Gay marriage, FOCA, Israel & Gaza

WHO SUPPORTED PROP 8 & WHY?

Robert K. Vischer may have exercised a bit of bad faith himself in the way he framed his argument in the article “Bad Faith” (January 16). He makes it sound as if a large group of people who played a major role in funding the campaign supporting Proposition 8 just happened to be Mormon. Likewise, he seems to suggest that any criticism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the issue is part of the historical persecution of Mormons. Vischer ignores the organized efforts of the LDS in Salt Lake City, which provided large in-kind donations, organizational support, phone banks, and transportation.

The LDS overtly—and possibly illegally—sought to influence the political process in another state and thereby to deprive citizens of basic human rights.

DENNIS NOVAK
Fort Worth, Tex.


THE AUTHOR REPLIES:

I did not suggest that Mormons’ support of Proposition 8 was simply a matter of happenstance. I assume that their support was shaped significantly by their faith community. But Mormon voters are not just Mormons—they are citizens, neighbors, parents, spouses. And we can engage them through all those identities. The point I was trying to make is that, in the interest of productive and inclusive political discourse, it is better to win over opponents using ideas that do not challenge their political positions on the basis of their religious identities. Let’s protest Prop 8 by appealing to equality, or by talking about the social importance of caregiving relationships grounded in permanent, public commitments, or by highlighting the injustice of excluding gays from the many benefits that accompany marriage.

If the right to marry the person of one’s choosing should be deemed a basic human right for straight and gay alike, let’s focus on persuading fellow citizens—religious or not—of the truth of that proposition. Television commercials depicting proselytizing Mormons barging into a house and ripping up a marriage certificate do not advance the ball.

One additional point: LDS political activity was not illegal. If Dennis Novak is referring to limitations on political activity by tax-exempt organizations, those limitations do not apply here. A tax-exempt organization cannot endorse a political candidate, but it may attempt to influence legislation as long as such attempts do not constitute a substantial part of its activities.

ROBERT K. VISCHER

 

FOCUS ON FOCA

Thank you for publishing Cathleen Kaveny’s article “Bad Law” (January 30), which provides a balanced and informative overview of the Freedom of Choice Act. My parish, in the Diocese of Scranton, has been subjected to four Sundays of FOCA presentations (including instructions during the homily to sign postcards to be sent to various representatives, which were picked up in a separate collection). None of those presentations were informative or nuanced; neither did they accurately present the contents of the bill.

It is bad enough that so many bishops apparently ignore the significant overlap of Catholic social teaching with the Obama administration’s social programs—especially the positive initiatives directed to the poor and marginalized, which are in considerable harmony with the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter Economic Justice for All. I have the sense that some in the hierarchy and in prolife groups could not wait to pick a fight with the Obama administration. I’m only sorry that they did not have Kaveny’s article available to them sooner. Then at least they could have gotten straight the facts about FOCA.

THOMAS A. SHANNON
Eagles Mere, Pa.


IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES

Even taking into account the maxim about saying only good things about the dead, is not Commonweal going to find it difficult to reconcile the panegyric on Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, “Movement Man” by Matthew Boudway (January 30), with “Wanted: Manly Men” (February 10, 2006), which was one of the magazine’s most important and well-argued editorials of this decade?

JUSTUS GEORGE LAWLER
St. Charles, Ill.


MATERIAL COOPERATION

Regarding your recent editorial, “Israel in Gaza” (January 30): Washington has been Israel’s closest ally since 1948, when President Harry Truman made the United States the first country to recognize Israel. The United States has unstintingly supported Israel and frequently blocks United Nations resolutions critical of Israel. The United States even abstained from a recent Security Council vote that called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In 1993 Fatah, the group representing the Palestinians, signed the Oslo Accords with Israel. Fatah expected the Oslo Accords to lead to a two-state solution. After the election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, Israel reneged on its part of the deal. Israeli Scholar Avi Shlaim said this left the Palestinians with nothing but misery, and that Israel’s acts of “state-sponsored terror” in Gaza will never bring about peace. The ever-growing Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are fueling intense anger and frustration, which helps explain the success of Hamas in the last election. Most forecasts predict that Benjamin Netanyahu will return to power. He calls for escalation of the war against Hamas, which means continued suffering for Palestinian civilians.

While news reports regularly refer to Iran as the supplier of Hamas weapons—especially rockets being fired into southern Israel, few note that the United States is a more significant supplier of arms and military technology to Israel—everything from F-16 and F-15 combat aircraft to M-1 tanks, attack helicopters, bombs, and ammunition. The United States also supplies cluster bombs, which were used by Israel during its war with Lebanon during summer 2006. Much of the rest of the world has signed agreements banning such weapons. It seems that the United States and Israel have joined hands in a danse macabre in the Gaza violence.

It remains to be seen if the Obama administration will allow George Mitchell, who deftly crafted the Northern Ireland peace plan, to act as an impartial broker and bring all sides, including Hamas, to the table so that they can negotiate a Middle East peace plan.

(REV.) RICH BRODERICK
Cambridge, N.Y.


WHAT KIND OF JESUS?

James Alison’s theology, as described by Christopher Ruddy (“In Defense of Desire,” January 30), seems to stress the Cross as the key to the meaning of Jesus’ life. Alison uses Rene Girard’s ideas on Jesus as the scapegoat in the reversal of violence. In the spirit of letting many theologies bloom, I appreciate that attempt. But such emphasis on the crucifixion tends to distort a fuller understanding of the life of Christ. It seems to downplay the value of the historical Jesus, the Jewish teacher, who actually appears on most pages of the Gospels. That Jesus proposes day-to-day values of forgiveness, healing, and compassion that enhance life on earth. He relates to ethical and spiritual issues in the present. Of course, he is also a God-possessed person, but he doesn’t speculate much on grand cosmic claims. There’s a lesson here for the church and its theologians.

EUGENE C. BIANCHI
Athens, Ga.


ARTICLE OF FAITH

Maybe I am missing something. I only had two years of Latin at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens—but I see a way to address the issue raised by Andrew Chronister (Letters, January 16) in regard to Fr. Toan Joseph Do’s “All In?” (December 19, 2008). As Latin has no article, what would be wrong with translating pro multis as “for the many,” which at least suggests complete coverage of whatever multitude is at issue, right down to everyone?

JOSEPH MASHECK
New York, N.Y.

Published in the 2009-02-27 issue: 
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