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Prisoners’ Rights

Re “Peace and Toilet Paper” (Editorial, 3/23): When we incarcerate people, we deprive them not only of their freedom, but of rights that you and I take for granted. Many well-meaning citizens have told me that when someone commits a crime, they give up all their rights: the right to safety, health and even life. This is not true. The incarcerated do give up their right to freedom, but all their other rights now become the duty of the state to provide. Yet in most jails and prisons, health and dental care are usually provided by the lowest bidder.

“Peace and Toilet Paper” is lacking in hard data—only anecdotal information is used. This is largely because the data that would allow a citizen to tabulate how many inmates die in prison due to abuse or neglect is not collected. We really have no idea how bad it is.


As a tax-paying citizen, I find it unconscionable to contract out safety, health and dental services. We should take full responsibility to provide these services for the incarcerated. If we cannot afford it, then we should not be locking up so many people.

(Deacon) Chris Schwartz
Beltsville, Md.
Deacon Schwartz is the coordinator for ministry to the incarcerated for the Archdiocese of Washington.

Conversation Stopper

Re “‘No White Man Is Innocent,’” by Nathan Schneider (3/23): My problem with the use of the label “white privilege” isn’t that I think that there is no deep, systemic racism (there is); rather, it’s that the concept is thrown around far too easily in conversation, often in a way that cuts short serious debate. It’s become a kind of “gotcha” device to thwart someone who is engaging in honest dialogue. This creates resentment and serves no real purpose. I’ve long thought that search for ego-renewal animates many of my fellow progressives, who spend too little time creating bridges and developing cross-racial strategies for change. Whites and blacks should be unafraid to weigh in on issues of racial justice.

Vince Killoran
Online Comment

We Must Weep

It seems there is incredibly strong resistance by many of us Caucasians to admit the existence of a collective guilt arising from the more than 300 years of slavery and racial discrimination against African-Americans in the United States.This is undoubtedly what is called a social sin that cannot be forgiven unless a real conversion happens. As William Stringfellow said, weeping because of the pain inflicted and the pain of guilt felt may be just the beginning of our social redemption. If the comments on this article represent the sentiments of our white Catholic population, we are still far from realizing the magnitude of our collective sin and thus far from redemption.

Roberto Blum
Online Comment

Children at Risk

Jailing Families” (Editorial, 3/2) speaks to the failure of our immigration system to understand the perilous situations that drive children and families to risk their lives seeking refuge in our land of freedom and opportunity. Hoping to escape poverty, violence and war, many wind up in our detention centers.

These children are precious to God. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” What is God revealing about the value and dignity of children? When God enfleshed himself in human nature as the infant Jesus, he became totally dependent on Mary and Joseph as well as on the religious and civic cultures of the day. I suggest that we look at our own culture to assess how it nurtures children. Children are nurtured primarily by loving adults, who provide security, stability, sustenance and hope. Culturally we support this trust through decisions and investments that affect families and children. Do we invest in all schools to provide equal opportunities for every child? Do parents receive the support they need?

In the Philippines a young girl in her devastating suffering tearfully asked Pope Francis, “Why did God let this happen to us?” The pope could answer only with his own bewilderment at this question while he embraced the tearful child. “Certain realities in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears,” the pope said. Conscientious citizens may ask their legislators, “Why do the children of the world suffer?”

Loretta Sullivan, O.P.
Columbus, Ohio

Parental Choice

Re “Vaccine Wars,” by Michael Rozier, S.J. (3/9): The topic of vaccines is not a black or white issue. Most parents who seek an alternate schedule, “clean vaccines” or single-dose vaccines are seen as troublemakers rather than parents who are aware of vaccine injuries and want to diminish any potential injury for their child.

Why no mention of the legitimate links between vaccines and injury? I was a “go-along” mom with my first child, who received mercury vaccines without full disclosure to me prior to vaccination and then, after two days of round-the-clock diarrhea and vomiting, the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, “since we were in the office.” What did I know? My son has severe allergies, eczema and, yes, autism. Proven link? No. But do you think I was going to give my younger son the same triple-dose vaccine?

Parents have every right to know about the Big Pharma business that is the vaccine program. Can you imagine what the positive impact would be on our children’s cognitive, physical and emotional health if doctor’s prescribed probiotics, healthful food and provided reliable and consistent support for breastfeeding?

Jacqueline O’Brien
Online Comment

Greater Good

As a 63-year-old grandmother with an autoimmune disease of 30-plus years, I have to take a medication to suppress my immune system. As a result, my disease is in remission; the side effects, however, are horrific. I am extremely susceptible to life-threatening infections, including pneumonia and tuberculosis. I must arrange my life around potential exposure from my beloved children and grandchildren, in addition to a constant anxiety that I will be exposed, even at Mass.

So to all who refuse to vaccinate, I am here to say you are putting lives at risk with your misguided intentions of protecting your children. I believe the government should require certain vaccinations as mandatory for the greater good of our society as a whole, especially the most vulnerable among us: the very young who cannot be vaccinated until a certain age, the elderly and any others who, like me, are at risk.

Sarah Weigert
Online Comment

Beneath the Beauty

The old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is surely evident in how Matt Malone, S.J., views the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Of Many Things, 2/9) compared with how this reader views it. 

Father Malone sees ageless beauty that has stood “among the rubble of man’s broken dreams...since 400 A.D.” I see a symbol of the church’s blatant disregard for the broken dreams of the victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. When Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston resigned in disgrace after the revelations of rampant sexual abuse and his role in the subsequent hierarchical cover-up, the cardinal was relocated to Rome, where he was awarded the parish of Santa Maria Maggiore. Outer beauty often hides the rot beneath.

Anne Kerrigan
West Islip, N.Y.

Status Update

In the blog post “A Christian Response to Alzheimer’s” (In All Things, 3/18), Sidney Callahan describes the suffering and challenges experienced by those with the degenerative disease and their caretakers and asks what spiritual preparation they might seek. Readers respond.

Even through the painful process of dementia, people are loveable and need to be treated with dignity. I suggest that anyone with this diagnosis work with family and friends to make a “memory book.” Using the skills of surface reading and looking at pictures, which are usually preserved well into the progression of Alzheimer’s, memories can be triggered, attention can be focused on something pleasant and meaningful, production of meaningful language can be stimulated, and caregivers can be reminded of the dignified life of a patient who is severely disabled by memory loss.

Laura O’Keeffe

I recommend taking St. Albert the Great as a patron (both persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and family and friends). He will surely care. Albert, doctor of the Church, teacher of St. Thomas and the man who “had read and knew everything,” died with Alzheimer’s or some other illness that caused all his memory to disappear.

Ben Embley

My father died from Alzheimer’s. He was a brilliant chemical engineer. It was a painful “long goodbye,” as Patty Davis called it in her book about President Reagan. The miracle of it was that in the end, after he had forgotten everything, he could still say the Lord’s Prayer with me and tell me he loved me. He taught me that our true essence is love, and that will never go away. Love is who we really are, and love never dies.

Cynthia Andersen Ford

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3 years 8 months ago
Ms. Kerrigan's comment is somewhat outdated. Cardinal Law hasn't been the titular archpriest of St. Mary Major since 2011. He remains archpriest at Santa Susanna, the American parish in Rome. Unfortunately the nuns there have locked the Paulists out for the past two years and the parish is now scattered around a number of churches in the area. The matter is now with a Curia department since neither Law nor the Paulists, despite the legal documents from the 1920s, have been able to get the church operating as a parish church again. I think it could be worth a little story in America.


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