuns, brothers and laity who rolled up their sleeves and risked life and limb for their faith to educate the poor and slaves and minister to the afflicted. As legacy, today there are some 7,000 parochial schools across the country educating over 2 million students, mostly in inner cities.

It was Catholics who established 644 hospitals in impoverished city centers and remote rural regions so that today “one of every two persons” who goes to an emergency room goes to a Catholic hospital. That’s a tremendous statement.   

As far as reaching out to the poor, 2,900 Catholic social outreach centers assist the impoverished with food, housing and rent control.   

All of it meaning that Catholics, for centuries, have been making a difference in African American lives, as well as for the poor across the nation. So, study Catholic history before demanding Catholic social action. Then find a ministry and pitch in to really make a difference.  

– Fran Rodgers, Virginia Beach

God is at work

I had occasion to see God at work this week. An unaccountable lessening of fear in these days of pandemic enabled me to actually attend Mass and comfortably so. The humanitarian reason for a friend’s delay in getting necessary medication was shared with me. Thus, I proclaim, “ God was at work for me and a friend this fine day!” 

Those two events reminded me, again, God does truly work in wondrous ways — a lot!  Our founding documents were made by our Lord working through fault-ridden humans, moving us forward. 

He gave us his son to teach and then redeem us through a birth in a stable far from home and family; through a “modest” life as a carpenter’s son; through dying a horrible death before the Resurrection. 

We sense and know these things by training, example, experience. Every once in a while, at least for me, this truth abounds: we should not be too quick upon the stage — actual or virtual! Discernment is paramount in fixing that which is wrong.

 In trying to make things right, be alert! God is at work! Look for him!

– Elizabeth Gillam, Appomattox 

Safeguard life in all stages

In response to the letter “What Catholic politicians must do” (Catholic Virginian, June 1): Ted Cors asks politicians to reconsider their stand on Roe v. Wade to protect the sanctity of life. I propose that protecting the sanctity of life is not limited to a politician’s actions on abortion; it includes their views and actions concerning the care of people at all stages of life.

If Catholics believe that politicians should actively work to overturn Roe v. Wade, there must be corresponding expectations toward stopping the death penalty, providing affordable housing, ending hunger, ensuring access to high quality health care and improving conditions for immigrants. 

If Catholics genuinely feel obligated to safeguard the sanctity of life, then that duty does not end when a child is born; it is a commitment to protecting human life in its entirety.

By focusing solely on a politician’s views on Roe v. Wade, we fail to hold them accountable for taking action to ensure the quality of human life. Without this accountability, politicians who express a desire to stop abortion will take the Catholic vote for granted and see no reason to be concerned with the impact of their other actions — or failures to take action.

– Theresa D. King, Rockville

Letters • June 15, 2020

Save immortal souls

To date the U.S. Catholic bishops’ response to the coronavirus and all things related has been proactive, aggressive and unrelenting. 

The Diocese of Richmond has led the way in all matters pertaining to protecting Catholics from the virus: closed churches and schools, suspended Mass and the sacraments, and on reopening has followed every dictate: restricted capacity, social distancing, mandatory wearing of masks to enter buildings and participate at Mass. No government guideline or prescription unmet.  All enforced with great rigor.

All this effort to protect Virginia Catholics from the threat of the virus and the possibility of physical death, however remote and unlikely death from COVID-19 truly is.

But I cannot say that I have seen or heard anything from our Catholic leadership to the equivalent level of effort for the eradication of sin in our lives to prevent the real death of our immortal souls!

Where is the loud and incessant call for all people to social distance, mask ourselves, continuously wash, cleanse, purify ourselves from “…the works of the flesh…: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like” (Gal. 5:19–21)? 

Or “…that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9–10)?

Where is the clarion call to holiness for the sake of our immortal lives? -Dave Tezza, Virginia Beach

Misguided assertion

I recently attended a Mass where, during a homily on inclusiveness, an example was given about a hypothetical gay couple coming to church holding hands and kissing. It was implied that such behavior was OK because “God made them that way.” 

I have always believed that God made all of us, and that God loves all of us, even in spite of the fact that there are times in our lives that we do not necessarily return that love to him. 

But it is also the teaching of the Church that God gives each one of us free will, and that we are always responsible for our actions. It is not possible that a just and loving God would make people such that they cannot control their actions. 

God did not make bank robbers, alcoholics, pedophiles, murders, etc.  However, when he made us, each person was given their specific cross to carry, and each person was given different and specific ‘tendencies’ toward various behaviors and lifestyles.

These gifts and crosses were given so that each person, using their own free will, might achieve the highest place in heaven that they are willing to work to attain.  No person is ever given a cross too large, such that they cannot bear it and are thus dammed by God. 

Since the Church’s teaching is that the active gay lifestyle is not compatible with the will of God, it is not conceivable that God would “make a person that way.”  This is not meant in any way to detract from the intrinsic rights and dignity due to each and every human being as a child of God, regardless of their actions at a specific time in their life. -Marvin Weniger, Virginia Beach

Don’t publish letters with racist views

I am writing to urge The Catholic Virginian to exercise its editorial authority in a responsible way and stop publishing letters that give voice to and effectively normalize racist views, all of which are inconsistent with Catholic and Christian doctrine as a whole. Put simply, words that clearly undermine the teachings of our savior Jesus Christ should not be published.

I won’t repeat the words here, but anyone can go online and read the archived letters from the Oct. 7, 2019 and March 23, 2020 issues; each contains a particularly nasty and false characterization of African Americans.

The writers of these letters need serious help in the form of prayers, education and the sacrament of reconciliation, rather than a big megaphone to spew their misguided and even vicious words to the entire diocese.

I wrote in response to the October letter, but mine was not published. Others did the same and some of those letters were, thankfully, published. The fact that this happened twice in less than a six-month period suggests that The Catholic Virginian is oblivious to the hurt it is causing members of the Body of Christ.

In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death and the ensuing protests and nationwide conversation that is finally happening, is The Catholic Virginian listening? I sure hope so. I believe an apology to African American Catholics is long overdue. – Monica Carley-Spencer, Charlottesville

All Catholics must work for racial justice

In light of the murder of George Floyd and the awareness of racial issues that has come with it, I am calling on all Catholics to take action for racial justice. For far too long, the Church in the United States has been quiet on this issue.

Racial justice is a pro-life issue, and until the Church roots out the evils of racism within it, our black brothers and sisters will never be fully welcomed as members of the Body of Christ. Not being racist isn’t enough. We must be anti-racist.

The Church must repent. The Diocese of Richmond must acknowledge its participation in racial injustice. From siding with the Confederacy in the Civil War to closing black churches during desegregation, the diocese has actively harmed its black members and must make amends for that.

We must listen to our black brothers and sisters. We must hear their stories and amplify their voices. Every church in the diocese should have persons of color on their parish council.

We must educate. Churches need to host events on white privilege and racial justice. Every Catholic school and faith formation program must have an anti-racism curriculum. Celebrating black saints during February isn’t enough. We must teach our children to fight racism daily.

We must act. We must attend rallies. We must fight for legislation that supports racial justice. We must join interfaith groups, such as Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities (RISC) that work for change in education, housing and gun violence where some black communities are negatively impacted.

Finally, we must pray for justice, healing and change. – Denise Letendre, Richmond

Is inspired by bishop’s writing

Bishop Knestout is an inspiration to me. He’s different. Ever since he came on the scene more than two years ago, he has been delivering messages and writing in The Catholic Virginian.

You have carried many pictures of him. One heart-rending image has been his prostration as a sign of repentance and asking forgiveness. Too, he has been tireless, visiting parishes and talking to people, young and old. His “Christ Our Hope” column is food for thought. Thank you for the latest Catholic Virginian. – Joe D’Silva, Suffolk

Concerned about reopening churches

I know the importance and grace of attending Mass and receiving the sacraments. I trust that people still receive the grace of the sacraments through desire. Not to be able to attend is a sacrifice.

Many priests and laity are in the high-risk category, and it is likely the elderly will choose to attend. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe the priests have been given a choice.

Our close brothers and sisters in Christ, the Episcopalians, have this to say about reopening. First Corinthians 10:23:24, states: “All things are lawful but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful but not all build up. Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.”

This regathering which occurs under very specific detached conditions is lawful but not beneficial for the whole population. The priest may be compelled to celebrate by order of the diocese. The elderly parishioners are the ones most likely to attend.

The loss of one life due to this reopening is too much. Churches in other states have reopened with spread of COVID-19 and death. Could we not choose to protect our clergy and ourselves until we can all worship safely? – Linda Tucciarone, Glen Allen

If you can, donate stimulus check

By now many of us have received our government stimulus checks. To many it will be welcome to help pay bills or necessary expenses. But for a number of us, in whole or part, it is not needed. My wife and I blessedly fall into that number.

What better way to show our gratitude to God than by donating our stimulus money to help those suffering from a shortage of food due to conditions created by the COVID-19 crisis.

We gave our entire amount of $1,500 to organizations such as World Central Kitchen, No Kid Hungry, the Food Bank and the diocesan St. Joseph Fund, among others.

We exhort our fellow Catholics to do likewise. We are sure that God will be well pleased. – Rebecca and Mario Mazzarella, Newport News

Praying for more pro-life counselors

Re: “Few mentions of ‘abortion’ in sermons” (Catholic Virginian, May 4): As a pro-life sidewalk counselor in Norfolk, I appreciate any attention given to the abortion issue. I am not sure, however, what was the purpose of this article. Anyone who attends Sunday Mass already knows this topic is not addressed in the sermons. The question should be, “Why not?”

We witness between 30 to 40 abortions each day with approximately two to three sidewalk counselors praying for these mothers in crisis and their babies. We are desperate for our Church to actively promote our ministry and pray that God will send us more pro-life counselors to witness to life.

Regardless, all two or three of us will be on the sidewalk, guiding and comforting these women in need while I will continue to contemplate the question of why the Church so rarely mentions the evil of abortion during Sunday homilies. – Kathleen Dawson, Chesapeake

Letters • June 1, 2020

Thank you to real heroes

As a physician I’m acutely aware of what I step into voluntarily every day.

I’m no hero. I do my job.

I would, however, like to publicly thank the people who pick the veggies, prepare and process the meat, transport the results and day in and day out stick it on a shelf where I can get it.

Without them, I can’t do my job.

Real heroes?

Definitely. No explanation necessary.

Low pay, tough working conditions with limited protection.

Sounds like a hero to me.

– Dr. S. Restaino, Chesapeake

Preach homilies, not sermons

Re: your story, “Few mentions of abortion in sermons” (Catholic Virginian, May 4). In a sermon any issue can be preached. However, since Vatican II we are supposed to be preaching homilies.  

A homily is preaching on the Scriptures just proclaimed. It is a breaking open the Word of God just proclaimed to the particular congregation assembled at this time. The homily should be explaining the Scriptures just proclaimed to the congregation so they can go out and live the Word of God in their daily lives.  

The homily is not a time to preach on various subjects of the Christian life unless a subject fits into the word proclaimed. Some preachers can twist thing around to fit what they want to say, and that is being dishonest to what a homily should be.  

In the Catholic Church today we should be preaching homilies, not sermons.

– Rev. Louis R. Benoit, Roanoke 

What Catholic politicians must do

Kudos go to Robert R. Kaplan and his letter, “Bishops’ response laudable but weak” (Catholic Virginian, May 18). He makes several excellent points regarding clergy response to Governors Ralph Northam and Andrew Cuomo. 

I would like to add that abortion supporters such as Cuomo, Biden, Pelosi and other supposedly Catholic politicians in high places always fall back on the lame excuse that Roe v. Wade is settled law. 

Given that logic, we would still have slavery in the United States today because the 1857 Dred Scott decision ruled that slavery was legal. Can you envision our country today with Dred Scott still in force? Even though it was the “law of the land,” it was eventually overturned because politicians and citizens worked to right a grave injustice. 

Prayerfully, those Catholic politicians holding high office today will rethink their position and work to overturn Roe v. Wade and protect the sanctity of life. 

– Ted Cors, Williamsburg

Beg Holy Spirit for grace to do right

Father Anthony E. Marques’ articles on the Civil War and the Cathedral of St. Peter (Catholic Virginian, May 18) remind us that Catholics have a complicated history with slavery — from the notorious Dred Scott decision, authored by Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Catholic, to the support of many Virginia Catholics for the Confederacy, with varying degrees of ardor and for various reasons.  

We may be appalled by their compromises with evil. Or we may want to defend their choices as misunderstood or the best that could be made of a difficult situation. 

Rather than merely prompting condemnation or justification, resulting in partisan debate, this history should deepen our empathy for those making difficult choices and prompt us to beg the Holy Spirit for the grace to do what is right in our own day. 

– Aaron Linderman, Ruckersville

A document Catholic musicians should read

A letter from William Yearout from Willis (Catholic Virginian, May 18) caught my attention. The letter thanked the organist and music director of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for using the proper antiphons while the Mass was being livestreamed from the cathedral. 

At Sacred Heart, Norfolk, we have sung the proper Communion antiphons from the “Graduale Romanum” for at least 25 years. For example. the Communions for the Sundays of Lent 2, 3, 4 and 5 in Cycle A summarize the Gospel for the Sunday. 

An example is the Communion for Lent 4 Lutum fecit (The Lord made mud from spit, and put it on my eyes: and I went, I washed, and I saw, and I believed in God.) [Note the absence of and in I believed in God.] All four of these antiphons are short, easy to sing and could be said to summarize the Gospel. 

Yearout mentions the document “Sing to the Lord” written by a committee of the USCCB. This document has never been sent to Rome for their approval so whatever is in “Sing to the Lord” are only suggestions. 

The document that is not suggestions and which needs to be carefully read over and over again is “Musicam Sacram.” This is a document of the Second Vatican Council with a publication date of March 5,1967. Everything pertaining to music in the Catholic Mass is covered in this document. It should be read by all Catholic musicians.

– James A. Gallatin 

Organist and Music Director

Sacred Heart, Norfolk

Letters • May 18, 2020

Bishops’ response ‘laudable but weak’

The sentiments of Bishops Knestout and Burbidge in response to Gov. Northam’s signing virulent, anti-life legislation, reversing hard-fought gains in the fight to protect women and the most vulnerable among us, the pre-born and the just-born, were laudable but weak (Catholic Virginian, April 20). They were evocative of similar sentiments expressed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan when New York Gov. Cuomo led the way for Northam some months ago. 

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen taught, “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote.  Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.”  

Like Cardinal Dolan, our Virginia bishops missed the opportunity to remind the faithful that anyone who participates or lends consent to abortion incurs the penalty of excommunication. I also regret that your consigning this story to the last, rather than the first, page of the newspaper sends its own message of relative importance.

– Robert R. Kaplan, Midlothian

Appreciates antiphons during bishop’s Mass

I want to express my appreciation for the content of our diocesan livestream Masses celebrated by Bishop Knestout with the assistance of our wonderful cathedral musicians, but especially the choice to utilize sung antiphons during the Mass.The content within these antiphons complements the readings at each Mass.

The Church has officially set these antiphons to Gregorian Chant in the “Graduale Romanum” and “Graduale Simplex,” the two official songbooks of the Roman Rite. However, there exist many approved vernacular settings of these Antiphons in chant, metrical, even praise and worship settings. 

My parish, All Saints in Floyd, chants the antiphons in addition to hymns during our Masses. We have seen a huge benefit to the liturgical life of our parish from the introduction of this venerable tradition. 

In its document “Sing to the Lord” the USCCB praises the practice of singing the antiphons: “Proper antiphons from the liturgical books are to be esteemed and used especially because they are the very voice of God speaking to us in the Scriptures.”

I encourage more parishes to consider incorporating this ancient practice into our liturgies. These songs have occupied a place within our heritage for ages but unfortunately in the past half century we have seen them all but abandoned. Following the lead of the Second Vatican Council we should aim to recover our sacred musical heritage, giving “pride of place” to these beautiful songs.

– William Yearout, Willis

Suffering, death are part of life

In the May 4 Catholic Virginian, a reader implicitly asks Father Doyle if it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die for our salvation, and if so, why. 

Jesus pleaded with God the Father just before his crucifixion if it was possible to avoid it, so it definitely was necessary. We might never know the fullness and depth of this mystery, but it is central to our faith, as Jesus emphasizes in John chapter 6.

Suffering and physical death are part of life. Parents show love by suffering and giving their lives for their children. Students suffer in obtaining knowledge and skills. Athletes and artists willingly suffer to perform well. At Fatima an angel told Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta to offer their sufferings for souls in purgatory. 

Suffering becomes evil only when separated from our life in God. To make it possible that we remain in God beyond physical death, Jesus had to die, both to show the way to the Father and to permit us to unite our death to his. 

Many people have unjustly died shameful deaths involving great suffering, so Jesus had to suffer the same. Therefore, at Mass when the priest receives the gifts of bread and wine, we offer not only our gifts and works, but also our sufferings, shortcomings and even sins that we have confessed. 

As St. Paul says, in our bodies we complete Jesus’ suffering. God thereby takes what we might regard as evil and unjust and transforms it into his unbounded love through us. 

Thanks be to God.

– Joe Rudmin, Harrisonburg 

Work for solidarity in the new normal

COVID-19 is the constant subject of conversations, news reports and internet searches.  No surprise as everyone has been affected in at least one aspect of daily life.  The ways we learn, socialize, shop, work and eat are not what they were two months ago. Lately the hot topic is what the “new normal” will look like after these upheavals to our status quo.  

Pope Francis addressed this topic in his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, saying, “The present pandemic, however, reminds us that there are no differences or borders between those who suffer. We are all frail, all equal, all precious. May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us: the time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family.”

There are so many injustices (racial, economic, environmental, etc.) that have been spotlighted by this pandemic. As Catholics we are called to work for solidarity. St. John Paul II laid this out in “Sollicitudo rei Socialis”: “[Solidarity] is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”  

As we start forming the new normal let us think of our brothers and sisters first and work to create a just community both locally and globally.  

– Anna Cave, Henrico

Letters • May 4, 2020

Grateful for work of CV writers

Kudos to Father Anthony Marques and his task force for the inspirational history of our diocese. 

During these frightening times it is so comforting to hear of the courageous people who went before us to help bring character, integrity and spirituality to our Church. 

Their love for God and their dedication through all kinds of adversity helps us now to face the horrors of this pandemic.

Thanks also to your other writers who are bringing us comfort and understanding when we so desperately need it.

Thanks to all of you and God bless you. 

 – Joe Swonk, Dunnsville

Goal should be sainthood

As we chart uncertain territory in the world and our Church, we must remember that the Church is here to always lead people to Christ. Through many discussions with friends, family, parishioners, other Catholics I fear what messages the leaders of our diocese are giving to the congregants.  

Many people I talk to are feeling there may not be a reason at all to return to the Church after all this is over. That the ability to cut everyone off from the sacraments so completely shows how non-essential they must be. There is anger that they are denied the right to receive the Eucharist.

The Catholic Church teaches that the most direct way to salvation, living eternity in heaven with our Lord, is through baptism and the Real Presence of the Eucharist, but that was not available to many in our diocese at Easter. 

Some parishes only had two people going through the RCIA program. That would have required five people (social distancing, of course) to make that happen, yet they still have not been initiated into the Catholic Church. 

Although we must be vigilant and careful not to make people sick, we must always remember we are spiritual beings on a human journey and our goal should always be sainthood and getting others to Christ. How is our diocese working toward that goal at the present time?

– James Notebaert, Vinton

Letters • April 20, 2020

Photo brought back memories

In the Time Capsule (Catholic Virginian, March 9), I was overjoyed to see a photo of St. Katharine Drexel during a graduation at St. Emma.

The photo brought back memories of my own graduation from St. Emma in June 1966, when priests, nuns, lay teachers and classmates said “goodbye.” 

Thanks to St. Katharine Drexel and her half-sister, Louise Morrell, African Americans such as myself were able to experience a first-class Catholic education.

When I entered St. Emma in 1962, St. Emma Industrial and Agricultural College for Boys had become St. Emma Military Academy as far back as 1934 when my dad graduated. The academy offered a secondary education along with military science studies and training in an industrial trade such as carpentry, plumbing, electricity, tailoring, shoe repair, auto mechanics, woodworking and agriculture. There were catechism classes and daily Masses.

My memories also go back to the Lenten seasons, when socials and dances between St. Emma cadets and St. Francis de Sales’ girls were delayed until Easter. 

I also recall the military parades on Easter Sundays, when my parents, relatives and large crowds gathered to gaze at the marvelous formations and socialized afterward.

Even though St. Emma closed in 1970, my aging classmates and I, and those classes before me, can hold on to the special memories for years. These experiences were all possible because St. Katharine Drexel and the wonderful Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament touched so many lives, especially African Americans and Native Americans.

The photo of St. Katharine Drexel will be a keepsake.

– Matthew Thomas Jr., Bedford

Clericalism hinders Church’s divine mission

Though I appreciate his intentions, I’m afraid Father Pat Apuzzo has muddied the waters somewhat in his treatment of “clericalism” (Catholic Virginian, April 6).  The phenomenon he ascribes to “some laypersons” and to “some clerics” is better termed a “general sense of moral superiority.”  

It can be common to all Catholic Christians and, in fact, to all human beings. Witness the New Testament parable of the pharisee and the tax collector (Lk 18:9-14). 

Bishop Robert Barron, in his “Word on Fire” series on notable Catholics, has a treatise on the author Flannery O’Connor. The latter clearly demonstrates the evils of moral superiority in her short story, “Revelations.”  “Clericalism,” however, is a specific type of moral superiority attributable only to clerics. 

The author Stephen Boehrer, a laicized priest, perfectly illustrates the reality of clericalism in his book “Purple Culture.” Despite the fact that “there are a lot of deacons, priests and bishops who do not fall into clericalism,” according to Father Apuzzo, there are too many who have and, sadly, many who still do.  

Much of the cover-up for the ugly abuse scandal in the Church can be attributed directly to clericalism. Pope Francis himself has identified clericalism as a major impediment standing in the way of the Church’s divine mission. We Catholics cannot afford to muddy that reality.

– Francis M. Glynn, Yorktown

Letter was insult to African American Catholics

This letter is a response to Jack Rowett’s letter (Catholic Virginian, March 23). He states that the disproportionately high number of African Americans in our prison system is caused by their culture of pregnant teenagers, absent fathers and rampant crime.

Is he suggesting that single parenting, abandonment, and illegal behaviors are exclusively African American characteristics? Is he suggesting that the white population of the prisons don’t share many of the same problems?

This higher rate of incarceration of African Americans has been with us throughout history. Virginia, much to our shame, has a history of enslaving multiple generations of African Americans to the most brutal form of incarceration. And then “separate, but equal” and Jim Crow laws led to persistent institutional, systemic racism. Our legacy of mistreatment of African Americans has ensured that they remain disadvantaged as we remain advantaged.

African Americans have been in this country since the very beginning. Their communities, neighborhoods and schools should look like all the other affluent neighborhoods and schools that we white people feel entitled to enjoy. But indeed, they do not. The sad fact is that prejudice, discrimination and racism continue to plague many African American communities.

It is an insult to the faithful and loving African American Catholics who read this newspaper to have “their culture” maligned by superficial, mean-spirited and inaccurate sociological theory. Their deep commitment to our faith and the abiding belief in “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” are lived on a daily basis by our African American friends.

– Helen Henrich, New Kent

Focus on salvation of souls

Jack Rowett’s letter (Catholic Virginian, March 23) seems to have touched several nerves.  However, the statistical fallacies abound.

First on the bonfire of vanities is that correlation implies causation. Statistical studies always mention controls when demonstrating causation — a lack of causation must be demonstrably absurd statistically. Most of the statistics cited are meaningless correlations in the absence of controls. Second, case studies lack generality specifically since there are no controls.

Studies controlling for the effects of race, income, and education show a culture of fatherlessness and teen pregnancy likely partially causes problematic behavior.  This defends Rowett’s final statement, but little else.  

Similarly, controlled studies show that lack of access to good legal services (where lawyer’s income quasi-substitutes for quality) leads to more incarceration as noted by Rachel Condon. Our final log on the bonfire — peer review of flawed studies does not catch all errors.  

However, Catholics, ought to focus on the salvation of souls. Indeed, social justice degenerates into “the soft bigotry of low expectations” without first giving the gift of faith. Social science atheistically recognizes churches as social levelers.  

Without faith firmly proclaiming our equality before God, there is no leveling. Without welcoming all into our family of faith, there is no leveling. Using language to place certain groups in their own “separate but equal” Mass or offer the Mass preferring one vernacular against another inhibits leveling. Hence, universal Latin equalizes and gathers — as Vatican II promoted.  

Equal before God, we implore him in the Lord’s Prayer to address our spiritual needs first in the Eucharist, our daily bread, and then our temporal daily bread. People universally need Christ!

– Timothy Olmsted, Farmville 

Positive development

During this distressing time of global pestilence with its accompanying sickness, death, economic hardships, and disruption of normal life, including the loss of public Masses, at least one positive development has occurred. 

In the Diocese of Richmond, our Lord, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament in tabernacles, has emerged from distantly placed adoration chapels to appear front and center in the main bodies of our churches which is his proper place.  

The ways of the Lord are mysterious indeed. Let us pray that after this trying period has passed our Lord will remain front and center so that the faithful may more readily behold and adore their king.

– Mary Jo Anger, Chester

Pandemic a ‘sacred, holy time’

With all of our advances in the past 50 or so years in science, medicine and technology, many of us and society in general seem to be so self-satisfied and absorbed in our accomplishments that we have felt no time nor need for God, much less the need to acknowledge him! 

But in the midst of our recently completed Lent and creation’s joyous hallelujahs to spring’s renewal, God has not forgotten nor forsaken us!

In his perfect timing, and especially in our diocese’s bicentennial, a time of jubilee, he has ordered our lives, in a very concrete way, to come back to him and to experience our own spiritual renewal and his deep and everlasting love. 

Literally, God’s very important announcement and command to us and to the world is: “Be still and know that I am God!”

Is he using tough love to accomplish this? Most definitely! But often, as we know, when a child has been headstrong, hostile and estranged through sin, even a most loving parent needs to use tough love to gain that child’s attention and to let the child know the situation is serious.

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic can be life-threatening, but what a sacred, holy time this truly is in so many ways! So, with this grace-filled, God-given holy season in our history, may we implore his forgiveness and accept love’s invitation to return to him and receive the peace that only God can give. 

– Sharon Lucas, Henrico

Letters • April 6, 2020

Discrimination based on skin color is racism

Re: The letter of Jack Rowett (Catholic Virginian, March 23): Rowett’s letter includes by definition examples of racial discrimination, attributing causation of behavior and perception of culture to color of skin. When discrimination indicates superiority of one skin color to another, this is racism. 

In a Texas suburb called DeSoto, the population is 70% black. Based on Rowett’s rationale, that “Black culture” causes high crime rates, this suburb should have incredibly high crime rates. 

But it has low crime rates. Why? Perhaps because using color of skin to make judgments about human beings, each made in the image of God, isn’t the right path. These assumptions are not facts, they are opinions, sometimes racist opinions.

Perhaps we should talk facts. In DeSoto, 90% of the population are high school graduates, over 30% have a college education, and 60% of the businesses are owned by African Americans. Maybe access to quality education, employment opportunities and a number of other factors make a real difference.

Maybe we should ask ourselves how we make sure all people in our country have equitable access to these factors. Maybe we shouldn’t put a timetable on how long we think it should take generations of people to recover from literal dehumanization and subjugation in the form of slavery, Jim Crow laws and many other despicable forms of systemic racism that have happened and are still happening in our country. 

Maybe those of us who have white skin should take a dose of humble pie and recognize we will never know what it is like to live without it.  

– Nicole Gerardo, Charlottesville

Letter writer painted inaccurate picture

Whenever I hear a phrase similar to “I’m not racist, however…” I know that a racist statement is sure to follow, and Jack Rowett did not disappoint in his letter to the editor (Catholic Virginian, March 23). 

Rowett claims that black incarceration rates can’t be unjust because they accurately reflect higher criminal behavior in African American populations. The 13th amendment abolished slavery over 150 years ago. The vestiges of slavery very quickly morphed into a system of black mass incarceration. 

The entire criminal justice system from beginning to end is stacked against African Americans. I suspect that Rowett is using a few rudimentary statistics to declare that a very large and complicated system is just and fair.

Mr. Rowett, I implore you look deeper into this. I pray that God will open your eyes to the suffering that has ravaged our communities and that you will feel compelled — at the very least — to stop spreading divisive statements that paint an inaccurate picture.

– Jennifer Garrett, Virginia Beach

Statistics don’t tell whole story

Jack Rowett says in his letter (Catholic Virginian, March 23) that by looking at incarceration statistics, one can see that African Americans commit more crimes than other demographics. This is not wholly accurate. Incarceration statistics don’t reflect all crimes committed. Even assuming that no one was wrongly convicted, incarceration statistics only reflect a portion of crimes committed.

These statistics are crimes that were witnessed, their perpetrators apprehended, charges pressed, perpetrators found guilty and perpetrators sentenced to serve time. Many, many things can occur along that path that can lead to injustice or, at least, unfairness. 

Perhaps someone along that chain of power was racist (racist officers, lawyers, and judges do, sadly, exist), or perhaps the perpetrator didn’t have a lawyer that was very good or able to reach a plea bargain. Being able to choose one’s lawyer costs money, and poverty disproportionately affects people of color.

– Rachel Condon, Hanover

Letters • March 23, 2020

Noteworthy anniversaries

As people around the world celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, Catholics are reminded of another milestone. In May, the Church will mark the fifth anniversary of “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis’ sweeping call to action addressed to all people to protect the environment of “our common home.”

“Laudato Si’” addresses the damage to our planet rooted in human action and makes clear that caring for our planet is an essential, not optional, part of our Christian obligation.       

The Holy Father also focuses on the social justice implications of environmental damage. He notes that “everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.”

In this country, pursuing environmental justice requires us to focus not only on poverty, but on race. Our everyday experience bears this out. Recall the images of suffering from Hurricane Katrina. Think about who is living closest to polluted areas.  

Scientific studies over the years have demonstrated that flood plains have high populations of black and Latino residents and that more than half of all people who live near hazardous waste are people of color.  

As recently as 2018, the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment concluded that people of color are more likely to live near facilities that pollute and to breathe polluted air.   

Pope Francis has called us to action. We must remedy the environmental damage to our common home and make choices about how we allocate environmental risk. As we do so, let us focus on impacts on communities of color and ensure that people from those communities shape those decisions. 

– Rosann Bocciarelli, Henrico

How to deal with Catholic Vote, others

Regarding Catholic Vote and its tactics (Catholic Virginian, March 9):  The best way for the Church to deal with organizations like Catholic Vote, Church Militant and the Lepanto Institute is to teach and live, publicly and privately, Catholic faith and morals as universal principals. These principles are binding on all mankind, public and private, because all persons are created by God. 

Catholic Vote and others exist because the collection of official and lay Church voices no longer form consciences in a clear way. An example is how a Catholic candidate for vice president could be proud of his Catholic conscience to support public health care but have it silent about abortion in the public arena.  

The Church, if it wants to stop these organizations, should live in a way that it gives them no purpose to exist. Not taking your cell phone to church, as the article suggests, is a silly proposal that remedies nothing.

– Anthony Rago, Newport News

‘Offended, scared’ by tracking

Re: “Big Catholic Brother could be watching you” (Catholic Virginian, March 9): I’m wholly offended and scared that someone, anyone, believes that tracking my every move is an opportunity to sell me a candidate or a brand of beer and that it is OK.

In China that amounts to prison. (Ask the millions of Uighers in internment camps for their Moslem beliefs). Easy to find if they’re in mosques and arrest them. 

If the information is so important, ask the diocese for access. Buy the mailing list from parishes. At least then I can say no. And we know who has it.

I’ll be writing my senator to stop this abuse of my privacy from this man and any other app that already does this.

I’d remind our readers that this information would include your children’s whereabouts.

By the way, how do we know this gentleman won’t then sell this info to others with fewer scruples?

– Steve Restaino, Chesapeake 

Incarceration rates reflect crime rates

Re: The letter of Margaret Rittenhouse of North Chesterfield (Catholic Virginian, March 9):  

Throughout her letter, Rittenhouse seeks to say that the unfortunately high poverty and crime rates among the African American population are due to discriminatory legislation and systematic racism. 

Now I would like to make it clear, racism is wrong and irreconcilable with the teachings of Holy Mother Church. Whatever I say here shouldn’t be misconstrued or perhaps lead the reader to believe I’m a racist myself. 

Rittenhouse unjustly blames the criminal justice system for the disproportionately high amount of blacks who are incarcerated. I understand that blacks account for 12% of the adult population and also comprise 33% of the jailed population, but this isn’t due to any racist legislation. 

It’s due to the fact that the African American community commits disproportionately higher rates of crimes compared to other demographic groups. Incarceration rates can’t be racist if they reflect actual crime rates. 

The problem here isn’t “racist” lawmakers or politicians. It’s the culture of fatherlessness, teen pregnancies and crime. 

 – Jack Rowett, Newport News 

No letters on politicians

I’m sitting here reading the CV and cannot believe that you published the last two letters in the March 9 edition. We’re now going to read letters in each edition in support of politicians?

 These should have no place in this newspaper. Letters should be limited to the good and the bad of ideas and policies — not the endorsement or defense of specific politicians. 

– Bernard Caton, Richmond 

Letters • March 9, 2020

Envisioning excellent education for youth

Our future lies in our faith, educating our children, nurturing their full potential and helping them grow into capable productive adults, responsible citizens and good human beings.

We must transform our education sector to “education for all.” An education that cuts across geography, gender and socio-economic groups and race will help break societal inequalities and create lifelong opportunities for millions of youth.

The United Nations Population Fund states that the U.S. youth bulge will continue to 2030. Heartening news, but how many youths will be able to grab current and emerging opportunities and make the transition from mere knowledge holders to innovators and entrepreneurs to leaders on a global scale? Few, unless we transform education by:

  • overhauling curriculum to focus on skills, mindsets and habits, basic literacy, numeracy skills using technology
  • aiming for 21st century skills of critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration and communication
  • empowering teachers to teach like the best teachers in the world
  • ensuring each child, not a few toppers, is learning
  • using internships for greater insight by students
  • using technology and data to enable personalization in schools, for teacher development and student progress

To achieve these goals, run an integrated system that upgrades curriculum, upgrades pedagogy, empowers teachers, upgrades learning infrastructure and connect all. Integration brings high results in student learning, teacher performance and school operations. It brings change in habits and behaviors of principals, teachers and parents – critical aspects in change management processes. Integrated systems use technology in empowering teachers, enabling school leaders and lead to sustained transformation. – Lois L. Williams, Virginia Beach

Norfolk Birthright is open!

I want to share some good news with my fellow Catholics in Virginia who are concerned about whether enough is being done to help pregnant women who are facing pressure to abort: Birthright of Norfolk stands ready to help women who are in crisis so that they may choose life.

Founded by Louise Summerhill, a Catholic mother of seven, Birthright provides free, practical, confidential and loving support to women, guided by Catholic Social Teaching and available to all.

If you have been told recently that Birthright of Norfolk is closing its doors, let me assure you — nothing could be further from the truth! If you are seeking a way to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, volunteering with Birthright is an excellent way to continue your mission. – Jennifer Miele, Norfolk

‘Don’t give up on the Church’

In response to “Where is the friendliness?” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 10): I was saddened and dismayed to read Gary Brown’s comments about his experiences visiting a Catholic church.

When we travel in the U.S. and abroad, we try to arrive early enough at Catholic churches to introduce ourselves and speak with some of the parishioners seated nearby. Our experiences have mostly been very positive.

Mr. Brown’s letter is a good reminder to strive to see the image of Christ in others. Matthew 25:35 says, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me…”

Our parish is known for its diversity and welcoming attitude, which is evident when we greet people arriving, at the end of Mass when our priest welcomes visitors, and after Mass when we greet visitors. Our welcome also extends to more than a hundred folks each week who come to share a Sunday supper and take home a bag of fresh and canned goods.

We come together as a faith community to worship and to be nourished by the Eucharist, but we also come together in various ministries where we find ourselves being welcomed into new “circles” of friends while serving others.

Mr. Brown might consider visiting some other parishes to see if he feels more comfortable elsewhere. There is so much more to the Catholic Church than an hour at Mass once a week.

Mr. Brown, I urge you not to give up on the entire Catholic Church based on your experience at one church. Continue to “…seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). – Jenny W. Crawford, Yorktown

Lack of friendliness not just a Catholic concern

The letter “Where’s the friendliness?” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 10) about hospitality in Catholic parishes reminded me of similar experiences I have had. Like Gary Brown, I have asked that same question. I am pretty sure this is not just a Catholic concern.

Raised Baptist, I have belonged to a Lutheran church and am now Presbyterian. I have also attended Catholic Church on occasion. I have experienced church as friendly and welcoming but also as aloof and cold. I prefer the former but have long ceased being surprised when I encounter the latter.

Ushers who don’t look you in the eye; not being greeted; even having a hymnal snatched from the pew in front of me (that was in a Protestant church) — I’ve gotten that and more.

To be fair, I could probably improve how I greet/treat other people in church and out, but regardless, no matter how I am treated, I always have the freedom to choose how I respond.

One cultural norm I have witnessed in central Virginia is the closeness of family ties in rural churches, best illustrated in the phrase, “If you’re kin, you’re in.”

Given the size of most Catholic parishes, I wouldn’t think this would be a part of their dynamic, but are there not other risks here, too, such as people being taken for granted or, worse, treated with anonymity?

How visitors perceive churches is important to how well we are witnessing God’s love. People need community, and for many, they haven’t found it at church. It may just be that the local gym, sports bar or dog park will do as well. – Steven Moore, Milford

Know difference between charity and social justice

As a Catholic, I continue to be reminded of the difference between charity and social justice. The work of charity is helping those less fortunate. This is certainly Jesus’ call, and it feels good!

The work of social justice is the work of righting injustices in our community even if we did not commit the injustices.

One area of injustice is toward the African American community whereby purposeful structural racist policies such as redlining have left many in poverty with the message “you and your children don’t count.”

Evidence includes deteriorating schools in low income areas with fewer resources than affluent areas, food deserts with a lack of good grocery store and an inability to obtain a mortgage resulting in cyclical poverty which has left many unable to develop intergenerational wealth.

Evidence also lies in the criminal justice system: In 2017, African Americans represented 12% of the U.S. adult population but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Whites accounted for 64% of adults but 30% of prisoners. African American children are often labeled as troublemakers and become victims of the “school to prison pipeline.”

These challenges have led to mental health issues, lack of hope and deep distrust. I challenge each Catholic to be anti-racist and not just have an awareness of racism. Join your parish’s social justice committee. Contact your legislators, help community gardens in the inner city, join the reading program in an inner-city school, support inclusive and truthful African American history being taught in all of our schools.

This is our faith! You won’t regret it. – Margaret Rittenhouse, North Chesterfield

How Trump is defined

When scrutinizing President Trump, it’s good to recall some champions of Israel whom God anointed.

Israel’s greatest king was David. God said, “I’ve found David, son of Jesse, a Man after my own heart.” David unified the Israelis and conquered her enemies. But David became proud, cocky. He committed adultery and murder, which brought Israel close to ruin.

Yet David still loved God, was repenting of his sins, and God forgave him. It was David’s love of God and following his will which defined him. Not his sins.

Samson was a great Hebrew champion, single handedly besting thousands of Philistines. Yet Samson also had promiscuous relationships with pagan women that brought him tragedy. He was blinded and put in chains.

However, in the end, Samson remembered God and begged his forgiveness, which God granted, and afterward, Samson gained his greatest victory. It was Samson’s love of God and his heroic defense of Israel which defined him. Not his sins.

In Trump, we’re witnessing a seeming evolution of spirit. From crass playboy billionaire to presidential champion for religious liberty and an ardent promoter of pro-life. Trump’s taken extraordinary political risk bucking abortion and being openly for Christianity, as well as a stalwart defender of Israel.

Yet Trump’s actions are wholesome signs of an interior orientation towards God — “despite” Trump’s previous vulgar lifestyle. Today, it’s his support of the Church, the unborn, Israel and American rights which define Trump. Not his sins. – Fran Rodgers, Virginia Beach

Review Catholic Social Teaching, catechism

Several recent comments highlighted readers’ political biases and unfamiliarity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and Catholic Social Teaching.

One commented, “What about the ‘seamless garment?’”

The “seamless garment” was used by the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin to address Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person and having a consistent attitude toward life at all stages.

In March 1984, Cardinal Bernardin said, “A consistent life ethic does not equate the problem of taking life, e.g., through abortion and in war, with the problem of promoting human dignity (through humane programs of nutrition, health care and housing).”

Archbishop Gerhard Muller noted, “Unfortunately, however, it is also true that the image of the ‘seamless garment’ has been used by some theologians and Catholic politicians in an intellectually dishonest manner to allow or at least 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.”

President Trump was attacked although he hasn’t been accused of immoral activity since becoming president. Perhaps he is undergoing conversion. Under his tenure, poverty and unemployment have been reduced, the middle class has grown and our country is experiencing increased productivity. Besides being a strong voice for life, he has also been a strong advocate on the international stage supporting religious freedom.

A review of the CCC and Catholic Social Teaching is warranted for all of us before deciding who to vote for in the next election. – Tom Klocek, Chesapeake

Letters • February 24, 2020

Inspired by Frank Parater

On the 100th anniversary of the death of Servant of God, Frank Parater, I express my deep gratitude for his intercession on behalf of our family. I learned about him shortly after our conversion to the Catholic Church, and I was deeply impressed by his offering of his life on behalf of the Catholic Church in Virginia.

After noting that he was an Eagle Scout, I prayed novenas to him before and during our boys’ Eagle Scout projects. We were blessed in many ways. So many special things happened during my son Jeremy’s work at James River State Park that the state park ranger declared afterwards that, “God’s hand was all over this project.”

Later I prayed for Frank’s intercession again before my son, Father Cassidy, left for college. I was concerned because I could tell that he had a lot of gifts that would be excellent in a priestly ministry, and I wanted him to discern whether he had a vocation or not. Happily, he did receive the graces to do that and is now delighted to be a priest.

I encourage parents and parishioners to not forget Frank when they notice a young person who may have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, or if they are working toward a major goal like the Eagle Scout award. I’m sure Frank would love to be asked for help for other needs of our parishes or for our diocese. Our family has found him to be a powerful intercessor before the Lord. – Tanya Stinson, Dillwyn

Office for Black Catholics vital to Diocese of Richmond

As we celebrate Black History Month, I invite everyone to read the wonderful article in the Feb. 7 issue of America Magazine by Deacon Charles Williams, interim director of the diocesan Office for Black Catholics. You can access the article at https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/02/07/my-black-catholic-church-was-closed-name-integration.

Deacon Williams recounts his experience of the closing of black parishes in the Richmond Diocese and the effect it had and, in some ways, still has on the black Catholic community in the diocese’s attempt to foster integration.

His is a cautionary tale about misguided decisions made by those in authority in the Church without the full consultation/collaboration with those to be affected directly by the decision. His is a story of resilience, faith and reconciliation.

Deacon Williams’ article is timely as black Catholics are facing a similar experience with the closing and minimizing of Offices for Black Catholics in the U.S. Church, in what many bishops assume is a step forward in this 21st century, so called, “post-racial” society.

If we are honest about race relations outside and inside the Church, we need our Offices for Black Catholics more than ever. Reading The Catholic Virginian’s letters to the editor confirms that racial insensitivity, misunderstanding, bigotry and racism still exist in the Church.

Deacon Williams has served as the interim director of the Office for Black Catholics since the previous director left. He has successfully fulfilled this position on a part-time basis. For the good of our diocese, we need to solidify the Office for Black Catholics. It is past time for a full-time director of the Office for Black Catholics to be named with all of the rights and responsibilities of a diocesan director.

As we celebrate the bicentennial of our diocese, let us continue to move forward as a Church — “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” Let us not make the same mistake we did with the closing of black parishes. – Gretta E. Barnes, Richmond

Recognize good done by Trump

If a political party promised health care for all, free college education, a roof over everyone’s head, unlimited immigration and a chicken in every pot but remains adamant that it was, and should ever remain, legal to kill a Jew — in private, of course — could a Catholic support such a party or a member of that same party? Ditto the above but replace killing Jews with the dismembering of unborn children.

Abortion is the gruesome murder of the most innocent of humanity. Democrats not only want it kept legal, but they promise enshrining it in law should Roe v. Wade be overturned. Recent Virginia Democratic legislative action to remove all protection — again from murder — of our unborn gifts from God is a public demonstration of this fact. All Democratic presidential candidates push to see who can be the most pro-abortion commander in chief.

When will certain Catholic quarters stop giving credence to the Democratic Party? When will extremely pro-abortion politicians be stopped from receiving holy Communion, preventing the major scandalizing of all present during Mass? When will any of the very much good that President Trump does be given public recognition by our Church leaders?

To cite one good action, President Trump is appointing lower court judges who uphold the Constitution. Our Constitution declares no “right” to killing our unborn, nor a ‘“right” to force LGBTQ “sexual orientation” and “gender mis-identity” ideologies on our schoolchildren and citizenry — a direct attack on the natural family established by God. Both of these “rights” are fully supported by the Democratic Party. – John Stec, Covington

Look beyond president’s opposition to abortion

I am a cradle Catholic and daily communicant with 16 years of Catholic education. I have no respect for religious people — especially Catholics — who support President Trump because he says he opposes abortion.

The most offensive things we know about this man came out of his own mouth. On television, he bragged about the numbers of women he’s had and how easy it is for him to seduce them because of his money, position, etc., and he even laughingly talked about grabbing their private parts — using a word I can’t bring myself to say!

He has paid tens of thousands of dollars to women (verified!) to buy their silence about their affairs with him. And he has had three wives.

I have only one question: How many abortions has he caused? – Audrey J. Calomino, Harrisonburg

A prisoner’s view of the death penalty

In response to negative views on anti-death penalty advocates:

As a prisoner, I can attest firsthand to the cruelties and injustices of the criminal justice system.

The fact that many people facing the death penalty have been found to be innocent should be reason enough to stop the practice of killing human beings.

Some may believe that criminals are pariahs, and the victims of these pariahs deserve some kind of reprieve from the wrong done to them. I can assure you that killing human beings will provide no relief to anyone.

Some may think that criminals refuse to assimilate into the social compact and prey upon their fellow citizens. But the neighborhood I came from drove me into its own social compact, and throughout life I had to learn many things the hard way. So, who teaches these “social compacts”?

Some may say the Church traditionally follows condign punishments, but when the woman was caught in the act of adultery, the condign punishment was death. But our Lord didn’t follow such a cruel practice, and neither should his Church.

Human beings shouldn’t be killed, if it can be avoided, especially not by the criminal justice system as corrupt and cruel as we have now. – Cecil B. Truman, Augusta Correctional Center, Craigsville

Give Catholics a second chance

Re: Gary Brown’s letter (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 10) stating that friendliness was not found at the parish where he attended Mass a few times and asked for feedback.

With 50-plus years of being Catholic, I have attended friendly parishes all over the country and consider my parish as family in Norfolk. I am sad for your experience, but your evaluation of Catholics was based on your experience at one parish.

You stated that you are not Catholic. Maybe you do not realize that the holy sacrifice of the Mass is not our social hour. I would dare say most come hungry for the graces that come with receiving our Lord in the Eucharist and offering our struggling lives as sacrifice. We are not primarily there to meet new friends and chat.

Many Christians — Catholic or not — are introverts, suffering physically, emotionally and have done their best just to get themselves to Mass on Sunday to celebrate the liturgy. I encourage you to attend the weekly Bible study, the “That Man Is You” program or volunteer on a parish committee or food pantry. This is where you should find fellowship and the friendships you are seeking.

If the parish you attended does not have programs, then visit another parish and certainly look into attending the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Friendliness definitely exists in Catholic parish life. Celebrating Holy Mass is our time for reverence and worship.

Give Catholics a second chance, and may the peace of Christ be with you! – Catherine Waters, Norfolk

Experience of friendliness can vary

Regarding the letter “Where’s the friendliness?” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 10):

My wife and I are members of the Catholic Church. I am a convert to Catholicism, which occurred while I attended Fordham University. Gary Brown’s comments about the Catholic Church he occasionally visits, including the building, the choir and the pastor, are heartwarming and are very similar to the church my wife and I attend.

His experience concerning friendliness, or the lack thereof, is coincidental. Every week at church is different regarding compatibility among other parishioners. Some Sundays a parishioner will say hello and even shake your hand, and then the next Sunday the same person will walk right by not even giving a glance. My wife and I look at one another with a smile and just shake our heads.

The situation becomes more obvious when one is disabled and wheelchair bound as is my wife. Friendship that once was appears to gradually dwindle. This may be because one can no longer participate in activities that once were shared together.

Friendly persons should actually care about others and want to make them feel comfortable. One cannot be friends upon any other terms than upon the terms of equality. And, if there be any truer measure of persons than what they do, it must be with what they give.

We should all strive to be pure like our Blessed Mother, obedient like St. Joseph and humble like Jesus. – Chuck Brown, Nellysford

Letters • February 10, 2020

Where’s the friendliness?

Where is the friendliest place on earth? Who can say? I can say where it should be — the Catholic Church.

I am not Catholic, but occasionally I attend Mass with a family member. It is a beautiful building with ample parking, well-manicured grounds, clean restrooms and an ambiance both inviting and reverent.

The choir is not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but, by God, they try. Their enthusiasm more than makes up for their lack of musical expertise.

Their pastor (priest) gives an excellent homily week after week. Very instructive and helpful teaching.

So, what’s the problem? Not friendly!!

For several months, I was going there nearly every week. I would say hello, but I cannot recall a single time when anyone ever made the first step to get to know me. Cold!

Don’t hand me a bulletin and look the other way! No eye contact! Continuing a conversation with other greeters gave me the impression that I was not important.

I noted that people are friendly, but only within their circle. Come on, Catholics! Move out of your old patterns (ruts)! Look around, greet and then meet someone outside your circle of friends. Who knows? Maybe an undercover angel has slipped into the service unaware! How did it happen that McDonald’s is more friendly than the Catholic Church? I’m curious. What is the reason you cannot be hospitable to people who attend your church? I’d love to get some feedback on that question. – Gary Brown, Hampton

Let light of Christ illuminate dark hearts, closed minds

I am saddened and dismayed by the circumstances surrounding the decision to relocate the consecration ceremony of Rev. Susan Haynes as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia away from St. Bede, Williamsburg.

In a wonderful ecumenical gesture, Bishop Barry C. Knestout had offered the use of St. Bede’s facilities to the Episcopalians, who were in need of a large, centrally located venue to accommodate the numbers expected for this significant event. However, certain disgruntled elements within St. Bede circulated an online petition to have this ceremony removed from their church.

This petition was supported by an ultra-radical Catholic group and subsequently garnered more than 3,200 signatures on its website, mostly from outside the Diocese of Richmond. Many of the comments were vile, angry and personally insulting to Bishop Knestout, St. Bede pastor Msgr. Joe Lehman, Rev. Haynes and even Pope Francis.

To their credit, Bishop Knestout and Msgr. Joe Lehman, the pastor, resisted this shameful pressure and fully intended to proceed with the ceremony. However, Bishop- elect Haynes, in order to ease the “dismay and distress” this was causing among her fellow Christians, graciously withdrew from the arrangement and relocated the ceremony. In so doing, she provided a lesson in Christian charity that I fear will be lost on her harshest Roman Catholic critics.

That so many of our fellow Catholics could see fit to sign such a blatantly un-Christian document should be a reason for shame and concern for all of us. Where is the fundamental love that Christ commands we show to all our neighbors, especially our fellow Christians?

My prayer for these petitioners is that the light of Christ’s love may illuminate their dark hearts and closed minds. – Lee Startt, Virginia Beach

How to change attitudes, behaviors about racism

February is Black History Month. It’s a good opportunity to examine ourselves to learn what traces of racism are present in us. In the 1990s, I was at a conference on racism, and the keynote speaker stated that white people will always be racists.

I reacted to the statement by disagreeing — in my mind. The thought, though, has stayed with me, and over the succeeding years, various incidents along with a growth in my openness have helped me come to realize and admit its truth.

Working on changing ourselves, as much as we might, we will not become whole on this issue. However, through our efforts, we can become more aware and more accepting of others, realizing that we are all one.

A willingness to identify how racism is part of us, checking our attitudes and our behaviors, are important steps. Also, we need to work on our memory of past influences from family and surrounding society.

Attending conferences on racism and educating ourselves through readings can help. They can give us more understanding of the issue and material with which to change ourselves, our attitudes and behaviors.

This is a slow process, but a valuable and doable one. – Ed Marroni, Norfolk

Letters • January 27, 2020

We’ve become the Church Misguided

We are the Church Militant. It seems that in our current liberal, progressive climate, not only in the secular realm, but also in the religious community, we have morphed, for some, into the Church Misguided.

It appears that many anti-death penalty advocates direct more compassion toward the perpetrator than the victim. In the recent article lauding the diminution of executions, there was no mention at all of the victims of these pariahs who get no reprieve for their sufferings. They are further victimized by society by being forced, through the tax laws, to support the very criminals who violated their God-given rights to live in peace, unmolested.

While we have an obligation to be concerned for the souls of all individuals, including criminals, we also have an obligation as a society to administer justice as well as punishment upon those who refuse to assimilate into the social compact and prey upon their fellow citizens.

When the crimes are of such a nature as to warrant condign punishment as the only just recourse, traditionally, the Church has supported such a punishment. – Gerald Pilley, Chesapeake

Administration has made good people safer

I write as a believing cradle Catholic and reliable Republican voter who came late to the Trump campaign given the alternatives: secular humanism which has no standard of truth beyond what a majority of citizens thinks is in their best interest.

With a lifetime of Catholic education gleaned from my parochial school education through high school, regular attendance at Mass along with many years of reading and trying to understand Scripture, and 50-plus years as a physician dealing with people in some of the most stressful situations of their lives, I have certain opinions which might be characterized by some as a right conscience.

I differ with the opinions expressed in the article by Dennis Sadowski (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 13). As Catholics or parents, we do no favor to children or neighbors by ignoring or condoning behavior or actions dangerous to either their material or spiritual well-being.

Of course, it’s better if they choose by right example from parents or role models than by force or control. Christ himself taught that a caring gardener or shepherd picks the fruit or culls the flock when it’s fully mature.

While it might be true that true love and forgiveness foster real peace among peoples, I would posit that it’s a greater good when our all-knowing, merciful God prevents a soul from doing even more evil.

I’m pleased and feel good that our administration has made good people safer. – Martin August Thiel, Williamsburg

Liberals give enemies a pass

Re: “Is drone warfare moral?” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 13): it’s funny how most people on the liberal/ socialist side of the aisle, like Bishop Richard Stika, Dennis Sadowski and Stephen Schneck attack everything American but give a pass to our enemies.

Calling the elimination of a murdering dog like Soleimani an assassination is an assassination of the English language. Soleimani was a murderer who used the tactic of terror to kill more than 600 humans. Equating Soleimani to a cabinet member of the USA is ludicrous. No cabinet member of the USA has used terror as a tool.

I can’t remember a story written by Sadowski regarding the illustrious career of Soleimani. There have been no stories carried by the CV telling of the abundance of murders carried out by Soleimani. No stories of how the good sisters, brothers, priests and bishops have pled with Soleimani and his superiors to try talking to head off war.

In the case of Soleimani, the time for talk ended at about his 200th murder. President Trump showed great restraint in not targeting him much sooner. – Henry A. Dowgielewicz, Monroe

Every holiday is not a holy day

Re: “…And the festivities continue” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 30): The unnamed author stated: “In the Catholic culture of the United States we live and experience these holidays on a deeply spiritual level, but as a universal Church, we also live and experience the holidays of many cultures in the same way.”

This is absolutely not true. Because a day is declared a holiday does not necessarily make it a holy day to be acknowledged on a “deeply spiritual level” by Christ-centric Catholics. Epiphany is a holy day and is recognized as such by Catholics with attendance at Mass. Kwanzaa is not remotely in the same category.

Kwanzaa is the December 26, 1966, brainchild of Ronald Everett. Everett changed his name to Maulana (Swahili for master teacher) Karenga. He is a Black Nationalist/Separatist and self- proclaimed Marxist.

Some of the “seven principles” of Kwanzaa as mentioned in the article seem laudable enough if you are just reading individual words like “Unity” and “Faith.” However, Unity, as Karenga explains, is limited to black people, and “Faith” is rooted in self and other black people – not God.

It is baffling how the author of “festivities” managed to equate Kwanzaa with Epiphany and more so why the article was published in a Catholic newspaper. Hopefully, no one will take seriously the writer’s suggestion to see Kwanzaa “as a testimony to the life Christ wants us to live.” St. Stephen is that clear testimony on Dec. 26! – Christy Metacarpa, Williamsburg

Letters • January 13, 2020

Let truth bring us together in Christ

I would like to give thanks to the parishioners who called out the Pachamama and to others who have written over the years, exposing the sometimes hidden political agenda of the left which seems to be infiltrating every aspect of our society, even our Church.

The Catholic Virginian’s transparent and unbiased willingness to provide information and opinion from both sides of the many issues we face has done more to reinforce my faith than most anything else I have encountered in recent years.

I am thankful to know that in the midst of a barrage of secularism, there are many in our community that still hold traditional Catholic values close and are willing to speak of them aloud.

May the truth, regardless of our personal opinions, bring us together in Christ. – Pete Nardone, Keswick

Help meet need for affordable housing

I applaud Catholic Charities and the work it does in Richmond to help the needy and suffering. There is one area, however, where I would like to see more involvement by our diocese: development of affordable housing.

Every day, my parish receives requests for rental assistance, and as Richmond moves to develop Navy Hill and redevelop public housing, many more of our poorest neighbors may be left behind.

The Church can help prevent future homelessness, especially by people making less than 40% of area median income, in two important ways. First, the diocese can develop some of its existing unused or under-used properties into truly affordable housing units.

Secondly, it should apply to develop additional properties available through the Richmond Land Bank. Catholic Charities is already doing similar work in other cities, such as New York and Denver.

The Gospels tell me that we in Richmond cannot continue to “step over Lazarus” as we go about our daily business. Housing is not affordable when it eats up 40-80% or more of household income. Vouchers are useless when no law requires landlords take them and a majority of them refuse to do so.

We Catholics provide charity through food pantries, hosting CARITAS, collecting gifts for low-income families, tutoring ESL and more, which is all very good. But I pray we will also become a diocese that provides people with the dignity of having decent, sustainable homes.

Certainly, the Church does not have to do all, but it has the doctrine, authority and resources to be part of the solution. – Nancy Kunkel, Richmond

Catholics cannot vote ‘pro-choice’

Re: “Church tells us how to vote, not for whom” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 2) and “For Catholic voters, politics challenging” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 16):

Abortion is a grave sin contrary to God’s moral law, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church states excommunication is warranted for anyone who “formally cooperates with an abortion” (Nos. 2272, 2322). It further dictates the State must forbid or oppose abortion, because the intentional killing of the unborn is a serious sin and a grave offense against God (No. 2273). Furthermore, the Church confirms that abortion is, in practice, murder, and such killing is therefore a direct violation of the fifth commandment (No. 2274).

When members of a political party formally encourage abortions by publicly supporting and funding them, they are, in a sense, excommunicating themselves from the Church. Neither gun control nor immigration policies warrant this canonical penalty.

Because abortion is clearly forbidden under pain of excommunication, Catholics are morally obligated to vote against a party that believes such heinous crimes can be committed without remorse. One cannot authentically live the faith while ignoring the Church’s authoritative and immutable teachings. When a candidate is consistent with a party platform that promotes direct violations of the moral law, such as abortion and other similar acts condemned by the Church, a Catholic cannot vote for that candidate.

This is not a matter of preference. It is the only choice a person in full communion with the Catholic Church can make. – Seth Bauer, Chesapeake

Grateful for priest’s compassion

The letter “Don’t equate abortion with the death penalty” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 30) from Dave Tezza reminds me to thank Father John David Ramsey of St. Benedict Parish, Richmond. Tezza insists that babies who die without baptism are “excluded from the beatific vision” and “deprived of union with God forever.” Father Ramsey, on the other hand, is well aware that the Church does not definitely teach that unbaptized babies are lost forever, and bereaved parents may have hope in the great mercy of God regarding the possible salvation of their children.

To emphasize this hope, Father Ramsey celebrated a Mass for miscarried children at St. Benedict on Nov. 7, 2019. I was there to pray for the two babies that we never got to meet. I am deeply grateful to Father Ramsey for his compassion and remembrance of those who were gone too soon. – Mary Jo Anger, Chester

Kwanzaa not a Catholic, Christmas tradition

What is the rationale for the inclusion of Kwanzaa in the article “… and the festivities continue” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 30)?

The article opens with statements about “the Catholic culture” and “universal Church.” A description of the Hispanic traditions of Three Kings Day followed, which was interesting and entirely appropriate.

But Kwanzaa is not a Catholic tradition. It is not Christmas tradition. Kwanzaa was created in California in the late 1960s as an alternative to Christmas. It was initially designed to pull people away from Christmas. And The Catholic Virginian is associating Kwanzaa with Catholic cultural Christmas traditions?

There are so many Catholic cultural Christmas traditions that could have been the included in the article, e.g., Polish Wiligi, Italian La befana or the Puerto Rican parrandas.

The article attempts to justify linking Kwanzaa with Catholic Christmas traditions by stating “they emphasize the importance of unity in community.”

By this logic, we should be seeing an article describing the rituals of the Winter Solstice by Wiccans in an upcoming issue of The Catholic Virginian. Witches have “unity in community,” too. And don’t forget about Festivas!

Nearly every Christmas (or “holiday”) TV program emphasizes the importance of “unity in community.” These programs also stress the importance of giving, family and friendship as well. But what is missing in these Christmas/holiday specials, as well as during Kwanzaa, is the real reason for the season – the birth of Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with the celebration of Kwanzaa, but to associate it with Catholic culture is ridiculous and irresponsible. – Jay Smigielski, Virginia Beach

Letters • December 30, 2019

Don’t equate abortion with the death penalty

The latest letter notes that the Catholic voter can vote for a pro-abortion candidate so long as he “… has well informed, conscience based reasons for doing so; and that we should be “[v]oting based on values” ostensibly “… in terms of life and human dignity in all contexts.” Take the discussion to a deeper reality – eternity.

There is the constant effort to equate abortion with the death penalty. Is this reasonable? Moral?

Abortion and for that matter chemical contraception are all de facto “death penalties” to the unborn child. Other than depriving the child of natural life, what else is at stake? The fate of the child’s immortal soul!

Unbaptized children and others who die without grievous personal guilt are excluded from the beatific vision on account of original sin alone. They are consigned to limbo. While these souls eternally enjoy perfect natural happiness; they never enter heaven. They are deprived of union with God forever.

Conversely, those condemned to death for capital crimes can always repent, be baptized, be forgiven, live a good moral life thereafter and after death, however it may come, enter heaven and the beatific vision – union with God forever.

There is no moral equivalence between abortion, “social justice” and the death penalty. “God made all of us to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven.” Aborted infants are not given the opportunity for which God made them while everybody else has the hope of the beatific vision available to them. – Dave Tezza, Virginia Beach

Editor’s note: Regarding limbo, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children, which caused him to say, ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism…” (1261).

Money should go to help the poor

If the article in the Dec. 11 Wall Street Journal that tells us that only 10% of the contributions to the pope’s Peter’s Pence fund is actually used to benefit the poor, then this is a sham fund that has fraudulently taken contributed funds by misleading those who contributed to help the poor.

We as Catholics are being intentionally misled by our Church leaders to believe that we are contributing to help the poor while in fact the vast majority of the contributions, according to this article, are being used to fund deficits due to improper and ill-conceived investments.

Should this be the case I recommend that all Catholics withhold any future funding of Peter’s Pence and the funds we have been contributing for the sake of the poor should then be redirected to legitimate charitable organizations that have a proven record of distributing the bulk of contributed funds to the poor after spending a reasonable amount on administration.

Our current pope concerns himself with things unrelated to Church issues and largely ignores the many pressing issues internal to the Catholic Church.

Again, if this article in the Journal is correct, the Church leaders should acknowledge it and take the steps necessary to correct this mismanagement and also apologize to all who have contributed to what they thought was a legitimate cause. – Dick Robers, Roanoke

Draw upon older priests’ wisdom

Congratulations for the excellent article about Father Louis Benoit (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 2). He sounds like a wonderful priest. His grasp of servant leadership and his articulation of the joy of empowering lay parish leadership is such a delight to read about. Facilitation, not control, is the key concept he expresses so well.

It is always interesting to read the stories about priests celebrating a milestone anniversary of their priesthood. These older priests have seen a lot and learned a lot. I hope the Church will draw often on their wisdom. As one priest friend told me, “There’s always more to the story” when it comes to applying the rules. – Gerald P. McCarthy, Richmond

Letters • December 16, 2019

For Catholic voters, politics challenging

Regarding Teresa Hancock- Palmer’s letter “Church tells how to vote, not for whom” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 2): I want to thank her for so eloquently stating exactly what I was thinking when I read the original letter on this subject.

I, too, find politics challenging as a Catholic as I don’t find either party’s beliefs to be totally in line with the beliefs of the Catholic Church. I find myself agreeing with one party on some issues and agreeing with the other party on other issues, so it’s not easy to identify which candidates most closely adhere to the Church’s beliefs.

However, we can do our part as Catholics to voice the Church’s beliefs by emailing our political representatives on important matters. I highly recommend signing up for action alerts at the following U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website: https://www. votervoice.net/USCCB/home. – Craig Mays, Hampton

Women should embrace ‘unique feminine vocation’

Re: “Open up the table to women” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 18):

The Church has never ordained women. The deaconesses of the early Church were laity who aided priests in baptizing women and other duties which, to preserve the dignity of the women involved, required the attention of another female.

Christ was a man. He chose, as his representatives on earth, only men. The Catechism of the Catholic Church forbids women from holy orders (CCC 1577). St. John Paul II declared,”…the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”(“Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”).

While God made our souls in his image and likeness, he also created us male and female. This means he created us distinctly different in order to fill different roles. Men may be fathers or priests, and women hold the unique privilege of motherhood, of which no man is capable.

None of the women mentioned in Krogh’s letter make a sound theological historical basis for women’s ordination. Though Esther didn’t marry “in order to save her people,” nor was Mary Magdalene questioned for her “woman’s presence,” they are excellent examples for us — Esther, for foiling Hamann’s plot upon discovering it after her marriage, and Mary Magdalene for repenting of her sins (for which she was questioned) and following Christ.

Veronica is an example for everyone, especially women. Instead of heaping disrespect for priestly vocation and ingratitude for our God-given roles on our Lord, wipe away the filth of our sins and repent. Women, stand up for our priests! Embrace your role as women through our unique feminine vocation. – Elizabeth Stephenson, Suffolk

Letters • December 2, 2019

Focus on better prison security management

Regarding Chuck Brown’s letter “Answer call to prison ministry” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 4):

I have been in prison since 1996, and I am, in fact, a cradle Catholic. I am involved in a lot of prison ministry within the confines of the Virginia Department of Corrections and am now studying to become a chaplain.

I wholly understand that the need exists for outside volunteers to enter prison ministry work; however, I disagree with two issues: 

First, a need invoked was the fact that some prisoners seldom get visits — if they get any visits at all. That should not be an underlying motivation for supporting volunteer prison ministry. 

I haven’t received but maybe one visit in about four to five years, but I have a tremendous relationship with my Lord and Savior and attend religious services in one form or another every week.

Secondly, the epidemic the communities should be focusing on is not a need for additional “visitors” within the prison system, but the need to institute better prison security management to control the floodgates of illegal drugs being smuggled into the institutions and taking the lives of our brothers.

   – William Jay Cuozzo, Green Rock Correctional Center, Chatham

Church tells how to vote, not for whom

Having read the various letters to the editor about voting, it is important to note that the Church tells us how to vote — that is, with a well-formed conscience and according to core values such as life and human dignity — but not for whom to vote.  

 Lest the original letter writer (Nov. 4) come away with the wrong impression, the Church leaves to us the freedom to vote for the candidate we feel is best. To rephrase the original quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a Catholic voter may indeed decide to vote for a pro-choice candidate, as long as the voter has well-informed, conscience-based reasons for doing so and the voter’s intention is not to promote pro-choice policies. 

 No candidate is fully pro-life. How can they be when the party that criticizes the death penalty upholds abortion as a basic right, and vice versa? The desire to defend life also informs our positions on a variety of other issues, though our conclusions about the best way to address them differ. 

 As Catholics, let us change our discourse and not limit ourselves to the options provided by current political platforms. We may have to choose a candidate at the ballot box, but we don’t have to ally ourselves with their party; rather, we can speak in terms of life and human dignity in all contexts.  

Voting based on values is not easy (and as a result, Catholics do not vote as a bloc), but these values unite us even if we disagree on the best candidate. We are not Republicans or Democrats, but the Body of Christ.

   – Teresa Hancock-Parmer, Salem

No ‘beauty in eye of beholder’

Regarding Barbara Hughes column, “In season of thanks and giving, see as a child sees,” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 18): This is not a case of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” 

This statue was identified by everyone, including Pope Francis, as Pachamama, the goddess of the Amazon. In the opening ceremony of the synod, the people, including a Franciscan friar, bowed to the statue knowing full well that it was not a representation of Our Lady. 

It says in the Bible that pagan idols are demons. We should never accept the statue of a demon into a Catholic Church. What that man did to remove them was courageous and an example of heroic love of Christ.

– Laura Barton, North Chesterfield

Don’t equate saints with Pachamamas

When I read Barbara Hughes’ column in support of the Pachamama statues (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 18), I had to scratch my head.  

The statue depicts an unclothed pregnant woman which was referred to by Pope Francis as a Pachamama. Pachamamas are pagan fertility goddesses.  Though I was not in favor of the statues being bowed down to in the Vatican garden, having one inside the sanctuary of a Catholic Church does seem to be putting false idols in a place where God is the only thing that should be bowed down to. 

This statue is not the statue of a saint nor is it, as some have tried to say, an image of the Blessed Mother. Mary is always depicted wearing her mantle which is very important to the iconography of Mary. Our Blessed Mother is never depicted as a naked woman with child.  

Hughes said we Christians condemn pagan practices but legalize abortions. 

Abortion is a pagan practice and has been for centuries. I would venture to say any Christian condemning the Pachamamas being honored in the sanctuary are also opposed to abortion.  

Hughes doesn’t value the meaning of pagan statues. They do have power — dark power. It is up to properly catechized Catholics to explain to the native peoples why worshipping fertility goddesses is as harmful as holding up the golden calf.  

We owe it to those people to give them the wonderful truth of Jesus Christ. Allowing Pachamamas to be equated with saints in a Catholic sanctuary is misguiding and sows seeds of confusion. Confusion is never the work of God.

– Amanda Keller, Richmond

Column was misleading

Barbara Hughes’ Nov. 18 column is misleading. That statue of a pregnant woman was the object of bowing and an offering of incense in the Vatican Garden. Protestant Adventists reported on this. I thought they were lying, so I watched the video and was horrified.  

What more does a person need to determine it was an object of worship? A neon sign that says, “I am a goddess”?

The way The Catholic Virginian played with words would make Pravda proud and Solzhenitsyn sorrowful, recognizing of Soviet tactics in the Church of St. John Paul the Great.

– Anthony Rago, Newport News

Statue is an idol

Barbara Hughes needs to be taught what the statue of the “pregnant woman” actually is. It has nothing to do with fertility, pro-life theology or motherhood. The statue is called “Pachamama” (Mother Earth) and venerated above our Lord. 

She was second in line of deities in mountainous parts of Peru. The mountain gods were the chief deities, then Pachamama, then came Jesus, Mother Mary, saints, etc. It was their substitute for the Catholic view of the world. 

There was an earthquake in Yungay, Peru in 1970, and except for a few people on a picnic, it wiped out the whole town. In 1975, Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa (EWTN, Scripture & Tradition, Nov. 6, 2019) worked in Peru and saw at the base of a Christ statue overlooking the destruction were the words, “such is the fate of those who worship Pachamama.” The earthquake killed over 24,000 people. 

This statue is an idol, and as Catholics we are not to venerate or worship false gods.

– Nancy Bobal, Virginia Beach

Editor’s note: Barbara Hughes writes: “I understand why some readers found the presence of the statue of the Amazonian goddess of fertility in the Vatican Garden offensive, but perhaps the words of the prophet Jeremiah can help put presence of the statue in perspective. 

“About pagan idols, the prophet wrote:  ‘Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, their idols cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, and neither can they do any good’ (Jer 10:5).

“The only power idols have over us is the power we assign them. As a Catholic, when I look at the statue of a pregnant woman with the visible fetus, I view it as a work of art and give praise to God, author and creator of new life, whose love shines on all people regardless of their nation, ethnicity or creed and hope others could do the same.”   

Letters • November 18, 2019

Follow Church teaching authority

Regarding the letter writer who asked: “Who gave the Catholic Church the right to tell people how to vote?” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 4).

The answer to that question is clear. At the great commission, Christ gave to Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven and told him that whatsoever he bound on earth would also be bound in heaven.

As far as all the other points the writer makes, they have the miasma that permeates liberal progressive thinking, and most of those issues are in violation of Church law.

As far as discrimination goes, we have no right to mistreat any of our brothers and sisters at any stage of life — including the unborn!

But, at the same time, we must differentiate love of the sinner from condoning the sin. Carrying the daily cross of the person who is gay is no different than anyone else who has a cross to bear.

God desires that we all repent of all willful sin, and he dislikes no one that he created.

Forming our conscience is a duty that requires the revelation of revealed truth which was promised to the Catholic Church by the Holy Spirit, and we are required and commanded to follow that teaching authority. – Gerald Pilley, Chesapeake

What Jesus said

Regarding Mike Klemen’s letter that said, “Seems Christ was accepting of Mary Magdalene — maybe you should try to be accepting of others also” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 4).

Christ was kind and loving toward Mary Magdalene and tax collectors and other sinners. But he didn’t say, “Keep on doing what you’re doing.” He said, “Go and sin no more.”

– Judy Bugay, Richmond

Church can instruct voters

I am writing in response to the letter from Mike Klemen, “Church can’t tell people how to vote” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 4).

Since voting is a moral obligation according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it has every right to guide the Catholic voter in that role. The Catholic faith (Scripture and tradition) is a spiritual map to your soul’s salvation. We all have the God-given free will to take a different path, but those choices are at your own peril.

Insinuating that our president cages and starves children exposes your political leanings. It must be very upsetting to realize that the Democratic Party seems incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

For this reason, Joe Biden was recently denied Communion in South Carolina. His public support of abortion is a grave sin, and Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law requires those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Using Mary Magdalene as an example of Jesus’ acceptance of sinners is disingenuous. Jesus tells a woman caught in adultery, “Go, and sin no more.” (Jn 8:11). He didn’t say, “I accept your lifestyle.”

Many churches have watered down their teachings to accommodate a changing society. With Jesus Christ as its founder, the Catholic Church will not capitulate! – Anthony R. Russo, Chesapeake

Telling Catholics how to vote is Church’s right

I would like to clear up some fallacies left by Mike Klemen’s letter (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 4).

The Catholic Church is our mother. She has built civilization, guided us maternally through history and saved us when we needed her in extremity. Learned men and doctors in the Church have gradually formed a deposit of knowledge that has shaped the way the world thinks.

There isn’t a more suitable judge of who we should and should not elect into office than the Church. I don’t understand why Klemen is so incredulous. Absolutely the Church has the right to tell us who to vote for and against; it’s Christ’s bride! God gave Holy Mother Church that right! – Jack Rowett, Newport News

Church has mission to teach on faith, morals

In response to Mike Klemen’s letter (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 4):

Vatican I makes clear that the Church has the mission of teaching on both faith and morals. This is “to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 890).

It is not merely permissible; it is her duty. From Ezekiel 4: “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, … that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.”

Politics is intertwined with morality. Libel, theft and trespassing are illegal and immoral. It is immoral to make laws that ban objectively good practices, such as celebrating Holy Mass. It is wrong to make laws that require evil practices, such as advertising for abortion mills. Silence on politics requires silence on much of morality.

It is immoral to support candidates “in order to support such laws.” Those who, knowing Church teaching, support objectively evil policies have chosen that policy over love of God. The prudence of supporting such candidates for other purposes is doubtful but is at least debatable.

To believe a truth is to reject all of the opposing errors. This isn’t unjust discrimination; it’s the principle of non-contradiction. We can (must) love people who are opposed to God because they are intrinsically good, made to love him. We cannot support the fact of their opposition to God without hating both God and them, because they were made to love him. – Amanda Olmste, Newport News

Open up the table to women

Upon reading the article “Scholar provides history of women deacons” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 7), I was overcome by Phyllis Zagano’s passion for women deacons to be instilled once again into the Catholic Church. Here is a woman who walks in the echoing footsteps of Mary Magdalene, who does not balk in the enormous shadow of the Catholic Church.

It is beyond frustrating that in the 2000 years that the Catholic Church has been in existence, it still denies half of its followers a place at the table. Pope Francis says this matter needs to be studied because he cannot issue a “sacramental decree without a theological historical basis.”

Is the Bible not enough of an ‘historical basis’? If God created both man and woman in his likeness, who are the men of the church to undermine that and restrict the women within the Church? Does the Church forget we, too, are made in the likeness of God?

If the Church wants a theological, historical basis about women, perhaps it should reflect on biblical readings that tell of Esther, a determined woman who married a non-Jewish king in order to save her people. Or Mary Magdalene who followed Jesus despite his disciples questioning a woman’s presence among them. Or Veronica who dared to step away from the crowd so she could wipe the bloody face of the Savior.

The women of the Church are sisters of these brave, biblical women. It’s time for the Catholic Church to open up the table to women. To which I say: Excuse me, sir, but you’re sitting in my seat. – Mackenzie Krogh, Stuarts Draft

Replace hateful words with love 

I am writing in response to Warren E. Boisselle’s letter (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 7) in which he says we should stop apologizing for slavery.

He writes, “This endless apology only serves to give blacks a sense of victim status. … We have already given minorities rights superior to our white kids in the form of affirmative action … and extreme tolerance for their dysfunction.”

This type of thinking is scary. For Catholics to not only be in denial but vehemently opposed to facts of how minority communities fare in comparison to their white counterparts is disappointing.

The institution of slavery has set up a generational socioeconomic gap between communities of color and their white counterparts. While there may be examples of people “beating the system,” the fact is that society is set up to perpetuate power structures that have origins from the days of slavery and beyond.

Affirmative action was created to even the playing field. If meritocracy is real, then maybe the issue isn’t that white kids are losing spots or positions. Maybe it’s that they just aren’t as qualified as their minority peer.

On the topic of “victimhood,” do you see the irony in complaining about affirmative action giving minorities rights “superior to our white kids”? Who are “our” white kids? Catholics are not all white.

As Catholics, aren’t we supposed to lend a kind and open heart to all? If Boisselle’s letter resonates with others, I pray for their eyes and hearts to be opened and for their hatred — because that is what those words represent — be washed away and replaced with love. – Leah Marie Villanueva, Norfolk

Letters • November 4, 2019

Found article on women deacons interesting

I read the article on the history of women deacons (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 7) with interest, particularly because I had just finished rereading Hans Küng’s “Signposts for the Future: Contemporary Issues Facing the Church” and his chapter on Women in Church and Society.

This chapter included the abandonment of the diaconate for women first in the Western Church and later in the Eastern, as well as the attitude toward Mariology, women’s impurity, enforced celibacy and finally the possibility of a women diaconate and, perhaps, their ordination in the future.

This reintroduction to Küng reminded me of the young woman who first read it in 1975. She still had hopes of where the Church would move after Vatican II was realized. Nearly 50 years later, an old woman has much less hope with the realization that the powerful rarely choose to change until forced, nor does the hierarchy enjoy criticism.

Your readers might enjoy a visit to this book and other works by Küng on this and other topics confronting the Church today. – Joan Kean, Chincoteague

Church can’t tell people how to vote

Father Kenneth Doyle wrote, “a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy that promotes an intrinsically evil act such as abortion ‘if the voter’s intent is to support that position,’” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 7).

Who gave the Catholic Church the right to tell people how they can vote? Is it OK to vote for a candidate that promotes promiscuity, caging children, denying food and medical care to those same children after they were born?  

I suppose when I read “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” I will find no birth control is allowed and lots of other interesting things, like the statement from the bishops’ conference reported in USA Today:

“Many religious organizations, however, are rooting for the employers. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says opening employment protection to gay men and lesbians could adversely affect faith-based schools, health care providers and homeless shelters that seek to abide by their own ‘religious and moral convictions.’”

Is that a Christian attitude? Do you think Christ would have said, “Yeah, it’s OK to discriminate against gay people. God made them, but he doesn’t really like them.” Who else is it OK to discriminate against?  

Seems Christ was accepting of Mary Magdalene — maybe you should try to be accepting of others also. Go reread the Good Samaritan, the Beatitudes, the “love your neighbor” parts of Scripture. Maybe if you become truly Christian, the young people will be more accepting of the faith.  – Mike Klemen, Ashland

Cherish your priests/pastors

Recently, many of us experienced the reassignment of our clergy to new parishes across the diocese. As a lifelong Catholic, this periodic shuffling of our priests was not unfamiliar; however, given that our pastor had been here for 22 years, his departure was somewhat unexpected. 

We always knew the possibility of his leaving existed – we just didn’t want to consider such a reality. And so, like other parishes across the diocese, we mourned the loss of a cherished member of our community. The weeks leading up to his exit were filled with numerous trips down memory lane and reflections on our shared life. 

And I thought about how predictable we, the flock, can be – it was so easy to be myopic about the whole thing — thinking how such a change was going to impact our lives and our community. We knew his voice and his ways, and more importantly, he knew us. 

We could accept in our minds that his leaving was answering a higher calling, and no doubt his new parish would love him as we do, but our hearts were broken knowing he would no longer be our pastor.

But, as Christians our lives are to be about the other, not ourselves. We need to appreciate the anxiety our parish and others receiving new clergy are encountering, and the difficulty our pastors might be experiencing leaving familiar parish families to be in service to others. 

May we cherish those God gives us in life, especially our priests/pastors, for the good they bring about in us, and may we be grateful to God for sending them our way. – Patti Peters, Roanoke                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Letters • October 21, 2019

Global warming should not be political issue

I read with interest the wide variety of opinions in the Sept. 23 issue of The Catholic Virginian.

I would like to comment on “Earth questions” that attribute the Earth’s temperature fluctuations to natural variability and criticizing Pope Francis for being “political” in his support of addressing the global warming problem.

I applaud the pope for being active in this area. The Church has taken stands that map into various political agendas, which after all is because morality is neither Democratic nor Republican, liberal nor conservative. Some of us do not agree with some of the Church’s stands on government policy, but we should at least consider their moral principles.

Rick Kurek in “Earth questions” is correct in that natural causes like Earth’s orbital variations, tectonics and perhaps solar cycles were the main drivers in the past chaotic cyclic temperature records. However, man’s influence through the release of carbon dioxide has been shown scientifically to impact the more recent temperature record.

As a retired meteorologist, I feel this should not be a political issue. Most scientific organizations and energy companies recognize man’s influence on temperature trends and advocate transitioning to more green solutions like wind and solar power.

For a short explanation, I refer readers to the NASA government site: https://climate. nasa.gov/causes/. – Robert E. Tuleya, Portsmouth

Focus religious zeal on roots of violence

In “Gun violence human rights issue for religious shareholders” (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 23), Mark Pattison speaks of human rights yet does not acknowledge that the right to self-defense is most effectively exercised by the right to bear arms.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls defense a grave duty (2265) for those responsible for the lives of others. Millions of Americans safely exercise their Second Amendment rights; these rights are not granted by the state but by our maker.

Pattison’s mention of universal background checks and red flag laws begs the question on the right to privacy and Fourth Amendment rights to due process. The rights of gun ownership and usage are the lynchpin to our Bill of Rights.

Remove this right through legal fiat or corporate virtue signaling, and the freedoms we enjoy will diminish and the First Amendment will be next to disappear. An armed citizenry is an effective citizenry. A society without private gun ownership is a society of subjects, not citizens.

It is important that we Catholics identify rights that are truly rights and also correctly protest fake rights. The right to abortion is just as made up as the right to live in a society without the Second Amendment.

Catholic tradition and history are full of contrasts between just and unjust societies. Our religious zeal is better aimed at the roots of violence in our nation, not self-defense. – Philip Cathleen, Chincoteague

Female diaconate ‘disordered view’

“I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful,” wrote Pope St. John Paul II in “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.”

This declaration of what the Church has taught for centuries settled whatever controversy was left regarding sacramentally ordained female deacons. Phyllis Zagano’s presentation (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 7) seems to conflate a historical female diaconate with holy orders. The female diaconate mentioned by Zagano did not, cannot and never will involve the sacrament of holy orders.

Bandying about discarding historically mistaken notions of moral purity or gender-theoretical ideas of oppression as justification for female deacons cannot answer the theology of marriage. The Church has, since its inception, been the Bride of Christ.

The sacrament of holy orders is a call to a supernatural marriage with the Church in the person of Christ. Every sacrament that the bishop, priest or deacon administers is acting in the person of Christ. (Hence, matrimony is the only sacrament where the laity are the ordinary ministers of the sacrament.)

In this sense, holy orders for a woman would be a bride marrying the Bride of Christ. Acceptance of this aberration would naturally lead to the Church, the Bride of Christ, being permitted to marry herself.

The female diaconate in the sense of holy orders is a narcissistic view of the relationship of Christ and the Church — an intrinsically disordered view centered about the wrong object of attention, ourselves. Our focus should be on Christ and be joyful and appreciative of all that he has given us. – Timothy Olmsted, Farmville

Let Holy Spirit work through you

Regarding the article “Do Catholics understand meaning of social justice?” (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 23), the Church’s message on social justice asks us to make a choice to get involved and to do good works. How is that different from any other benevolent society like the Masons or the Kiwanis?

When I converted to Catholicism, I learned that it’s not about me. In fact, I need to get “me” out of the way in order to let the Holy Spirit and the fruits of sanctifying grace work through me to affect what is good. If we are truly in that state of grace, we will work for justice.

The Church appears to have lost its belief in the supernatural and in the power of God working through us. It’s no wonder young people are leaving.

There are thousands of ways to feel virtuous besides going to church and writing a check for a social cause. But to know meaning and purpose and love by communing with the supernatural, where is that to be found? – Charles Ruhl, Fincastle

Seeing the Kingdom of God on Earth

This morning I awakened to a full inbox of outraged parishioners over the letter to the editor written by Warren E. Boisselle (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 7). He objected to an apology for slavery from our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which was printed beside an article about the Slave Trail Walk led by Deacon Charles Williams (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 23).

Many of our parishioners participated in the Slave Trail Walk, including me. I was deeply affected by walking the trail forged by those who were shackled and stolen from their homelands. I was honored that Deacon Williams would open his heart and his wealth of knowledge to share with us.

Coming to understand the depth and pervasiveness of racism is not a one-time event. It is a lifetime of listening, seeking to understand the other and to purposely walk in their shoes. Thanks to Deacon William for providing and leading us into a deeper conversion as a result of a greater understanding of systemic racism that still exists in this country —racism that our bishops are calling us to confront and end.

As I prayed Sunday for the coming of the Kingdom of God on Earth, I looked around at the St. Elizabeth congregation, a church rich with the diversity of African Americans, new African immigrants, Native Americans and European Americans, I realized that I was seeing the Kingdom of God on Earth. – Annie McEntee, Director of Religious Education/Pastoral Associate St. Elizabeth Church, Richmond

Questions publication of letter

I was horrified to read Warren Boisselle’s letter to the editor (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 7) asking the Church to “stop apologizing and inflicting guilt” regarding slavery and racism. His letter was inflammatory, counterfactual and discriminatory. While I understand the letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the views of the diocese, racism should not be given a platform in the diocesan newspaper. I doubt the diocese would publish a letter extolling the virtues of abortion because such a letter would be so starkly against Church teaching, and this matter is no different.

I cannot imagine how my black brothers and sisters must have felt reading such a letter in their diocesan newspaper. In addition to a broader Church history of slavery and discrimination, members of this diocese still grapple with the closing of black churches that occurred during desegregation. Those wounds are fresh, and the publishing of a letter such as Boisselle’s only enforces an impression that the diocese still sees black Catholics as second class.

While no one alive today participated in the slavery over which the Civil War was fought, all of us are still living with its affects. As white people, we benefit every day from a system built on a premise that non-whites are lesser and that give us advantages in housing, employment, schooling and the criminal justice system — just to name a few. Racism is systemic, and the Gospel calls us to dismantle this unjust system at every opportunity. – Denise Letendre, Richmond

Letters • October 7, 2019

How to achieve social justice

We can’t really understand social justice without plain old justice. Justice is the science of righteousness by giving to each person what is owed to him. Justice is about our relationships: to God, families, political territories and the Church.

Justice, because it is fundamentally a relationship between two persons, is always social. “Social justice” as we use it now, often sounds like it is part of a man-made political activist program. But since the all-Holy Trinity is creator of all and savior of the world, justice must be fundamentally liturgical; the foundation of any real justice among men is the “exchange” of service, honor and grace between God and us at holy Mass. 

From love of God in community — the first great commandment — comes the second commandment, love of neighbor as oneself. Our society has suffered many revolutions in the justice before our time: Protestant, American, French, Marxist, liturgical and sexual. 

We’ve devised relationships and justice in our own image and likeness. We have often abandoned the traditional ways of justice taught to our parents, and dishonored the fourth commandment (see Jeremiah 35) in our minds, hearts and culture. 

Now we live in an age of scandal and pain. It appears to me that a repentance (reorienting souls to God) and penance (cutting away evils brought by the revolutions, and bringing ourselves under traditional Catholic discipline) will bring social justice.  -Anthony Rago, Newport News

Scout agrees with pope’s position on fossil fuels

I am a Boy Scout in Troop 824. I am writing to say that I agree with the pope’s call to stop using fossil fuels as written in your article “Abandon fossil fuels, pope says” (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 9). As a scout, environmental issues are very important to me, especially because we do a lot of camping outside. Our troop also volunteers to do many clean-ups, such as Clean the Bay Day.

In the Boy Scout Law, it states that a Boy Scout is “clean.” That means that I need to take care of the environment, and one way to do this is to stop using fossil fuels. Another way to do this is by recycling, which I do at home and at school with such items as paper and plastic bottles.

I also try to conserve water and energy at home by not letting the faucet run and turning lights off when I leave a room.

Fossil fuels are a big contributor to pollution in the world. They can cause acid rain, which damages trees and ruins animal habitats.

It’s up to all of us to follow the guidelines that the pope suggested in your article because we all need to work on this problem together. – Christopher Lewis, Chesapeake

Stop apologizing and inflicting guilt

I was disappointed to find the Catholic Virginian (Sept. 23) so politically involved in divisive issues. Salvation is not a political nor a group effort. Each individual must earn separately his reward to heaven. A person is not saved based on his/her political affiliation or group.

I especially refer to the endless apology for slavery. It is Christian nations who abolished slavery for the first time in human history. This is a matter of pride to celebrate. In America, more than 600,000 men died in a war that resulted in freedom for slaves. This is a matter for memorials to solemnly honor.

Apologies are admissions of guilt. No one alive today participated in slavery. No one alive has been a slave. Most Americans are descendants of immigrants who came to America after the Civil War. Please, let’s not inflict guilt on naïve Americans totally innocent of the practice of slavery. This guilt is tearing our country asunder. Let us rejoice over our salvation and escape from this particular sin.

This endless apology only serves to give blacks a sense of victim status leaving them in a state of discontent and unrest. We have already given minorities rights superior to our white kids in the form of Affirmative Action, quotas, copious welfare and extreme tolerance for their dysfunction.

It’s time to show gratitude. The guilty ought to be those who don’t appreciate their blessing but rather remain bitter and dwell on past offenses. – Warren E. Boisselle, Virginia Beach

Church not needed in political activism

Your front page headline (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 23) “Do Catholics understand meaning of social justice?” might have been more aptly rendered “Do Catholics understand meaning of political ideology?”

Craig Giandomenico, though a professor of religion and theology, seems to have little use for St. Augustine’s distinction between the City of God and the City of Man.

He is troubled that “many ‘rank and file parishioners’ tend to have a ‘…conception of the Church’s ministry’ that…speaks to individuals…rather than communities, cultures and societies as a whole.”

Professor, this is the very mission of the Church: to save individual souls for an eternal life with God.

Souls are saved neither collectively nor by class nor race nor identity group. They are still saved the old-fashioned way: one at a time.

It is not the mission of the Catholic Church to create a this-worldly Utopia, and it is not the commission of the Body of Christ to supplant the role of government, political parties and NGOs.

The list of “five critical concerns” by Mercy Sister Suzanne Gallagher (peace and non-violence, racism, care for the earth, immigration and women) seems a cut-andpaste political party template, and while such intentions are no doubt sincerely held, what need is there for a Church, or for that matter God, in this?

Opportunities for political activism are already widely available and require neither Christ nor Church nor sacraments. – James Brewer, Lovingston

Letters • September 23, 2019

‘Become what you receive’ in Eucharist

According to an article in The Catholic Virginian (Aug. 26), a large percentage of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We receive the Body of Christ at Mass so that we can become the body of Christ for ourselves and others. As St. Augustine said centuries ago, “Become what you receive.”

You receive the Body of Christ, become the body of Christ to life all around you. Become a personal reflection of Jesus in the love, compassion and concern you show to others. If people do not see the presence of Jesus lived in the life of Christians around them, will they believe in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?

This is the challenge of Eucharist — become what you receive so that people will experience Jesus alive and present in you. This will help them believe in Jesus alive and present when they receive Jesus at Mass. – Father Louis Benoit, Roanoke

Focus on altar, ambo during Mass

Catholics who attend Mass are being taught about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The concern expressed in the letter by Mary Jo Anger of Chester (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 26) was addressed in the guest commentary by Greg Erlandson and by the instruction from Father Anthony E. Marques.

Yes, Catholic adults need more education about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but the breast-beating and accusations are not helpful.

Quoting Mark Gray, Erlandson proposes in an insightful way that Catholics who attend Mass demonstrate their belief in the Real Presence by their reverence and demeanor.

Active participation in the Mass, including a reverent reception of Communion, is an indication that we believe Christ to be truly present in the Mass — the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Word.

The mention of tabernacle placement is a misplaced bit of breast-beating. During the celebration of the Eucharist we would do well to focus on the altar and the ambo because truly the furniture can help us to realize Christ’s presence and to receive Communion as food for the journey — the Real Presence of Christ in our lives.

Let us share our faith with confidence that Catholics, especially those who attend Mass regularly, do believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. – Larry Fishbach Sr., Daleville

More education, please

I appreciated the article “Understanding Christ’s presence in the Eucharist” (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 26), but I do ask that when certain theological terms are used that they be defined so that the ordinary lay person can understand them more fully. I refer to the use of “accidents.”

I have been involved with my church for over 50 years. I have taught and coordinated CCD classes and adult faith formation. I have always felt that the Eucharist, which is the Source and Summit of our faith, has never been fully explained or appreciated.

Many factors have led to this situation beginning with Vatican II. It lost its mystique during the ensuing years. The focus was on the humanity of Christ. What pursued was the loss of the divinity and his Sonship. With little or no explanation the tabernacle was no longer in the sanctuary but relegated to some out of the way place called a “chapel.”

We talk about having taken God out of society and seeing the devastation in our society. Taking the tabernacle (which contains the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus) out of church sanctuaries has led to a decline in Mass attendance.

Some of our parishes have started to place the tabernacle back in its proper place – again with little or no explanation. We need to be educated or reeducated about this from the pulpits.

I have heard it said that if you want to “evangelize” you need to “walk the talk.” Our clergy, along with those in lay ministry, need to start “walking the talk.” – Patricia Irvine, Meherrin

Defends letter’s publication

The First Amendment is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted amendment in the constitution of the United States. Nowhere does the phrase “separation of church and state” appear, nor is it even implied:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This simply means that the government of the U.S. cannot establish a religion such as King Henry VIII did in England. The second part guarantees Americans the freedom to worship as they so desire without government persecution.

Our money has “IN GOD WE TRUST” on every coin and paper bill. Congress has an invocation at the beginning of each session. The Supreme Court erred egregiously in removing prayer from schools and allowing the persecution of coaches who lead their teams in prayer before a game. These actions and many more that have been outlawed are violations of the First Amendment.

I defend The Catholic Virginian’s publication of the “Never an excuse to vote for pro-abortion candidate” letter (Aug. 26). According to the Catholic Church, there are nine ways to be complicit in the sins of others: by counsel, command, consent, provocation, praise or flattery, concealment, partaking, silence and defense of the sinful action.

Voting for anyone whose political position is in violation of Church law is in fact a sin and makes one as guilty as the other. The Catholic Virginian not only has a right constitutionally to speak out against this action, but also a moral duty to do so. – Gerald Pilley, Chesapeake

Not a separation of church, state issue

I am writing in response to Doris Machik’s letter, “Honor separation of church, state.” (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 9). Not only is “separation of church and state” absent from the U.S. Constitution, but it is often misunderstood.

The term was first used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, assuring them that the First Amendment prohibited the government from trying to control religious expression. It wasn’t intended to keep religion out of the government or the public square.

In addition, Catholics should not exclude morality from any aspect of their lives, including politics — especially when it involves an intrinsic evil like abortion. As she stated, “If a woman chooses to kill her unborn child, …it is a free will choice, and she will answer to God.” You have the free will to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, but you, too, will have to answer to God.

She “urge[s] everyone to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and then vote their conscience.” As a Catholic, when you vote your conscience, it needs to be a well-formed conscience, based on the teachings of the Church. I also pray that the Holy Spirit guides misinformed Catholics of this vital duty. – Anthony Russo, Chesapeake

Church not banned from political arena

Regarding “Honor separation of church, state” (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 6), separation of church and state does not imply separation from church and state. Our founding documents abolished the state’s political and financial support of the church — as was the case during the Colonial period — but did not ban it from the political arena.

Abortion is clearly a moral issue, but it is also most definitely a political issue. If our religious beliefs do not guide participation in the societies in which we live, then our “faith without works is dead.” While we are in the world but not of it, we are also salt and light. – Donald W. Moore, Virginia Beach

‘Earth questions’ should be immaterial to Church

How ironic that the article “Abandon fossil fuels, pope says” (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 9), which discusses lobbying governments to mitigate climate change, appears on the very next page after the letter “Honor separation of church, state.”

Isn’t it more likely that solar activity is the cause of Earth’s temperature variations since fossil fuels weren’t being used during the multiple post-Ice Age warming periods in the Earth’s history?

Knowing that the Earth’s multiple ice ages were cyclic periods of heating and cooling, what is the “correct” temperature of the Earth and how do you know? The more important point is that the answers to these questions should be immaterial to the Church.

Choosing sides in political issues certainly impacts the Church negatively from the dissension it causes. What if some Church members are not donating to the Church because they don’t want their donations to be used to lobby governments for political policies that they don’t agree with? What if the lost donations are significant enough to affect the ability of the Church to carry out its mission?

Why are Church funds and resources being used to lobby governments (for any reason) instead of being used to help the poor and spread the Gospel? – Rick Kurek, Yorktown

Letters • September 9, 2019

Honor separation of church, state

I respectfully request The Catholic Virginian to honor the separation of church and state. The letter stating “that it could be a serious sin to vote democratic” (“Never an excuse to vote for pro-abortion candidate,” Catholic Virginian, July 29) is a clear violation of church and state.

The Democratic Party clearly supports abortion while the Republican Party purports to be pro-life.

Abortion is a moral issue, not a political issue. God created us with free will. If a woman chooses to kill her unborn child, as horrible as this is, it is a free will choice, and she will answer to God.

The Catholic Virginian is entering an arena where they have no clue about the players or their motives. It is extremely naïve to think that either party is taking the high road on this issue. It is strictly a ploy to garner votes.

It is also of note that Attorney General William Barr has reinstituted the death penalty, which is also the taking of life.

I urge everyone to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and then to vote their conscience.

I hope this will be the last political letter that The Catholic Virginian will print. – Dolores M. Machik, Virginia Beach

Pro-life extends to all life

The death penalty article (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 12) paints a bleak picture of how we speak from both sides of the mouth on moral issues.

Some have no problem with doctors/abortionists ripping a fetus from a mother’s womb and selling the parts. Babies like this have no chance in life.

Then there are those who want to see incorrigible criminals live forever. People like mass murderers, bombers and such have lived their lives and made their choice. They have not accepted their actions for hurting people they do not know, and they do not care to know.

Our liberal society is quick to condemn the government in the name of pro-life for carrying out executions when mandated by the courts. The attorney general is only following the law. If he doesn’t, he certainly is derelict in his duties.

Under the auspices of pro-life, we should take all life into consideration. Many are still primarily concerned with the lives of the unborn who have no choices and are unconcerned for the extremists who have maimed, killed and shattered the lives of many.

The federal justice system isn’t flawed; it is only hampered by those it is designed to protect. Until we hold nonconformists accountable, our prisons will fill.

I am never sure or guaranteed that I can leave my home and return safely. If I don’t, will my family have justice?

I pray that we all find common ground to save our babies and save us from those who plan to do bodily harm. If we do, we may not need a prison or capital punishment. – George Cranford, North Chesterfield

What Gordon Donegan appointment provided

Even though she has since resigned, I am probably alone among faithful Catholics in applauding Gov. Ralph Northman’s decision to appoint Gail Gordon Donegan to the Virginia Council on Women. It took a great deal of courage to offer this rare and candid glimpse into the way modern Democrats view the Catholic Church.

I encourage all Catholics to reflect on the wit and wisdom of Gail Gordon Donegan, and consider in turn the character of those politicians – many Catholic in name – who embraced her, especially after her comments were made public. – Frank Russo, Midlothian

Rabble rousing in the name of ‘research’

What was the next question? Is the pope infallible? And the question before? Is the ocean floor filling up with pedophile priests with millstones around their necks? And who commissioned the Pew Research Center to ask if Catholics believed in the Real Presence of Christ in Communion?

Like most people, I did not hear of the “shocking” 69% of non-believers until our parochial vicar announced it this past Sunday. When the initial stun wore off — in a minute or so — skepticism returned.

Today I read Greg Erlandson’s commentary (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 26) and realized the structure of the question — two choices, the moral equivalent of a true-false question — more than likely skewed the responses.

Decades of teaching for Saint Leo University had led me away from that shallow metric to more nuanced and deeper measures of understanding. He cites a colleague, Mark Gray, who believes that the faithful do in fact know what they believe and what the Church teaches. It is a matter of asking the questions in the right fashion, which may include much more labor than a simple survey question.

What was going on is all too prevalent today — rabble rousing in the name of “research.”

A recent Gallop poll with multiple choice questions concluded that a quarter of those parishioners who had attended Mass and completed the survey were angry with the Church, were actively disengaged and according to one cleric were “actively doing the work of the Devil.” Mind you, this was from those who were actually coming to church, not just names on a roll somewhere.

A perspective here: A long time ago, while I was among The Born Again movement, a colleague explained his Protestant version of Communion: “It’s crackers and grape juice, but that’s missing the Point!” Even then, I understood that receiving Communion was being in the Presence of Jesus. – Bruce P. Schoch, Williamsburg

Mass is only first step

With the seemingly endless violence in our nation and in our communities, we as the faithful need to carry the Good News of the Gospel that we hear at Mass every Sunday into our communities, families and workplaces – not only in words, but more so through example and action.

Mass is only the first step. The work that needs to be done begins when we go out into the world. Isn’t this the very message Jesus asked his followers to do when he sent them out to change the world in his name?

The world is watching. Our young people are watching and waiting for change through the Church and each one of us. – Eddie Baird, Glen Allen

Liked ‘Real Presence’ article

High praise to Father Marques for his article summarizing the fundamental teaching of Holy Mother Church regarding the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ in the holy Eucharist (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 26)!

It is ironic that this important article should be accompanied by a photo that “visually summarizes” the profligate use of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and the reception of holy Communion in the hand – two of the principal reasons why only a small minority of U.S. Catholics believe in this fundamental doctrine of our faith.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us! – Robert R. Kaplan, Midlothian

Hong Kong has been betrayed

The current troubles in the former British Colony of Hong Kong reminds me of the Hungarian Revolt in the 1950s. The Hungarians were crushed by the Soviet Army, and many died. The British abandonment of Hong Kong was criminal at best, given the nature of Communist China and its bloody past. I was a teenager in the 1950s and remember listening to short-wave calls for help from Hungary.

The Hong Kong people are an industrious, freedom- loving people. The city is beautiful. The people there know what hell the Communists have given the Chinese of the mainland. They know a bloodbath is coming if the Communist Chinese Army steps in.

We’ve heard nothing from the Vatican about this situation, knowing of the possible bloodbath. The pope has recently allowed the Communist government of the mainland to choose bishops. Poor Joseph Cardinal Zen has spoken about the betrayal.

Every Catholic should be praying the rosary for the people of Hong Kong, over and over, until this situation is resolved. – Charles Curry, Mechanicsville

Letters • August 26, 2019

‘Good conscience’ key factor in voting

“What it’s like to be Catholic inside the razor wire” (Catholic Virginian, July 29) was a riveting call to action from a too often forgotten prison population desperately in need of support and encouragement and understanding.

On the same page was a letter from Francis Chester, where, in the next-to-last paragraph, the writer was speaking of pro-life and pro-choice politics. It was implied, at least by my interpretation, that without a pro-life candidate “all other issues are inconsequential.”

I question whether all commandments, including the greatest of them, and the counseling and mercy called for from inside the razor wire, can be swept away as meaningless by a good conscience faithful citizen vote — and whether such a vote when cast, per the writer, “could be a serious sin.” –Paul Schellhammer, Virginia Beach

Remember the 11,000 who die each week

The outrage is appropriate over the recent tragic mass killings in Virginia, Texas, Ohio and California. However, where is the appropriate — and proportional — outrage over the approximate average number of 11,000 abortions performed each and every week in the United States?

Eleven thousand innocents each week denied life beyond the womb. – Thomas A. Galayda, Williamsburg

People aren’t taught about Real Presence

Regarding “Survey shows majority of Catholics don’t believe in Real Presence” (Catholic Virginian online, Aug. 9) that reveals a catastrophic loss of faith among those who self-identify as members of the Church. Fully 69% of those surveyed believe the bread and wine used at Mass to be nothing more than symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This means that a huge majority of Catholics are so in name only.

Bishop Robert Barron is right to blame all those, including himself, who have the task of transmitting the faith. The people are simply not being taught.

Adding to the problem is the fact that in many parishes, there is no tabernacle on the main altar. Instead of being front and center, the Lord is commonly shunted off to the side somewhere so that he is generally overlooked by parishioners.

In some churches in the Diocese of Richmond, there isn’t even a tabernacle in the entire sanctuary! One man once remarked to me that he did not know who thought removing the Lord was a good idea. With our Savior so frequently set aside, it is no wonder that belief in his physical presence among us has faded away.

Besides returning our Lord to his proper place, every single parish in the diocese ought to set aside time for eucharistic adoration. Some churches already practice this devotion, but they are few in number. The regular practice of adoring the Lord in the Eucharist will undoubtedly renew belief in him. – Mary Jo Anger, Chester

Letters • July 29, 2019

Priest made a difference

The article on Father Thomas Ianucci (Catholic Virginian, July 1) really hit home for me. Father Tom (then at Holy Spirit, Virginia Beach) had a major impact on my life even though he didn’t know me.

With my wife in the hospital recovering from an auto accident, I felt an emptiness, so I started attending Mass. From the first day, Father Tom’s homilies seemed to be directed at me, and I started thinking seriously about converting.

I introduced myself one day and asked him to visit my wife in the rehab hospital. Later that day, he showed up and gave Deb Communion and anointed her. I can’t begin to express what that meant to her as well as to me.

I converted on Aug. 15, 2002 — the second- best decision I made in my life; marrying Deb was the first. (We just celebrated 50 years!)

Every now and then I think about Father Tom and the impact he had on me. I wondered where he had gone and was pleased to see he is a military chaplain. When I served in Afghanistan in 2004, there was only one priest in the country then, and he was Polish.

God bless Father Tom for answering the call to serve our Marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors.

Thank you, Father Tom. You made a big difference in my life and helped me find my faith.  – Chan Mohney, North Chesterfield

View 2013 conclave through 2005 lens

In “Why the cardinals elected Pope Francis” by Cindy Wooden (Catholic Virginian, June 3), a summary is presented of a book by Gerard O’Connell which claims to describe what took place during the 2013 papal election.

Speculation about what might have happened during that election should be carried out in conjunction with speculation about what might have happened during the 2005 papal election.

The famous Prophecy of Malachy takes the form of a series of one-line slogans in Latin presenting character descriptions of every pope from St. Malachy’s day until the end of the world.

At the time of the 2005 papal election, the Prophecy of Malachy was hinting at two conclusions: first, that there were two more popes to go before the end of the world; and second, that the next pope was supposed to be a Benedictine monk.

If a Benedictine monk had been elected pope in 2005, the conversion of Russia might have taken place that same year, and the conversion of the non-Christian nations by Russian missionaries during the remainder of that pope’s reign.

For whatever reason, a Benedictine monk was not elected pope in 2005. This means that in the near future, the human race will pass through a series of great disasters and the end-time events of history will occur in a distant future beyond that. – Richard A. O’Neill, Portsmouth

Stand together, make a difference

Why is there a war on babies?

Abortion is not a form of birth control; it is murder! We have “no kill” animal shelters, yet we don’t seem to care that there isn’t a “no kill” place for our precious little ones. There is something wrong with this picture.

If a person can’t or won’t take care of this baby, just allow them to be adopted. If I understand correctly, it is difficult to adopt an infant since so many of them are aborted.

This is a life given by God; how can we just destroy it? This concept of infanticide is so cruel and barbaric I cannot see how anyone can be supportive of this action. Who would this child have become? We’ll never know. Once this decision is made, there is no going back, no second chances. The person has to live with this for the rest of their life.

As Catholics, I fail to see how any one of us, in good conscience, can support a person or political party that thinks this is acceptable behavior. Regardless of all the political and social issues that confront us as Americans, we need to remember that we are Catholic Americans, and abortion should be unacceptable to each of us.

I sincerely hope that we, as Catholics, can stand together and make a difference. Examine all the issues and listen carefully to each person who wants to represent us. Ask yourselves, “Can I live with the decisions this person may impose on society and on my beliefs?” – Gwen Boggess, Mechanicsville

Never an excuse to vote for pro-abortion candidate

In the June 17 issue of the Catholic Virginian, Father Doyle’s column “Question & Answers,” responded to a question “…is it possible to be a Democrat and pro-life? Is it possible to be a devout Catholic and prochoice?” He basically said you cannot be pro-choice and be a Catholic, let alone a devout Catholic.

I agree with his reply except at the last sentence, quoting from the 2015 U.S. bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” “… even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.”

Apparently, half the Catholic voters voted for Democrat pro-abortion candidates. There is never an excuse to vote for such a candidate because without life all other issues are inconsequential. When a life is extinguished there are no issues left to deal with.

With all due respect, a vote for a Democrat and the Democratic Party is acting as an enabler to promote the worst of the worst policies. It could be a serious sin. – Francis Chester, Churchville

Letters • July 1, 2019

Keys to longevity

The article “How parishes can help elders on their spiritual journey” (Catholic Virginian, June 3) was informative and helpful for us elderly and those with whom we have contact.

We are in our 80s and have been married for 62 years. A few years ago we reflected on the things that got us to this point and what we needed to do to keep on going. We came up with “Making the Most of What You Have”:

Stay close to God.

Sleep well and enough.

Follow a good diet and stay hydrated.

Exercise daily — mentally and physically.

Engage in frequent social discourse and laugh a lot!

– Larry and Dotty Brown, Charlottesville

Church should stay out of politics

In response to “Understanding the meaning of Catholic” (Catholic Virginian, June 17) on the topic of illegal immigration into America, God (or more appropriately, the Church) doesn’t see geographical and political boundaries because the concept of a borderless Church makes complete sense.

A borderless country, however, is not a country by definition and makes no sense. If the Church truly believes that nations should have no borders, then why is the Vatican surrounded by some of the biggest walls on Earth?

These conflicting views on immigration occur because the Church continues to inject itself and the viewpoints of the Church into the politics of nations, which is a big mistake because no matter which viewpoint the Church supports, they will alienate half of the congregation.

And to make matters worse, many of the political viewpoints of the Church, as shown annually in the legislative agenda printed in The Catholic Virginian, are not consistent with freedom, liberty and the U.S. Constitution.

The Church should focus on spreading the Gospel and stay out of politics. – Rick Kurek, Yorktown

Different application for ‘welcoming’

I am writing in response to “Understanding the Meaning of Catholic” (Catholic Virginian, June 17).

Let’s start with a couple of definitions. “Illegal” is defined as “contrary to or forbidden by law.” According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Catholic means universal or in keeping with the whole… The Church is Catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race” (#830). I’m not quite sure what that has to do with immigration.

“Welcoming the stranger” is not equivalent to welcoming the illegal trespasser. In addition, the biblical “strangers” were expected to obey the Hebrew laws of the nation of Israel and were treated quite differently; they could be sold as slaves and could not own property.

As far as a Jesuit education, unfortunately many Jesuits have embraced “Liberation Theology,” which is basically the illegitimate marriage of Marxism and Christianity. Now that’s political. Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) once called Liberation Theology a “singular heresy” and a “fundamental threat to the Church.” – Anthony Russo, Chesapeake

‘Live and let live’ works both ways

Regarding the letters “Understanding the meaning of Catholic” and “Disheartened by opposition to Equality Act” (Catholic Virginian, June 17), the writers need to think through where compassion leads. We need to be honest and follow good intentions through to their actual outcomes.

Most of those who invite, mislead, organize and fund illegal immigration into the United States do so for political reasons with no regard for the suffering caused as the lawless take life savings, leave slackers in the desert to die and rent and enslave their children.

Church leaders contributing funding to this movement — Why not target the root causes in Central America? — are undermining an attempt to restore a stable, legal immigration system that will benefit everyone and save a sovereign, God-inspired, free nation from eventual chaos and collapse. Do we need to choose between our Church and our country?

Similarly, if the Equality Act will outlaw the functioning of Christian communities and organizations that help so many because they choose not to embrace or promote alternative lifestyles, and will eventually destroy our religious freedom, how is it compassionate? “Live and let live” works both ways.

It is not moral to help some by hurting many more. Those who thrive on division and confrontation among groups will not want to consider this reasoning. So, too, for those who place no value on religious and individual God-given freedoms for all people or those who just take our blessings for granted. – Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

Sanctity of life most important issue

As a “practicing Catholic,” I have often wondered: What is the Church’s official position on killing babies? The Catholic Virginian can often provide a bit of insight into the most stressing political chaos that permeates our faith. While the June 17 issue provided an insight into this complex issue, it revealed a two-sided answer.

On the one hand, Father Doyle stated the Church’s position on abortion and how we should vote regarding the political pundits who represent us. He goes on to tell us that we should not vote for them if they claim they are against abortion but support the issues that allow the crimes against humanity to continue.

At the end he gives every Catholic an out to vote for the candidate on other “moral issues.” What is more important to the Catholic voter than the sanctity of human life? While that position may appear to relieve the Church leaders of their moral responsibilities, it is a deceitful argument.

Politicians who represent us and claim to be Catholics are not “practicing Catholics.” People like the Speaker of the House of Representatives and even our own Virginia delegation profess to be practicing Catholics. I have my doubts. They will never get my vote regardless of how they portray themselves. They do not represent me, and I doubt seriously if they represent you.

Ripping babies out of mothers’ wombs and killing the unborn should be a crime. The Church should provide a better response, and who we vote for should represent our practice and certainly rid the country of Roe vs. Wade. And they will not. – George L. Cranford, Chesterfield

From ‘cradle Catholics’ to ‘nones’

Ann Martinuzzi’s letter (Catholic Virginian, June 3) regarding the divisive, unnecessary use of the term “cradle Catholic” suggests further avoidance when considering its meaning to fellow readers and us in the pews when we think about our children, friends, neighbors and associates who “converted” from cradle Catholics to “nones.”

Certainly, they are still benevolent, compassionate, loving promoters of human flourishing. However, as noted by Charles Taylor in his book “A Secular Age,” the vector of their efforts once vertical is now horizontal. – Nick Lucas, Richmond

Theology of the Body changed perspective

In response to Aaron Jay Ledesma’s letter (Catholic Virginian, June 17), I wish to offer a different perspective. Ledesma is disheartened regarding the bishops’ stance on the Equality Act. More than 15 years ago, I would have held the same view. After many personal struggles with my Catholic faith regarding Church teachings, i.e., abortion, contraception, homosexuality, I entertained leaving the Catholic faith.

A priest suggested I first find out why the Catholic Church takes these 2,000-year-old stances. After much reading and praying, I came to the hard fact that I had to change my stances, not the Catholic Church. St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is one of the writings that changed my perspective.

God has created all souls equal and loves each sinner as much as the greatest saint. We are, as Ledesma points out, created in God’s likeness, but we distort that likeness when we make compromises with this world, modeling ourselves to the ways of this fallen existence. Staying in a state of grace is what brings all hearts their true joy while on Earth.

The Equality Act is an act of man. All bishops could sign onto the Equality Act but that would not make a difference to God. God’s design is clear and unchangeable. – Amanda Keller, Richmond

Letters • June 17, 2019

Applauds priest’s letter

Father Tom Collins’ letter “If they’re really pro-choice…” (Catholic Virginian, June 3) seems to favor one choice-abortion only. It hits the nail on the head. Pelosi, Biden, Durbin, Kaine and Gov. Cuomo have always endorsed late-term abortions.

Democrats have defined their position as when the baby is delivered, and they make him/ her comfortable. Then the mother and the doctor make a choice to kill the child or not. The Catholic Church cannot condone politicians who support this policy. Thanks to Father Collins for his address on this awful situation and the lack of respect for life by these politicians. – O. Ralph Puccinelli, Richmond

Understand the meaning of Catholic

About four years ago, I decided I would not write another letter to the editor, but I decided to send one on a subject that concerns me.

Sometimes when I read the CV letters it confounds me that some of the submissions actually come from folks who are my fellow Catholic Christians. There is a clear trend that indicates many consider their Catholic Church to be an “American” or “ideological” church, tracking with their political views.

If you look up the “small c” definition of catholic, it means all-embracing, universal, diverse. Some other traditions use the term “holy catholic church” in their services, presumably also meaning universal.

The particular issue that astounds me is immigration. If God sees geographical, political boundaries in “welcome the stranger…,” I should turn in my misguided diplomas and degrees from 16 years of Catholic education, including Jesuit college, for new ones centered on the political views revealed in many of the letters I read in the CV.

The pope is even criticized for compassionately contributing for asylum- seeking immigrant care at the southern border. This is inconceivable to me as a Catholic and as a believer in the “catholic or universal” reach of our beliefs.

I respect others’ opinions, but I have trouble understanding the obviously antonym-based definition of “catholic,” i.e., narrow, exclusionary.

I’m not anyone’s judge, but my view is that “Catholic” and “catholic,” as well as “Christian,” is the reverse of what I see in many of these opinions. Inclusiveness and all-embracing seems more aligned with my Catholic upbringing and education. – R. A. Marino, Chester

Disheartened by opposition to Equality Act

I’m an openly gay Catholic. My boyfriend and I are disheartened to read “Bishops voice concerns about Equality Act” (Catholic Virginian, May 20) that bishops are urging parishioners to voice concerns over the Equality Act — which would amend laws already in place to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.”

As Catholics, we believe God created all mankind in his image and follow Jesus’ teachings, such as, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it:[b] You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mt 22:37-39).

It’s oxymoronic that religious leaders would claim that places of worship “have become pariahs that must be marginalized as entities unworthy of a place in the public square.” Yet, they’re speaking out against a bill that would protect the LGBT+ community, a truly marginalized group. Like the Church, we too have been persecuted, discriminated against and even killed. Yet, we continue to seek God.

Our bishops are not exemplifying true Christianity. Why would Church leaders, among all people, voice concern over an act of equality? Why publicly voice concern against LGBT+ parishioners, ignoring the fact that we’re some of the most devout followers, volunteers and donors. The Equality Act and the LGBT+ community do nothing to harm the Church. We’re worthy of equality, respect and love. We are worthy of providing a child a loving home through adoption and fostering. We are worthy of being loved by our neighbors as they love themselves. And, most importantly, we’re worthy of God’s love. – Aaron Jay Ledesma, Richmond

Editor’s note: The entire text of the bishops’ letter can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/2019-Coalition-Letter-to-Congress-Equality-Act.pdf.

Letters • June 3, 2019

Inspired by pro-lifer’s witness

This is in response to your article with a category chart of voting records for the most recent Virginia General Assembly session (Catholic Virginian, May 6). Of the nine categories listed, five related to abortion. As a registered nurse, I am well aware of the barbaric nature of abortion and its grotesque anatomical realities that are consistently whitewashed by segments of the general public.

I would suggest readers view the voting records of all Virginia state legislators and the various categories that are listed. Of those that relate to the pro-life movement are, among others, gun control, Medicaid expansion and Medicaid funding waivers for intellectually disabled (ID) and developmentally disabled (DD) individuals.

The Church has fought against the culture of death and promoted the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death and championed the protection of those lives that are most vulnerable. Those most vulnerable also include the ID/ DD population who cannot protect themselves and rely on public protection as funded by the Commonwealth and school children, who have been consistent victims of school shootings in this country.

Abortion cannot be the sole measuring stick for the pro-life movement and in combating the culture of death that continues to seep into our society.

As a nurse who has worked with the public school population and the ID/DD population, I would hope the public would have a broader view of the prolife movement, the different populations that relate to the pro-life movement and the diabolical ways society seeks to snuff out the most vulnerable lives and rob them of their dignity and our needed compassion. – Brendan Mahoney, Richmond

If they’re really pro-choice…

It is worth noting that Catholic politicians who assert that they are prochoice are more than willing to go to functions sponsored by abortionists, but avoid going to any gathering sponsored by crisis pregnancy centers, which support women who have chosen to nurture, rather than kill, the babies entrusted to their care.

If such politicians are really pro-choice, why do they make an appearance only at functions sponsored by those supporting one choice — abortion? – Father Tom Collins, Hot Springs

Bothered by term ‘cradle Catholic’

The term “cradle Catholic” makes me cringe. I see no value is segregating ourselves from one another. In Barbara Hughes’ column (Catholic Virginian, May 20), the message would have been received without “cradle” as a qualifier.

This terminology was used disdainfully by those coming into the Church in my parish in Michigan, similar to the way Hughes alludes to in her article “How the gift of Mary worked on one man’s life.” I understand in RVA, the Catholic community historically used the term fondly to express community with one another as Catholics were not in the majority.

However, we as individuals have made the choice to commit to the faith whether through birth or conversion. Labeling is not necessary and segregates us as a faith community. – Ann Martinuzzi, Richmond

Letters • May 20, 2019

Wider view of pro-life movement needed

Thank you for the inspiring account of Peter Barker’s 50 years of witnessing (Catholic Virginian, May 6). Five decades of prayerful, quiet, unassuming presence has spread a reverence for life and saved lives.

He is a modern crusader, a visible symbol of the struggle for the rights of the unborn. His mission reminds us God is with us and that prayer is our first approach to God. Pray without ceasing, we have been instructed.

Mr. Barker’s statement that “his pro-life passion can be traced to the strong Catholic foundation his family and Catholic education instilled in him” needs to be noted. Today’s society must continue to establish and live our strong Catholic foundation and to establish truly Catholic schools committed to teaching the Magisterium.

Daily, I thank God for providing us with people like Mr. Barker and ask that I emulate him and follow a life of Christian charity, living the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Every life is precious.

Thank you, Mr. Barker. – Bonnie Tingle, Newport News

Remembering a ‘ready disciple’

In the Gospel of John proclaimed on the Third Sunday of Easter, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and when the apostle responded in the affirmative, Jesus directed him to “feed my sheep.” Our pastor suggested that Peter, who had previously denied knowing Jesus three times, was now ready to be a disciple. I thought immediately of Father Jim Parke who entered eternal life on Easter Monday.

Father Jim fully immersed you into his life, his vision and his passion for that path he was on to God. I never entered a room where he was that he didn’t rush to greet me with a kiss and a hug.

He made you feel wanted and loved and “part of” this grand adventure he was on, and he desperately wanted everyone to see what he saw, to join with all the others he had gathered for the journey and to treat others as he did — with acceptance, respect, compassion and kindness.

He made me feel that what I could uniquely offer along the way was valuable and needed for the success of the flock’s journey.

Father Jim was not a perfect man, nor did he ever profess to be, but in his desire to serve, to console, to support, to celebrate, to pray with and for, to welcome, and to challenge, he was, for me, that faithful shepherd — a ready disciple. He tended God’s sheep with all that he was, and he inspired us to do the same. – Patti Peters, Roanoke

Obey law or embrace false sense of compassion

In response to “Asylum seekers not responsible for crisis” (Catholic Virginian, May 6), those that educate these “asylum seekers” are the actual ones to blame. They misinform and then offer no remedy when over 80 percent of those seekers are denied.

We have a systematic way of legally entering this country for a reason — to prevent the chaos that is present in the immediate situation. Thus, the writer’s opinion that there is no crisis, and that the blame for the chaos falls on our law enforcement officers whose duty it is to enforce our border laws is erroneous. New legislation that eliminates loopholes, such as the soil clause, which affords due process to people who blatantly break our immigration laws, and immediate deportation of illegals, instead of catch and release policies, would be effective.

We either obey the rule of law, which is in place to maintain order, protect our citizens and enforce the laws that we as a social compact have agreed to obey, or we suspend our laws and embrace a false sense of compassion that propagates and allows chaos and criminality to prevail. – Gerald Pilley, Chesapeake

Questions papal priorities

“Why Pope Francis is assisting migrants” (Catholic Virginian, May 6) on lawbreaking trespassers into Mexico and the U.S. studiously avoids any usage of the words “illegal” or even the tepid “undocumented.” This is a well-known technique of leftist activist media known as “deception by omission.” You practice it well. No one reading your article would surmise that these poor people are violating the laws of Mexico and the U.S.

We all understand why these people are fleeing their Third World countries. I would guesstimate that there are, minimum, four billion people on earth who, given the opportunity, would eagerly leave their homes to come to America. Maybe more.

We, the people, have elected representatives to Congress to set up an orderly system of immigration. Yet, somehow we are expected to ignore the law and grant amnesty to people who have flouted and despised our laws, and to disadvantage the many who follow the rules. Does not the Bible tell us that the civil authorities are to be respected?

Now we have a pontiff who is an accessory to this illegality. Of every dollar that we put into the collection basket, a percentage goes to the bishop; of every dollar the bishop receives, a piece goes to Rome. Thus, we are forced to subsidize this illegal behavior. The more money the pope sends, the more people will attempt this hazardous and hopeless journey, this time with implicit papal blessing.

We will assume that this pontiff means to be kind, but the reality is that he is cruelly raising false hopes for these unfortunate people. – Michael Muldowney, Glen Allen

Editor’s note: The money Pope Francis has donated to assist migrants comes from the annual Peter’s Pence collection which, according to its promotional materials, allows the pope to “reach out to people suffering in our world, especially those enduring the effects of war and violence, natural disasters, and religious persecution.” The money does not come from the parish offertory collection.

Care for Earth a Church matter

The environment with such issues as climate change, sea level rise, construction of pipelines, off-shore drilling, etc. is currently a major and critical concern. The environment is important enough that it will be on the platforms of most presidential candidates.

Care for our Earth is not just a secular matter. Pope Francis has made that clear in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’.”

The recognition and celebration of Earth Day, April 22, came and went without any mention of this event in the CV. We as Catholics have a serious responsibility to live and act in a way which ensures that the gift of our Earth will be healthy for future generations. Bishop Knestout signed an agreement together with the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington that more attention will be given to the well-being of our Earth in the two dioceses.

The diocesan newspaper’s mission is that it’s an educational tool to keep readers informed about Church matters and the Catholic position on global issues, one of which is the environment. I have not seen much attention given to the state of our Earth in the CV up till now.

Shouldn’t our newspaper periodically publish articles regarding the Earth? The CV can be a means of communication for the diocesan parishes, wherein they could circulate news of their parish activities on behalf of the environment. This major and critical concern should be brought to our readers’ mind frequently by the communication tool of the CV. – Ed Marroni, Norfolk

Grateful for reporting procedures

Kudos to Bishop Knestout and the pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Petersburg! The parish website carries a prominent and detailed notice about how to report both child sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

It is praiseworthy that harassment is listed as being reportable because any sexual misconduct committed by diocesan personnel, even if it falls short of the legal definition of a crime, is nonetheless gravely immoral and ought not be tolerated, especially if it is a cleric who is the offending party.

If a priest begins indulging in unseemly conversation such as making jokes about condoms and circumcision, pay attention and do not tell yourself that he merely has an off-color sense of humor. If he begins to turn a friendly hug into a long, lingering embrace, become alarmed. If he refuses to release you and plays with your hair and strokes your back, know that you are with a predator and it is your right and duty to tell the bishop.

It does not matter if you have known the priest for years and consider him to be a family friend. It does not matter if others have done worse. Such behavior is still gravely sinful and desecrates the office of the priesthood.

It is imperative that the offending priest face his superiors for correction and for the good of the entire Church. In the Diocese of Richmond, there are now explicit instructions to the faithful on how to start that process should the need arise.

Thank you, Bishop Knestout! – Mary Jo Anger, Chester

Religious orders preached peace

In her column (Catholic Virginian, April 8), Barbara Hughes wrote she had no memory of having heard a sermon on war and peace preached in church.

That statement may apply to the teachings of churches. However, the teachings of religious orders in the schools run by religious orders engaged in constant preaching of peace. This preaching of peace served to neutralize any would-be political men, such as might have been disposed to do the work of political men by devoting themselves to the armed defense of religious liberty.

With any political men neutralized and put out of action, the Communists were free to manipulate the teachings of religious leaders so as to make the teachings come out in favor of the triumph of Communism.

The Communists have stored in their memories how they were able to defeat America in Vietnam; they plan to apply these lessons to defeat America on a worldwide basis.

There does not appear to be much of a live Communist movement going on in the world; there are only a few Asian nations where it remains in power.

However, in prophecies associated with the alleged private revelation of Garabandal, said to have taken place in Garabandal, Spain, in the early 1960s, there is reference to a future time “when Communism comes back.”

In the 1960s, Communism was much alive in the world. So, in these alleged prophecies, it was being predicted that there would be a time when Communism would appear to die and then a time when Communism would come back to life and conquer the world. – Richard A. O’Neill Portsmouth

Priests weren’t afraid of ‘messiness’

I went to the funeral of Father Jim Parke at Ascension Church in Virginia Beach last week and was surprised at the large crowd of people there. The church was filled as well as the commons and areas above the commons. It was a great tribute to Father Parke.

It reminded me of another priest funeral in Virginia Beach some years earlier – that of TQ, Father Tom Quinlan at Holy Family. For TQ, the church was packed with the crowd filling the commons and overflowing into the hall.

Father Parke and Father Quinlan were good pastors who really went out of their way ministering to people in a deeply personal way. They weren’t afraid to get into the messiness of life up to their eyeballs.

They frequently went into the grey areas of life to minister to people there and sometimes got into trouble doing this. They were not perfect people and had their faults. However, they gave themselves in ministry in a very active and involved way, helping people where they found people.

The great outpouring of people at Father Parke’s funeral was a beautiful testament of the many lives he touched in a deeply personal and self-giving way.

The way I see it is that Jesus became one of us, showing us how to be fully human by his teaching, self-giving and the example of his life. Many times, Jesus was in the midst of the messiness of life, and that was not always popular with some people.

God be with you, Father Parke. May you enjoy the reward of taking care of God’s people in the messiness of life. – Father Louis Benoit, Retired, Roanoke

Priest touched many hearts

The Risen Christ was truly present at the funeral Mass for Father Jim Parke on May 2 at Ascension Church in Virginia Beach! The traffic around the church was monitored by city police because of the exceptionally large crowd. The local neighboring funeral home and golf course offered additional parking for overflow from the church parking lot.

The worship space was filled to capacity as were the adjoining spaces including the balcony in the church commons. It was standing room only for those who came before the procession for the Mass. There was a flock of priests, Mayor Bobby Dyer of Virginia Beach and other city dignitaries were recognized and welcomed. There were representatives of other faiths as noted by the yarmulke, native dress or ministerial apparel.

Men, women and children whose lives were touched by this saintly man who in his gentle way touched, healed and renewed many souls. The funeral was worthy to be called a “state funeral.”

Rest in peace, Father Parke. You touched my life and the lives of many, many believers and non-believers. For that we are eternally grateful. – Regina T. Thomann, Virginia Beach

Letters • May 6, 2019

Asylum-seekers not to blame for crisis

I just read the letter from Anthony R. Russo (Catholic Virginian, April 22). The vast majority of those identified in the letter as “apprehended” are at our border seeking asylum from dangerous conditions in their native countries. The leaders of those countries are unwilling or unable to provide basic safety to which all human beings are entitled. As asylum seekers, their intent is to present themselves to immigration officers to begin the asylum process. Thus, they are not “apprehended.”

The system in place for governing immigration has been a chaotic mess for many years. One reason for the “chaos” can be attributed to the fact that enforcement is intent on deterrence and punishment, with no cogent process that, in fairness, can pass for “equal treatment for all” that the rule of law mandates.

If our government cannot process legislation that clearly states the rights of people who present themselves at our border seeking entry, and if there is no fair legal process for a fair hearing to each person or family, then “chaos” will continue to reign.

You cannot blame the asylum seeker for our crisis. That blame belongs on our current politics and unwillingness to address a humanitarian crisis. We are neither under threat nor siege. We have failed to provide remedy to neighbors in need.

We cannot in this instance claim the rule of law as moral high ground when we fail to provide adequate legal remedy for our brothers and sisters whose lives are threatened. – Joe Ronan, Palmyra

Bothered by pope helping migrants

I just saw that Pope Francis has committed $500K to assist illegals traveling and entering the United States, illegally no less.

To make things worse, many of these illegals have been found to be dangerous felons, murderers, rapists, child molesters and other undesirables.

This pope just continues to go down the path of controversial, socialist practices without regard to the American people or Catholics in general.

I am ashamed to identify as a Catholic with this pope representing Catholics by his declarations, actions, speeches and proclamations.

Bottom line; No more donations from me or my family to the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church just can’t stop stepping on themselves at every turn. – Vincent Cammarata, Virginia Beach

Disheartened by tepid response

Regarding Father Doyle’s column (Catholic Virginian April 22), I was disheartened by his tepid response to the mom whose daughter chooses not to attend Mass while at college. The mother asks, ”Should I tell her not to receive Communion?”

He rightfully quotes the Catechism: “Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” To receive Communion while conscious of having committed a mortal sin is to receive Communion unworthily — which is another mortal sin.

Father Doyle again correctly states that in order for a sin to be mortal, there needs to be a “full knowledge of the sinful character,” and he doesn’t want to presume to know the state of her mind, i.e., how fully she recognizes her duty to be at Sunday Mass.

At this point, Father Doyle reneges on his priestly duty. In “Munis docendi,” Pope Benedict wrote: “Dear brother priests, the Christian people ask to hear from our teachings the genuine ecclesial doctrine…” Father Doyle seems to be less concerned about this duty when he advises, “I would not tell her directly that she can’t receive Communion. I would, though, find a way — in a low-key manner that is not confrontational…” I guess Jesus should not have thrown the money changers out of his Father’s house.

Catholic parents have the grave primary duty to educate and train their children in the Catholic faith. The mother is obligated to inform her daughter of the actual teachings of the Catholic Church. The truth is the only answer. – Anthony R. Russo, Chesapeake

Letters • April 22 , 2019

Border crisis denier

In regards to “CLINIC head: No ‘border crisis’” (Catholic Virginian, April 8), I am so relieved to find out that there is no border crisis. On the other hand, Kevin McAlleenan, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner tells us that the U.S. immigration enforcement system along the Mexican border is at “the breaking point.”

Anna Gallagher, the head of CLINIC disputes this notion. What does she base this on? She apparently attended a border-summit in El Paso, Texas, where she encountered a priest that worked with migrants in Mexico. She was moved when he said, “We can handle this” three times, reminding me of Peter’s denial of Jesus.

She opines, “If they can handle it, why can’t we?” One possible reason is the fact that 92,607 people were apprehended between ports of entry on the Southwest border in March alone. But why let facts get in the way of your agenda?

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) offers numerous services to immigrants, both legal and illegal. Even the name of their organization is disingenuous. CLINIC opposes any restrictions on illegal immigration.

As Catholics, we are called to welcome the stranger but also to respect the sovereign rule of law of the United States. Ronald Reagan once said, “A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.” – Anthony R. Russo, Chesapeake

Welcomed columnist’s views

Thank you, Barbara Hughes, for your article “Consider how Jesus has touched you, how you’ve responded” (Catholic Virginian, April 8). The article recounts Jesus’ arrest, healing of Malchus and command to Peter to put up the sword, and to then reflect on the Church’s Just War Theory.

She lists four requirements the Catechism of the Catholic Church says must be met for a war to be considered “just” and then states, “With the advent of nuclear weapons, justifying the means for a desired end becomes even more complicated.”

Thankfully for Catholics, justifying the existence of nuclear weapons has recently become more complicated. In September 2017, the Holy See signed and ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty outlaws the production, manufacture, possession, use, threat of use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. It is a framework for the verifiable disarmament of all nuclear weapons for all time.

While the Church has always advocated for the abolition of nuclear weapons it also allowed for a nuclear deterrent on an interim basis. This changed with the signing of the treaty and Pope Francis’ declaration two months later that “the threat of [nuclear weapons] use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.”

Deterrence theory must no longer hold the world’s children hostage, a nuclear gun to their heads; no longer is global security to be predicated on mutually assured destruction.

We rejoice that the Church’s stance on nuclear weapons finally reflects the spirit of its founder who commanded his followers to love their enemies and to choose the cross over the sword. – Steve Baggarly, Norfolk Catholic Worker, Norfolk

Letters • April 8 , 2019

What the Church needs to do

The headline “Lent: Just what the Church needs” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 25) is repulsive.

What the Church needs to do is put all of the priests who are on the list of those who sexually abused minors in prison where they belong. Then maybe the healing of victims and the Church will begin. – Brenda H. Dameron, Virginia Beach

Tabernacle relocation not ‘hidden agenda’

Regarding “Real estate director saw work as ‘gift’ for Church” (Catholic Virginian, March 25), I wish Deacon Paul Mahefky Godspeed in his retirement but was concerned by his statement that he “moved 27 tabernacles back into the sanctuary, and that’s my legacy. They didn’t know it; it was a hidden agenda.”

The placement or relocation of a tabernacle is a significant decision and lasting statement that should not be the hidden agenda of any one person, but rather guided by a clear and cohesive diocesan policy set by the bishop in consultation with his office of worship and the liturgical documents, then adapted to the architectural and worship styles of each parish and implemented by the pastor in a transparent manner.

When this process is based on liturgical guidelines and involves the faithful, it can be a wonderful opportunity for catechesis and deeper devotion. – Annie Dixon Liturgical Consultant, ACLS Project Manager, Dixon Studio Staunton

Prayers during Church crisis

My pastor said that ours is the most impure era in the history of the world. Given the ubiquity of immodesty and pornography, this may very well be true. Yet the problem is as ancient as that moment at the dawn of creation, when Satan appointed the most foul of his lieutenants as the Impure Demon, the one to instigate sexual depravity in the human race.

This was an incredible stroke of genius — to use the power that generates human beings in God’s image, destined for eternal bliss, and to divert this power unto defilement and misery.

During his public ministry, Jesus confronted this demon over and over again in every village he visited. And by the “finger of God,” he banished him from human hearts.

Therefore, these prayers should be always on our lips during the crisis in the Church and every moral crisis: “From the snares of Satan, Jesus deliver us,” and “Virgin most pure, pray for us.” – Antoinette Cleary, Chesterfield

Why I visit prisons

I am also grateful for Bishop Knestout’s support of prison ministry as Rob Kellis commented (Catholic Virginian, March 25), as well as for all the dedicated clergy who visit Virginia Correction Centers and jails. This includes my pastor, Fr. Carlos Lerma, St Mary Catholic Church, Lovingston.

As a former member and volunteer of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond Prison Ministry Advisors Committee, people have often asked me, “Why do you visit the prisons, Chuck?”

It is a fact that the word prison alone is unnerving but imagine asking, “How would you like to visit a prison with me?” This often results in “dead silence.”

When most people think of prison, they envision confrontation with dangerous people or walking a condemned criminal to the electric chair.

Many individuals may be surprised to learn that there are many good spiritual men and women in prison. My answer to the question above is: “What better reward can I ask than the gratitude of another human being?”

It is my belief that every human being has an inviolable dignity, value and worth, regardless of race, gender, class or any other human characteristic. Each of us is born with free will that must be nurtured and informed by spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical disciplines.

At the same time, we believe that victims and offenders are children of God. Despite their very different claims on society, their lives and dignity should be protected and respected. We seek justice, not vengeance. Punishment should have clear purpose: Protecting society and rehabilitating those who violate the law. – Chuck Brown, Nellysford

Letters • March 25 , 2019

Take Sunday Mass obligation seriously

One of the serious problems in our Church in recent years has been the failure of many Catholics to faithfully participate at Sunday Mass each week, even though one of the Ten Commandments is to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

Sadly, many are oblivious to the seriousness of this commandment. For, if a Catholic is allowed to feel morally free to disregard this commandment for the sake of personal convenience, that same Catholic will soon feel morally free to disregard any of the other Ten Commandments for the sake of personal convenience. Thus, disregarding the grave warning given by St. Paul in I Cor 11:27-32, many Catholics now feel free to receive holy Communion in a state of unrepented serious sin.

The importance of participating at Sunday Mass each week came home to me even moredramatically recently. A man pointed out that the sacrifice, which he has to make to participate at Sunday Mass each week, is miniscule in comparison to the agonizing sacrifice Jesus had to make to be at that Mass.

Thus it is that a Catholic’s failure to participate at Sunday Mass without a serious reason is a tangible assertion that the sacrifice of Jesus is not very important in that person’s spiritual life. It should be noted, then, that a habit of saying, “Not now,” to the invitation of the eucharistic Christ in this life, if not decisively repented, will be repeated on Judgment Day, when that soul says its final “Not now” to Christ’s invitation to enter eternal life in heaven.

This is something to keep in mind as many of us participate in communal reconciliation services this Lent. – Father Tom Collins, Hot Springs

Transparency excellent preventive for gossip

I admit to some cynicism upon reading Pope Francis’ Lenten message of March 3, admonishing us to avoid gossip (Catholic Virginian, March 11). I also confess it is difficult to read the pope’s messages, absent the context of the Church’s sex abuse scandals.

I reluctantly conclude from the pope’s message that I am to keep quiet about the Church’s dilemma. But as a recovering alcoholic, I have learned that denial will not solve anything.

What a tragedy that I, or any of the faithful, am impelled to see the slightest hypocrisy in the Church’s sacred shepherd when he reads as he did, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”

I am obliged to say that an excellent preventive for gossip is transparency, which has not been on display at the Vatican. In 2015, the pope agreed with his special advisory group, led by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, that all Vatican offices must acknowledge receiving any letter from someone claiming abuse. But Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, refused to comply.

The pope also agreed to form a new tribunal, including laity, to deal with bishops covering up sex abusers among their clerics. But he changed his mind, with Cardinal Muller then indicating it could be handled by the bishops themselves.

I am somewhat disenchanted, but I close with my more fervent prayer that the pope and all his charges will find the strength, the courage, and the love to achieve transparency in the light of Christ, and with it renewed authority and inspiration, which we so desperately desire from them and each other. – Hartwell Harrison, Bon Air

Grateful for support of prison ministry

I wish to affirm Bishop Barry C. Knestout for his support of prison ministry. The bishop celebrated Mass the evening of Tuesday, March 5, at the Petersburg Federal Camp, Low Facility and Medium Facility. This is the first visit to the federal prison by an “active” bishop since the start of the Life Connections Program in 2002.

I would also like to affirm Father Jay Wagner, pastor of Church of the Redeemer, who faithfully celebrates Mass most every Tuesday evening at the Petersburg facilities with the full support of Scott Ritz, Life Connections Program mentor coordinator.

It is also encouraging to see prison ministry will be supported as part of the 2019 Annual Diocesan Appeal.

May all who support those who are currently incarcerated be inspired by the actions of Bishop Knestout, Father Jay and Scott Ritz! – Rob Kellis, South Chesterfield

Church must speak against pro-abortion Catholics

While I am satisfied that the Church is showing how irresponsible they were with the abuse it has put on kids, I am not happy about why it took so long.

The Church has a chance now to speak up and act on all the so-called practicing Catholics who publicly speak out for abortion, especially ones who help change laws to abort up to the time of birth.

Stand up and be heard, denounce those Catholics who are OK with killing fetuses. Excommunicate any of them that go against Catholic teaching. Don’t allow them in the door or to receive the sacraments. – Francis E. Warren, Newport News


Letters • March 11 , 2019

Consider observing the ’40 days’ of Lent

“What You Should Know About Ash Wednesday” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 25), states that the 40 days begin on Ash Wednesday and end Easter Sunday, which makes 46 days. Subtract the six Sundays of Lent and that constitutes the 40 days.

The problem with this calculation is that Lent does not end on Easter but on Holy Thursday, when the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins. That Mass ushers in the Holy Triduum, a liturgical season in its own right and the shortest of the liturgical year (ending with Vespers on Easter Sunday), as well as the Paschal Fast. Unlike the penitential fast of Lent, the Paschal fast is a joyful fast (like the fast before Communion).

Consider observing the “40 days” of Lent as beginning on the First Sunday of Lent and ending with the beginning of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday — exactly 40 days.

Ash Wednesday and the following three days – although a part of the Lenten Season – become the “Porch of Lent.” We begin Ash Wednesday, marked with ashes and a call to repentance, and continue Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which are not titled as days of Lent in the Roman Missal, “crossing the threshold of Lent.” The Scriptures for these days stress the spiritual practices that will help us keep the 40 days.

All that said, we might take our best inspiration from St. Benedict, who taught that “our lives ought to resemble a continual Lent.” The disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving should not be novelties that we practice only for 40 days a year; they are, in fact, the ever-ready tools of any Christian disciple. – Mark F. Hoggard, Director of Religious Education, St. Pius X Catholic Church, Norfolk

Nursing homes fertile ground for evangelization

Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion can help to save souls by bringing holy Communion to nursing homes. Most Catholics think evangelization means “bringing people to Jesus,” but it includes “bringing the body of Jesus to people.”

This form of evangelization is becoming more important because we have an aging population, with nursing homes becoming a growing part of many communities. These facilities are home to some people who have been practicing Catholics and now are denied the solace that had been the promise of their faith.

Nursing homes are fertile grounds for evangelization in three categories: first, there are Catholics who want to continue sharing in the faith; second, there are “fallen-away” Catholics who might be looking for an opportunity to reach out for their eternal salvation; third, there are people of other faiths who may be touched by the attraction of seeing “how these Catholics love each other.”

Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion would evangelize just by bringing Communion and by listening to residents, so no special evangelization training or skill is needed. The prospect of helping a soul reach eternal salvation is a sufficient motivator.

Many parishes have some visits to a nursing home, but we should consider going beyond a few days per month. The challenge is to create an extension of the parish faith community.

Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion who may have time during the day or in the evening can begin the process of “adopting” a nursing home. The arrangement could start with one day per week for Communion. The next steps might be to increase the number of visits, forming a prayer group or planning an on-site Mass.

Bringing Communion once per week should grow into a model for how our Church can become Christ’s body today. – Adolf Schimpf, Hanover Township

Bishops wrong in vilifying Nick Sandmann

Regarding “Report clears Covington students of racist statements” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 25): The writer stated: “In clips that went viral almost immediately, students were shown surrounding Nathan Phillips, tribal elder for the Omaha Tribe, who was chanting and beating a drum.”

The video showed an adult male disrespectfully and aggressively invading the personal space of a remarkably restrained teenager. The man had what could have been considered a weapon within inches of the boy’s face. The video also shows Phillips’ supporters behind and on both sides of him.

Did the writer receive verification of Phillips’ title of “tribal elder” from the chairman or council of his tribe or was age the only criterion for the appellation given to a man who everyone acknowledges lied about his military service and tried to disrupt Mass? Letters Continued from Page 6

Why did the writer omit Bishop Roger J. Foys’ “apology” statement for vilifying the high school boys in which he said: “We should not have allowed ourselves to be bullied and pressured into making a statement prematurely and we take full responsibility for it.”

The article mentions student Nick Sandmann’s lawyers by name. It neglects to mention those of all the bishops who vilified him and what it will cost the parishioners of their dioceses.

More than legal and monetary repercussions are at stake for the Church when bishops unfairly publicly desert and/or condemn those who give their time, energy and money to Catholic causes as did Nick Sandmann, his schoolmates and their families.

Many Catholics throughout the U.S. will think twice about supporting Church activities and some may even leave the Church altogether because they don’t wish to be aligned with such “shepherds.” – Christy Metacarpa, Williamsburg

Not ready for environmental ministries

I am writing in response to a letter written by Ed Marroni, (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 25).

Marroni laments the lack of environmental ministries in diocesan parishes. He cites The International Panel on Climate Change as having predicted catastrophic environmental damage within twelve years. He also cites Pope Francis’ warning in “Laudato Si’” that, “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming.”

I do not wish to pollute or do anything else that would directly harm the environment. We should properly dispose of trash, reduce waste, invent or reinvent more environmentally friendly products and services. However, I am not ready to put environmental ministries into our parishes, nor am I willing to allow environmental alarmists greater political power.

The origins of the environmental movement are socialist and their ultimate goals are dangerous to all societies and dangerous to the Church. Just this week, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while preparing dinner and recording a video in her home, said that young people should really think about having children because doing so will harm the environment.

Really? According to the Pacific Standard Magazine in an article titled “The U.S. Birth Rate Still Falling,” dated Jan. 11, 2019, pro-environmentalist and author Kate Wheeling writes:

“A new report on falling rates doesn’t speculate about why rates have been falling, but cultural shifts, economic anxiety and a slew of other factors likely all play a role… dipping so low that the nation’s population would be declining without immigration, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Never mind that our birth rates are falling. It will become a patriotic duty to forego children. Can you say, “China?”

If the United States were to follow the “Green New Deal” as proposed by Ocasio-Cortez and those who think like her, the initial cost to our economy would reach a conservative estimate of $93 trillion over ten years, bankrupting the nation. The economic devastation to not only the U.S. economy, but indeed to world economies, would devastate societies for years — far sooner than the very naturally developing climate changes so many are worried about.

Man will not destroy earth, nor will anything else, until God decides to let it be destroyed. God gave man incredible intelligence, and we will find better energy alternatives to protect environmental health.

The lives of generations of humans around the world would be destroyed within hours of a “Green New Deal.” And the control of personal decisions that would be given over to government control would leave America a socialist, third world country from which we might never recover.

Instead of providing for the world, we’ll be the ones begging for handouts. Meanwhile, the earth will still be revolving and orbiting the sun as it has for thousands upon thousands of years. – Tad Stilwell, Mechanicsville


Letters • February 25 , 2019

We’ve been numbed by what abortion is

Why all the recent outrage? The murder of our unborn, to the day of birth, has been a reality since 1973. If New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo advocated for legal dismemberment of African Americans or Jews, there would be a different kind of public outcry. Would Cardinal Dolan then excommunicate Cuomo?

Regarding excommunication, is the Church afraid of affected politicians threatening repeal of tax-exempt status, or the loss of around $2 billion in federal funds for Catholic charitable causes?

Or do our Church leaders feel their hands are tied, morally, due to the ongoing sex abuse revelations? Is the Church afraid of “alienating” a lot of those sitting in the pews who voted for, and will continue to vote for, these very same death-dealing politicians? And at the risk of seeming partisan, we dare not call out one political party for their total support of abortion.

More than 60 million surgically killed babies seems not as important as does fighting for perceived “rights” of illegal immigrants. If our bishops had acted with more than just words in the past 40-plus years by applying excommunication to a few dozen “pro-choice” “Catholic” politicians maybe the continuing slaughter of our unborn would not exist.

To too many Catholics, “Thou shalt not kill” is just another social justice issue among many others. We have been numbed to the horror of what abortion truly is. Thanks to O. Ralph Puccinelli and Tom Trykowski for their viewpoints on defending the defenseless (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 11). – John Stec, Covington

Grateful for Catholic school education

I, too, like Bishop Barry C. Knestout (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 28), can appreciate the value of a Catholic school education. As a black Catholic, I can also appreciate the historic value of Catholic schools.

From 1962 to 1966, I attended a black Catholic high school, known as St. Emma Military Academy in Powhatan. Since February is Black History Month, I am especially proud of the education I received at St. Emma.

St. Emma was established largely by St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia socialite, who as a millionaire used her money to help black and Native American youths. This nun later founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Emma was open from 1895 until 1972 and was vital in providing a quality education for black youths when “Jim Crow Laws” ruled much of the South. After the desegregation of public schools, much of the enrollment dropped. Thus, in 1972 the school closed its doors.

The priests and lay teachers were from various ethnic backgrounds. Although very strict, they were compassionate mentors.

Upon graduation, we received three diplomas: academic, trade and military science. Many of us became college graduates, some became high ranking military officers, and some leaders in industry and business.

We could attend Mass daily, and on Sundays and holy days of obligation, Mass was mandatory even for non-Catholics. In the evenings, catechism classes were offered. We had many converts.

About a mile from St. Emma was a black Catholic school for girls. St. Francis de Sales was operated by strict but compassionate nuns. St. Emma cadets had socials with the girls from St. Francis.

My dad is gone now, but in 1934 he, too, became a St. Emma graduate. The school gave him a feeling of self-worth when much of the United States was mired in racism.

Catholic schools have historically been pioneers in the struggle to overcome racism.

Today, I thank God for Blessed Sacrament Huguenot Catholic School in Powhatan. – Matthew Thomas Jr., Bedford

Parishes should have environmental ministries

Last spring the Environmental Working Community in Hampton Roads took a phone survey of area parishes. Two-thirds of the 26 parishes surveyed reported holding various environmental activities periodically, but only three had a formal environmental ministry. What was the motivation for these parishes? They seriously cared about our Earth’s present and future condition.

The people who started these ministries realized their faith required them to take action so they accepted their responsibility to educate parishioners about the crisis and encourage changes.

Pope Francis warned, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications” (“Laudato Si’,” 25). He instructed, “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming” (Laudato Si’,” 23).

The International Panel on Climate Change has warned that the crisis is so great that we have 12 years to limit this catastrophe. Otherwise, there will be more extreme heat, droughts, floods and poverty. This study stated that global warming must be kept to a maximum of 1.5C by 2030.

Pope Francis understands the serious threat climate change poses. He warned of “unprecedented destruction of eco-systems with serious consequences for all” if prompt climate change mitigation efforts are not undertaken.

A parish environmental ministry strives to embody these teachings. They organize events and activities that educate parishioners, and they provide initiative and direction on how a parish can become more sustainable.

Hopefully, more parishes will heed the warnings of Pope Francis as well as the IPCC and form environmental ministries. What a show of gratitude to our Creator it would be if faith communities worked toward becoming a green Church. – Ed Marroni, Norfolk

What God will ask of you

The United States has a big problem. I saw a story on a group of people arguing whether Jesus is a Democrat or Republican. This type of behavior is sacrilegious because Jesus is God, and he doesn’t belong to any particular group. He belongs to everyone!

When standing before God on Judgment Day when you die, you will not be asked if you are a Democrat, Republican, etc. You may be asked what you have done for your fellow man, such as feed him when he is hungry, clothe him when he is naked, and shelter him when he is homeless. These are the things that matter. It is how you live your life and treat others, not your political affiliation, that matter.

When going to vote, do not do it on the basis of whether you “believe” Jesus to be a certain political affiliation. You should vote for the candidate that will do the best for our people and our country. As tensions increase in our country, do as God would do and continue to pray.

God forgives us for our sins, and God bless America! – James C. Filek, Virginia Beach

Letters misled CV readers

Your letters page is a disgrace.

The activist media, including NBC, CNN, and others, selectively edited video to imply misbehavior by Covington Catholic kids who were verbally attacked while waiting for a bus. Initially, some people, including their diocese, rushed to judgment and fell for the deception. After investigation, the diocese fully exonerated the kids. They did nothing wrong.

Nevertheless, your editor elected to publish three letters (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 11) repeating this false characterization against Catholic kids. A competent editor would have quickly found the error in these letters and, at minimum, noted they contained distortion that amounted to highly partisan propaganda. By failing to do so, the CV misled its readers and slandered the young Catholics.

There are three possible explanations for this gross failure: editorial incompetence, willful ignorance or actual malice. Regardless of which failure occurred, the CV and the diocese must apologize for their libels, and the editor must be discharged. To do less is to persist in gross error.

The activist media, as opposed to journalists, are being sued for their deceptions. Given that Nick Sandmann was not a public figure at the time, he is likely to become a very rich young man.

To persist in malicious deception is to serve the father of lies and to renounce the truth, which is Christ. – Michael Muldowney, Glen Allen

Editor’s note: At the time the letters were published, the Diocese of Covington had not released the report on the investigation it had commissioned regarding the incident about which Mr. Muldowney writes. A story on that report, released Feb. 13, appears on Page 10 of this issue. As noted in The Catholic Virginian’s letters policy, “Opinions expressed by letter writers do not necessarily reflect those of The Catholic Virginian or the Diocese of Richmond.”

Catholics jumped to conclusions

I was surprised the letters condemning Covington students were published (Catholic Virginian, Feb 11) following the video evidence that refuted the story. Several Catholics jumped to conclusions getting caught up in a media frenzy judging before all the facts were in.

This just doesn’t seem to be a tenet of our faith. Since President Trump believes in the March for Life, wearing a MAGA hat in DC seems to acknowledge his view of life or making America great again by respecting life.

I would think any school or organization who sends children to such an event would prepare them for the negative reaction one is bound to get in this current climate and how to handle it. Debra Arnold, Manakin Sabot

Letter writers didn’t have whole story

It is obvious by these letters that neither of them has seen all the videos that were posted on this event. First, why can’t the boys wear MAGA hats? They are proud of the president and they should be able to vocalize their support. Not to allow this would be infringing on their constitutional right for “freedom of speech.”

Secondly, the so called “native,” who is known to cause trouble and is not who he says he is, confronted the boys with intent to get a rise from them. The young boy who stood there did exactly what Jesus would have done. Respond with non-violence or verbally abusive language, but with strength and conviction.

Thirdly, none of the boys used any “derogatory words” nor were they “responding with ignorance and arrogance.” Fourth, the boys are getting free legal representation.

Those who are ignorant of the facts should not be commenting on things they know nothing about. – Nancy Bobal, Virginia Beach

Letter writers got it wrong

In your “letters” section (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 11), some folks got it wrong. We cannot ignore our basic right to free speech which includes articles of clothing, e.g., MAGA hats. Just how provocative to a Catholic is a MAGA hat compared to a recent version of a socially accepted pink hat openly purported to represent specific female anatomy worn at another protest? Where is the outrage there?

A minor was approached to within inches of his physical self by an adult unknown to him beating a drum in his face. The youth at no time requested this. Other adults nearby are recorded shouting racial and threatening epithets to this young man and his classmates at about the same time.

The smile was no smirk. This young man was busy implementing true Catholic teaching and belief: courage to exhibit consideration of “the other” beyond fair play; to promote patience in the face of anger; desire to prevent escalation and possible harm to others even at the risk of possible personal harm.

I am proud to see my faith tradition so beautifully executed and by one so young! We adults should take note, not umbrage! – E.O. Gillam, Appomattox

Balance the coverage

You’ve out-liberaled our leftist mainstream media. Even our country’s deranged fourth estate has finally acknowledged that the Covington Catholic kids were not the culprits in the March for Life showdown last month. All three of your letters to the editor on the subject (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 11) excoriate the students, their parents, their chaperones, their school, Catholic education as a whole and, of course, the source of all things uncivilized, the dreaded MAGA hats.

Your subscribers find these admirable, pro-life students culpable and sympathize with the drum-beating Native American elder/erstwhile stolen valor “Vietnam Veteran” who, as it turns out, was shown to have spawned a cottage industry of grievance-peddling and rabble-rousing over the years. Come on, editors. How about some balanced coverage?

As for the MAGA hats, we have made several trips to DC over the past couple years for memorials, celebrations and just plain sightseeing. On these trips we’ve seen many student groups on class trips to our capital. In so many cases, a surprisingly large number of students will be wearing MAGA hats. It always does my heart good to see the next generation of patriotic youngsters not afraid to show their love of country. – Gerard E. McGough, Newport News

Covington students deserve admiration, respect

We are writing to express our disgust with the comments made in the letters published (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 11) by those criticizing the Covington Catholic High School students at the March for Life. The students demonstrated remarkable character and restraint in the face of the aggressive behavior displayed by the individual who was taunting them.

The Diocese of Covington rushed to condemn the students before a full investigation of the facts had been established. After the situation in question was investigated, it became clear the students were not at fault and, in fact, had been targeted by those seeking to promote disorder.

Nick Sandmann and the other Covington Catholic High School students are deserving of our admiration and respect for the way they conducted themselves during the event and in the days after. The students demonstrated a great deal more character than those who wrote the despicable remarks contained in the letters you published. – R. Patrick Gomez and Sandra B. Gomez, Virginia Beach

Satan got a bonus Jan. 18, 2019

We were extremely dismayed and disappointed by the narrowminded opinions in three letters (Catholic Virginian, Feb 11): “Students should have turned the other cheek,” “We’re losing what has defined Catholics,” and “Students, parents should take responsibility.”

We wonder if these writers are aware that the Native-American elder, Nathan Phillips (after researching the title “elder” we can find nothing to indicate he was awarded this title by anyone except by the media) has a history of violence, prison time, fabrication of service records and prior protest interventions, enabling the Washington Post to label him a “thug”?

Are they aware that Phillips was the admitted aggressor in this situation? He interfered without being asked, and he escalated the situation begun by the Black Hebrew Israelites, who were cursing and threatening the Catholic school children.

If his intention was to defuse a tense situation involving children, then why did he not approach the insult tossing and cursing Black Hebrew Israelite adults? With that unanswered question, Phillips’ intention becomes very clear. He went for the weaker group, the children, so he could promote his agenda; and Phillips’ agenda was this: confront people wearing MAGA caps and get on TV!

Why did the children not turn the other cheek? That is precisely what they did in an eloquent way. They passively smiled and stood still in the face of harassment by wild-eyed bigots and a serial attention seeker. These children were a testament to Catholic schools in light of the fact this did not turn into a mob scene.

The children did a wonderful job of holding their tempers and remaining calm while being besieged by adults. These students were representing their belief in the respect of all life and all they have received is criticism and hatred for a situation they did not create.

The big question: As Catholics, what responsibilities do these students and parents need to embrace? They are strong supporters of the rights of the unborn, they have enough self-control not to engage in bullying, their parents support Catholic education and they support the Catholic Church’s viewpoint on abortion.

So, what else do they need to embrace? Forgiveness and prayerful reflection on the distorted and cruel treatment they received from the media, the public and these letter writers to The Catholic Virginian.

Here’s the perverse reality of this entire episode: Satan got a bonus! Not only will no one remember why the March for Life took place, but Catholics were portrayed by the fake news media as bigots, fools and liars to all the world. The distortion of this incident has given the public more reason to believe Catholics are not what we profess and we don’t act like we’ve been taught. Our own people distrust and vilify us.

Media dishonesty has given Catholics the image of oddballs and outcasts without thoughts of our own. Catholics are viewed as ludicrous followers of a Church that is detached and ineffective. So, Satan had a great day on Jan. 18, 2019.

The mean, corrosive and hateful environment some of the writers worry over is already here. It exists inside a country that supports and pays for abortions that are wiping out generations of little souls.

So instead of hating and criticizing the Catholics who support the teachings of our beautiful Church, pray for those who seek to destroy life and champion those who work to support life at all stages.

Learn to see the whole picture and don’t be a victim of media bias. Grow up!!!! – Daniel and Kay McGrath, Roanoke

‘Shame on you’ for shaming students

I’m sending a short “Shame on you” to those folks so quick to call shame upon the Covington students. I was at the March for Life and saw these kids at the march. They conducted themselves, like everyone else there, with positive and honorable behavior.

I did not personally see the confrontation with Nathan Phillips, but I did see a number of unedited videos. Each was at least 1:10 long and some were as long as 1:45. These kids were not at fault at all. They were verbally harassed by the black Hebrew Israelites as were the few American Indians. Instead of confronting the harassers, Phillips chose the students. Bottom line: Phillips started this and the kids did nothing but stand there.

You all were too quick to condemn kids instead of the adult who went into this much easier target group and got in their faces.

Shame on you folks. – Mike Schnekser, Chesapeake

You will be judged by how you judge

In The Catholic Virginian (Feb. 13) there were three letters decrying the behavior of teenaged Catholic children. Their voices were added to the chorus of journalists and other professional members of the media, bishops and others on a variety of platforms.

Now that their diocese has completed an investigation, it has been determined that every single one of those voices leapt to false conclusions, and at least one lied. Having reviewed video and photo evidence from the many phones recording the scene (which began long before the drumming incident), it has been determined that the Covington boys did not shout racist slurs. They did not even shout, “Make America great again.” They did not move to block a Native American’s path.

They had racist slurs shouted at them by the black Hebrew Israelites who were also harassing the Native Americans. They sang school chants to drown out the racist attacks. Nathan Phillips was deliberately confronting them, not trying to get past them.

The much-touted “smirk” was caught after a long train of uncomfortable smiles — most people smile in uncomfortable social circumstances, and having someone walk up and beat a drum inches from your face definitely constitutes uncomfortable.

They did better under worse circumstances than most adults would. The investigation cleared them. The bishops involved have apologized, along with many members of the media.

So where does that leave us? “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” These are some of Jesus’ words that we as Christians pledge to live our lives by.

If we acknowledge we have failed in that, or anything else, we can go to a confessional and hear other words: “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” Amanda Olmsted, Newport News

Covington teens taught Catholic values

How disappointed I am to read others’ letters to the editor in commentary about the Covington students. While being quick to put words to paper, did anyone stop to breathe for even a moment?

While assuming guilt from mainstream media’s typical reporting only partial stories, did anyone pause their condemnation of these youths and their behavior to think what about what they themselves were doing? Was I the only one who saw fear and nervousness in that young man’s eyes, he who was trying to be brave against aggressors?

Was I the only one to wonder what the whole story was? Judge not, lest ye be judged? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone? Are we so immersed in the hatefulness of late that draws us to claim all are guilty before proven innocent?

I am saddened that this country was so quick to accept a snippet of a story, so quick to judge young, inexperienced teens who, as it turns out, behaved better than any of the adults there, in the media, in our dioceses, and across the nation, and so quick to cast those stones.

Everyone was so eager to claim foul against these young folks, to assume that because they are teenagers they must have been misbehaving, to yet again blindly accept half-truths from the media and, worst of all, to show how unchristian they themselves are by angrily casting those stones.

It was, in fact, those teenagers that just taught lessons in Catholic values that, sadly, so many clearly need. I am proud of that young man.

My hope is that we stop jumping on the snap-judgment bandwagon, and instead give the love and understanding that we are called upon by our Lord. – Susan Engle, Suffolk

Letter writers were too quick to judge

I was dismayed to read the three letters commenting on the Covington Catholic High School students (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 11). One letter referred to “the undisputed facts,” yet the original version of the incident was not substantiated when the complete video was released. Clearly, the Native American man approached the students and not the other way around. Therefore, it was patently unfair to accuse the students of harassment, as another writer did.
Furthermore, one writer, after having “observed tens of thousands” of marchers that day, claimed that there would have been “ample room to simply walk away.” That may have been possible for one or two people but not so “simple” for a busload or two. In any case, the location had been designated as the place where the students were to wait to be picked up, so it wasn’t sensible for them to “walk away.”
Finally, President Trump has been the most outspoken advocate of the pro-life message of any president so it was totally appropriate for the students to wear MAGA hats; at this time in the nation’s history, we need leaders such as President Trump and Vice President Pence to take a firm stand for life.
It was disappointing to see that these three Catholics were so quick to judge the students and that the newspaper thought it was acceptable to print the letters before all the facts were known. No alternate viewpoint was presented. – Jane Green, Williamsburg

Push back against bearing false witness

Letters from Richard Gasperini, John Edward and Anna Yu show they could not wait one day, when the full video was seen, to learn the Covington students were the targeted victims of yet another fabricated incident, to libel them.

The boys crime? Wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, as protected by our First Amendment right of freedom of expression. But now, only a right for some; others exercise theirs at their own risk. Is this the Judaeo Christian country we want?

Verbally abused for the better part of an hour by a vile protest group, while waiting for their bus, the boys sang school chants to drown out the hateful, unprintable slurs. The Indian drummer, known for activist agitation and arrests, drummed his way into the school gathering and into the face of Nick Sandmann, who did not move or respond verbally.

As Christians and Catholics, we need to push back on bearing false witness, to target the innocent, whether we agree with them politically or not. Whether we agree the unborn are “living persons” or not, and the “power of money” is not an issue here,

Nick Sandmann’s family was placed in grave danger at their home through vicious social media and irresponsible, dangerous practices of the press, which have gone on for too long.
They will seek legal justice and redress, for their sake and ours, or this will keep happening — and so easily.

We are allowing a serious decline in decency and a civil society, even as Catholics. Love met hate at the Lincoln Memorial. We need to be sure which is which, and act as our faith teaches. –  Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

Listen to how we describe each other

I just finished reading Anna Yu’s letter to the editor in the online version of The Catholic Virginian (Feb. 11). The incident at the March for Life rally was and is unfortunate, and I believe Yu is attempting to capture the essence of who is responsible. I do agree that students and parents need to own their responsibility, but so does Yu.

What struck me was these words “By drumming, the elder said he wanted to help break up the tense situation between the black militants and the students.” I must have read Yu’s letter several times, but the words above kept sticking out — especially the words “between the black militants and the students.” Nowhere in the Native American elder’s words was the phrase “black militants” used.

However, Yu’s use of the phrase “black militant” kind sums up the race problem in America — the callous use of stereotypical phrases to describe a group of black people who are yelling at white people. I watched the video, and heard the Native American elder’s words, as well as heard the comments made by the black protesters.

Unless there is something that I missed, I saw no violent actions on the part of the black protesters; I heard not so nice words. It is so typical that when black people express anger over a situation, the behavior is called “militant.”

If we, as a country, want to improve race relations, we must first examine ourselves and “listen” how we describe each other. Take responsibility and accountability. – Marie Anderson, Round Hill

Correction: An incorrect word, which altered the meaning of his thought, appeared in Richard Gasperini’s letter (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 11). The final sentence should have read: “To have acted otherwise, as was the case here, clearly was imprudent, demonstrated a total lack of leadership, and definitely was not in accord with Christ’s teaching ’to turn the other cheek.’”

Letters • February 11 , 2019

The Body of Christ is at work!

On stage, behind the scenes, in the audience, and direct from heaven, the Catholic Church shines like the glorious beacon she is!

Last weekend the Office of Evangelization drew record crowds of high school and college age students to DYC — the Diocesan Youth Conference and College Summit in Richmond. It was a holy weekend that made and makes a difference.  

Thank you to Mike School and every single person from this office who worked tirelessly to bring the Good News to life in a special way on this annual weekend of praise, prayer, education and fun.

The Body of Christ is at work indeed. Countless volunteers wearing grey T-shirts buzzed around every corner prepared to help in ways big and small. You did some very heavy lifting for sure and the scaffolding you provided allowed clergy, speakers, students and chaperones to flow smoothly from place to place with everything we needed. Thank you for being God’s hands.

There is a priest, deacon or seminarian everywhere you look. Thank you for being a visible sign to our students of what a calling to the royal priesthood looks like. Seeing all of you together celebrating Mass is a special gift to the students.

In addition there are many priests driving in from every corner of our diocese to hear the confessions of hundreds of teens. Thank you for being Jesus for us.

The students were able to see their bishop packing food to feed the hungry, smiling as he watched students bouncing and jumping with pure joy in a room filled with inflatables. Our bishop celebrated the Holy Mass with us. He spoke to us through a homily that felt tailor made for each of us — teen and adult alike.

We experienced eucharistic adoration together as our bishop processed through the crowd holding Jesus himself aloft for a close and personal experience like many have never felt or seen before. Thank you, Bishop Knestout, for being so visible to our youth and for being our shepherd.

Speakers, you bring the goods. You pray, plan and practice your part that will inspire, educate and spark so many young minds, hearts and souls. Thank you for being God’s voice.

Chaperones, you connect all the dots in between. You are here for each student, whether joy-filled and on task or perhaps tired, sick, in need of medicine, patience, a tender touch or an important listener. Thank you for being God’s hands.

Students, you opened up your hearts and souls this weekend to allow Jesus to pour out his perfect love and grace. Let it now pour out of you into this thirsty world. You are the Church. You are the Body of Christ. Let us rejoice and be glad! -Lisa Puzio, Waynesboro

Letter ‘spot on’

Mary Jo Anger’s letter, “Hopes others will undo damage to patrimony” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 28), is spot-on! – Robert R. Kaplan, Midlothian

What Father Doyle didn’t mention

Father Doyle’s piece (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 28) is classic “damned with faint praise.” I know he went to the Shriner Hospital website because his description of their work is verbatim from that site. Then he goes on with the long, tedious condemnation of Masons, noting that all Shriners are Masons but not all Masons are Shriners. 

He neglects to mention that the staff positions in those hospitals are open to all and do not require Masonic membership. Our granddaughter is a nurse at one of them and would never have considered such a position if such a requirement existed.

We get solicitations from a wide variety of organizations and donate to a great many. Some of them are secular and may be staffed by non-Christians. I do not know, and I do not inquire if the organization is doing good and needful work for humanity. Medical and environmental organizations often have such people within their ranks, and what their other interests and activities are I do not know nor seek out.

There is more than enough “witch hunting” going on now; we do not need to be exploring or resurrecting more. – Bruce P. Schoch, Williamsburg

Students should have ‘turned the other cheek’

As a member of the Virginia Knights of Columbus, I was a marshal at this year’s March for Life in Washington. As such, I was present from 9:30 a.m. until the march’s conclusion and observed tens of thousands of peaceful marchers, including thousands of teenagers from Catholic schools. 

I also observed some protesters who carried provocative signs and shouted incendiary comments. In no instance did I observe a Catholic youth group respond to a provocation.

While I was not present at the Lincoln Memorial when the Covington Catholic High School incident occurred, the undisputed facts raise the following questions:

Why were those students attending a pro-life march allowed to wear MAGA hats? The vast majority of student marchers wore matching ski caps proclaiming their school colors, not headgear espousing a political agenda.

Who were the Covington chaperones and what were they thinking when they allowed this incident to escalate into a confrontation? Anyone familiar with the environs of the Lincoln Memorial knows there is ample room to simply walk away from such a confrontation.

To have acted otherwise, as was the case here, clearly was impudent, demonstrated a total lack of leadership, and definitely was not in accord with Christ’s teaching “to turn the other cheek.” – Richard Gasperini, Richmond                  

We’re losing what has defined Catholics

For the sake of a definition, we are losing the underlying precept that has defined the Catholic faith for thousands of years.  That precept is simple.

As Catholics, we respect and sanctify all living persons, regardless of color, creed or circumstance.  The true test for us in our Catholic faith is that we love each other as Christ would.  Christ taught us that what we do to the least of our brethren, we do unto him.

The March for Life is a march about the definition of the term “living persons.” Neither side of the March for Life issues would normally disagree about the value and importance of most people. No, the disagreement is about whether the unborn are included within the term “living persons.”  That is an important, fundamental discussion that needs to be had.  Unfortunately, Saturday’s events have now stolen that discussion. I fear that today’s political environment has taken over, and may ultimately destroy, what we as Catholics stand for.

The face of the young man at the March for Life harassing a Native American elder is the latest example that demonstrates that we as Catholics are letting today’s political environment define us.  That face did not show love, respect and a belief in the sanctity of other living persons. That face showed mocking cruelty. The “MAGA” hat and chants demonstrate that we value our well-being without weighing compassion for others.  

The spectacle both sickened and frightened me. We are letting today’s mean, corrosive and hateful political environment take over, burying what should be primary in our lives – the truth that has defined our religious beliefs for thousands of years. – John Edwards, Virginia Beach

Students, parents should take responsibility

In response to “’We pray we come to truth’” (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 28), I would like to offer my view. The student who refused to give ground to the Native American drummer, and who instead stood smirking in front of this elder and the other students who stood laughing and apparently using derogatory words were wrong. By drumming, the elder said he wanted to help break up the tense situation between the black militants and the students. The students responded with ignorance and arrogance.

And now the parents are trying to defend their bad behavior. They have the money to hire an expensive public relations firm to be the spokesperson for their children, but how sad a lesson these parents are teaching about the power of money.

The students and parents should have taken responsibilities for the disrespectful behavior and sincerely apologized to the elder and begun a process to make sure this kind of ill-mannered behavior would not occur again. This is the kind of response we expect from people who live out Jesus’ teachings. Such a response would have won the respect of all Americans.

The behavior of the Covington Catholic students and their parents is also a reflection of the failure of Catholic education to form young people who respect all human beings (very basic tenet of pro-life). Catholics and all people of good will expect more from Catholic schools.

If as a child I had disrespected an elder as these children disrespected the Native American drummer, my mother would have disciplined me severely. – Anna Yu, Roanoke

Why not excommunication?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a bill to allow third trimester abortions in his state. If he is a practicing Catholic, he should be deprived of his membership in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has urged Congress to support bills to protect pre-born children and their mothers from the trauma of late-term abortions. The United States is one of only seven nations that allow babies in their mother’s womb to be aborted for any reason up to the moment of birth. North Korea and China are also in that group.

To allow Catholic politicians, e.g., Pelosi, Biden, Durbin and Kaine, to endorse and strongly support positions against Catholic doctrine is inconceivable! The Church cannot condone their actions. If Catholic officials promote disdain for Catholic social teachings in their faith, how can the Church hold their laypeople accountable? – O. Ralph Puccinelli, Richmond

Editor’s note: A Jan. 28 Catholic News Service story reported the following: “A statement issued by a spokesperson for New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said in general that ‘excommunication should not be used as a weapon,’ and that too often those who call for someone’s excommunication ‘do so out of anger or frustration.’

“‘Notable canon lawyers have said that, under canon law, excommunication is not an appropriate response to a politician who supports or votes for legislation advancing abortion,’ said the statement, which laid out ‘general principles’ and did not address any specific individual.

“‘From a pastoral perspective, if a pastor — and a bishop is certainly a pastor of a diocese — knows of a grave situation involving a parishioner, it is his duty to address that issue personally and directly with the parishioner,’ it said.

“‘From a strategic perspective,’ excommunication is not effective because ‘many politicians would welcome it as a sign of their refusal to be “bullied by the church,” thinking it would therefore give them a political advantage,’ the statement said.”

Law has jurisdiction, sanction

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan recently said he would not excommunicate Gov. Cuomo for his support of the horrific pro-abortion law in New York because excommunication should not be used as a weapon.  It seemed odd to refer to excommunication as a weapon. All law must have jurisdiction and sanction.  

Possibly it would be more accurate to characterize excommunication as a sanction of the law. There is provision for excommunication as a sanction in the New Testament (Mt 18:15-17).  

What happens in these cases is that a bishop will write a letter to the offending politician that eloquently states Church teaching on the issue and explains that the official’s conduct does not conform to the Church. The “Catholic” politician scoffs at Church teaching and adamantly maintains his position while hiding behind euphemisms for abortion such as women’s healthcare or “reproductive” rights. And nothing happens. There is no sanction.  

Bishops will sometimes say they are consulting privately with these officials and don’t want to violate confidentiality. But when a person gives public scandal and there is no progress resulting from counseling, why shouldn’t they be publicly reprimanded?  

When these Catholic politicians flagrantly violate the teachings of the Church that they profess to belong to, it gives public scandal. When it appears they can do it without any serious repercussions, it gives further scandal.  

If Margaret Sanger was excommunicated for her public views on contraception, why can’t some of these politicians be excommunicated for their actions on abortion? – Tom Trykowski, Greenville

Letters • January 28 , 2019

A solution to concern about incense

The recent letter to Father Doyle from an Henrico County parishioner on his dislike of incense in the liturgy piqued my interest (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 14). It may be of interest to many readers that their parish may very well not be using real incense. This is frequently the cause of bad experiences with it.

Many of the incense brands frequently found in parish sacristies are “blends” which can contain fillers like sawdust, wood pulp, essential oils and accelerants. These tend to create an acrid, smoldering smell. For those sensitive to allergens this can often cause bad reactions — from coughing and sniffling to fullblown breathing issues.

Traditionally, pure frankincense resin has been used during the liturgy because it is a symbol of sacrifice. It was used during the Jewish sacrificial liturgies of the Old Covenant, and its presentation to the infant Jesus was a symbol that in his own sacrifice he would be both priest and victim. More than being symbolic, however, frankincense is hypoallergenic and has a mild, pleasant smell.

Anyone with a sensitivity to their parish’s incense should investigate whether their parish is using a “blend” incense or a pure resin incense. If the former is the case, they should speak to their pastor or sacristan about switching to pure resin incense.

In my experience in youth ministry, where we almost always use incense at Mass and adoration, switching to a pure resin incense has gotten a positive reaction from the previously incense-averse. The mild smell and non-harsh smoke not only help those with allergies but also help facilitate full participation in the liturgy by being a visual, experiential catechesis.

More frequent use of these rich symbols of worship allows us a deeper experience of the mysteries of our faith and the meanings behind what we do. – William Yearout, Willis

Hopes others will undo damage to patrimony

I could not agree more with Father Wayne Ball, “’Stable patrimony provides continuity in parishes” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 31), that “…it is with a sense of sadness that the diocese must acknowledge that in many of its parishes many objects of value from the early years of the community have been lost.” Someone in the hierarchy has finally admitted the truth publicly!

Beginning in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the Church was collectively seized by a fever that led her to give countless of her sacred treasures the heave-ho. Everything from chalices to vestments to tabernacles was unceremoniously tossed out. Even entire altars, along with their railings, were disposed of with the excuse that they were oldfashioned and passé. The reality is that these things were priceless in terms of craftsmanship, aesthetics and purpose.

Additionally, many of our church buildings have been deformed through the process of “wreck-o-vation,” a practice in the Diocese of Richmond that has been all too common.

In Petersburg, I have personally seen the efforts to restore historic St. Joseph Church, an architectural gem, to its former beauty and magnificence. The young pastor there has a strong sense of what has been lost and wishes to undo the damage. I appreciate such efforts, and I hope that many others within the diocese, including our bishop, do too. – Mary Jo Anger, Chester

Learn from history, don’t change it

Regarding Emmanuel T. Barks’ letter “Disappointed racism statement didn’t include Confederate flag” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 31): Problems exist tying a good symbol or fact into something related to hate. One is the 19th Century battle flags that many deem a symbol of hate. The battle flags that the Union and Confederate soldiers carried into battle were not symbols of hate but pride for their state and unit.

The 7th Regiment, NC Troops had a flag at Malvern Hill near Richmond during the Seven Days Battle which was repeatedly passed by soldiers as some were shot down in a murderous hail of bullets. The flag itself was full of bullet holes and ragged when it was retired from the field. I would bet my greatgreat uncles of this unit had no “racism” in their heart. They were poor farmers.

Mr. Barks can find racist articles on the internet that can distort history or make a political statement. Anyone can foment hate. I encourage him to read more about history and understand it. Today’s distortions fuel hate. We are proud of our ancestors’ heritage and battle flags, now in some historical archive.

Our country’s history is not always good. Look at the division we suffer. We admit there are extremists that shame our battle flags. They cannot shame us from our proud heritage. I am happy our bishops did not make reference to the battle flag. I have no contempt for Mr. Barks who thought something was amiss. We should learn from history, not change it. I served under a different flag for 20 years and I proudly fly it every day. I pray Mr. Barks flies his flag. – George L. Cranford, MSgt, USAF (Ret), Chesterfield County

Don’t judge the past by the present

Regarding the letter “Disappointed racism statement didn’t include Confederate flag” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 31), I have four ancestors who served in the Confederate armed forces of Virginia during the Civil War. This is easily verified through the slave schedules that were part of the 1850 and 1860 U.S. census.

Why would they continue to fight for and live in a state that seceded ostensibly because of slavery? The causes of the Civil War are more complicated than that. Congress enacted tariffs in 1828 and 1832 which protected Northern manufacturers at the expense of Southern agriculture. In 1833 they introduced a “Force Bill” authorizing the president to use the Federal army and navy in order to enforce acts of Congress, i.e., tariffs.

So, how am I to honor my four non-slave owning ancestors? If the Confederate battle flag is abhorrent, then may I fly the First National, or the Second National, or the Third National flag of the Confederate states — the symbol of a sovereign nation just as the Stars and Stripes are the symbol of a sovereign nation?

I don’t know if my four Civil War ancestors lived a life of hate or not. No one knows what was in the minds of people who lived during that period unless they left written records expressing it. But one of the tenets of history is not to judge the past by the present. And not to judge at all. – Donald W. Moore, Virginia Beach

Priests directed to extend both hands over gifts

Not wishing to prolong an argument, yet as concerned about ritual gestures as is Frank Glynn (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 14), I suggest that writer would have recourse to the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal,” third edition (Nos. 222, 230, 233 ff). Priests are directed to extend both hands over the gifts at the invocation of the Holy Spirit.

The use of one arm extended dates to a practical need in a much earlier time, after the Second Vatican Council, to wit the need for concelebrants to hold in one’s left hand the texts of the thenunfamiliar eucharistic prayers. The intention was never to have one arm extended, palm downward as the customary and proper gesture. 

I do not contest Mr. Glynn’s claims about what is given us in our baptisms as a “royal priesthood”; nonetheless, when the Church indicates what ritual postures are apt and one chooses to adopt another, potentially offensive gesture in the name of some local custom, one has to ask if the “baby” being retained is a changeling.

If local custom prompts some common sign of blessing, then let both hands be extended. Better to look like Clark Kent than the übermensch. – Msgr. R. Francis Muench, Chancellor, Diocese of Richmond

Letters • January 14 , 2019

An awkward conflict awaits us

This coming week, we have a rather awkward conflict presented to us.

First, we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Then we commemorate the 1973 Supreme Court decisions which decreed that a pre-born child is not legally a person and thus has no right to live and no right to be born.

Effectively, the Supreme Court decisions, ignoring the mandate given in the Preamble of the Constitution to secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity, asserted that no one in America, including Dr. King, had any right to be born. Of course, this was in line with the court’s infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision which denied that even free blacks could be citizens. 

After a bloody Civil War, that decision was eventually negated by the Fourteenth Amendment, which, carefully worded, asserted, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

This Fourteenth Amendment confirmation of birth citizenship was effectively nullified by the court in 1973. Its decisions that year asserted that a human fetus only becomes a legal person after the birth process is completed. Up to that time, the pre-born baby may legally be killed, even while being delivered, by the most cruel, hideous and barbaric methods imaginable.

Legally, then, in view of the court’s denial of personhood status to any pre-born child and its assertion that such personhood exists only sometime after the birth process is completed, no “person” ever actually went through the process of being born. The court decreed that no person was ever born in the United States.

Thus it is, that, effectively, the court rendered null and void the birth citizenship ratified in the Fourteenth Amendment. It seems then that, legally, the only citizens in America are those who have become naturalized citizens. All the rest of us, according to the Court’s reasoning and decisions, are not citizens, and may even be residing here in America illegally.

This is not a cause for celebration. -Father Tom Collins, Hot Springs

Another view of the Nativity and Holy Family

Matthew 1, verse 24, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded and took his wife into his home” (in Nazareth). Luke describes Caesar’s order that all should be counted in the towns of their ancestors. Joseph’s ancestor was David, so he and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem, the city of David, to be counted.

They weren’t moving to Bethlehem. They had a good home in Nazareth, to which they returned. The trouble was that all of David’s descendants returned to Bethlehem at the same time, and Bethlehem was a small town. Every room was taken when Joseph and heavily-pregnant Mary arrived.

They probably considered themselves lucky to find shelter in a stable, out of the wind — but they weren’t homeless, any more than you would be if you arrived in Hatteras to find all the motels booked solid. You might sleep in the car that night, but you wouldn’t consider yourself homeless.

I take issue with politically correct attempts to paint the Holy Family as impoverished, helpless and homeless. Joseph was not wealthy, but he had a home and an occupation. God the Father entrusted his only son to a provident caretaker.

And the birth in a stable – the shepherds commanded by angels to seek out a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes would have had a difficult time doing so if they first had to get past an innkeeper. Shepherds were not highly regarded, and they smelled. A babe lying in a manger in a stable would have been much easier to find, approach and worship.

Also, the significance of the manger is interesting. Our English word “manger” comes from the French “manger,” pronounced monjhay, meaning “to eat.” Jesus, who later promised that those who ate his flesh and drank his blood would receive eternal life, was laid in a manger which held the food that nourished the animals that lived in the stable. Prophetic? I think so. – Kim Leffler, Manakin-Sabot

Extended-arm blessing needs further study

Regarding the letter “Stop using right arm-extended ‘blessing’” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 17), perhaps the concept of extending one’s arm as a sign of blessing needs further study before one casts it aside totally. After all, concelebrating priests use the same gesture at the consecration of the Mass. Would one have them stop too?

All Christians in baptism receive the charisms of Priest, Prophet and King. The use of the extended arm in times of community blessing is merely a symbol of unity in that common “priesthood.” It is a universal (catholic) symbol that admittedly needs further explanation/catechesis for it to be understood properly, especially with regard to 20th century historical context.

But one should still apply the adage: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” – Frank Glynn, Yorktown

SVDP can expand parish’s social services ministry

In the story about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul starting at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Richmond (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 31), there were a few quotes that stand out. Jesuit Father Shay Auerbach, pastor at Sacred Heart, mentioned the uniqueness of SVDP outreach: “They actually go and visit the person in their home and find out what the person’s reality is.” Conference president Marie Giblin said, “Matthew 25 seems so alive when we are with our friends.”

Sacred Heart joined St. Michael, Glen Allen; St. Matthew, Virginia Beach; and St. Andrew, Roanoke, in this work in the Diocese of Richmond — whose patron saint is St. Vincent de Paul. The work changes the lives of the friends in need we serve and ourselves. It truly puts our faith into action. The Society of St Vincent de Paul fills a gap in service not being met in the diocese. It provides a coordinated structure to help families in need.

Your parish may already have a social services ministry. That’s great. What SVDP will do is greatly expand your ability to serve more people and engage more of your parishioners in a faithchanging way. Visit www. svdp-rva.org or email us at info@svdp-rva.org if you are interested in bringing SVDP to your parish. We will help you every step of the way. – Dan Kearns, President Diocese of Richmond Council of St. Vincent de Paul

Criticism of Cardinal Dolan unfair

I disagree with Joe Nolan’s letter “Finds Cardinal Dolan’s comments inappropriate” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 15). Cardinal Dolan was referring to why the pope wanted U.S. bishops to postpone ruling on proposals concerning abuse because it is a worldwide problem, not solely a U.S. issue.

I wish the Catholic Church would start doing a better job of addressing abuse. Stop the dribble effect. Get the facts out as soon as possible; wording and tone mean everything.

Emphasize the following: Although abysmal, the Church’s record of abuse is no worse than other denominations/ organizations that work with children (Boy Scouts); the vast majority of incidents occurred decades in the past; the Church is now better educated on how to deal with predators; dioceses are providing records as quickly as possible, but most are over 50 years old; transparency is our policy.

The Catholic Church is constantly in the press. Lawyers advertise on TV for victims. Have you seen any ads for other denominations or organizations? We need “talking points” to show that we take abuse seriously, but also to take the stigma off of all our good priests.

We are ashamed of past abuses, including the coverups, and are resolute in our determination to not let it happen in the future. The criticism of Cardinal Dolan, for a sound bite taken out of context, is unfair. – Joan Christie, Norfolk

Editor’s note: In his Sept. 14, 2018 pastoral letter “From Tragedy to Hope,” during the listening sessions held last fall, and through other forms of communication, Bishop Barry C. Knestout has stated steps the Diocese of Richmond has taken and is taking to protect children from sexual abuse by clergy and others working or volunteering for the Church. Visit https://richmonddiocese.org/dio cese-response/ for a detailed look at the diocese’s response to the abuse crisis.

Express concerns about ERA to legislators

Legislators are trying to resurrect the dead Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Virginia. The ERA, which decades ago failed to be ratified by enough states within its constitutional deadline, would ban all restrictions on abortion, abortion funding or conscience clauses protecting doctors and nurses from being forced to participate in abortions.

The late pro-life Congressman Henry Hyde, R-IL, who authored the 1976 ban on Medicaid abortion funding, which is still law, testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 1983, said:

“Since 1970, the ERA advocates have emphasized that the amendment’s principal legal effect would be to make sex a suspect classification under the Constitution. … If sex discrimination were treated like race discrimination, government refusal to fund abortions would be treated like a refusal to fund medical procedures that affect members of minority races …”

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-WI, offered an amendment to make the reintroduced 1983 ERA abortion- neutral. It failed. Federal and state courts have ruled that state-based ERAs and “sex equality” laws require tax-funded abortion. ERA supporters want abortion enshrined in our U.S. Constitution.

New Judiciary Committee Chair, U.S. Rep. Jerry nadler, D-NY, fearing new Supreme Court justices might overturn Roe v. Wade, said “what the Supreme Court giveth the Supreme Court can taketh away.” He promised congressional hearings on a bogus threestate ERA ratification strategy.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Virginia case [newport news Shipbuilding vs. EEOC, 462 U.S. 669 (1983)] “discrimination based on pregnancy is, on its face, discrimination based on sex.”

Because Christ calls us to be the leaven of society, Christians must express our concerns to elected representatives. Google https:// whosmy.vi rginiagener – alassembly.gov/ to find your state legislator and contact them today. – Bob Marshall, Manassas

Editor’s note: Bob Marshall served in the Virginia General Assembly for 26 years.

Letters • December 31 , 2018

Disappointed racism statement didn’t include Confederate flag

In regards to “Bishops approve pastoral letter against racism” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 19), I would like to commend the U.S. bishops for voting to approve such a letter. However, I feel a letter of this nature does not need to be voted on but automatically approved.

Yet, I was disappointed when the proposed amendment to include the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of hatred, along with swastikas and nooses, was rejected. One of the reasons why some of the states left the Union and formed the Confederacy was so that they could keep their slaves. And yet slavery does not equal hatred? And for those who give that lame line — in the defense of the Confederate flag — which states “heritage, not hate,” I share with you the following information from https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/10-facts-what-everyone-should-know-about-civil-war:

“Slavery was the law of the land, north and south, until the early 19th century. It was concentrated in the southern states, where slaves were used as farm laborers and formed the backbone of the southern economy. In the northern states, where industry drove the economy, many people believed that slavery was immoral and wrong. Southerners felt threatened by these northern “abolitionists” and claimed that the common government had no power to end slavery against the wishes of the states. Eventually, southerners became convinced that the common government would attempt to abolish slavery nation-wide. Eleven states left the United States in the following order and formed the Confederate States of America…” – Emmanuel T. Barks, Richmond

Bishops’ path to trust

Most educated practicing Catholics I know, myself included, do not trust the bishops. The reasons are simple and compelling.

First, essentially no specific, detailed information has been provided by bishops and the hierarchy as to individual bishops’ facilitating, covering up and incompetently grossly mismanaging the predatory priests’ situation. It feels like the Mafia code of silence.

Second, the horrific nature of the bishops’ actions is unstated or downplayed. This was not mere typical mismanagement that occurs in any organization from time to time. The bishops willfully, deliberately, inexcusably abandoned their moral compass in a matter of extraordinary importance.

Educated Catholics with some experience in the world have long known that most of the bishops had to have been facilitating and covering up as to predatory priests or the problems could not have continued for so long or been so extensive. The Pennsylvania grand jury investigation confirmed this.

The bishops’ and hierarchy’s hiding and concealing the full reality is devastating to any trust in them. Americans regard cover-ups as the hallmark of corruption.

It is essential that the bishops regain trust. The path is simple: come clean, fully and candidly admit, confess and condemn what the bishops have done.

First, current and past bishops should acknowledge that that the bishops’ actions were deliberate, inexcusable and horrible — a conscious abandonment of a primary moral obligation, not simple mismanagement.

Second, each current bishop should have a thorough independent law firm investigation conducted of the diocese’s prior bishops’ actions as to each predatory priest situation and the situation generally and give full public disclosure.

In doing so, each current bishop should specifically acknowledge that the actions were deliberate, inexcusable, and horrible, and condemn them in the strongest language.

Hopefully, this path is taken, the air is cleared, trust is regained, and we move forward positively. – John Barry Donohue Jr. , Glen Allen

Agrees ‘blessing’ gesture is offensive

Thanks to Msgr. R. Francis Muench for his letter, “Stop using right arm-extended ‘blessing’” (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 17), pointing out this offensive gesture.

Many ­­­­of us find it uncomfortable and choose not to participate. – Elaine Manss Harrisonburg

Letters • December 17 , 2018

How to prevent young adult disaffiliation

The St. Mary’s Press Study concerning young adult disaffiliation with the Church (Catholic Virginian, Dec. 17) called to mind Coleridge’s famous term, “willing suspension of disbelief.” For that is what it would take to accept the bromidic recommendations of Bishop Robert Barron (quoted in your article ) or of the “youth minister” who wants to “…change how we approach things because we’re still traditional in thinking things that used to work can work today,” who wants “to be more focused on building relationships” through ministry, but who ultimately — as has become the vogue — laterals the ball to the Holy Spirit with the expectation that the third person of the Blessed Trinity will solve the problem. 

No, the Holy Spirit is not a “heavenly fixer.” On the contrary, he can enlighten those who seek the wisdom that he imparts and who are disposed to accept it. 

So, what’s the answer, because the problem, as the study acknowledges, is real?  Arguably, disaffiliation is the most significant challenge to Holy Mother Church since the so-called Reformation! 

The answer lies first in prayer and in that a recognition of the truth of that wonderful Latin term, “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi,” the Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief. Our prayer life needs to be “focused” on the Blessed Trinity in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, on our eucharistic Lord present in the tabernacle, on the mediatrix of all graces in her holy rosary.

It needs to thirst for the personal encounter with the Word made flesh through all of the sacraments. It needs to be oriented vertically, not horizontally; He has the words of everlasting life; we have the disposition to sin bequeathed by our first parents.

The answer also lies in a recognition that the Church Militant (as Pope St.  Paul VI described it, the “People of God”) possess the fullness of faith that comes to us from the Apostles. In logic there cannot be two truths. This faith of ours is the truth; everything else, if it contains a kernel of the truth, is still a pale imitation. 

Our people, our children need to be taught this in season and out, from the altar and in our religious education programs. Marriage formation needs to inculcate in the couple the understanding of the importance of the domestic Church in the battle for the salvation of souls

With Mass attendance dwindling to approximately one-third of baptized Catholics — and even worse in Europe — with parents, who ostensibly were raised Catholic, neglecting the spiritual life of their children, including the sacraments of initiation, it’s time for the hierarchy and the clergy generally to spend less time trying to “walk with young people” and more time teaching through effective catechesis — starting at age five with the Baltimore Catechism — the timeless truths of our apostolic faith. 

This is a huge problem that over the last 50 years has seen two and a half generations of lost souls as religious education has descended into the mud of purported equality (one religion is as good as another) and the “I’m OK, you’re OK” blather of moral relativism that is the latest bitter weed germinated by the mother of all heresies — Modernism.

Finally, there is no question that there is a social justice aspect to the homosexual issue. But equally there is no question that homosexual gratification, be it male or female, is an abomination in the eyes of almighty God, just as is the willful refusal of married couples to cooperate in the creative power of God through artificial contraception and, God forbid, abortion.

We have Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, but that says nothing about the countless souls that will be lost by willful rejection of the faith. The Church’s primary charge is the salvation of souls, not to be a super social service agency. 

It’s not our community, faith or otherwise, that “enables us to encounter Jesus.”  It’s the ultimate sacrifice of Calvary and the grace of almighty god through no merit of our own that has enabled us to become the “sons of God, who believe in his name.” -Robert R. Kaplan, Midlothian

The real meaning of Christmas

What is the real meaning of Christmas? For some people, Christmas can be a lonely time, a time of depression, of suicide and a time of unfulfilled expectations concerning family relations. There can be so much pressure from consumerism and the shopping season makes life stressful.

The Christmas buying season starts after Halloween and by New Year’s Day I am ready to get on with my normal life — when still in there is a Christmas season.

This year is different for me. I was operated on for having cancer. I lie here in pain as I try to heal. I want to simplify this Christmas.

There will be no big tree to put up or take down. Gift cards will be my presents. Maybe I will be unable to eat a big dinner this year. However, in many ways, this will be my best Christmas ever, too.

This will be a more sincere and religious Christmas. Advent has become a preparation process of making room within my soul for my giving birth to the Christ Spirit into my life. I must allow the angry lion and the fearful lamb (inside of me) to lay down in peace. I must make my crooked road go straight as I journey in life.

Before my operation I did some Christian decorating for Christmas. I had put up a “Chrismon tree” filled with white and gold color symbols. You see, Chrismons are Christmas home-made ornaments with Christian symbols on them. They help Christians to remember that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. My tree is a white tree about three feet tall and it has white lights on it. Also, I have many small Scripture scrolls hanging on it.

Then I have my Franciscan (green tree) filled with natural-looking Franciscan symbols of spirituality. This is about three feet tall with multi-colored lights. There is a peaceful wooden face of Jesus in the middle. Below it is the saying; “Make me an instrument of your peace.” There are Franciscan rosaries as tree beads, and many tau symbols. There are San Damiano crosses and wooden ornaments on it. In front of it is a statue of St. Francis.

Then I have my fireplace mantle decorations with different Christian figures mixed up with artificial red berries, evergreens and white lights. On the mantle are things like The Pieta (Mary holding the crucified body of Jesus), a figure of Mary holding the new born Jesus, Russian nesting dolls with Christian icons, Christ on the cross and Jesus raising his arms up to the Father in heaven.

This being my worst Christmas ever is also my best Christmas because I am in my greatest need for God and Christian fellowship. All around me are reflections of my faith in God, which gives me comfort.

I also have God’s love being shown to me through the cares of others. The two Catholic Churches in Lynchburg are praying for me. I feel all the well wishes from my Knights of Columbus fraternity.

I have received emails, “get well cards” and letters from many of my Secular Franciscan brothers and sisters. I have received many phone calls, messages and comments on Facebook from so many good friends and family.

Somehow, this is the real meaning of Christmas for me this year — sacrificial Christian love. I am so blessed and grateful. -Donald Crone, Lynchburg

Stop using right arm-extended ‘blessing’

Looking at a photo on Pages 8-9 of the Nov. 19 issue of The Catholic Virginian prompts me to ask your readers — and their pastors — to please cease this use of a right arm-extended “blessing” posture in our churches.

A recent picture of high school students in Baraboo, Wisconsin, using exactly the same gesture prompted a nationwide outcry because of its roots in Nazi Germany. Perhaps our historical memories are so short that we fail to recognize precisely how offensive this gesture can be.

It serves no purpose for some to argue that our intentions in doing so are not those of Hitler’s disciples. To an outsider, the appearance is enough to suggest a pro-found, cultural deafness, at minimum, or a callous disregard for the lessons of the past, at worst.

The words of St. Paul to the Romans (14:21) might be instructive: “It is not right to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble,” and in his first letter to the Corinthians 10:24: “Let no one seek his own good but the good of his neighbor.”

This so-called blessing gesture is not helpful. – Msgr. R. Francis Muench, Richmond

Must take climate change seriously

In late October, six bishop representing episcopal congregations from five continents signed a joint statement urging the international community to take immediate action against climate change. Many of them, including Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, live in areas that are being put at ever increasing risk of drought, extreme heat, and crop failure. This could mean mass migration, starvation, and conflict over resources for hundreds of millions of people.

Here in the United States and in this diocese, we have been giving much-needed attention to the deplorable sex crimes and coverups. I pray that even more attention will be given to this subject and that every necessary reform will be made to bring the church into integrity.

There are many lessons the Church is learning from this crisis. One, at least, is that we cannot be passive in the face of injustice. Far from being complicit, the Church must act boldly and promptly to defend the most vulnerable and impacted.

Pope Francis warned, based on the research of top scientists across the world, that “Climate change is global problem with grave implications… represent- [ing] one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (Laudato Si 25).

It is not our right as Virginians to decide that the issue is not important, because “the most vulnerable people of the planet” are the ones most impacted by the deterioration of the environment (48).

We, as the Church, cannot remain complicit but must be out front in this issue to protect life. It is not only the responsibility of Bishop Knestout, but all of us, to take seriously the crisis of our changing climate. – Shawn Gregory, Harrisonburg

Finds Cardinal Dolan’s comments inappropriate

In “Discussing abuse protocols ‘productive,’ cardinal says” (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 19), Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York was quoted as saying, regarding the sexual abuse issue, “We know here in the United States, this is not just a Catholic problem. … It is a problem in every religion, every organization, every family, every institution, every school.”

How inappropriate a comment given the current “kicking the can down the road” attitude by the leaders within the Church. The Church has had this “problem” for decades, even paying money, in some cases, to the unfortunate victims.

The cardinal’s comments come across like, “Gee, don’t just blame us; everybody else is guilty too!”

Given the tone of these comments, the cardinal appears to be more part of the problem than part of the solution. – Joe Nolan, Yorktown

Letters • November 19, 2018

Bishops’ path to trust

Most educated practicing Catholics I know, myself included, do not trust the bishops. The reasons are simple and compelling.

First, essentially no specific, detailed information has been provided by bishops and the hierarchy as to individual bishops’ facilitating, covering-up and incompetently grossly mismanaging the predatory priests situation. It feels like the Mafia code of silence.

Second, the horrific nature of the bishops’ actions is unstated or downplayed. This was not mere typical mismanagement that occurs in any organization from time to time. The bishops willfully, deliberately, inexcusably abandoned their moral compass in a matter of extraordinary importance.

Educated Catholics with some experience in the world have long known that most of the bishops had to have been facilitating and covering up as to predatory priests or the problems could not have continued for so long or been so extensive. The Pennsylvania grand jury investigation confirmed this.

The bishops’ and hierarchy’s hiding and concealing the full reality is devastating to any trust in them. Americans regard cover-ups as the hallmark of corruption.

It is essential that the bishops regain trust. The path is simple: come clean, fully and candidly admit, confess and condemn what the bishops have done.

First, current and past bishops should acknowledge that that the bishops’ actions were deliberate, inexcusable and horrible — a conscious abandonment of a primary moral obligation, not simple mismanagement.

Second, each current bishop should have a thorough independent law firm investigation conducted of the diocese’s prior bishops’ actions as to each predatory priest situation and the situation generally, and give full public disclosure.

In doing so, each current bishop should specifically acknowledge that the actions were deliberate, inexcusable, and horrible, and condemn them in the strongest language.

Hopefully, this path is taken, the air is cleared, trust is regained, and we move forward positively. – John Barry Donohue Jr., Glen Allen

Don’t use ‘worldly’ terminology to characterize pope

We have got to cease characterizing the pope or the Church in “worldly” terminology as evidenced in “Pope’s favorability numbers down” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 8). 

I cannot tell you how antithetical such is to the message of Jesus. Francis is emulating Jesus’ love and compassion in the face of legalistic, stiff-necked clericalists who impose burdens upon the people while not lifting a finger to ease their burden. Theirs is a world of creating canon law and other unrealistic rule of oppression to maintain their power and status at any price versus genuine pastoral service. 

The former is idolatry. St. Paul clearly confronted such scribal legalists, more devoted to maintaining power, not spreading the Gospel. Please, don’t contribute to this trite delinquency by such articles; they divide us and endorse the damaging effects of institutionalized clericalism. 

The people of God deserve to not be contaminated by such convenient populism language that degrades and cheapens the Gospel and the Covenant. Remember, we are in this world but are not of this world. – Jared Baker Tazewell

Scriptural errors in cartoon

The political cartoon (Catholic Virginian, Nov. 5), while amusing, has both logical and scriptural errors.

First, one cannot just leave a nation and go elsewhere. Almost no nations allow people to arrive and permanently reside and work on a whim. Likewise, people can no longer depart and form a new nation, as was possible in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Second, God commands his people to walk in holiness, sanctification and obedience. Judgment begins at the house of God. No man, not even the “Vicar of Christ,” has authority to contradict God’s Word or to take evil and christen it as good. Such a person is unfit to hold any leadership position and does not merit the obedience of the congregation.

God’s people have a simple instruction: vote with your feet. If Church leadership will not take a stand against sin and wickedness, the institution has become sinful and wicked. No man who promotes evil can claim to speak with God’s authority.

To stay in a corrupt institution is to agree to be responsible for its sins. Catholics need to either force change, ousting anyone — up to and including the pope — who defends wickedness rather than advocates repentance and submission to God’s authority, or they need to break off and make a new institution that seeks to live in submission to God’s authority. – Michael Cericola, Bristol

Has lost faith in pope’s leadership

As a Catholic I will never give up my faith, but I have given up faith in Pope Francis as an effective leader of the Catholic Church. His tone-deaf failure to adequately address the predatory sexual abuse crisis in our Church has been disastrous for the reputation of our Church as well as casting a suspicious light on the very good clerical and lay leaders of our Church. 

The pope’s opinions on climate change and nuclear armament, which he says are so important, are just that — opinions, and no worthier of acceptance than any other person who is not a professional in such fields. These papal opinions pale in comparison to the job he is supposed to be doing as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church. 

His lack of action regarding the clergy sexual abuse crisis is unacceptable and his stopping the American Catholic bishops from taking immediate action on addressing the sexual abuse crisis is repugnant. 

It is time for the bishops to immediately express very strong disagreement with the pope and hope that he will listen to their advice in how to best address this crisis. 

Let us all pray that this crisis will be dealt with in an expeditious, legal and efficient manner that will also offer spiritual as well as monetary redress to the many innocent victims of this crisis.  – Dick Robers, Roanoke

Letters • November 5, 2018

Chooses to stay in Church

My initial reaction when the scandal broke was to call for investigations, transparency, and better communication of what’s being done. Tangible things need to be done to support the victims — and not from the laity’s pockets, the perpetrators must be held accountable, and trust must be restored. But it’s getting frustrating.  

I’ve been to two listening sessions but continue to see modern agendas being pushed.  I’ve been told that I need to be more forgiving and love all people. However, forgiveness cannot be granted if there is no repentance. And while I love and care about all people, that doesn’t mean I have to condone immoral behavior.  

St Paul provides very clear instruction in Romans 1:20-31 on what is unnatural and what is natural. Christ said, “Go and sin no more.”

I will hold fast to God’s laws, Christ’s teachings and Scripture. It is eternal and everlasting, not adjusted for current times. Early saints were holy because they stood firm to the true faith. I will continue to pray and fast, and also renew my personal commitment to strengthen the Church, and especially the domestic Church in my home. 

We can show the love of the Church by continuing to carry out works of charity. If we withdraw, it will appear that our faith was superficial. In the early days of our Church, when there was disease, pagans left the cities, abandoning the sick, even their own family.  

The early Christians stayed to take care of all of the sick. They showed, at great peril to themselves, that their faith was strong and not of this world.  Therefore, I choose to stay. – Robert Boyer, Virginia Beach

Vigil Masses needed for holy days

In anticipation of being out of town on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, I tried to locate a vigil Mass the evening before the holy day. It seemed like a simple task at first, but after checking numerous websites and making multiple phone calls to a variety of parishes, and even talking to some of the priests, no one was able to tell me of any Catholic church in the entire Southeastern Virginia Tidewater area that was to celebrate a vigil Mass.  

If we are telling our parishioners that holy days are important and that it is a sacred duty to attend Mass on holy days of obligation, then we should also try and make it as easy as possible to fulfill this obligation. I don’t mean to imply that every parish should institute a vigil Mass, but it would seem that the various churches within an area could get together, and that at least a few might be able to support a vigil Mass.  

Specific information as to where a vigil Mass is being celebrated could then be promulgated to other parishes, and that information be made available to all parishioners to help them in meeting their obligation.   

 – Marvin Weniger,  Virginia Beach

Fear the Lord and be good

I have a lot of experience in what is right and wrong, but how many times have I told myself what a stupid thing I did.

If I would commit a crime and say, “The devil made me do it,” the police would arrest me and not the devil because the devil is a spirit, not a body. But if I say, “Joe made me do it,” then we could both be in trouble because we can see Joe.

Pedophiles are instruments of evil. Have you ever heard that the devil repents and asks for forgiveness for the malice he has done? No. I knew two pedophiles long ago and they never admitted what they did nor asked forgiveness.

You might say, “Let us do this or let us do that to avoid these people.” Unfortunately, the devil can outsmart any human being; that is why we are all sinners. The greatest mystery is we will never know what happens between God and the devil. The only thing we know for sure is love God and your neighbor.

The pedophile can take his prey into isolated places and far away, but he can also get his prey under our own noses and we will never find out until decades later. He can hypnotize a child just as a viper can hypnotize a toad.

A child is God’s creation, totally unaware of the cruel world, totally clean of imperfection and worthy to be an angel. Once this bubble around him is broken, his natural trust is gone and fear arrives.

My suggestion to minimize this problem is to educate women and children against rape and predators. Tell them what can happen, to speak up as soon as possible if something happens to them, and to not be ashamed for doing so.

Also, in order to save children, the offender should be exorcised as soon as there are the first signs of deviant behavior.

The proof of evil’s possession is that a man can appear totally normal for many years before any manifestations are evident. The victim doesn’t talk because she is ashamed of what happened and afraid to speak up.

God sees everything, knows everything, does everything. He rewards the good and punishes the wicked.

Fear the Lord and be good. Angelo Petrella, Henrico 

Letters • October 22, 2018

Church deserves continued embrace

The sexual abuse scandal is tremendously, horribly painful. I have had personal instances where there were indications of potential abuse, yet was protected where others were not. Nonetheless, my Christianity is grounded in Catholicism’s truth and grace.

Nonetheless, Catholicism’s truth and genius is strong, transcendent and deserves continued embrace as we face these abuses and betrayals. This is not the time to denigrate the Church and its faithfulness to Christ, and its solidarity with the poor, searching, and disenfranchised. Rather, it is a time to take leadership, and claim a central position in advocating for justice.

While I concur about laity stepping up, over 50 percent of abusers are parents or family members. There are over 2,000 cases of sexual abuse in our public schools yearly. Evangelicals realize that they have a similar but, perhaps, a more hidden problem. 

We should have more active lay involvement, but also far better support of the thousands of clergy dedicating themselves to being good shepherds.

This issue mandates commitment to all who are vulnerable, and our dedication to be leaders of solutions. VIRTUS is a shining example of a rigorous program with which to recognize and prevent abuse. Our diocesan schools have strong records of protecting youth. Our bishop has been unequivocal about these sins and demonstrated leadership.

For some — inside and outside the Church — this will be an opportunity to trash Catholicism and impugn our dedicated religious. A more faithful response is for parishioners to align with clergy and Catholic educators to facilitate healing and a stronger Body of Christ. We must use the Church’s many strengths to assure we prevent abuses within parishes, our communities and across our society. Kurt Elward, Charlottesville

Speak out when crimes are committed

I applaud Beverly Ryan for her letter, “We can’t let it happen again,” (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 24). I feel exactly as she stated in the opening of her letter. When one loves their faith, it is unbearable to tolerate the hidden and secret issues of scandalous priests and bishops. 

I will not leave my Church, but I will no longer be still about occurring problems. Let us become a “democracy” and speak out when crimes against all others are committed and then we should expect results.    

We are the Church! Emily Kerr, Virginia Beach

Church will be stronger due to deacons

I attended the Sept. 15 diaconate ordination Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. It was an amazingly powerful ceremony with a ton of incense and a majestic choir underscoring the ceremony.   

But more striking is the “timing” of the ordination, coming as the Church is reeling from worldwide scandals. So, watching each man step up to receive holy orders, what came to mind was World War II and Pearl Harbor.  

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating wake-up call for Americans, although WWII had been a global conflict spreading for decades before crashing onto our Pacific doorstep.  In like mind, the Catholic Church has been beset worldwide — from Islamic extremists, the genocide of Christians, leftist attacks on morality, and Modernism within the Church. But now the revelations about clerical abuse scandals are hitting the Church below the water line. What’s notable, though, are not the many evils, but rather the response of faithful Catholic men. 

Like the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, men from across America, her farms, inner cities, and Ivy League colleges stepped up to enlist, and then slowly, determinedly, began driving back the enemy. 

This is precisely what’s occurring in the Church today. In fact, for the last decade, the Holy Spirit has been calling forth battalions of determined seminarians and deacons in anticipation of confronting these very threats. Spiritual warriors, front leaning, and zealous for Christ. 

All of which was evident Sept. 15 when the latest platoon of deacons were instructed to do God’s work. And so, confidence remains high that the Church will persevere through its trials, just as it has throughout history, and it will become even stronger and more faithful. F. Rodgers, Virginia Beach

Appreciates bishop’s commitment to accountability

I just read “From Tragedy to Hope,” Bishop Barry C. Knestout’s pastoral letter. He acknowledged the “failed Church leadership.” I applaud and am deeply grateful for his commitment to help reform the areas of accountability in the Church hierarchy.  I have no doubt he wants to and will make things right as we are facing the grave tragedy that recurred in the Church.

What makes people good? I hope we mature as life hands us deep suffering, more than once throughout life, that is caused by combination of us and others, most of time. When individually or collectively our hearts are shattered irreparably, then the light, however dim, illuminates through the crack.  

When we experience such suffering and learn from that by taking responsibility for our parts in the suffering and commit ourselves to prevent the tragedy from happening again, then we “live in hope,” as the bishop said. 

On the other hand, when we are endlessly fingering at and mercilessly condemning others with selective and distorted facts, we drown in the pool of hatred of our own making. We also drown others in the same pool.  Particularly, when we are in a position to lead others to light, our endless and obsessive attack and condemnation of others with our immature and twisted sense of self-righteousness makes us the ones to be pitied the most.  

It is sobering to remember that the smug and self-referential righteousness are the very thing Jesus condemned more than anything else in the Gospel.  Anna Yu, Roanoke

Letters • October 8, 2018

Websites worth visiting

In view of the chaos and tsunami of fake news hitting our nation, I was impressed to discover two web sites sponsored by African-American pastors which document the efforts of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, to use contraception and abortion to degrade and destroy the African-American community. 

The first one, maafa21.com, is an extensive documentary, which shows, among other things, her collusion with the KKK and the German Nazis in developing their eugenics programs, since African-Americans were considered to be degrading humanity’s gene pool.

The second web site, black genocide.org, provides additional information on how the African-American community has been targeted by Planned Parenthood, with the result that the abortion rate in that community is now over three times that of Caucasians.

Both web sites are worth a visit by anyone interested in promoting the integral development of all humanity in God’s image. Father Thomas R. Collins, Hot Springs

 Questions use of ‘holy rage’

It was with a great sadness that I read “Vatican tells women to fight clericalism” (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 8). While it started well in describing the problems within the church as incestuous, it missed the mark entirely in its prescriptions for remedying the situation.

First, the call for “holy rage” is a foolish one that will imperil the souls of all who are swept up in it. We all feel a righteous anger toward the abuse, but to act in rage and to presume to call it holy is another matter entirely.

It will blind the individual to the proper order of things and lead him away from humility. The results will be catastrophic, for those who rage will tear down good and bad alike.

Secondly, the call for women to have more authority and leadership roles within the Church is contrary to the virtue of humility. The purpose of the Church is to enter paradise, not to wield authority over others.

Women within the Church have the most beautiful callings: to bear children, to love their husbands in submission, giving totally of themselves for their families, or to enter into religious life, becoming brides of Christ. To suggest that there is something insufficient in this is especially prideful.

Those who push for a greater role for women, by which they mean “women priests,” would do well to observe the example and teachings of the great saints of the Church’s history who said and did the opposite. Can the feminists claim to be wiser than they? Timothy Nestor, Richmond

Letters • September 24, 2018

It is time to lead

Like many, I have been disappointed and saddened by the multiple instances of sexual abuse, and more so in the delay or actual cover-up of this problem. As someone whose center of faith in Christ is grounded in the truth and grace of the Catholic faith, it is tremendously painful. I myself have had instances which, upon reflection, were indications of potential abuse, but was protected where others were not.

At the same time, the truth and genius of Catholicism is strong, transcendent, and deserves our continued embrace, just as it demands its protection from the abuses and betrayals of individuals within Christ’s Church.  

This is not the time to denigrate the Church and its faithfulness to Christ, nor her solidarity with the poor, the searching, and the disenfranchised.  Rather, it is a time for us to take leadership. As Catholics, we have a unique and central position in advocating for justice.

In truth, this is not just a Catholic issue — nor simply a priest issue.  Over 50 percent of sexual abusers are parents or family members. There are over 2,000 cases a year of sexual abuse in our public schools.

The Evangelical community is realizing they have a similar but perhaps a more hidden problem, one that is cloaked as a result of over 20,000 small denominations, where identification of sexual abuse is much harder to track.  

There have been voices for greater involvement in the laity. I concur in part — yet greater control by the laity is not “the answer.” Somewhat wiser counsel would recommend more active involvement by laity but also far better support of the thousands of priests, sisters and brothers who dedicate their lives to us and to being good shepherds for us.

Sexual abuse is a terrible societal problem where there are multiple sources and too many havens for perpetrators. This issue deserves our united commitment to all those who are vulnerable, and our dedication to be major part of the solution. And we are.

VIRTUS is a shining example of a rigorous program and an ongoing resource with which to recognize and prevent abuse in all facets of Catholic education and parish activities. Our schools in this diocese have had a strong tradition of excellence in education and in protecting our youth. Our bishop has been unequivocal about the tragedy of these sins but also has demonstrated his leadership for solutions.

For some — inside and outside the Church — this will be one more opportunity to use this crisis to trash Catholicism and its truths,  and impugn our thousands of dedicated religious. A more faithful response is for all parishioners to join together with our clergy and our Catholic educators to bring forth healing and a stronger Body of Christ.

We must use the Church’s many strengths to assure that everything possible is done to prevent abuses within our Church, our communities and across our society. – Kurt Elward, Charlottesville

Is it enough?

As a practicing Catholic couple we sorrowfully share Bishop Barry C. Knestout’s sincere and personal emotions of anger, shame and revulsion at the continued complicity of the Church in the sexual abuse scandal. His response in the homily of the Mass of Atonement and subsequent pastoral letter showed a painful openness and thoughtful reflection on the basis of the problem and steps toward solutions.

However, we struggle with the question: Is this is enough? Certainly, through prayer, fasting, and efforts at investigation, education and oversight are absolutely essential, the last 16 years have shown these efforts alone to be insufficient.  We have failed the realization of institutional deficiencies. Such deficits can only be eradicated by meaningful change to the very fabric of the institution. Among these changes are issues of transparency and governance. 

We applaud the plans for independent audit of clergy files in the diocese, but assurances should be made that the oversight by the Diocesan Review Board would not place redactions or censure on the findings. Concerns of continued avoidance of transparency would be  allayed by dismissing all current legal and financial efforts by the Church to prevent reversal of statutory limits on child abuse and blocking availability of sealed and vaulted records concerning these problems.  

Concerning governance, questions abound of why the overwhelming majority of the Body of Christ are barred from complete and meaningful leadership roles as clergy. Increasing numbers of the faithful believe in no “closed doors” on discussion of the continued desirability of mandatory celibacy and prohibition of women clergy. A broader and richer representation of all the faithful would potentially lead to reversal of the insular perspectives that are the occasion of institutional crises. 

It is time to distinguish archaic and questionable doctrine from dogma. Greg S. Pudhorodsky MD, Mary Jane Pudhorodsky, Charlottesville

Catholic Democrats organization wrong about Kavanaugh

I write to comment with extreme disappointment and displeasure toward the inappropriate public stance taken by the organization “Catholic Democrats” in the matter of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

In an email and press release on Sept. 18, they urged the U.S. Senate’s 24 Catholics to ask Judge Kavanaugh to withdraw his nomination. Their argument is (sic) “Credible Allegation of Sexual Assault Disqualifies Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Post.”

They go on to shamelessly conflate the allegation against Judge Kavanaugh with confirmed sexual abuse of children by adult clergy, and they conclude with a statement by someone named Pat McGuire of Trinity Washington University: “Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw his nomination, acknowledging the suffering of victims of sexual assault and sending the message that powerful men cannot continue to get away with abusing women without consequences.”

I immediately wrote to Catholic Democrats, asking that THEY withdraw THEIR improper, anti-American, anti-Western jurisprudence appeal to Catholic senators, which smacks of hysterical, biased, “guilty until proven innocent” philosophy.    

The allegations against Kavanaugh are made 36 years after the fact by a Democrat supporter, and were released strategically by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) after confirmation hearings had concluded, thus preventing Kavanaugh from being able to directly and publicly respond. 

I have listened to a verbatim description of the “attack” on broadcast radio: it comes across as drunken stumbling and groping by, well, teenagers. But this even aside, there is no proof that the person involved was Kavanaugh.

Further, there is the whole issue of what a 15-year-old girl was doing at an unchaperoned party with boys and alcohol. Ultimately, this is an alleged action of a 17-year-old boy transmogrified into some measure of the man’s character at 53.  

The Democrats have bizarrely supported mandatory parole hearings for underage (less than 18) stone cold murderers who were not under the influence of any drug, assumedly due to the notion of redemption. Yet they condemn Kavanaugh for his (and note, importantly, he denies even being present) alleged behavior while inebriated in a beer drinking house party at 17? This is absurd.

The accuser has psychological issues, perhaps regret and shame for her own part in the unfortunate experience she had 36 years ago in which she was not raped and not physically harmed and not, apparently, even psychologically harmed sufficiently to disrupt her life until she experienced marital issues decades later. I join President Trump in saying that I feel for her.

The shameful political actions of the Democratic Party in this affair (including Democrat Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii telling all men to “shut up”) and the “collusion” undertaken by Catholic Democrats in asking Kavanaugh to withdraw his nomination are frightening and disturbing. These actions are a travesty for America. They are a fundamental assault upon decency and fairness to an accused and to the rights and dignity of all good men. The worst part of all of this is that it sends a message to young voters that this is how things are now done in the United States.  

The story, to importantly reiterate, is of a 17-year-old boy, 36 years ago, “blind drunk” at a house party in which underage girls were also drinking, and his groping at one of those girls while, as described, hysterically laughing along with another person present. The culmination of the “attack” was when all three tumbled to the floor, still fully clothed, and the girl leaving the room unharmed.

This can only be described as a “story” because the participants were in fact drinking, which will affect memory, and the story was not recounted until over 30 years — not days, not weeks, not months, but 30 years later.

When I was a young physician at the Naval Hospital, Oakland, Ca., a nurse became smitten with me and flirted with me constantly. I was polite and flattered, and very friendly in return. I engaged in banter at whatever level she set in tone, but I never reciprocated her interest, explaining many times that I had a girlfriend (now wife).

One day she followed me to my car and publicly began shouting at me about something or another related to my interactions — or lack thereof — and then filed official charges of sexual harassment. I had to deal with these accusations for some time until it was finally recognized (as I recall) that she had psychological issues that clouded her perceptions. While my case is different, it shares an essential similarity in that a woman made allegations based upon her perceptions. Would Democrats have had my career ended at that time (1992)? 

I have applauded and supported the charter of Catholic Democrats even though my personal politics have increasingly diverged from that of the Democrats themselves. Their stance on the Kavanaugh nomination is inappropriate on many fundamental levels. To have taken such a definitive position, and to conflate the stated allegations with sexual abuse by adult clergy upon children is beyond the pale.

Similar statements made by Sen. Hirono and the one quoted above by Pat McGuire are just egregious. Additional stances taken by the chief political “analyst” of ABC News and others are beyond comprehension in their nonsensical illogic (“we must believe women because we have believed men for 250 years”).  

I do believe Dr. Ford that something inappropriate and frightening happened to her at a party she attended, on her own free will, at age 15, at which she was drinking alcohol with 17-year-old boys, none of whom can apparently be definitely placed at the scene. But the Catholic Democrats’ improper play upon “Catholic guilt” and goodness of Catholic senators, conflating her three decade old memory with confirmed instances of sexual abuse, is an affront to all people — especially all women who have been truly assaulted against their will by malevolent men. Worse, their actions are hysterical, and are accordingly, along with the others I mention above, a danger to civil society. Dominick A. Rascona, MD, FCCP, Pulmonary Medicine/ Critical Care/ Neurocritical Care (Board Certified), Captain, Medical Corps, US Navy (ret.), Norfolk

Confused about the death penalty

Recently the Vatican issued information regarding the immortality of the death penalty (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 13). I am confused. Are there different degrees of the death penalty? 

In war, you kill the enemy. That’s the death penalty for being the enemy, right? Of course. What if someone had shot down that Japanese plane that dropped the bomb on the USS Arizona? Thousands saved.

Scenario two: Suppose a member of ISIS captures the pope, and threatens to decapitate him on world-wide TV. But before this beheading takes place, a Swiss Guard sharpshooter has the Muslim in his sights. In the instant before the razor sharp knife slices the pope’s head from his body, the sharpshooter pulls the trigger and a bullet from a high-powered rifle speeds toward the Muslim’s head. Pow! Death penalty before the eventual trial!

Is this “death penalty” justified? Probably.

Fact: Many murderers have been released from prison by those opposed to the death penalty, only to return to society and murder other innocent victims. In these cases, the death penalty would have saved lives. How about compassion for these murdered and their loved ones?

Can taking a life be justified? Most certainly, if it saves many others. It is debatable, but some people think killing an abortionist doctor is justified if it saves hundreds of innocent babies with souls. Is “one” life more valuable than the lives of many others.

Medal of Honor recipient in World War I, Sgt. Alvin York, who was an admitted pacifist and conscientious objector, said: “I killed the enemy to save many others.”

Furthermore, consider the Holocaust. Millions of Jews that were captured by the Nazis, put into concentration camps, tortured and exterminated would have preferred the death penalty of their uncivilized captors before all of the above happened. You better believe it!

Isn’t it written in the Good Book: “live by the sword…die by the sword: or “eye for an eye”?

If you don’t think for one instance that “fear” keeps people from committing crimes, do you take your right foot off the gas pedal when you see a police officer in patrol car!!!! Ha, gotch ya! Tom Marshall, Chesapeake

Will society be protected?

In regard to the Church’s changing policy on capital punishment during the past 70 years (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 13), I concur with the fact that the means exist today for society to be protected from individuals, who commit capital crimes.  However, will it be? 

There seems to be too many “bleeding heart” judges who will release them back into society without any certainty that they will not again commit such crimes. An example of this is the recent release of one of the kidnappers and abusers of Elizabeth Smart.  Thomas A. Galayda, James City County

‘I stand with Pope Francis’

I openly and publicly declare that I stand shoulder to shoulder with Pope Francis. I stand by him and with him. Since he became pope, I have learned about and been deeply grateful for his teachings that truly reflect the teachings of Jesus: God is love.

I applaud the pope for his wisdom of not responding to people who seem to behave like blood-thirsty hound dogs on a live reality show. It appears that they do not want any kind of mature dialogue or to learn about the truth. They are only interested in riding on the band wagon of people who have a bottomless money supply and resources to promote hatred and spew out venom.

It seems like déjà vu when in Jesus’ time he was accused of all sorts of things by the Pharisees and religious hierarchy, but Jesus refused to answer them. How wise he was.

It reminds of an adage my mother used to tell us: “If you see a pile of dog poop in the street, do you walk around to avoid stepping on it, or out of anger that the poop is in your way, you just step on it?”

We, the children, always answered, “We’ll go around the poop to avoid getting it on our shoes.” That answer always satisfied her.

We now know about Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual escapades and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury reports on priest sexual abuse. We also know about Archbishop Vigano’s tell-all papers published in the news media.

Regarding the priest sexual abuse, we are seeing only the symptoms and not the causes, which I will address it some other time. But this time, I’ll address Archbishop Vigano’s statement.

First, Archbishop McCarrick was promoted to bishop and cardinal by St. Pope John Paul II. In fact, the reports indicated St. Pope John Paul II heard or knew about Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual abuse. And yet, he disregarded the reports and promoted Archbishop McCarrick in very quick succession. Why is no one blaming or accusing St. Pope John Paul II of ignoring the reports and promoting Archbishop McCarrick?

Second, Archbishop Vigano claimed that Pope Francis knew about sanctions that had been imposed on Archbishop McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI. By all accounts, it seems that even Pope Benedict was not able to carry out whatever he imposed on McCarrick.

Third, why is no one asking Pope Benedict directly whether or not Archbishop Vigano’s claim is correct?

Fourth, Archbishop Vigano has yet to provide any proof/evidence that Pope Benedict requested Pope Francis to carry out the sanctions that were imposed on Archbishop McCarrick. I am certain Pope Benedict would have communicated more than verbally to Pope Francis something that important. I have learned that Pope Benedict is a man, who documents everything, particularly about anyone not in rapport with him.

Fifth, Archbishop Vigano has been extremely angry and unhappy because he was passed over several times for promotion to cardinal. The Catholic hierarchy is no different from any other organization; clergy vie for promotions.

Six, In the case of Archbishop Nienstedt’s sexual abuse investigation, Archbishop Vigano is the one who told the investigators to stop the investigation and destroy the documents that would have incriminated Archbishop Nienstedt in sexual abuse.

This is my recommendation to Archbishop Vigano: You have a huge log in your eye; remove the log in your eye first, before trying to remove a speck in your brother’s eye.

We all need to read and contemplate Jesus’ words and teachings, and take all that into our hearts and ponder them as Mary exemplified.  Anna Yu, Roanoke

Church will find power in its weakness

Christ could be addressing our dear clergy in the Gospel today (Aug. 28) saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity…Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!”

As a lawyer and recovering alcoholic, I am always happy to share the “woes unto you” of Christ.

I very much understand the need for the Church’s mercy, prayer, and ministry for the men of cloth — those who have become ensnared in sexual, destructive relationships and those who have concealed them. Mercy, prayer, justice and ministry for their victims, actual and potential, is also compelling, but has been grievously neglected by the Church.

This is about rigorous honesty and tough love. In the 12-step program, we have seats in adjoining rooms for those loved ones we victimize, but who think they are the problem not us, refuse to see the elephant in the room with us and cover it up, and would rather enable us. It is called Al-Anon.

Back in our main room of recovery, we pity the loving enablers across the hall, as in greater need of rescue than we. We are now healthy and can help them through their disease!

Thus, Paul provides us with his usual salve for our salvation: “A thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

The Church will find power in its weakness and can, and will, deliver us from our plight; we, in Christ’s name, will accept nothing less. Hartwell Harrison, Bon Air

Spare us the excuses!

No! The clerical child abuse scandal which has and is rocking the church is not the fault of modern culture. The vows and vocation taken and accepted by priests, brothers and nuns are pledges to live in a different culture. Those vows were broken by these members of the hierarchy. Don’t blame the culture.

No, it is not the laity’s fault. The word “bishop” means overseer. Instead, too many overlooked abuses, punished those who called the guilty to account, tried to deny justice to the abused, pilloried them, moved to secure Church property and funds to prevent them from being used for compensation, and allowed known abusers to move up the clerical ranks in the pursuit of position and power. We are the victims, not the perpetrators. Don’t blame the laity.

No, it is not because some priests are gay. Research clearly shows that sexual abuse occurs more among heterosexuals than gay men and women. This is a disgraceful attempt to use bias and hatred of LGBT people as a distraction from the real problem. Don’t blame gay people.

No, it is not the fault of Pope Francis. The vast majority of these abuses, including the naming of bishops who left offending priests unpunished and covered up these abuses, long predates him. Most of the offending bishops were named by St. John Paul II.

Francis has made the strongest statements of contrition and calls for reform, even though he may bear some responsibility for not pressing harder for reform. Don’t blame Pope Francis.

But what is at fault, as Pope Francis has said, is the culture of clericalism which allows clerics to exalt themselves above their people, to lord it over them, to dominate them, to ignore their voices, and to confuse those ordained or pledged to serve into those who rule. To quote St. Bernard of Clairveaux: “Yours is a ministerio, not a dominatio.”

So, spare us the excuses. You, the hierarchy, are at fault. Remorse and contrition is your proper condition. Humility is your proper attitude. Away with pompous addresses such as “Your excellency” or “Your eminence” or even “Monseigneur,” i.e., “My lord.” “Bishop” and “Father” are all that is necessary.

Hierarchy without transparency is oppression. We need to know exactly who those were who abused children in the past and who covered up their crimes. We need to know what review processes are in place to prevent such abuses in the future. Lay people, including women, must be a major part of all such review processes; we have seen that we cannot trust clerical leadership to do it themselves.

Nothing less than a reform of the Church leadership from top to bottom will do. Abusers and those who cover up for them should be deprived of their clerical offices and turned over to the civil authorities for prosecution and punishment. A greater role and voice for lay people need to be restored to the church.

The measures announced by Bishop Knestout seem inadequate to many of us. Much more needs to be done and it needs to be done now. Without excuses. Dr. Mario D. Mazzarella, Newport News

Editor’s note: Readers are advised to read Bishop Knestout’s pastoral letter, “From Tragedy to Hope.” It can be found at https://richmonddiocese.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Pastoral-Letter-Sept-14-2018-FINAL.pdf  

Hopes faith in Church will be restored

Like most Catholics, I was startled, shocked and dismayed to read about the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Indictment concerning the actions of pedophile priests in the state and the fact that Church higher ups, namely bishops, kept it a secret and that such priests were even rotated to other assignments within the dioceses and to churches in other states.

I commented to one of my parish friends that I was no longer proud to be a Catholic and that my faith was shaken. I told her that I was so gratified and grateful to return to the Church and be allowed to receive Communion after an absence of more than 30 years, but this feeling does not exist today. As a form of personal protest, I did not attend Sunday Mass on Aug. 19, choosing to stay at home and do my daily readings.

This revelation particularly hit home to me for numerous reasons over and above the shear depravity of the actions of the priests and the inaction and deceit of members of the Church hierarchy, possibly extending to the Vatican.

First, I am a Pennsylvania native and, as a child and an adult, was a member of parishes in the cited dioceses and another diocese previously similarly accused.

Second, I have been reading “The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” (“Lumen Gentium,” the Documents of Vatican II). Just prior to the Grand Jury pronouncement I completed the section about bishops and priests so their responsibilities were fresh in my mind. These bishops were most certainly not “vicars and ambassadors of Christ” and the involved priests unquestionably did not “act in the person of Christ.”

Third, my deceased father was a long-time member of St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, formerly headed by the now-disgraced Theodore McCarrick. A very active parishioner, he was an acquaintance of McCarrick. I attended this church often when visiting my parents.

I started to read the full text of the grand jury indictment, focusing not so much on the horrible deeds of the abusers, but rather on the actions — or inactions — of the pastors and bishops and the ensuing cover-ups. My emotions ranged from sadness to despair to anger, accompanied by an emptiness of faith.

My negative feelings about the Church were further exacerbated by the possibility that the Vatican may have known about the Pennsylvania priests and the resulting cover-ups. A subsequent charge leveled by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano alleged that Pope Francis “covered up sex abuse,” but this has not been confirmed.

I debated about what to do and the thought of leaving the Church entered my mind. I went back to the readings of the Mass I skipped on Aug. 19 and the answer came from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John. “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

In this Gospel Jesus also said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

As previously stated, I was away from the Church and unable to partake of Holy Communion for over three decades. After a lot of hard work and the assistance of my pastor, a marriage annulment was finally granted in 2010 and I was once again able to be a full participant in the Mass. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is so very important to me and I cannot — and will not — part with this wonderful gift.

Yes, I am angry and disappointed, and it is tempting to eliminate saying, “I believe in the holy catholic Church,” as specified in the Creed. My faith in Christ and love of God will sustain me as I wait to see what the Church will do.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will intervene and help the Church correct the wrongs, prevent future occurrences, assuage the victims and take disciplinary action on offenders, if warranted. Hopefully, my faith and the faith of others in the Catholic Church will be restored. Charles A. Welsh, Waynesboro

Grateful for pastor’s influence on cadets

Thank you for highlighting the VMI ‘Rat Mass’ at St. Patrick, Lexington (Catholic Virginian, Sept. 10).

We had two sons graduate from VMI in 2016 and 2018. I can tell you that Father Joe (D’Aurora, pastor) continues to be a very positive influence on many of the Catholic cadets at VMI.

Aside from being able to “escape” the not-so-easy Rat year, attending Mass with a very supportive parish priest is tantamount to continuing the practice of the Catholic faith. Father Joe, with the help of the campus ministry’s Burr Datz and the whole parish, made our cadets feel very welcome!

As parents, we do everything in our power to raise our children in the faith. However, the presence of a good priest on college campuses helps ensure the uninterrupted practice of Catholicism.

At 18, college students are sent out into the world like “lambs among wolves.” What is more beneficial than the strong presence of the Catholic Church to help at this most pivotal time of their young lives?

We lose so many of our young adult Catholics during these years in college. With a strong Catholic Campus Ministry headed by good and holy priests, we can turn this around.

Our deepest gratitude to Father Joe and his staff for our sons’ years at St. Patrick. – Elenita C. Harpen, Suffolk

We can’t let it happen again’

Like many Catholics, I am revolted, sickened, and fed up with sheltering of predators and pedophiles with the Church, and the decades-long epidemic of sexual abuse of children by priests, with few or no consequences for their criminal acts.

If the Church can’t or won’t clean up its own house, laity must work to do so before the whole despicable scandal dies down and goes underground, only to erupt somewhere else.

Laity can develop councils or groups to advocate for revocation of statutes of limitations in cases which, if successful, would allow prosecution of still-living criminal priests whose crimes may have occurred decades ago.

Laity must demand resignation from their posts by bishops and cardinals who covered up and quietly sent abuser priests off to other localities where they did the same things to other children. We should also seek answers as to what it is within the Church that allows such a culture of perversion and secrecy to develop and flourish in so many places.

Above all, we can’t let it happen again. – Beverly Ryan, Lynchburg

More lay leadership needed

Within the current clergy abuse scandal, there is a call for lay leadership working with this crisis. We need much greater lay leadership within the Church.

At the same time, I would see lay and clergy working together, not one dominating over the other. I see this mutuality taking shape in the very center of faith in the sacraments.

The sacraments are of Jesus and the Church, which is all of us. The celebration of the sacraments is something we are doing together, not just something the priest is doing for us.

Yes, we have our proper roles in the celebration of the sacraments, and it is a communal action. This is a concept that is growing from the days when people were passive in the pews; it needs to grow more so lay people assume a more active and dynamic role, including a much stronger lay leadership together with the priest.

We have to get beyond clergy domination of leadership with its perks and privileges which have contributed to the scandal.

We need to be a Church, the People of God, working arm in arm, sharing our gifts and ministries, realizing the Church is all of us freely sharing the presence of Jesus that animates us.

Let this sharing begin with the sacraments where we celebrate together, each with our gifts and ministries, the presence of Jesus among us. – Father Louis R. Benoit, Roanoke

Letters • September 10, 2018

Fears Church will leave him

With regards to the current sexual abuse travesty that our Church is faced with, it is time for action and not pious words. Although the majority of priests, bishops and cardinals are not associated with these horrendous acts and cover-ups, the clergy who are charged with these crimes and the cover-ups should be asked to resign and no longer allowed to practice their priestly duties.

Additionally, the laity needs a role in the management of the Church. Those clergy complicit in committing or turning a blind eye to these despicable acts have failed the Church. Current policies and procedures on handling these abuse cases are ineffective or ignored.

The laity is the most populous group within the Church. One role is to propagate the faith through teaching and performing good works —both spiritual and material — that benefit our brothers and sisters, especially those less fortunate.

The other role is to financially support the universal Church and its programs. There is no need to expand on the importance of either of these roles. The only words the laity want to hear are the prayers to God to comfort these poor victims and the prayers that ask our Lord and Savior to lead his Church through these most turbulent times.

As for myself, I won’t leave the Church, but without the prompt and proper actions I fear the Church will leave me.
-Joe Nolan Yorktown

Answer the call to repent

This is a reaction to the continued clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and articles by Bishop Barry C. Knestout, “Candid discussion about clergy sexual abuse needed,” and “In McCarrick aftermath, it can’t be ‘business as usual,’” by Richard Doerflinger (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 13).

I finished grammar school and high school in the Archdiocese of Boston. Nearly two decades ago we were shocked by what happened in that archdiocese and what has been reported continuously all over the world.

We are beyond just letters and calls for the faithful to pray for our Church and our clergy. I pray for Pope Francis, all the bishops, priests and deacons of the world, and specifically for my bishop, clergy from the Diocese of Richmond. I pray by name for all my local clergy, every single day.

It is a time of actions. It is a time for repentance. What is needed is a call to repent!

There is no sin that is greater than the mercy of God. Although this is so, no sin will be forgiven unless there is true repentance

The Catholic Church needs to repent for the most egregious sin of our present and past times, namely the sacrilege of the clergy scandal: sexual abuse by clergy against innocent children, and the cancerous prevalence of an unchaste same-sex subculture in the clergy.

There are no words to excuse the persistent sinful behaviors of those in the clergy and the bishops/cardinals who allow them to roam from parish to parish inflicting pain and committing, in some cases, “spiritual incest.”

Do not try to defend the indefensible. By some of their writings the bishops/ cardinals involved are only demonstrating that they did not “get it” then and still do not get it now.

Follow the example of the Israelites. They fasted, ripped their garments, put on sack cloths, dowsed themselves with ashes, paraded in front of the world and asked God for mercy.

These clergy (and all those in the Church, however innocent they may be) should take off the fancy garments and shoes; the elaborate head dresses and rings and put aside the golden chains and dispense with the fancy titles. Forgo the comfortable beds and the tasty eats. Get out of the castles and follow the example of the Ninevites.

The Holy Spirit is prompting us to clean the House of the Lord! Can’t you hear the call of John the Baptist?

We are one body in Our Lord Jesus Christ. The heart feels the pain of any unhealthy cell in the body. All the faithful suffer. We will fast and pray with you and for you so that his abundant grace will flow; all things will become new again, and even the most stubborn and ugly stain will cease to be, and our holy Roman Catholic and apostolic Church will be whole again.

Let us keep our eyes on the crucified as we do penance and reform our Church from the inside out until we hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Go, and sin no more. Your sins are forgiven.” -Irma Silva-Barbeau, Blacksburg

Addressing scandal requires action

As some of the faithful, at least this one, continue to struggle with the Church’s inability to deal with the sexual scandals in the clergy that continue to plague the very foundation of our faith, it is time for another approach.

Either the Church hierarchy, i.e., bishops, cardinals, pontiffs, cannot, or will not, take positive action to address the situation. They have had ample time and opportunity and certainly moral responsibility to do so, but yet it continues to roil the Church.

The time for hand wringing, expressions of sorrow, mea culpas, prayers for the victims, feeling their pain, Masses of Atonement and other wordy placations is over. What is needed is action: demonstrable, visible throughout the Church and concrete.

Three things need to happen: first, a sense of urgency needs to happen and be seen by the faithful. Call a special session of the USCCB; this month, September 2018, to address this one topic. Do not wait for the normal fall meeting.

Second, there must be complete transparency throughout the entire Church — deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and even the pope. Once a perpetrator has been credibly (not determined by the bishop) accused of sexual abuse, he should immediately be removed from all clerical duties, his name should be made public and he should be turned over to the civil authorities for possible criminal prosecution.

That’s what happens to accused sex offenders in this country. Those involved with aiding and/or abetting any cover-up should be immediately stripped of whatever duties are commensurate with their positions and their names be made public and turned over to civil authorities for possible criminal prosecution.

Aiding and abetting criminal activity is also against the law. The Church should not have any statute of limitations in this matter, especially when children are involved. Anyone found guilty, perpetrator or involved in aiding, abetting, or covering up sexual abuse, should be removed from any public ministry or laicized, and that information be made public to all the concerned faithful wherever the activity(ies) occurred.

Third, each diocese should establish a sexual abuse hotline that does not go to the diocese, but to an independent lay group charged with the initial steps of an investigation. This process and group must be removed from any diocesan involvement or oversight until such time as criminal action is warranted.

Enough is enough. Thankfully, God is merciful. -Persse L. Deverell III, Goochland

Support priests in prayer, deeds

I hear that a lot of Catholics feel betrayed and are angry about the recent revelation of priestly sexual misconduct in six Pennsylvania dioceses. A lot are leaving the Church because of their feelings of betrayal; one lady said she was so angry that she didn’t go to Mass that morning.

That explains it all. We have forgotten who the head of the Body of Christ is; we have forgotten who has been betrayed. Think about it. Christ was betrayed!

This Catholic woman, who could have consoled his aching heart, stayed away from Mass because she was upset. Glory be to God! How misplaced our values are, i.e., “It’s all about us.”

Saints are sinners who keep trying. How many of us have been praying for the sanctity of our priests? Our priests are ordinary men who God has called to work for him in an extraordinary way. Some have fallen short. God will judge those men accordingly while we grieve for their victims.

How well are we supporting our priests in prayer and deeds? Our culture flaunts sexuality and immorality as the new norm. We and our priests need to be extra vigilant so as not to get caught up in its deadly morass. We have lost our sense of modesty and things have gone downhill from there.

Let’s not be pawns of the devil with his tricks of divide and conquer. Prayer, and especially the rosary, will get us through this. Pray for our priests, our pope and our Church. Remember, we are the Church. – Patricia Horgan, North Chesterfield

Involve laity in how Church handles abuse reports

Once again we have learned about the abuse of children by priests. The pope’s letter on the topic gives me hope. Bishop Edward B. Sharfenberger’s call for inclusion of laypeople in the investigation of the abuse allegations against Archbishop McCarrick gives me hope.

The laity must play a much more meaningful role in the investigation, but also in the Church’s hierarchy.

Imagine, if you will, if one parent, or any other layperson, learned about the abuse in the course of their work. The outrage and repercussions would be meaningful and swift. They would act out of concern for the victim. Whether they attended seminary together or wanted to prevent tarnishing the Church’s image would not enter into their deliberations.

I am nearly finished reading the Pennsylvania grand jury’s 900-page report. It sickens me. Even with the legalese and clinical terms, holding back my tears was impossible. I will finish the report because those children deserve to have their suffering and pain acknowledged. I will pray for the healing of the victims, their families, and the parents who tried to protect their children.

I have been a parishioner in only two dioceses in my life: Rochester, New York, and Richmond. In both places I had personal interaction with pedophile priests and was none the wiser. How can it happen that a random person like me has known three of these men? How can there be so many?

The laity must be involved in how their Church handles reports of this nature in the future, and how the investigations of past behavior are undertaken. Leaving the same procedures in place assures we will have the same result. – Deanna S. Callahan, Glen Allen

Take ‘fixer upper’ approach to Church

“Fixer Upper” is a show on HGTV. The premise is that the restoration contractors take a property — the more decrepit the better — and restore it to near perfection. No defect — large or small — is overlooked. All are corrected in the restoration.

Quite analogous to the disaster facing our Church.

A “home inspection” is needed. Top to bottom. Identify all issues. Prepare a plan of action. Defer none.

The list goes far — far beyond pedophilia and other matters of sexual misconduct. Things sexual — while the front and center matter of the day — cannot obscure the myriad problems facing us.

The Church — clergy and laity — is painfully aware that inaction on any of the issues will further damage our Church.

The continued existence of our Church lies in the balance!!! – Peter O’Connor, Virginia Beach

Fears it will become ‘business as usual’

I find the most recent revelations of cover-ups by guilty bishops and cardinals utterly disgusting. What I fear most, however, is that after a few months it will become “business as usual” with our clerics.

Since our guilty leaders so flagrantly abused their power and position and failed to police themselves, we, the laity, must step forward to help heal the wounds they have reaped upon God’s holy Church. Letters, apologies, and Masses offered by our leaders are a good start, but what concrete steps will ALL bishops and cardinals take now and into the future to: 1) assist the victims of abuse; 2) heal the spiritual demoralization they created among Catholics; 3) rectify the scandal they created among all people; and 4) restore humble service as a hallmark of their positions?

We, the laity, must: 1) continue to demand reform in the years to come; 2) let our Church leaders know we will report any suspected improprieties within our parishes and/or dioceses to law enforcement officials; 3) support the press and civil authorities in their legitimate efforts to expose any other crimes our guilty Church leaders may have hidden over time; 4) end the statute of limitations so victims can receive their due recompense from the Church; and 5) demand stricter screening processes of men entering seminaries.

My fear remains; will it become “business as usual?” – Edmund Walendowski, Charlottesville

Letters • August 27, 2018

Dwell in God’s light where evil cowers

Confronted by continuing revelations of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and all the “I didn’t knows,” I feel abandoned by the Church’s leadership. Why so patient in the face of such lust, vanity and criminality? Does God recognize his Church? Will Jesus overturn its tables as in Jerusalem? Or, does he wait for us to act?

The Church is sanctuary to all, where God’s forgiveness can touch and save each and every sinner. But the priesthood was not purposed as a sanctuary, but as the realm of men whose ambition is to serve the Lord with courage and humility.

Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church, but that doesn’t mean Satan won’t try. What better way for the great corrupter to hurt the Church than through its priests?

God bless those who have borne insults, slander and humiliation to unmask evil incarnate. Confronted by leadership’s continued weakness, we the flock must reclaim our Church and root out that which rots it from within.

We must stand with victims and with the righteous men of the priesthood, broken hearted as they must be. They are of us, and they need our prayers, engagement and steeled resolve. We are called to be like sheep, not lemmings. And Jesus warned those who would mislead his flock or prey upon them.

Hell’s flames are burning high, yet they burn in darkness. We must put the lamp on the altar so that we dwell in God’s light where evil cowers and in which the faithful may work to save the Church. Pray the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. – Hampton Carver, Richmond

If not addressed, scandal will cause others to leave

This morning we listened to the reading of a letter from Bishop Barry C. Knestout regarding the sexual abuse scandal in Pennsylvania. We waited to hear about consequences. We held our breath as the letter discussed the need for healing and forgiveness and the invitation to attend a prayer service later in the week. And still we waited to hear about consequences, but there was no mention of such; and someone near and dear to me walked out.

In the 1980s the Church experienced mass exodus of the faithful when the first allegations hit the headlines, but millions stayed. We believed Church leaders who said it was outrageous and unacceptable and would never happen again. Many hung in there by a delicate thread of hope that such despicable — and criminal — behavior would be investigated, punished and no longer tolerated. Today we found out that nothing has changed.

Until the pedophiles masquerading as men of God are excommunicated, stripped of any pensions or benefits and, if possible, jailed and labeled like any other sexual predator, the Church will see a dramatic loss of members and contributions. Yes, prayers for healing and forgiveness are in order; and so is justice, or I, like many other lifelong Catholics who love the Church, will leave. – Cecilia Thomas, Mechanicsville

Editor’s note: In his Aug. 15 invitation to the faithful to join him in a Mass of Atonement, Bishop Knestout stated, “I have asked for a review of the process and procedures currently in place for reporting and responding to all abuse.”

Let laity manage crisis

The time to trust the American Catholic Church hierarchy is gone. Recent reports of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick’s sordid saga is but the latest scandal of child abuse and their cover-ups plaguing our Church.

The Catholic hierarchy has lost its moral authority. Even our current pope is complicit with the crisis. Please remember the pope’s original outrage when confronted by the Chilean laity’s accusations of sexual abuse against the Chilean hierarchy.

It is time for the American laity to manage this crisis. No, not a joint commission of bishops and laity. A commission of all laity needs to review the recent decades of scandal and payouts. This commission should be selected by discernment of parish councils throughout the United States. The committee needs to report their findings directly to the Church community through the Catholic press and then advise the bishops how to move forward. – Thomas Bundrick, Rockingham

Disturbed by commentary

I found the article, “In McCarrick aftermath, it can’t be ‘business as usual’” (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 13), to be more disturbing than the news about the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covering up child sexual abuse for many years.

The writer, Richard Doerflinger, was “pleasantly surprised” that Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation?

Really? No sense of outrage about the abhorrent behavior of McCarrick that became public knowledge before his resignation?

McCarrick was found by the Church, more than a month prior, to be credibly accused of sexual abuse and removed from his public ministry — after it was first reported more than two years ago!

His resignation was only accepted (was he not fired?) a few days after all the details of the Church’s findings about him were made public by major media outlets.

Doerflinger goes on to say “laypeople are not without sin”; is this news? Look at it the other way: If the laity would be without sin, would there be any need for a ministry?

He closes with the statement that “ideas have consequences.” No! Ideas do not have consequences; behaviors have consequences.

I read nothing in this article that signals a change in attitude by the Catholic Church. In fact, it seems more to document reasons why the policy of the Church still remains, for the most part, react to bad press and then look to justify why those in charge protected their position vs. focusing on the mission of the Church. – Bill Leber, Chesapeake

Another view of Church and science

Wendy Klesch’s article “’Where did all of this come from?’” (Catholic Virginian, July 30) about the relationship between Catholicism and the sciences provides an occasion to recall the teaching my generation received in high school (1958-1962).

Our teachers repeated a sentence appearing in the encyclical Pope Pius XII Wrote about evolution, which said something like, “It is not forbidden for Catholic scientists to entertain hypothesis as to a possible revolutionary origin of man’s body, provided that the direct creation by of the soul is recognized.”

They believed they were helping us preserve our faith. They didn’t consider that, with the theory of human evolution taken for granted, there will be a falling off of the sense that history is under the judgment of God.

The author of a famous 19th century historical chart, Sebastian Adams, said, “Adam is the first man in any history, whose name, the time of his creation, and death are matters of record.”

The Polynesians have preserved a version of the story of the creation of the first man which has all of the details in the Bible’s version of the story, plus some added details. The Polynesian version reports that the first man was created by a God composed of three persons; that the devil watched God create the first man; that, when God created the first man, the first and second divine persons manifested themselves under man-like forms, and the third divine person under a bird-like form.

The 19th century nun, Sister Emmerich, received private revelations, filling out many Bible stories with greater detail than the text of the Bible. She reported, “Jesus, speaking before the Pharisees, told them that the world had now existed 4,028 years. When I hear Jesus say this, he was himself 31 years old.”

– Richard O’Neill, Portsmouth

Church can make a difference in ending poverty, racism

Bishop Knestout addresses the Church’s role in the issue of racism (Catholic Virginian, July 30) by pointing out “we must acknowledge the past, if we are to overcome the racism that exists in the present.” 

He also notes, “Our commitment…involves a willingness to improve…it involves action” and “The Church cannot be silent about racism.” The bishop encourages us to ongoing prayer and “working to eliminate racism in our culture.”

Some good points were made in a letter to the editor in that same CV issue, about the need for more leadership from our bishops. I can’t help but think how meaningful it would be if our bishops spoke out about the need to restore and protect the black family unit in our government assistance program policies.

These policies have encouraged single motherhood by withdrawing financial aid if a mother-to-be or a mother wants to marry the father of her child. Decades of this policy have resulted in 70 percent of black youth growing up fatherless, with increasing school dropout rates. Is not the encouragement of generations of dependency, without expectations or a process in place for progression out of poverty, a form of racism?  

Though our president is now working with Church, business and community leaders to better lives and offer opportunities in minority communities through private investment, should not the Church speak out in support of change in government policy that undermines the family unit?

Chicago reported 73 shooting on the weekend of Aug. 4. Many single black mothers have been known to be very strong in their faith, and with great courage have pulled their children through to survive and build a future, as Dr. Ben Carson’s mother did.

But so many more lives have been wasted as crime, drugs and gangs replace a father’s influence and authority that could have broken the cycle of poverty and incarceration. Here is where Catholic Church leaders could have made — and still could make — a difference to help “eliminate racism in our culture” while actually reducing poverty, instead of maintaining, and growing it.

The family is God’s plan and makes all the difference.  

– Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

Disagrees with article on death penalty

I find the CNS article’s — “Why the pope says death penalty is ‘inadmissible,’” (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 13) — position against the authority of the state to administer the death penalty comes up short on reason, historical perspective, longstanding Church traditions, established teaching, and biblical realities.

The human person derives his dignity from God himself. We are made in His images and likeness (Gen 1:26). Nothing that we do or that the state does can ever change that. So, the fact that the state renders any punishment against a person rightly or wrongly cannot diminish our human dignity. It just can’t.

Additionally, the author of life, God himself, delivered man’s death sentence in his good and righteous justice because of our disobedience (Gen 3:17-19).

The entire premise as presented relies solely on “an increasing awareness,” “a new understanding has emerged,” “society as a whole has evolved,” “development of Church doctrine away from,” and “the clearer awareness of the Church for respect due to every human life.”  All of which more closely reflect “The Doctrine of the Modernists” than the Catholic Faith which Pope Pius X warned against in his 1907 Encyclical.

There are two gross generalizations that are unsubstantiated and unjustified in any reasonable argument:

  1. that the death penalty is a “totalitarian” and “fanatical groups” means of “doing away with political dissidents, minorities, and any other person deemed a threat to their power and to their goals” and 2. that “governments have the ability to detain criminals effectively.”

These claims would not withstand even a modicum of scrutiny and are an affront to what used to be a hallmark of the Catholic Church, our “well-reasoned faith.”

– Dave Tezza, Virginia Beach

Heal, forgive and support those in need

Pope Francis said he had feelings of shame and sorrow because of the abuse cases from Pennsylvania. These cases challenge the core of our existence as Christians.

I want everyone to know that my Catholic faith is a worldwide family of fellowship (with inspiring beliefs) and we must share all the good and all the bad together through our common love for one another.

When one of us abuses than we have failed that family member — and we all suffer. When we do not completely support an abused victim, we further fail another family member. When we hide and deny the situation for decades, we severely fail ourselves as a family that loves one another.  

I have been apologizing for years because of this type of situation done by others and I guess I will be apologizing in the future. I hope that all crimes committed on Church property will always be turned over to the police.

We all must be responsible for our actions — both spiritually and socially — to have our repenting sins forgiven spiritually by God, but also to pay the consequences for them socially (when they are crimes). Spiritual forgiveness should never cancel out or be the excuse to not have social consequences against children.

However, our hearts must be filled with Christian love always for all people, including our clergy that are doing a good job today, and also any abuse victims, too. We are not a faith of revenge or hate or anger or fear or rejection of victims or denial of wrongs. We are a faith of Christ. We are a faith of responsibility and love.

We separate a person’s self-worth from their sins to give them value as God’s child and to deal with sins through our love and a spiritual forgiveness by God. Some of our Catholic family is suffering and we need to recognize our sorrow with shame for not being in God’s will during this situation.

We are all in great need of God’s love and forgiveness with his support being shown through our Church’s actions; therefore, (openly) the world can see that love. During this situation, let’s be the heart of Jesus with our Church’s “Body of Christ” unity.

Let us always heal, forgive and support those in need — both victim and any reformed sinner. Let’s all be responsible Christians that always love but also protect the innocent.

Empathy for the hurting should be as much a part of our Church’s tradition as is the high status that we give our Church leadership.  I hope we can now and always be a compassionate universal Church that loves, heals, forgives, comforts, understands and inspires. But right now, we should all feel shame and sorrow.

– Donald Crone, Lynchburg

Substance Use Disorder: A call to education

Bishop Barry C. Knestout demonstrated great compassion to those struggling with Substance Use Disorder (Catholic Virginian, July 30). Kudos to him! This medical disorder, not unlike the leprosy that Jesus healed, is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Nearly 21 million Americans struggle with this disorder, more than all cancers combined.

In 2017, the opioid epidemic alone killed 72,000 people. Alcohol kills 88,000 every year. Education helps us avoid judgement. As parishioners ourselves, we would encourage everyone to get educated — especially our priests, deacons and lay ministers. Invite a speaker to your church. Find resources. Support organizations making a difference. Churches can be part of the solution in changing the tide of this deadly epidemic.

Two examples for the Richmond area are a free Family Education Program that is offered every Monday and Thursday evening (see https://thewell.vcu.edu/recovery-support/families/ for more information. Scientists and treatment providers share knowledge and hope.

Men ready for recovery in the Richmond area can seek help at no cost at The Healing Place, a program of CARITAS https://www.caritasva.org/programs/healing-place/.

Thanks again, Bishop, for listening and getting educated. We ourselves will offer to help educate your parishes/staff and we welcome a visit from you or any members of your team.   

– Linda Hancock, Chief Development Officer, CARITAS

– Karen O’Brien, Chief Operating Officer, CARITAS

Letters • August 13, 2018

Grateful for pope’s death penalty declaration

It is with gratitude that I recently learned of the Holy Father’s/Church’s treatment of the death penalty. His unambiguous declaration that the promulgation of the death penalty is immoral cannot be clearer.

I have often heard and taught that it is very difficult to be pro-life consistently and constantly because in addition to the unborn and the need to protect their lives, there are other stages of life in need of the same protection — as the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin taught with his concept of the “seamless garment of life issues.”

Some people do things which disgust us — like decide who lives and who dies. Even with that horrible truth — and it is horrible — in some way their lives are sacred and authored by God.

May we offer prayers at this time for the unborn, those developing and maturing, those in relationships including marriage, those who are sick, elderly, dying, discounted, and, yes, even those who have acted immorally and find themselves under the “sentence of death.”

God has created them in goodness and, as we are all sinners, we are all in need of redemption by a loving God. – Father James Griffin, Pastor, St. Paul Church, Richmond

Bishop’s column proclaimed truth

Thank you, Bishop Knestout, for the wonderful comments in, “As it was in 1968, ‘Humanae Vitae’ is a needed examination of conscience”s (Catholic Virginian, July 16).

It has long been needed that our faithful learn the truths of the faith relating to marriage, contraception, abortion and all subjects relating to the dignity of the human person as taught by our holy predecessors, Blessed Pope Paul VI and St. Pope John Paul II.

Having been a teacher of Natural Family Planning it was always so wonderful to empower couples with the knowledge of their own bodies and how they could use that knowledge together for good.

Being a nurse and doing ultrasounds in a crisis pregnancy center with women (many Catholics) who have been duped by our culture into believing they are sexually free but are now faced with decisions of great magnitude makes me wish we would hear more from our religious leaders on true freedom, which is only experienced when we cooperate with God’s will.

Clergy must not be afraid to proclaim the truth. Thank you, Bishop Knestout, for proclaiming the truth! – Alice DeGennaro Williamsburg

Column on contraception needed

I would like to express my gratitude to Bishop Knestout for his column on contraception (Catholic Virginian, July 16). It is an issue that affects many Catholics, yet it is rarely spoken about. The column gave all Catholics in the diocese a chance to receive Church doctrine with sincere and willing minds and hearts. – Amanda Olmsted Newport News

Letters • July 30, 2018

Accept, love all neighbors

The Catholic Virginian (July 16) included advice from Father Doyle encouraging a family to forbid their daughter from attending an overnight trip with a family headed by two women. He advised that it is correct to allow a child to hang out with her friend who has two moms, but that the line should be drawn at an overnight.

If Father Doyle’s advice is applied, the children of same-sex couples are not to be fully accepted as friends; we must place limits to remind our children that we do not approve of their friend’s parents.

If Father Doyle’s advice is applied, must we also limit sleepovers for other non-Catholic families? What if my child’s friend’s parents are divorced? Should I teach my child to disapprove of that family? Or is this animus reserved for LGBT families?

Raising a Catholic child and helping them navigate a pluralistic society does not require teaching them to reject people. It requires a discussion about different beliefs and different views, and it requires teaching them, above all, to show love and acceptance.

The letter writer claimed that they generally “are tolerant of other people’s sexual orientation,” but Jesus does not call us to be tolerant. He calls us to love and to accept. Tolerance is not a Catholic virtue. It is, in fact, not a virtue at all. Tolerance is a mask behind which we hide our judgment.

Instead of hiding behind a mask of tolerance, follow Christ by accepting those our community tells us to reject. Let us truly accept and love our neighbors. All of them. – Kate Roschmann, Chesapeake

Bishops should provide more leadership

In Bishop Barry C. Knesout’s editorial “‘Civic disruption’ requires moral, pastoral response” (Catholic Virginian, July 2), he notes that it is a bishop’s responsibility to teach. I agree; our bishops should be our leaders.

Although mention is made in passing about affirming life at its beginning, I don’t see or hear any dissent concerning this country’s laws concerning abortion. Our bishops spoke very strongly about how terrible it is for our country to detain illegal immigrants at our Southern border but I do not hear that same concern for the millions of babies lost to abortion.

Additionally, I am disappointed that our bishops don’t do more to lead us. Teaching can and should be done by actions as well as words. I am dismayed that no organized movement has been made to assist these illegal immigrants, to attend to their needs while they undergo difficult times. What happened to visiting those in prison?

Some bishops did go to the country’s Southern border to see for themselves the condition of the immigrants, and they did minister to those with whom they met. However, this was a short-term visit and not an arrangement to continue to give these people help.

Although we may have differing thoughts on what our country is doing to address the illegal immigrant tide that comes into our country, we should all attend to immigrants’ immediate needs. I have seen or heard of nothing from our bishops concerning how we might help these people now.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our bishops would lead the faithful into these areas to give these people comfort where they are; not to discuss with media the horrors of the issue but to give aid to those in need.

Isn’t that what we are really called to do? – Joy Malok, Lynchburg

Editor’s note: Bishops — individually and collectively — have spoken and written often about abortion and immigration. Regarding the latter, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services and Catholic Charities USA are among the agencies helping immigrants.

Praises Trump’s pro-life actions

A letter from a parishioner (Catholic Virginian, June 18) who tried to diminish the pro-life actions of President Trump by conflating them with political talking points flies in the face of clear and objective analysis. The president has repaired some of the most egregious actions of his predecessor.

He eliminated the penalty for nonparticipation in Obamacare, a program which uses burgeoning premiums to satisfy abortion on demand, RU-487, sex changes and contraception. Section 1557 of the ACA choked Catholic hospitals by prohibiting providers from denying gender transition procedures and abortion services, in opposition to their religious freedom. Surely, we have not forgotten Obama v. Little Sisters of the Poor. Fortunately, 1557 is currently under repeal by the Trump administration.

Trump has saved the Supreme Court by thoughtfully appointing people of good conscience who sit in defense of life. His tax cut has allowed our families to keep more of what we earn so that we may choose to do good works with it. This is reflected in the success of this year’s Diocesan Annual Appeal.

He signed an order to allow the terminally ill the freedom to try new experimental treatments. This also supports life and the free will granted to us by the Lord. He participates in the pro-life movement, giving voice to our cause.

We should refrain from regurgitating the misleading talking points of the secular media which uses its power to willfully divide and anger those who watch. We should all rejoice in the good works and deeds of President Trump, discuss pertinent issues coherently and specifically, and leave judgment of his personal life to the Almighty. – Peter Nardone, Keswick

Uneven treatment given to event participants

I read with interest two articles in the July 16 edition of The Catholic Virginian. The first, “Bishops ‘share journey’ with migrants,” lauds several bishops who, while claiming to be “non-political,” were explicitly critical of administration policies regarding the treatment of immigrants attempting to enter the country illegally — although the story largely omits mention that the policy at issue only applies to those who attempt to enter illegally, which is a violation of American criminal law.

The second article concerns criticism and rebuke of several priests who appeared in clerical garb at a rally at which the president spoke in support of his nomination of a pro-life justice to the Supreme Court, and challenging the local senator, who voted against the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch, to support the nominee or face removal from office in favor of his unabashedly pro-life opponent, who also spoke at the rally.

While the first article doesn’t state whether the bishops wore “clerical garb” at their highly politicized and highly publicized event, I assume that they wore some indicia of their ecclesiastic office; they certainly made much of the fact that they were bishops.

Assuming that, I fail to see why one set of clerics is regarded as heroic preachers of the Gospel and the other as either misguided or — at best — deluded. Both events were political. Both events supported some element of Catholic doctrine. Neither was free of partisan bias and posturing.

The uneven treatment of the participants in these events, both by Church authorities and the Catholic press, is yet another example of why many episcopal statements have increasingly diminished effect among the faithful. – Kevin P. Bilms, Chesapeake

Abortion is not solution

This letter is in response to the letter, “Protecting the unborn is just the first step” (Catholic Virginian, July 2).

It is very lamentable that abortion has been legalized in Ireland. Each baby in the womb is an unrepeatable masterpiece created by God that has a right to life. Ending the life of a baby in the womb is not the solution to anything.

The commandment “Thou shall not kill” pertains to them also. Their right to life is not conditional. There are many couples who are eager to adopt a baby that cannot be cared for by their mother. – Kathy Binns, Richmond

Everyone has place in abortion conversation

Amy Gonzalez’s letter, “Protecting the Unborn is just the first pro-life step” (Catholic Virginian, July 2), ignores so many other aspects of the abortion issue and skips right to the foster care system, “flooded with wards.”

This is somehow a terrible burden that is better minimized by more abortion, rather than less. Abortion is referred to by the writer as a “medical procedure.” Those who cannot bear part of this burden of saved lives of precious children “have no place in the conversation about abortion.”

Everyone has a place in this conversation to tell the truth about all the options available to women so they can make their best well-informed choice. Women’s centers that encourage, counsel, and provide material needs for mother and baby, as well as referrals to community resources, are a way for us to support life. These centers count on public support for their existence.

Everyone has a place in this conversation to tell the truth about just how much Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics really care about women. “The Walls Are Talking,” written from the inside by a former abortion clinic director, will dispel any myths about this “caring” multi-million dollar industry.

Yes, protecting the unborn is just the first pro-life step, but it is the most vital and necessary step — made possible by our support of options to abortion, informing women about these options so they are able to make a fully informed choice, and by lots of prayer that God will help us reach them. – Kathleen Hall Roanoke

Letters • July 16, 2018

Grateful for the work of The Catholic Virginian

In the wake of the Annapolis outrage, I am compelled to express to you my thanks for the blessing of your platform, endowed by our Father, and my acknowledgement that it is not provided without some element of risk.

I am also aware that all of us who are roused to express opinions, many of which we know may fall upon less than agreeable ears, participate in an audacious and responsible enterprise.

I extend my prayers to you and your colleagues at The Capital, as well as your faithful contributors and readers, and submit my plea to our heavenly Father, that he open all our hearts to this tragedy, and ever-inspire our rhetoric toward our Lord and his holy plans for us. – Hartwell Harrison, Bon Air

Legal definition of when a life is a life needed

Ava Gonzalez’s letter (Catholic Virginian, July 2) has gotten me thinking a lot. She thinks abolishing abortion would flood society with unwanted children. I disagree.

Does she really think people are incapable of changing their behaviors? Just maybe the reality that a woman would have to carry her child to term would persuade her to change the activities in her relationships.

Just maybe seeing her child at birth would soften a woman’s heart to want to keep and love her child. Abolishing abortion could just maybe reverse the effects of the slippery slope that Roe v. Wade put us on.

I do agree with Gonzalez that abolishing abortion wouldn’t produce this effect quickly. It is more likely pro-abortion citizens would become angry, rant that they are being oppressed and promote hate of their oppressors. This is because they do not see their unborn child as a human being.

If our government would have the courage to define life, then everything could change more quickly. The science is undeniable. Have you heard the heartbeat of a 6-week fetus? Have you seen a 3D ultrasound at just 10 weeks? It truly is a unique human being — the very same child who will be born in just seven more months.

We need to at least define at what point it is a person who gets protection by the law.  We have intentionally left this vague; what a wishy-washy stance that is!

My hope and prayer are not so much to abolish abortion laws, but to make a legal definition of when a life is a life. Then it will be protected. This might change some hearts if undeniable science says the fetus is a person.

As progress is made in our understanding and technology, that definition can be moved to earlier in gestation. The most loving outcome would be a society where abortion is legal, but no one chooses it.    – Rita Smith, Yorktown 

Urges caution on donating body to science

I am writing in response to Father Doyle’s advice (Catholic Virginian, July 2) that it is a good and unselfish act for a Catholic to donate their body to science upon death.

If we see this act of “donation” from a purely physical standpoint, it does indeed seem heroic and virtuous. As Catholics, though, we must remember that we are spiritual as well as physical beings. Connected to our bodies are our growing souls being fed and nourished on the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of God! We are being transformed!

Not everyone is. Our souls and our bodies do not belong to us anymore, but to God. Our bodies have become holy tabernacles of the living God. A person may think this is all the more reason to make such a choice, but I remind them it is not ours to make.

This argument also applies to organ donation. We must honor our bodies as much as we are able to, protecting and cherishing the living presence of God within us. I would beg a soul to be extremely cautious about this decision and to research Church teachings from the Church Fathers for direction.

We must love, honor and believe in Our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist and, though unseen, to remember the beautiful, transforming work taking place in our souls and bodies.

We see the incorruptible bodies of the saints and we see burial of a complete body of our Lord Jesus and we know this is pleasing to God.

I pray for all to seek wisdom in this matter so that we, too, may be pleasing to God. – Marijo Heitman, Newport News


Editor’s note:  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Donation of organs after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a manifestation of generous solidarity” (No. 2296). 


Don’t report false accusations

When you publish an article such as “Calls from those willing to foster detained kids swamp USCCB” (Catholic Virginian, July 2), you should ensure that the writer’s (Mark Pattison) facts are true and accurate.

The part about the “audio recording of children crying” and “pictures of kids in cages” are, in fact, false. These false accusations were posted by the liberals to blame President Trump, when, in fact, they never happened.

The kids in cages was a photo shoot trumped up by the Democrats to show Trump in a negative light. The picture of the children in cages was actually taken in 2014. The audio recording was never verified as being the cries of children at the border.– Nancy Bobal, Virginia Beach

Letters • July 2, 2018

Trump does not qualify as pro-life

I was startled to read the letter (Catholic Virginian, June 18) describing President Donald Trump as a “very bright light” in the pro-life battle. Trump is many things, but he does not possess the consistent ethic of life necessary to qualify as pro-life.

On pro-life issues he is more of a dim bulb than a bright light. He has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women, because his position and wealth allow him to. He has committed adultery multiple times against his current wife. He has presided over the breakup of immigrant families, much the way slave traders did long ago.

His signature tax cut will transfer over 1 trillion dollars to the wealthiest members of our society. His appointees in government are destroying regulations designed to preserve our natural environment — also known as God’s creation. He is in favor of capital punishment. The list goes on.

His anti-abortion stance is purely a position of convenience for his radical conservative base rather than a position of conviction. Catholics should realize that progress on reducing or eliminating abortion will only come through the Supreme Court, which has been populated by a Catholic majority for decades.

It is time for our clergy to again discuss the consistent ethic of life from the pulpits so that the people understand the Church’s true meaning of pro-life.

– Dr. Martin G. Mlynczak, Yorktown

Editor’s note: The letter to which Dr. Milynczak refers was incorrectly attributed as having been written by Charles H. Crum of Ruther Glen. The letter was written by John Stec of Covington.

Protecting the unborn is just the first pro-life step

A letter (Catholic Virginian, June 18) lamented the legalization of abortion in Ireland. While this subject can seem black and white to some, I encourage readers to consider their position regarding abortion and adoption.

Adoption is quoted as the “safe” alternative to abortions; however, children put up for adoption are often forgotten and lost in the foster care system.

Catholics cannot call for the removal of abortion as a medical procedure without first creating a support system to care for all the children left in its wake. The foster care system is already flooded with wards. While the number of adoptions has increased in the past five years, very few parishioners decide to foster or adopt a child instead of conceiving their own.

Many Christians would rather argue about the politics of abortion than stand up and do the work required after it is abolished.

The March for Life means nothing if the people marching aren’t willing to take a child they saved from abortion into their homes.

How many people would rather donate money instead of volunteering at a group home for teenagers? How many people praise politicians for their pro-life policies, then turn a blind eye to the other wicked things they do? How many people will type a ranting paragraph on Facebook, then continue to sit safely in their homes?

If these Christians aren’t willing to take action and sacrifice for the children of God, they have no place in the conversation about abortion.

– Ava Gonzalez, Norfolk

Letter • June 18, 2018

Movie about Pope Francis is ‘must-see’

I saw the documentary “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.” I didn’t expect the documentary to be so moving. If you see only one movie this year, this is a must-see movie. This is a documentary of the pope’s personal journey — his ideas, message and work. It is not a biographical documentary.

This film reflects his sincerity, honesty, compassion and concern for the poor, the marginalized, for our common home – the mother earth and environment, and the promotion of global peace. This film reflects his life-long mission and efforts to witness to God’s love for humanity.

Pope Francis reflects Jesus’ own teaching, work, and tender concern for the poor and the marginalized during his life on earth.

So many of us think that going to church, offering prayers, paying tithes, doing acts of charity, etc., are sufficient. But if we do not have that genuine love (remember God is Love), as St. Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing…” (1 Cor 13:1-2).

The pope doesn’t just preach, but he lives the Gospel. His work epitomizes God’s all-encompassing love for us and for all of creation. – Anna Yu, Roanoke

Editor’s note: To see if “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word” is playing at a theater near you, go to http://focusfeatures. com/pope-francis-a-man-of-his-word/theaters.

In Ireland, the unborn lost

Once-Catholic Ireland has now fallen in the culture wars, with Hedonism a winner, again. The losers, unborn babies.

May the Irish be forgiven, as they do not know what they do. Anyone who sees a picture of an abortion simply cannot vote to make this a woman’s “reproductive right” without having a petrified/ putrified heart. So, pictures matter.

A very bright light in the pro-life battle is President Trump. He has reinstated the Mexico City Policy, denying funding to abortion-providing entities who receive U.S. tax dollars. Very recently, he has, by the power of his office, denied U.S. taxpayer dollars to overseas NGOs and others who even promote or discuss abortions.

The financial impact on abortion “providers” Marie Stopes International and International Planned Parenthood Federation has forced them to close up to 100 percent of their “women’s health” clinics on the African continent. Trump is, and has been, also quietly installing pro-life judicial and administrative appointees at all governmental levels.

An encouraging event in the Catholic Church, recently, has been the election of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann to chair the U.S. bishops’ pro-life efforts. The archbishop understands the grave scandal presented when giving holy Communion to politicians who publicly tout their Catholic faith, while publicly advocating for the “right” of a mother to have her unborn child dismembered (abortion).

May his kind increase. – Charles H. Crum, Ruther Glen

Letter • June 4, 2018

KVCC should focus on other matters

I’m glad to see that the Virginia legislature generally demonstrated more common sense than the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) in both the issues where they voted in concert with the VCC — particularly on pro-life and religious liberty — and in contradiction.

In particular, the banning of weapons in churches as law seems confusing. If Catholic churches wish to declare privately held church grounds as “gun free zones,” they are perfectly free to do so. Why does the VCC want to impose on other denominations that may wish to have congregants carry, such as off-duty officers? It is not a sin to either own or carry a firearm. Why doesn’t the VCC focus on having actual sins outlawed, such as sodomy or employers defrauding laborers’ pay based on immigration status? Indeed, since the VCC is seeking to grant illegal immigrants driving privileges, by which illegal immigrants may be able to also conveniently register to vote, might as well see to it that the labor laws apply to them as well. Other than the usury issue, it seems like the Virginia legislature’s actions proved more in line with the Constitution and moral law than some of the VCC-advocated positions.  – Olivia Tautkus, Hayes

Observe meatless Fridays throughout the year

Now that we have concluded our small penance of meatless Fridays during Lent, it seems an appropriate time to consider whether to continue it throughout the year. Not in the vein of sin as is used during Lent, but to voluntarily choose to abstain from meat to remind us of the Lord’s death on the cross.

For the most part, giving up meat on Fridays disappeared in 1966, even though it was a small act of penance that appeared to be thoroughly integrated into every Catholic life.

The requirement of penance was removed, except for Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent, with the suggestion that a positive action be performed instead. We can sacrifice eating meat on Friday and do something positive, especially when that action is to pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary.

When Friday abstinence was done away with, it did have an impact on our Catholic identity because it was a significant public acknowledgement of our faith.

Today, as a way to show our faith, we are asked to vocalize our blessing before meals when eating on public occasions. Giving up meat on Fridays would be another way of sharing our faith and preserving our Catholic identity. By this action, we acknowledge our faith both internally and externally..  – Charles H. Crum, Ruther Glen

Letter • May 21, 2018

King, sainthood link inappropriate

I was disappointed to read the comments by Barbara Hughes (Catholic Virginian, April 23) about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Without disparaging King’s work in regard to social justice, I do not feel that the reference to beatification and canonization (if he were Catholic) is appropriate.

Sainthood is reserved for those who have demonstrated exceptional holiness in ALL aspects of their life. In regard to Rev. King, even a cursory review of his life style quickly reveals serious character flaws which are well documented by his companions as well as by official documents, and which would not serve as appropriate guidelines for others.

While his actions and ideals in some aspects are commendable, we should never infer that other aspects of his behavior should be considered acceptable. – Marvin Weniger, Virginia Beach

Letter • May 7, 2018

America’s problem

America does not have a gun problem! America’s problem is the following:

Hearts without God.

Homes without discipline.

Churches without Christ.

Schools without prayer.

Government without accountability.

News media without truth.

Courts without justice.

Over the past several decades America has become an immoral nation, and as the infamous Rev. Jeremiah Wright proclaimed, “The chickens have come home to roost.”

Churches with liberal pastors, priests, ministers, staff, etc., contribute greatly to the problem that has moved the population away from Godly principles.

The solution to all the shootings is not complicated. Everyone is searching for answers but the answer is simple. Just look in the “Good Book.”

We are no longer a nation of rugged individuals, but have become a nation where everyone has their hand out for a “freebee.” Most are obsessed with instant gratification. Sacrifice is no longer in vogue. Keeping up with the Joneses is all that matters. Materialism is rampant.

However, the greatest contributor to our nation’s immorality is the entertainment and news industry, plus the public education system. Our innocent youth have been inundated with sex, violence and immorality.

Just look at the video game industry. You’ve got to be a fool to think this violent industry has no effect on young minds.

Life itself has been cheapened. America’s serious moral problems began with two landmark Supreme Court decisions relating to abortion and prayer in schools. We’ve been on a slippery slope since then.

From its beginning, God has blessed this great country. The Blessed Virgin Mary is its patroness. But I think God’s patience is running thin, and that he will not continue to bless an immoral nation.  – Tom Marshall, Chesapeake  

Appreciates series on history

I would like to commend Molly Pyle on her series piece “Recollections of Danville in the 1960s” (Catholic Virginian, April 23), as well as the parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in Danville for the eyewitness stories and subsequent dialogue they shared with each other about their parish history after Mass one day.

Would that we all sit down in our home parishes and seek to learn from one another about our respective parish histories and what it has meant, historically, to be Catholic in Virginia. Doing so would help us, like at Sacred Heart, Danville, to better understand the context in which we live and practice our faith today.

The broader context of the history of Catholicism in Virginia is such an important teaching opportunity for successive generations to learn about and learn from. We can so easily forget that we are today a community of believers that has had a continuous presence in Virginia since English settlement along the James River in the 1600s, even if that presence was not always welcomed.

Pyle’s piece clearly celebrates the courage, sacrifices of personal humility, and empowerment to do the right thing by those who came before us during the Civil Rights era. I look forward to more of this series about the history of our diocese. – Jeryl Rose Phillips, Virginia Beach

Letter • April 20, 2018

Don’t ignore damage cell phones cause

As an undergraduate student majoring marketing and minoring in business analytics at Old Dominion University, part of my grade was to conduct a research project about cell phone usage. According to the survey, 100 percent of the respondents own a cell phone and while acknowledging that they check their devices every few minutes, respondents were adamant in admitting they tend to drive, walk and use their device at the same time.

Statistics have shown that texting and driving are equivalent to drunk driving. More people than ever before in the recent years were involved in automobile accidents while using their devices.

It seems that many are in denial about their habits, or perhaps deep down they know that they are engaging in dangerous activities, yet they feel the inexplicable necessity to be on their devices constantly. But by doing so they are putting themselves and others at risk, not only physical, but also emotional.

The younger the respondents, the less likely they were to admit that their behavior is dangerous. The sense that you can do it all is so strong among the new generation that multitasking is the new normal.

What we are choosing to ignore is the damage that we are inflicting upon ourselves, creating a sense of security behind the cell phone screen: Mothers ignoring their children, kids not being active, young adults missing the opportunity to interact with others, many smiles replaced by emojis, handshakes traded by “likes” and altogether forgotten.

I challenge you today to take the time to make eye contact with someone. Create the habit of eating at least one meal a day without looking at your phone, or more importantly, try to drive or walk from point A to point B without touching your device. Let your mind do what it is supposed to do: to think freely, to observe your surroundings, it will take discipline; after a few tries I promise you will not regret it! – Daniela Justice, Virginia Beach

Letters • April 9, 2018

Glad to be distracted by our Lord

The letter about not having the tabernacle near the altar (Catholic Virginian, March 12) reminds me of the 1970s liberal garbage that nearly destroyed our fine church. The thinking from the late 1960s was “the tabernacle distracts us from Mass.”

The only rules I’m aware of are the tabernacle is not to be open or the Blessed Sacrament exposed during Mass. Distracted by our Lord? Gladly! We had our devotions and rituals stripped away during that horrible period, and only in recent years are they being restored.

For too many years we had the “theater in the round” churches. I remember one priest saying, “The Mass is a play.” Uh, no, the Mass is a sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ with his Real Presence during the consecration.

If I can’t focus on the priest and altar during the Eucharistic Prayer, then I shouldn’t be in church.  – Bruce Jones, Wise County

More leadership from hierarchy, please

Rather than simply echoing political talking points, bishops of America, please provide leadership — maybe leading, with coordination and in association with other religious leaders, to establish youth and student marches to return prayer to schools, to allow God to again be discussed in schools, and even leading anti-abortion rallies, rather than leaving the latter greatly to the laity.

Can we please have some true and serious hierarchical leadership to help turn our society toward greater ethics and morals? Is that not the true path to reducing or even halting the violence, be that violence by guns, knives, bombs, whatever, and not only going after the inanimate, like guns?  – Thomas A. Galayda, Williamsburg

Church shouldn’t accept government money

The legislative calls (Catholic Virginian, March 12) are from the same bishops who irresponsibly supported Obamacare and whose discernment has evidently been clouded by long addiction to government money.

Rather than seeking deeper Catholic support of health care ministries, they supported government intervention from an administration which notoriously favored abortion and universal birth control.  Then, when abortion and birth control coverage was required, the astonished bishops demanded protection from the very same government.

Perhaps Catholic institutions accepting government money has been too long entrenched. Government money accompanies regulatory enforcement, even when for paying services rendered. Ends do not justify the means; if government money did some good, was it worth compromising integrity and independence?

When Catholic institutions accept government money, they accept its associated controls and eventually, dependency. Then, when legislation like the ACA comes along, how can it be resisted?

Now, the bishops support “common-sense” gun laws. Would these laws require judicial due process where an individual goes before a judge and jury of their peers prior to being put on a list or restricting their natural rights?

Or will firearms only be available to the government? The same government responsible for Wounded Knee and My Lai?  Recall the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protests? Or the Christeros in neighboring Mexico?

Bishops are ceding their responsibilities to the secular government. A virtuous society is less violent. Instead of redoubling evangelization efforts, they side with Ceasar to leave their small flock defenseless.

Many prayers that they will return to preaching Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. – Olivia Tautkus, Hayes

Agrees with Cardinal Dolan

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “… it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.” He implied that if you value religious teachings and sanctity of life, apparently you are not welcome in the Democratic Party.

Catholics have historically promoted schools to provide children with a good education related to their religion and to get them ready to be responsible citizens. The schools have been very effective and remain true to their goals today.

Some blacks have preached that abortion was an act of genocide against them. It should be noted that abortion clinics are prevalent in black communities. In 2013, there were more black babies aborted in New York City than the 24,800 born there that year.

In 2017, Tom Perez, chairman of the National Democratic Committee, strongly stated that pro-life candidates have no chance in the Democratic Party. This position is further pushed by Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine, all Catholics, who strongly uphold Democratic policies that support abortions.

Democrats have historically blocked education tax credit legislation which would have helped middle-class and low-income homes make the decision to attend Catholic or other private schools. Opposing the credits hinders the Catholic schools to continue their goals of educating the poor. Instead, what happens is liberal teachers indoctrinate public school students with their un-American ideologies for the gain of Democratic politicians.

The Democrats do not want to change their ways in these areas and will not change their policies as long as people keep voting the Democratic line. Why should they if it’s not costing them any votes? – O. Ralph Puccinelli, Richmond

Precise terminology

I enjoyed the story “Christian witness strong in diocese’s Southwest” (Catholic Virginian, March 26), but I did want to correct a couple points about our society.

The term “Glenmary Fathers” has been used colloquially to refer to our organization, but it is not the society’s name. The name is incorrect in part because the organization has always included religious brothers as well as priests.

Glenmary Home Missioners is our primary name. On second references, Glenmary is used.

The Glenmary Sisters share a founder and a history with us, but have always been a separate organization.

Thank you for including this story. We love seeing mentions of Glenmary in the places we’ve served.

    – John Stegeman, Manager of Communications and Marketing, Glenmary Home Missioners

Letters • March 26, 2018

Where is the compassion?

With some dismay, I read the letter from Dr. Paul Schellhammer (Catholic Virginian, March 12). He takes a dim view of the teachings of the Church, notably anything offered from a canonical perspective. What I find more surprising is his suggestion that compassion should be equated with “live and let live.”

As someone who works with both parties in failed unions, I can assure him that “live and let live” seldom sits well with the person abandoned by a spouse. What happened (one asks) to the “better or worse, richer of poorer, sickness or health until death” — stated in the presence of God and humanity — before one’s tastes changed? Where’s the compassion there?

His related question is a straw man. The Church’s teaching acknowledges that an intimate life can be no small element in a happy marriage. What’s possible in individual cases when war has led to maiming is left to the determination of doctors, pastors and, as often, the couple (see canon 1084 §2).

How sad that Dr. Schellhammer chose to caricature the Church’s teaching about such a sensitive matter. Again, where’s the compassion?

The cross of Christ is not a lesson of “live and let live.” Someplace between rigorism and antinomianism is the compassionate truth.

–  Msgr. R. Francis Muench, Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Richmond 

Future is not in the past

Concerning the letter by David Forrest concerning the renovations at St. Gerard, Roanoke, (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 26): I was pastor of St. Gerard for a short time years ago in the church of the “before” photograph.

The church in that “before” photograph worked well as a church with a sense of people gathered around the altar celebrating Eucharist together. It had no appearance of a “social hall,” as Mr. Forrest suggests.

There is a danger in thinking that reverting to a previous setting is progress. We should remember that our future is not in the past. – Father Louis Benoit, Roanoke      

An explanation of racism

Kathleen Hall (Catholic Virginian, March 12) said she couldn’t understand what Bishop George V. Murray meant by racism. She supposedly quotes President Obama saying: “Americans are racist in their DNA.”

His actual words were: “I always tell young people in particular: Do not say that nothing’s changed when it comes to race in America…It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours, and that opportunities have opened up, and that attitudes have changed. That is a fact…What is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives — you know, that casts a long shadow. And that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it.”

The distortion of his words is an example of racism, as were the numerous attacks claiming it was biologically incorrect (he wasn’t talking biology but sociology) or protesting that things have gotten better (he said that).

Racist slavery entered the Americas when Spanish (Catholic) colonizers enslaved Native Americans. Later, they and Protestant colonizers enslaved Black Africans. The U.S. Constitution legalized slavery.

Read the secession documents of the Confederate states:  the cause of secession and the war was slavery — period. After the war, the southern states deprived African-Americans of the vote and controlled them with Jim Crow laws and lynching.

The Civil Rights Movement pushed back much of this legal discrimination, but Black Americans continue to face discrimination in hiring, housing, legal prosecutions, imprisonment, and in many not-so-subtle ways.

If you can’t see this — and too many Catholics I know can’t — you aren’t looking. If you’re not working to fix it, you’re complicit in the evil.  – Dr. Mario D. Mazzarella, Newport News

Don’t cast aside Christian concern

Immediately after the recent school shootings in Florida there was an outcry for improved mental health care for those in need, along with the call for stricter gun laws.  It is unfortunate that all other concerns have been drowned out by the call for tighter gun control.  It is as if other cries have been snuffed out by the powerful lobby for gun control.

While I am not against changes to gun laws, I find it disturbing that our Christian concern for our neighbor has been cast aside in favor of more laws.  What happened to visiting the sick and imprisoned?  So many times we hear that the gunman was a “loner” — someone who was ostracized by others, who didn’t fit in.

Along with calling for new gun laws, perhaps we should look at ourselves and determine if we need to be more “present” to the persons involved. What if someone had befriended this person before his condition became critical?  What if several people talked to him and just let him know they cared?

Perhaps if we minister to the person involved, horrible incidents like the one in Florida and others throughout the country would not happen, and changes to gun laws would be more effective.      – Joy Malok, Lynchburg

How many more need to die?

Catholics all over the United States periodically march to have abortion made a criminal act. When are Catholics going to protest gun violence and the ease with which guns are purchased?

Guns in church, guns in schools, hospitals, libraries — will people be safer? The NRA is trying to replace “Thou shalt not kill” with the Second Amendment.

Catholics have a responsibility to do the right thing.

How many more need to die?  – Marie Flowers, Dillwyn

Strong Church more important than politics

The discussion on gun violence in an article, “Address gun violence now, bishops say,” and commentary, “One way to end a culture of violence,” (Catholic Virginian, March 12) is very disappointing.

Raising the age for gun ownership, “universal” background checks, banning bump stocks and more restrictions on firearm ownership will not prevent school shootings.  That is because a person who intends to commit murder will not obey any gun law, just as the Parkland school shooter broke an existing law and committed a felony the minute he stepped on school property with a firearm.

Raising the age for gun ownership and a background check would not have stopped the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooter (Newtown, Conn., in 2012) who killed 20 children, because he used his mother’s gun after he killed her.

The inaction by the FBI and the Parkland police department, is proof that the safety of all citizens cannot be ensured by law enforcement personnel, and therefore citizens must be responsible for their own safety.

Catholic leaders should focus on religious issues instead of openly promoting political viewpoints because there will always be a significant portion of the congregation that disagrees with them, which is bad for business, i.e., membership numbers and tithing — no different than when music artists express their political opinions during their concerts and when NFL players kneel during the national anthem.

Isn’t a strong Catholic Church more important than politics? – Richard Kurek, Yorktown

Take action against all violence

I am writing in response to “Address gun violence now, bishops say,” (Catholic Virginian, March 12). I was turned off immediately after just starting to read the first paragraph “common-sense gun measures…” This is the same tag line used by radical, liberal, progressive, socialist democrats, and all of Michael Bloomberg’s gun control organizations.

It has been rumored by many sources, including government officials, that there are in excess of 20,000 firearm laws already on the books. So, you think further legislation, laws, rules, or restrictions are going to change anything?

Let’s look at Chicago where they have probably some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and over 4,000 are killed with firearms annually, where assault weapons and high capacity magazines are already illegal.

The bishops fail to acknowledge recent deaths (murders) with pressure cookers, stabbings, mowed down by cars and trucks, not just in the US, but worldwide. Bottom line: if you look at the common denominators in these mass killings, it is mental illness or radical Muslims, NOT the tens of millions of legal firearms owners.

The bishops should be discussing and taking action against all violence — domestic violence, bullying, violence against woman and children, elder violence, sexual violence, caregiver violence.

– Dr. Vincent Cammarata, Mechanicsville

More often, firearms used for defense

Bishops Frank J. Dewane and George V. Murry, quoted in “Address gun violence now,” (Catholic Virginian, March 12), correctly state “…we are confronted with grave evil…” but then parroted recent USCCB  statements blaming firearms instead and favoring their restriction, although they are overwhelmingly more often used in defense to save lives.

In his encyclical letter, “Evangelium Vitae,”  St. Pope John Paul II stated “You shall love your neighbor as yourself ” (Mk 12:31). “Consequently, no one can renounce the right to self-defense…”

Furthermore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear (2264-65) that “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others”  (as parents are for their children) and “Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”

When Christ and his apostles traveled the brigand infested byways of Judea, they carried the military weapons of the day for their collective defense. On one occasion Christ responded “it is enough” when told there were two swords among them.

Would these bishops click their tongues in disapproval of Jesus’ admonition to those disciples who were without weapons, to sell their garment and buy one (Lk 22:36)?

It pains me to have been compelled to oppose the Virginia Catholic Conference lobbyist in subcommittee during legislative sessions, but the bishops’ advocacy of empowering the state to hinder people’s right to protect and defend innocent life runs contrary to our professed, pro-life theology.

– Dennis J. O’Connor, Prince George

Letters • March 12, 2018

Bishop left more questions than understanding

Bishop George V. Murry’s comments “Church hasn’t dealt effectively with racism, bishop says,” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 12), leave many more questions than understanding.

Though “racism” is mentioned seven times in this article, there is no specific substance to help us understand what form this racism that he refers to is taking today, and what should “American Catholics”…who.. “have shown a lack of moral consciousness” be doing about it.

Lately, issue after issue of The Catholic Virginian headlines racism, but with no clarity. One can hardly help but think some Church leaders have taken to heart our former president’s pronouncement on taking office, that “Americans are racist in their DNA” period.

That label, sadly, has become a political tool to silence opposition, and has lost its true meaning. It has become an insult to most who are charged, as well as to those who have experienced real racism. It fosters division and victimhood, with no solutions.

As Christians, we have many serious battles to fight. The true dangers become crystal clear when a major TV network allows a daytime talk show panel member to ridicule, on air, Christians who have a relationship with God as having a “mental illness,” with no consequences. This, while we know if any other group were the target, she would have been sent packing immediately.

The Church has an opportunity to enlist Catholics and others by rallying around our need to save our Constitution, which is under grave attack from many quarters. Those who value our constitutional principles, in their entirety, value our God-given individual rights, protected therein, and therefore, have no tolerance for racism of any kind.

This document allows us to have a say, and is a means to fight injustice. As Bishop Murry said, “Discussion on racial equality must run much deeper if we are to be true to the principles of our country, and the faith on which they are based.”  – Kathleen Hall, Roanoke

Conscience and law

The Feb. 12 issue of the Catholic Virginian published a response by the canon lawyers of the diocesan tribunal to a question raised in Father Kenneth Doyle’s column (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 29), namely sacramental eucharistic participation for a person in a second “marriage” against the background of a prior, non-annulled marriage.

According to canon law, this person should not receive the Eucharist. An option that was offered was a continent relationship which I interpret as abstinence from sexual intercourse.

Also in the Feb. 12 issue of The Catholic Virginian, a situation in Father Doyle’s column was described that unfortunately is not unusual as a result of our wartime conflicts, namely significant IED explosive damage/destruction of the pelvic organs that render traditional intercourse impossible. In this situation, I read that canon law does not permit the sacrament of matrimony.

While the proscriptions in these cases may not be directly contradictory by law (may receive the sacrament if no sexual intercourse versus if no sexual intercourse, may not receive the sacrament), they seem almost so in spirit.

Might we avoid judgment to bar sacramental participation and appeal to conscience as to the wholeness and holiness of a committed relationship between two of God’s creatures. – Dr. Paul Schellhammer, Virginia Beach

Sanctuary place for celebrating sacraments

I have a comment on the letter expressed in the letter “Maybe we can leave the ‘60s” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 26). The writer’s sentiment is that churches are being “restored back to look like churches.”

Of course, we want to know that we have come into a sanctuary to celebrate the sacraments. My issue is with the comment that “tabernacles (should be) the focal point in a sanctuary.” The church sanctuary is primarily designed to be a place to celebrate the sacraments, and there are several focal points in the sanctuary: altar, ambo, baptismal font, presider’s chair. But the tabernacle is not to be a focal point during Mass.

Of course, the tabernacle will be the focal point during adoration and private prayer, but not during Mass. The tabernacle and the altar are to be separate but related focal points in the whole church building.

Please note the instructions for placement of the tabernacle in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). –Larry Fischbach Sr., Daleville

Letters • February 26, 2018

Maybe we can leave the ‘60s

It was quite surprising to see a church being restored back to look like a church, after some of the excesses and sometimes, awful things that were done to some older churches in the wake of, and name of,  Vatican II (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 12). Now it looks like a church, not a converted social hall, like the “before” photo.

It’s good to see tabernacles being the focal point in a sanctuary, rather than hidden in a closet at the end of the hall (figuratively speaking, although this is close to how it’s been in many cases), and some of these now silly seeming things that happened in the early years. So the idea was to modernize, but some of the things done — and even some things today — ironically seem outdated!

It’s nice to know some people finally realize Peter, Paul and Mary and Woodstock are history, so maybe we can finally get out of the ‘60s! –  David Forrest, Virginia Beach

Before dismissing people, reread Beatitudes

I have been reading the letters to the editor and I am dismayed at the dismissal of people who need our help. It appears that Christian Catholics can reinforce our teachings by rereading and adhering to Matthew 5:1-14:

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,  for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’

 –  Mary Harris, Richmond

What Father Doyle was saying

I am writing to comment on a letter from members of the diocesan tribunal (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 12). The letter was a comment on Father Kenneth Doyle’s column that appeared in The Catholic Virginian, Jan. 29.

The members of the tribunal who signed the letter may have misinterpreted the directive of the Argentine bishops and the Holy Father’s response to it. The tribunal members correctly stated the long-standing teaching of the magisterium. That teaching is articulated by St. John Paul II in “Familiaris Consortio” (84) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1650) — when nullity of a previous marriage is not proven, a Catholic may be able to return to the sacraments after the couple agrees to live in continence.

But the Argentine bishops, in interpreting “Amoris Laetitia,” suggest there may be limited circumstances in which a Catholic living in an irregular situation may be admitted to the sacraments even though he or she is not living in continence. The Holy Father has approved the Argentine bishops’ interpretation. A number of other bishops have expressed concern about that, but I believe it was that interpretation to which Father Doyle was referring.  – Tom Strassburg, Earlysville

We need to do more than pray

Well, so much for Valentine’s Day. The country has to figure something out; we must have a broad discussion where everything is on the table. Social media, the video game industry, the gun industry and America’s obsession with firearms, and the lack of respect toward human life in today’s society, just to name a few, are all things we need to discuss.

This is a discussion that should have been had when 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 were killed in Sandy Hook in 2012. Though we will, and rightly do so, pray for the families, prayer is not enough.

The good Lord blessed us with many things, including a brain that, as a country, we should use to find any means necessary to stop gun violence in our country, especially toward our youth.

When I was a child, people were horrified when a single murder occurred; now we accept it. What changed? Maybe that’s a good place to start.          –  Eddie Baird, Glen Allen

Credit to others who served

I was very pleased to read the first article, “Eastern Shore parishes service thousands of migrants,” in the new series on diocesan history (Catholic Virginian, Jan. 29). This important ministry has served the material and spiritual needs of agricultural migrant workers for decades.

As someone who served in the diocesan Office of Justice and Peace for 25 years, I want to give credit to some dedicated staff persons. During the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, two Daughters of the Holy Spirit, Sisters Anita Paul and Alice Chicoine, and one lay woman, Blythe Batten, coordinated the diocese’s migrant ministry.

Their contributions to migrant ministry in this diocese should not be forgotten.

–  Michael Stone, Richmond

Sees churches as integrated and family

I very seldom challenge Church teachers. However, in my experience of having worshipped in Catholic parishes from Hawaii to Maine, from Illinois to Texas and most every state in between, I find the Bishop George V. Murry’s contention, “Church hasn’t dealt effectively with racism, bishop says,” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 12), flat out wrong.

My experience has been that all races are integrated and are family in religious and secular activities in all of those parishes. The bishop is conjuring a solution in search of a problem.       –  Henry Dowgielewicz, Monroe

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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