Needs of Parishioners

While I agree with much of the assessment by the Rev. Frank D. Almade in Response to A Blueprint for Change’ (1/30), I believe that priests today do want to be leaders of the parish community. However, the lights, leaks, locks, loot and lawns can take an inordinate amount of time. This is especially true in a parish where there is only one priest, no business manager and no maintenance person (even part time). The demands of parish life, liturgical events and diocesan reports remain at the same intensity as they were some years ago when there were perhaps two or three men assigned to the parish. Pastors today, even though they have a support staff and a large number of volunteers, are still solely and ultimately responsible for the functioning of the parish. In this situation, they must set priorities; certainly, the liturgical life of the parish and the needs of parishioners must take first place. Otherwise, what’s it all about?

Noreen Cleary, S.C.
Blue Point, N.Y.


Moral Considerations

Torturous Thoughts by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., (1/30) on moral considerations regarding torture carried out for the public good leads me to ponder related questions. Surely technology and/or pharmaceutical science will (if they have not done so already) provide the means for reliably extracting from a recalcitrant individual information the person believes to be true. The process may well be painless, peaceful, physically and psychologically harmless; the subject may either not know or not remember what has transpired. Clearly violative of our constitutional right against self-incrimination, what are the ethical implications? Who merits protection against such invasion of privacy, and what conditions might render such a process acceptable? Our responses to this scenario might help sharpen our thinking about the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading modes of torture to achieve the same goals.

Similarly, is it really O.K. to obtain information through verbal interrogation techniques of trickery, lying or psychologically manipulative questioningsimply being smarter or sneakier than the uncooperative suspect? Where does one draw the line? A more generic ethical evaluation of any involuntary extraction of information from a person seems to be a useful prerequisite for the more specific discussion of torture.

Robert V. Levine
Collegeville, Pa.


The revelations from two separate reports this week of the use of torture by the United States are a scar on the face of our nation. Torture fuels vitriolic hatred of the United States in the Arab world and generates more rage and terrorism against us.

The United Nations report released on Feb. 17 called on the U.S. government to close down the Guantánamo Bay detention center and to refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Currently, there are about 500 prisoners at the U.S. naval base, but only 10 have been charged since the detention camp opened in January 2001.

The report based on photographic evidence and the testimonies of former prisoners showed detainees were shackled, chained, hooded and forced to wear earphones and goggles. They were beaten if they resisted. The report said, Such treatment amounts to torture.

But the wordy U.N. report pales when compared with the recently released sadistic and revolting video images of past prisoner torture at Abu Ghraib. Such deeds can be equated with Saddam’s torture squads.

We have also learned that the C.I.A. engaged in an indefensible practice, known as extraordinary rendition, delivering suspects to jailers at various secret sites in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistancountries with abysmal human rights records.

The International Red Cross told the Bush administration that torture was being used by the U.S. military on prisoners at Guantánamo. The U.S. government knew this when it tried to trivialize the Abu Ghraib revelations as the actions of a few. The use of torture was systemic, not accidental.

The tenets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam hold that all human beings are created in the image of God. Torture desecrates and defiles that image. In every shriek of those in unbearable pain, in every crazed nightmare of those who are denied sleep for days and weeks at a time, in every muffled moan of those plunged under water for minutes at a time, trying not to breathe lest they drown, God is broken. God is defiled. God is tormented. In each act of torture our common humanity is defiled, and our nation is despised by many in our global community. These deeds poison human society. Furthermore, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator.

We should not exempt ourselves from blame if we have not lifted our voices in protest. These deeds combined with the other evils perpetrated render the prayer God bless America blasphemous.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel, the Jewish philosopher and theologian, reminds us: In regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.

(Rev.) Rich Broderick
Cambridge, N.Y.

Signs of Hope

Vincent Gragnani’s article, Getting Catholic Schools Off the Dole (2/13), delineated several models to fund urban Catholic schools to replace the traditional parish schools. These models included the following: aggressive development and endowment plans, dynamic leadership, corporate and foundation funding, school advisory councils and a diocesan consortium for business so principals may concentrate on educational concerns.

But the author never mentioned two critical signs of hope and promise for Catholic schools that have emerged over the previous few years. First, the Bush administration has funded faith-based education with its vibrant support of Catholic schools in the areas of professional staff development and special education students. Second, the Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee models giving vouchers to parents of inner-city children wishing to attend Catholic schools has placed on the table the choice model.

If economic freedom of religion is to prevail in this country, we must abandon the immigrant parish paradigm of self-sufficiency and clergy control over Catholic schools and negotiate some concessions for government funding. Most countries of the world have adopted a choice system of funding. The Netherlands, for example, allows public funding for Muslim, Hebrew, Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant and government schools.

In the United States for 2005 there was a net loss in savings for Americans of .05 percent, the first decline since 1932 and 1933. Catholics can no longer afford to maintain a separatist educational system that costs $4,000 per student for elementary school and double that number for secondary school. The nuns and religious do not exist to provide a free Catholic education, and the two-salary moms and dads cannot eke out another salary to fund their children’s education.

The purpose of Catholic schools is to convey the good news of Jesus Christ to students and parents, while striving for academic excellence within a safe environment. Let’s bring back the children and parents of all income levels into the Catholic schools by expanding government funding over time and allow the taxes paid by Catholics to follow their children into the schools of their choice. The time is ripe to launch authentic school diversity with government funding.

Frank Heelan
Edison, N.J.

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