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September 10, 2012

Protect the Vulnerable

Re “After Aurora” (Editorial, 8/13): The editors’ support for gun control ignores the practical benefits of private gun ownership. Research by Dr. John R. Lott Jr. (More Guns, Less Crime, 1998) shows that states that allow citizens to carry concealed weapons have substantially lower crime rates.

Also, guns can allow the most vulnerable members of society, like store owners in crime-ridden neighborhoods, taxicab drivers in large cities, victims of domestic violence, the elderly, the disabled, racial minorities and gays, to defend themselves successfully against criminals.

The overwhelming majority of the National Rifle Association’s millions of members use their firearms legally, morally, responsibly and with common sense. In my view, the purpose of gun control is not to save lives or reduce crime but to keep citizens vulnerable, in a perpetual state of victimhood and exclusively dependent upon government for protection.

Dimitri Cavalli

Bronx, N.Y.

Transforming Politics

Re “In This Together,” by Bishop Richard E. Pates (8/13): The central problem is that the bishops seem to accept the issues as framed by the politicians. In doing so they willingly participate in wedge politics, which panders to the extremes of both political ideologies, dividing Americans and Catholics in the process.

The health care reform legislation is a perfect example. The bishops rightly opposed the provision to allow public funding for abortion and pressed Catholics to oppose the entire measure on that basis, but they did not press the Republicans to pass health care reform without public funding for abortion. It would have only taken a few pro-life, pro-health reform Republican lawmakers to transform the legislation into something that fully reflected Catholic priorities.

It is not just the responsibility of individual Catholics to press for change within both major parties. The bishops have a responsibility to work to transform the political process so that Catholics do not have to compromise any of their principles merely to exercise their right to vote.

Frank Riely

Floyds Knobs, Ind.

Empowered Laity

Thank you for printing “Change the Church?” by David O’Brien (8/13). As a founding member of Voice of the Faithful, I believe it is time for the institutional church to recognize the importance of lay movements that to this day continue to be vilified by some bishops around the country.

We plead for more transparency and accountability in financial dealings, more lay involvement in the running of parishes and dioceses and more local participation in the selection of bishops. As our 10th anniversary convention nears (Sept. 14-15 in Boston), we continue to ask for a place at the table, so that the new church, now enlivened by the beautiful precepts of Second Vatican Council, can finally become a reality.

Edward J. Thompson Sr.

Farmingdale, N.Y.

Acceptable Lobbying

In reading Nicholas P. Cafardi’s article about restrictions on the political and lobbying activities of churches (“Politics and the Pulpit,” 7/30), I am struck by the certitude of his analysis.

Professor Cafardi may have jumped too quickly to the conclusion that Bishop Daniel Jenky’s homily violated the prohibition on electioneering by tax-exempt entities. As far as I know, Bishop Jenky focused his comments on the objectionable policies of President Obama in making the odious and, in my opinion, unwarranted comparisons to those of Stalin and Hitler. He never advised anyone on how they should vote in the fall election, scheduled to take place six months later. Timing is a factor in determining whether such an intervention violates the political restrictions.

Mr. Cafardi also questioned whether Archbishop J. Peter Sartain violated lobbying restrictions on tax-exempt organizations because he gathered signatures through parishes in opposition to a state law legalizing same-sex marriage. Cafardi states that churches should not spend one dollar of tax-exempt money to oppose the legally recognized civil rights of others. I view this as an argument stemming from his political views rather than his legal expertise.

Frank Monahan

Retired Director

Office of Government Liaison

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Washington, D.C.

Leadership and Love

Thanks, Sister Nancy Sylvester, I.H.M. (“Into the Future,” Web only 7/16), for using your great gifts of courage to “comfort the afflicted.” Because of women like you, I have been transformed by my ministry of 44 years in Tanzania as a Maryknoll sister of more than 50 years. I remember well when we spent weeks debating the height of our habit hems from the floor instead of contemplating the pollution growing in our horizons. It is ironic that this is the very same church that mandated we open our windows and see the horizons.

An invitation was given and you, symbolic of so many women religious, responded with the fullness of your being through leadership and love.

Jean Pruitt, M.M.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Forgiveness and Healing

Patrick Fleming’s insightful article (“Listening to Jerry,” Web only 7/16) speaks to both sides of the issue of sexual abuse—the abused and the abuser. Both have tragic stories that need telling. Forgiveness is vital to healing, and we need to see and understand the story of the person who perpetrates these crimes. It’s what Richard Rohr, O.F.M., means when he teaches that if we don’t transform our own pain, all we are left to do is transmit it to others.

There is little doubt in my mind that Jerry Sandusky was abused as a child. He experienced and learned that behavior from someone. When I was able to forgive my abuser after years of emotional pain and struggle, I could finally see him not as a monster but as a broken human being who needed help but could never seek it for himself.

Vicki Schmidt

Springfield, Ill.

Free the Prisoner

Kerry Weber’s article, “Theology Behind Bars” (7/2), could have easily been written about the Neal Unit in Amarillo, Tex., except we don’t have a Catholic theology program or a Father Williams wondering why not. But we do have a humble deacon who is spread thin between us and other surrounding prisons. We also have several Catholic inmates wondering, where is the wealth of Catholic resources surrounding the Neal Unit.

In Amarillo it is difficult to get local Catholic parishioners to see us period, let alone volunteer and start a program. Many of us Catholics who meet for Mass have entered a new land—a spiritual land—unlike the Egypt of our past. This new land has hills and valleys, even deserts, but this land is cared for by the Lord, our God. So we wait, hoping and praying, believing that he will give our land the seasonal rain, the early rain and the late rain, that we may have our fill.

Ricardo Cisneros

Amarillo, Tex.

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