Re “Defend the Hyde Amendment” (Editorial, 8/15): There is no such thing as a pro-life Democratic Party position. It was excluded from the party in 1992 when they refused to let Pennsylvania’s Gov. Bob Casey Sr. (a defendant in that year’s Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey) speak at the Democratic National Convention. He wanted to give a pro-life speech. The party has degenerated further since then, as pro-life Democrats have slowly departed (from the party or this life). Today, no Democratic politician can aspire to the higher offices unless they get on the abortion train.
The editors write, “But incoherent as it is, being ‘personally opposed’ at least maintains some minimal contact with the difficult moral reality of abortion.” I think the personally-opposed excuse is hypocritical. The goal of that argument, ever since Gov. Mario Cuomo made it at the University of Notre Dame, is to fool pro-life voters into thinking one can be pro-life and Democratic, or principally against and practically for abortion.
Another hypocritical position is to say one can’t be pro-life if one doesn't agree to more government spending. The implication is that the unborn child doesn’t deserve birth if the government won't pay a ransom to the mother. Try this out with the slavery argument: Do slaves not deserve freedom if there is no government money to support them when they are free?
Half the Story
The Hyde Amendment is only half of what is needed. All the Hyde Amendment does is prevent federal funding of abortion. It does not protect life, because children, born and unborn, may still die because of lack of medical care, lack of nutrition, lack of so much that is needed for a healthy life.
Until the nation provides full protection for life, the claim of pro-life belongs only to those who are fighting to change the anti-life laws and culture that says once the child is born it is no longer our responsibility. Catholic social teaching provides for a full pro-life policy. That is what we need to promote.
In “Out of the Shadows,” by Kevin Clarke (8/15), we once again find a long and concerned article about “people with disabilities,” in which autism, childhood disorders, wheelchair accessibility, deafness and even multilingualism are carefully dissected. Nowhere is there mention of the needs of blind parishioners. “Resources for the Parish” listed at the end of the article omits the Xavier Society for the Blind, which since 1900 has provided religious and spiritual material for the blind and visually impaired at no charge. We provide the monthly liturgical texts in Braille for the many blind lectors as well as blind parishioners who simply want to be part of the parish. We also have a training handbook for blind lectors in Braille. We transcribe catechisms for children and for adults in the catechumenate, so blind people can have the same access as sighted.
The biggest problem for blind lectors is not access to the church building but the pastors who refuse even to give them a chance to read. I suspect the comment at the beginning of the article is particularly relevant to blind Catholics: They don’t come because they have gone to another church where they have been made to feel welcome.
I am delighted that the church is—maybe—making a more serious effort to be truly inclusive. I am, however, as depressed as I was nine years ago when I went to a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York for people with disabilities. I found a ramp for the wheelchair reader; I found a translator on the altar for the deaf members, and there was even a deaf choir who signed a hymn after Communion. Not a piece of Braille in the place, and there were a number of people with white canes or seeing-eye dogs. When I commented on that, the organizers were duly embarrassed; no one had thought of it.
Re “What Are You Signing Up For?” by Richard Becker (8/1): I was particularly affected by Mr. Becker’s concerns as a father of a young man registering with the Selective Service. As a Vietnam-era Army veteran, the son of a combat-disabled graduate of West Point, the brother of two West Pointers and the father of an Army veteran, I understand more than most the anguish of being a son, brother and parent of children registering for the Selective Service. I shudder thinking we may begin registering our daughters.
Signing up for the Selective Service is an honorable civil commitment to be available in response to the world’s many threats if necessary. We, as freedom-loving Americans, need to take prudent and reasonable measures necessary to defend ourselves, our friends and the innocents of this world. Registering with the Selective Service reinforces our ability to undertake the needed measures to protect those needing our assistance.
Re “Olympic Crackdown” (Current Comment, 8/1): While I know that the International Olympic Committee has specific standards by which this major athletic event is controlled, perhaps it is time to consider including a values piece in the criteria. For example, how impossible would it be to deny a nation the option of holding the Olympic Games if helpless people need to be displaced in order to do so? The Games advertise that they bring the world together and that they promote peace, but separating people from their homes, however humble, is divisive. A more multidimensional scale of standards for allowing a country to host the games would seem to be in order.
In “Two Communities, One Conversation” (7/18), Judith Valente writes that Pope Francis, speaking about the Orlando shootings, suggested that the Catholic Church should seek forgiveness from the L.G.B.T. community, which has been marginalized. As a point of clarification, I believe the pope was speaking of individual Catholics who have mistreated or misspoken about members of the L.G.B.T. community. To say the Catholic Church seeks forgiveness suggests that the church’s doctrine on homosexuality has changed. Such is not the case. It has also not changed with respect to premarital sex, for that matter.
Timothy P. O’Malley has done a service to mutual understanding in “Longing for Communion” (7/18). I must, however, note three issues that call for clarification.
Cardinal Robert Sarah is quoted as saying that “priestly orders are null and void after a church is separated from Rome.” Catholic teaching and practice recognizes the full validity of the orders of many churches not in communion with the Holy See. We fully recognize the orders of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Polish National Catholics and others.
Pope Francis was not the first to note that married couples from separated churches or communities already share two sacraments, baptism and marriage. His response to the Lutheran woman in Rome is in accord with paragraph 160 of the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism published by the Holy See in 1993. This document notes that interchurch couples already share two sacraments. Thus the Roman document, while stating that such spouses sharing Communion can only be exceptional, does state that it is a possibility.
Finally, I fear that Dr. O’Malley leaves the impression that it is never possible for members of other churches to receive Communion in a Catholic Church. The document mentioned above, in paragraph 131, does allow for a Catholic minister to share Communion (and penance and anointing of the sick) with one who is at the time unable to receive from his or her own church, asks at his or her own initiative, manifests Catholic faith in the sacrament and is properly disposed. In his beautiful statement on ecumenism, “Ut Unum Sint,” St. John Paul II noted that it is a wonderful thing that at such moments of need the Catholic Church can share Communion with fellow Christians.
The Reductive Feminist
Re “Feminism Has Not Lost Its Soul,” by Helen Alvaré (7/4): The problem with both the Catholic Church and feminism is that they tend to define women solely in terms of sexuality and reproductive ability. Both are trying to control the power of sexuality and reproduction—when sexuality and reproduction are private matters.
As for defining women’s work solely as working for the poor and marginalized, it is noble work but not the only work that women can or should be doing. The poor and marginalized need truth and beauty—sometimes more than they need more clothes and food. Within the church, speaking the truth is sadly neglected work that women need to be doing. Jesus talked to women about the kingdom of heaven, not about their wombs or sexuality. The church and the women in it need to be following his example.