The Gun Control Lobby
Re “Inexcusable Inaction” (Editorial, 12/9): I am deeply touched by the clarity and passion with which the editors have pursued the idiocy of our current gun law impasse. In sympathy with this cause, I have a plan to achieve victory.
Right now legislators are reluctant to act because they fear the N.R.A.’s opposition will mean political suicide. But what if legislators in either party were faced with certain removal from office if they did not support sensible gun restrictions? If an overwhelming majority of Americans are disgusted with the current paralysis of legislators to enact sensible, serious gun legislation, then we already have the ferment to achieve our goal. We just need to mobilize and direct the palpable anger in a politically effective way.
We should create an online petition asking people to add their names to the following mandate: “I vow to vote against Representative X or Senator X if they do not vote in favor of [a particular bill] promoting sensible gun restrictions.” Legislators will no longer fear the N.R.A.; instead they will need to respond to their constituents. And this plan requires less effort than mobilization to repeal the Second Amendment.
Stop the Shooters
“Inexcusable Inaction” is dead wrong. Dead, as in Newtown dead, Aurora dead, Fort Hood dead, the Navy Yard dead, etc., etc. None of these tragedies would have happened if some of the workers in those shooting galleries had their own handguns with them. The demented and cowardly murderers killed dozens of people without a single shot fired in self-defense.
If potential shooters knew in advance that their targets would shoot back, knew that many people carry a concealed weapon, knew that loaded guns are everywhere, saw signs announcing that fact in plain view at all the entrances, there would be far fewer horrific, and avoidable, massacres.
Two years ago an intruder invaded a house close by and killed two brothers who he believed owned a coin collection. He could have kicked in the wrong door and killed me and my daughter. When that foot crashes through the door, it is too late to call 911. Now I have a Class A license to carry concealed and a loaded handgun in my home.
Until you change your simple-minded, Pollyanna, truly asinine position on guns, please delete the word “Catholic” and substitute the word “liberal,” in all caps, in the America masthead. If only I had a subscription to cancel!
Too Little, Too Late
“The Continuing Crisis,” by Jon Fuller, S.J., M.D. (12/2), hints at some of the uncharitable responses AIDS patients and gays met with from many church representatives in the first several years of the AIDS crisis. Yes, there are outstanding examples of great works of mercy by some individuals and a few institutions, like St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York. But there were also many bishops and priests who spread pernicious statements about “divine retribution” and sinful lifestyles. There were many grieving family members who were told to find some other place for their loved one’s funeral.
The church’s positive reaction to the AIDS crisis has been too little, too late. Just how much the church has contributed to the spreading of AIDS, in Africa and Asia, where it mobilized efforts against full public health measures including condom distribution, or in the United States, where it still opposes sex education in public schools, is a sad question.
Other Bright Ideas
It seems like an editorial prank by America to publish “Feminism at Fifty,” by Sidney Callahan (12/2), about Betty Friedan, juxtaposed with the letter by Bishop Peter A. Rosazza (State of the Question) that urges study of a “theology of men.” Ms. Friedan might unloose some choice expletives were she here to react.
The bishop’s letter is not consistent with the activism of the Catholic Interracial Council he seemed to support during the social, sexual and even religious upheavals in the 1960s. Haven’t we been operating on a males-first basis since St. Paul was an upstart? Perhaps Bishop Rosazza ought to re-read Ms. Friedan and listen to Professor Callahan.
I enjoyed reading “Criminal Injustice,” by Margot Patterson (12/2). I know the scales of justice are not balanced for poor people of color. Harsher penalties are not the solution in the war on drugs. It only destroys black families. Blacks come out of prison with few resources: skills, education, jobs, housing and so on. So what happens? People return to prison, perhaps for life, and the next generation is left with the same problems—only now the children share cells with their parent, who may never get out.
I call this modern-day slavery. Prisons are big business, like cotton was. What is better: slavery in the past or today? They are the same.
Thank God for people who understand human suffering all over the world and take up the cause and help the less fortunate. “Those who oppress the poor revile their maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him” (Prov 14:31).
In “Beware: Non-Celibates Writing about Celibacy” (In All Things, 12/2), James Martin, S.J., makes many good points and offers a good response to overstated claims made in “Sex and the Single Priest,” by Bill Keller, in The New York Times (12/1). But I must push back on Father Martin’s line of argumentation. Sure, sexual abuse happens in families and schools and football programs. But we need to compare apples to apples.
There is a lot of abuse in public schools, but we have to look at how many hours children spend in public schools and compare that with the hours spent in church activities. The same applies to families. Of course there is way more abuse in families, but how much more, and is it proportionate? What we really need—I’m not aware of such data—is a comparison of the rates of child abuse by married Protestant and Orthodox clergy with the rates among celibate Catholic clergy.
I have no doubt that celibacy is a healthy, happy way to live. But has the child abuse rate been higher among Catholic clergy because of celibacy? Let’s get the data and find out.
Father Martin cites a survey that indicates 95 percent (of priests) “would definitely or probably choose priesthood again.” I believe it. Priesthood can be a fascinating profession, and working with people can be very fulfilling. But how many of that 95 percent would like to be both priests and husbands? I suspect very many.
In a special podcast, “A Legacy of Peace,” Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, speaks about the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. In the interview, Bishop Gumbleton suggests that a truth and reconciliation commission, like the one championed by Mandela in South Africa, could be a source of healing and reconciliation as the church seeks to address the ongoing sexual abuse crisis. Readers respond:
Yes. Yes. Yes. Amen! Bishop Gumbleton says: “The bishops at the beginning turned to their lawyers, so the survivors also went to lawyers, so the whole process became an adversarial process. What the victims are looking for—they’re willing to forgive but if no one is there to receive the forgiveness, then reconciliation is impossible.”
Huge numbers of people are stuck there, waiting with the survivors for the bishops to comprehend what they did and ask forgiveness.
Bishop Gumbleton’s quote reminds me of why the cutting-edge and compassionate sector of the legal profession is promoting “restorative justice.” The focus is not on lawyering up and smacking people down; it’s on listening to and healing for the victims, recognition of the true wrongs that occurred (especially by the wrongdoers) and, I hope, preventing further problems by putting a human face on the injury. Humanity comes first, not litigation strategy. This is how it should have been for dispute resolution across the board.
I’m a real admirer of Bishop Gumbleton, but I don’t share his optimism here. Even if the wrongdoers were prepared to be fully honest, would truth and reconciliation commissions harm the victim more than they would help him/her? When someone has been very seriously harmed, is it fair to stress the obligation to forgive, or do we run the risk of making victims who are at different stages of painful healing processes feel inappropriate guilt because of an inability to forgive the wrongdoer on a timetable that is convenient for the larger community?
Reconciliation goes way beyond forgiveness and seems like an overwhelming burden to place on some victims, who might heal best if they are able to separate as much as possible from the perpetrator and those who engaged in a cover-up.
I realize that Bishop Gumbleton is himself a survivor of sexual abuse and that something along the lines of truth/reconciliation might be quite helpful for some victims in some circumstances, but any such processes would need to be implemented with special care not to harm those who don’t want to, shouldn’t or are not ready to participate.