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Signs of life
In the last paragraph of his letter (Forum, Sept. 17), Cliff Wiesner tells us that there seems to be some confusion in the minds of our politicians about the beginning and presence of life: when one enters a dark room, therefore and switches on the light, the light is a result of energy entering the bulb and heating the elements it contains. When one switches off the light, the light ceases to be emitted from the bulb because the energy is no longer present in the bulb. The bulb however, is present, but the bulb is dead, because it no longer emits light. One knows the power is present by observing its effects.
During the scientific process of invitro fertilization, the reproductive scientist needs to assure himself that life is present in conjunction with the human organism. This is done by observing the effects that life produces. By shining a bright light on the human organism in the dish, the contraction produced is a sign of life, because the organism is responding to stimuli. When the organism is placed in the human reproductive tract, it will remove itself to the precise spot it needs to be to absorb nutrients and give off waste materials. These are two signs that life is present in the human organism.
Frederic A. Arend
War on religion
Last January the administration declared war on religion, stating that Catholic institutions had to provide funding for abortions as well as other contraceptive activities. I was heartened when the bishops came out with letters to our congregations stating that this was against our values and it was unacceptable.
The number of abortions in the United States has increased to 1.2 million a year with a total of 54,559,615 reported abortions since 1973. This number will dramatically increase under Obamacare.
We regard a fetus as a living person with a soul. Hitler will be forever condemned because he killed 6 million Jews. The Germans who turned a blind eye to this share the guilt. If the Church stood up and told its parishioners they had a moral obligation to vote for right to life candidates we could put an end to this mass murder.
President Obama came out with his announcement in January because he calculated the Church would let it drop and it would be a non-issue by the election. He appears to be right. During the Democratic convention Sister Simone Campbell gave an impassioned speech in support of the administration and its policies. She is on record as undecided if abortion should be legal. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who gave the closing prayer, did not denounce these policies but rather asked people to pray for the sanctity of life.
It is clear there isn't any line in the sand over Catholic funding of abortions. What do we stand for?
The California bishops' conference has endorsed two of the propositions on the ballot this November: Proposition 35, which will increase sentencing for those convicted of human trafficking, and Proposition 34 which will end the death penalty. I think most Catholics will agree these two propositions deserve our vote.
Catholics should also consider voting for another proposition that serves to affirm Catholic values: Proposition 32. This proposition prevents the use of payroll deducted funds for political purposes without employee consent. It also prohibits unions and corporations from directly contributing to candidates.
What does this have to do with Catholic values? Today California employers and unions are permitted to take hard earned money out of Catholic employee paychecks and use that money to contribute to politicians who directly oppose Catholic values. Proposition 32 will stop this undemocratic violation of individual conscience. No employee should have money taken out of his or her paycheck to support political candidates the employee finds morally objectionable.
Some opponents of this proposition claim it will harm unions' ability to organize. This claim is simply not true. Proposition 32 specifically allows unions to continue to collect dues through payroll deduction for union administrative and organizing expenses. Proposition 32 would align California with federal law, which has long blocked direct corporate or union contributions to candidates.
A yes vote on Proposition 32 will allow Catholic workers to honor their own conscience when making political contributions. Proposition 32 does not solve all the problems with union and corporate money meddling in politics, but it is a very good start.
Regarding the photo of the Lumen Christi Winners (Voice, Oct. 1), the three nuns look quite happy to be recognized for their good work, and rightly so. But please, do not publish a photo that was posed on railroad tracks.
This is a very unsafe thing to do. It trivializes the safety hazards and encourages other people to ignore the hazards associated with railroad tracks. Today's trains can move very fast and very quietly, and always move faster than the unpracticed observer may think. If a train appeared in the background (and it could be traveling at almost 80 mph), I seriously doubt if the nuns and photographer could have gotten out of the way fast enough. Aside from the safety issues, this is private railroad property and the good nuns are trespassing.
Please set a better, safer, example. Refer to the Operation Lifesaver website www.caol.us.
Bad Voice II
William Cox falsely claims that new federal health care requirements "would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions." (Voice, Sept. 17.) He's as wrong as wrong can be. The Affordable Care Act prohibits use of the new federal tax subsidies created by the law to pay for abortions, except where they can otherwise be covered by federal funds (only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother). The ACA also protects the conscience rights of health care providers to refuse to perform abortions, and it prohibits discrimination against such providers (Section 1303). Even the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, which opposed the legislation, does not claim that the ACA would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
In response, Kara Speltz wrote a letter for making an untruthful assertion by running the article ("Bad Voice," Voice, Oct. 1). The editor responded that The Voice made no such assertion; it accurately reported Cox's talk. So that settles that. Or does it? Are the editors of the Voice responsible for the accuracy of the paper's news stories?
The Catholic Press Association's Fair Practices Code answers yes. The code affirms the prime directive for Catholic journalism: "Truth must be the cornerstone of all our work … So telling the truth must be our first priority …" The code continues, "Any breach of this prime directive hurts ourselves and other people, sullies reputations and damages the credibility of our publishing institution and the Church." A Catholic newspaper cannot disclaim responsibility for false statements. The code asserts that editorials, analytical articles and commentaries must be held to the same standards of accuracy with respect to facts as news reports.
Articles in Catholic newspapers must not only be truthful, but fair. The code explains, "No story is fair if it consciously or unconsciously misleads or even deceives the reader." The article about Cox misled its readers. The editors of the Voice must meet their responsibility as Catholics and journalists to truth and fairness. Fortunately, the code provides the required response: Correct promptly and prominently significant errors of fact.
Casa Vincentia closing
It is with a note of sadness that we learn that Casa Vincentia in Oakland is closing its doors on Oct. 24 and is not relocating. We are thankful and grateful for Barbara Jackson's 18 years of unselfish dedication to those young women who chose to deliver their babies alive.
Aid for the poor
Two writers' notions of government aid for the poor exemplify the confusion so endemic to the liberal mind-set. Justine Hume (Forum, Sept. 4) applauds the bishops for disapproving a budget. Are these the same bishops who so loudly (and rightly) complain about government violating religious liberties in Catholic health-care policies?
The irony is rich. Why are the bishops pushing their responsibility (and all of ours) for caring for the poor and sick on the government, when this is a role reserved by Christ for the Church? It was James Madison (for you government school graduates, he was a Founding Father) who wisely instructed that charity is not the business of government.
The bishops cannot have it both ways, demanding the government to stay out of health care but then also demanding government increase its already unconstitutional foray into the field of welfare and subsidies.
Lois McWhorter (Forum, Sept. 17) wonders who would object to our food stamp program. Not many would argue that charity is not a good thing; in fact, because it is good, it should not be left to government.
Charity involves voluntary giving of money or time. If said money is compelled through taxes, it is not charity but theft. Thus, no one is denying food to the hungry or health care to the sick, as she claims. The Church has been in the caring business for 2,000 years.
Liberals love to look pious by clamoring for more government health care, food, etc., yet on average they give less of their own money to charities than conservatives. If they truly cared, they'd go to the local skid row and peel some homeless person off the street and take him home for a shower and a meal. Since that's too messy for them, they instead advocate for a bloated bureaucracy to attempt the same, with all its attendant waste and inefficiency.
Sadducees vs. Pharisees
Letters in the last two issues of the Voice evince some people's alarm and despair at the choices to be made in the upcoming elections. People see good and bad on both sides. Careful analysis is needed to simplify (I did not write "to ease") the decisions. We must ask ourselves certain primordial questions.
First, what is the purpose of government? We do not here seek a list of functions of government, nor yet decide government's main task today; nor again judge the purpose of creation, the Universe, life, intelligence, humanity or civilization. As far as I know, there is no answer to this question in the Bible (all of which I have read several times) or in the Patrology (of which I have read very little), but everyone who has gone through high school in the U.S. has been taught an answer which is probably good enough for a first pass.
Secondly, what are the governments with which we are concerned (starting with the United Nations and working down to, in my case, the city of Oakland) doing contrary to this purpose? Once more we must be careful to get the question right: we do not here ask how the governments are failing in the purpose, nor with which of their policies we disagree, nor yet which of their policies are bound to have bad results.
This isn't dramatic work; nor is it work that provides a quick emotional release. Rather, it requires discipline, commitment, responsibility. When we have done it, engaging the conscious mind rather than relying on subconscious and visceral functions, we will probably find that there is less to worry about than we thought (my own reasoning along these lines leads to the conclusion that on the second- and third-most important issues the two main presidential candidates are equivalent): a lot of our choices will become straightforward, as we vote on the important issues rather than on those which most interest us.
It would be delightful to have to choose among candidates whose policies were based on varying theories of how government could best fulfill its purpose, but in most of the elections before us (we must consider each separately) that is not where we are.
John A. Wills
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