Thank you for the Last Word by Damian Barry Smyth (“Fitting Service,” January 28). I was fascinated by the history of this document and researched comments on women in the diaconate in the Eastern churches. I’d like to know what the Roman hierarchy has to say about this—surely it has been known for centuries. My research indicates that the document is the Codex Barberini Gr. 336. Smyth refers to it as “366”; the correct reference would aid anyone else looking for further information.

Joseph J. Koechler
Ormond Beach, Fla.



Rev. John F. Tuohey (“A Fatal Conflict,” January 28) notes that when the U.S. bishop’s Committee on Doctrine issued a statement on the dilation and curettage performed at an Arizona Catholic hospital in November 2009, it cited a hypothetical maternal-fetal conflict to illustrate the difference between direct and indirect abortion. There was no need for hypothesis with a well-known case right in front of them.

Tuohey quotes from the statement: “The surgery does not directly address the health problem of the woman…by repairing the organ that is malfunctioning,” but rather “directly targets the life of the unborn child.” However, the baby survives within the mother through a maternal organ, the placenta. If the placenta is compromised by maternal pulmonary hypertension, both mother and child are in grave danger; the decision to terminate the pregnancy (as in the Arizona case) is an indirect, not direct, abortion. Why not save at least the mother, who has a husband and living children? That young woman surely suffered more than any member of the hierarchy over the loss of a child she will never hold or raise. The lack of charity shown by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted is staggering. Sr. Margaret Mary McBride and the ethics committee of the formerly Catholic hospital are men and women of courage who spoke truth to power.

Ann Molony Desmond, MSN, RN
Toledo, Ohio



In his article “A Fatal Conflict,” Rev. John F. Tuohey discusses the use of abortion to save the life of the mother. He states: “It is beyond debate that the refusal of a prohibited service in cases of vital maternal-fetal conflict offends at minimum the right to life of a patient whose death could otherwise be prevented” (emphasis original). I disagree. This no more offends the right to life than a death from natural causes. To see why this is so, consider the following analogous scenario.

Imagine someone suffering heart failure with only days to live, unless a donor can be found. The patient in the next room happens to be a potential donor; however, removal of his heart would mean death. It so happens that he is also dying; however, it is expected that the patient suffering heart failure will die first. Is it permissible in this case to “speed along” death for the donor (that is, kill him) in order to save the life of the other patient?

From this scenario, it seems clear that we cannot kill someone in order to save the life of another, even if that someone is already dying. That would be a violation of the right to life of the donor. There is no such violation when a patient dies of complications that cannot be morally addressed.

A child in utero is a member of the human species with rights and dignity equivalent to those of the dying heart donor. Direct abortion, even to save the life of the mother, is of the same moral species as the killing of the organ donor.

George Rahman
West Terre Haute, Ind.



Regarding the January 28 editorial, “Killings in Tucson”: As the finger-pointing started after the tragic events in Tucson, I was reminded of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s statement: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Evil is with us. We can’t escape it. But we can acknowledge that we are capable of both evil and good and be more resolved than ever to focus on the light of Christ’s love. More and more I realize what damage we are doing to ourselves individually and collectively by dehumanizing “the other,” whether that other is someone we disagree with or someone we pretend isn’t here (the elderly, the mentally ill, etc.). As we acknowledge that we are capable of evil, let’s also acknowledge that we are capable of bringing the light of Christ to the world—and do something about it.

We are all capable of evil. It does exist. But we are capable of so much good, too.

Deb Zabloudil
Westerville, Ohio


I’ve finally caught up with my Commonweal reading, finishing the two most recent issues. My feeling when I did was “Thank God for Commonweal.” I have been working for social justice, peace, and the common good all my adult life. I am happy to have had the chance to do so for fifty-plus years, and I’m still going. Like everyone else, I wonder sometimes whether it is worth continuing the struggle. Maybe I should really spend more time golfing, or whatever else someone close to seventy is supposed to do. Then I get my Commonweal magazines, make some time to read them, and I am recharged.

My guess is that all of you at Commonweal may get a little discouraged sometimes, or wonder if your work is bearing fruit. Be assured that it is. I could go into detail commenting on so many articles in recent issues that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I will just say that I really appreciated the article on Lisa Sowle Cahill (“No Labels, Please,” January 14). I don’t think I have ever read a book of hers, but I will do so now. I also enjoyed the prison-related articles, particularly the one by Inmate No. 330445 at York Correctional Institution (“The God of Ambition,” January 28).

Again, thanks to all of you. Keep up the good work. With the loss of limbo and the planet Pluto from my childhood days, I am not sure if there still is a purgatory, but if there is, I am sure I will have to spend some time there. In that case, I’m asking my wife to stuff a few Commonweals in my coffin so I can have some refreshment on my last journey.

Robert Beezat
Racine, Wis.

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