by Inlander Readers Not to Choose is to Choose -- I consider myself a fervent anti-smoker, but even I have to wonder what the county commissioners are thinking on this one. I have too little empathy for smokers, however, to want to take up their cause. No, what interests me in this debate is the oft-repeated argument that the government has no more business telling me I can't smoke than it does telling me I can't eat fast food. Boiled down, this is basically the Founding Fathers' notion that our liberties can't be denied us unless our actions harm another, or deny them their freedom. And though it pains me to say it, I think in this instance the smokers may be right. It's when I hear people apply the same rationale to smoking in public that I cry foul.
The existentialists coined the phrase, "Not to choose, is to choose," and I think it offers interesting insight into this issue. Imagine 19 nonsmokers sitting in a room sharing the same clean air. A smoker walks in, and if smoking is prohibited, he thinks the government is denying him his right to smoke. But if smoking isn't prohibited, the 19 other people are left wondering who gave this guy the right to foul their air. Even if you change the numbers around, the fundamental question still becomes which right has greater precedence: the right to act in way that might be harmful to oneself, or the right not to be harmed by another? In my mind, the answer is obvious and should dictate public policy. Until it does, the decision as to the quality of the air you breathe in any communal space will always be left up to the people addicted to fouling it.
Cleansing Needed -- Thank you for publishing the article "Sins of the Father" (1/22/04). You show how something that seems so little can affect so many lives. Let's hope that there's a "cleansing ritual" that puts Father Pat O'Donnell in his eternal resting place.
A True Friend -- I'm writing in response to the recent article "Sins of the Father" (1/22/04), because it reminds me of the sadness and anger. Tim Corrigan was a true friend, and I worked with him at a local company for seven years in the '90s. When I first heard of his death, I was very saddened. I spoke with his wife, and it confused and bewildered me to learn suicide was the cause. Cheryl's comments in your article were so very accurate, and I couldn't explain Tim any better ("gentle spirit"). He was so very kind, loving and extremely intelligent that the taking of his own life is beyond all comprehension to me. He was an admirable human being with a beautiful and loving family.
Although I only met Tim in 1991, I know that it would have taken a very deep emotional trauma to cause such an act by him. In my eyes, the individual who caused such a trauma is nothing less than a murderer. It is comforting to remember that the future prospects of our loved ones rest with a God who fully understands that weaknesses and frailties could push someone to such desperate action.
We can consider a little from Psalm 103:11-14, which reads, "As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust." For he truly is "the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3).
Like so many in Tim's life, I wish I could have done something to help avoid such a tragic outcome. He was an incredible human being and will be missed by everyone. I wish to express my deep condolences to his family and appreciation for being able to call Tim a true friend.
Heard Around the Nation -- My heartfelt gratitude goes to The Inlander and the brave survivors of sexual abuse by Fr. Patrick O'Donnell for having the courage to tell the truth ("Sins of the Father," 1/22/04).
Secrets are what have allowed bishops and priests to avoid prosecution as common criminals for savaging the innocence of our children and covering it up. The statute of limitations shields untold numbers from the guilt they surely deserve. Your article clarifies the shame victims felt, the myth of complicity, the unchallenged authority of priests and the dereliction of the church hierarchy, whose main concern was its own power and prestige. The focus of bishops was not on the endangered children, and they must be held accountable for that. Your story will touch many, thanks to the Internet: www.ncrnews.org/abuse, which is how I found it. I am a survivor support chairman for New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, and use articles like yours to educate fellow Catholics about the impact of abuse.
Tim Corrigan found the pain too much, as have dozens of others who did not survive their molestation. Your decision to publish is a courageous act of charity in his and their memory.
Speaking Out -- The recent article by Paul Seebeck, "Sins of the Father" (1/22/04), demonstrates how journalism can give clergy abuse victims and their families the voice they truly deserve. The Corrigan family shows heroism and love by allowing the public to see with new eyes what clergy sexual abuse can do. Nationwide, families of suicide victims agonize over their loved one's death while dealing with outrage at institutional cover-ups and lies.
In 1999, our family became members of this larger circle of pain when our 29-year-old son shot himself. Following Eric's death, our family resolved to hold his abuser accountable. This now-imprisoned ex-priest abused for 30 years in the Wichita diocese, resulting in four other suicides now linked to him. Survivors and their supporters who expose the ugly evil of abuse do so to ensure the safety of all our children. Speaking out assures justice and accountability. Speaking out helps shatter the walls of denial. Speaking out allows families to stand up for their children. These voices joined together clamor for justice.
Conway Springs, Kans.
Not Just Catholics -- I don't believe the Inlander maliciously targeted the Catholic Church in its 1/22/04 issue ("Sins of the Father"). It's just that the Catholic Church is fair game, currently, and the feeding frenzy surrounds them. More than a year ago, however, I pointed out in a letter to the Spokesman that my own informal research over 26 years shows that just as many Protestant ministers and church workers are guilty of sexual crimes against women and children as Catholics are.
A recent issue of Freethought Today (12/03) demonstrates the point. Under the heading "Black Collar Crime Blotter," Freethought routinely collects stories of religious crime from newspapers around the country and, in this issue, produced two full pages of religious criminality, from fraud to murder, over the last quarter of 2003. The largest category, of course, is sex crimes. I tallied up the sexual score, which included one Muslim and the Boy Scouts in general, and found 22 Protestant sexual crimes versus 23 Catholic ones. That's equal opportunity sexual predation if ever I saw it, and it's even more important to note that both classifications are Christian.
An atheist myself, I play no favorites and, in the interests of objectivity and fairness, thought this information should be heard.