Matter of Anatomy
John F. Devanny Jr. rebuts, or tries to, the case that Prof. Charles Bobertz set forth in his July 3 letter for the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood.
Christianity grew out of Judaism, and the Catholic Church and its hierarchy evolved out of the Roman civil service and Roman law.
Women had a very subordinate position among the ancient Jews and women had no legal rights whatsoever under Roman law. Women, for example, could not testify or give testimony because they had no testicles.
The words "testify," "testimony" and "testicle" all have the same Latin root, testis, for testicles. When a man give testimony in Roman times, he held his testicles in his hand, for they were considered the source of life and therefore sacred. A woman could just have well put her hand over her womb, also the source of life and equally sacred I would think, but this was not allowed.
The ancient Israelites also had the same tradition. The Old Testament (King James Version) states that Abraham "'placed his hand under his thigh"' when he swore an oath.
The crisis in theology that confronts the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations goes back at least partially to a difference in anatomy.
What Pro-Choice Is
The Cal Thomas fantasy "How Bush Can Win" (Opinion * Commentary July 23) contains so many distortions and absurdities that pointing out all of them would be too tedious for this letter. However, one section of his homily cries out for rebuttal.
Mr. Thomas cities two anecdotes regarding children who were almost aborted but survived to become cherished children. He also refers generally to women who "had their babies under difficult circumstances and are glad they did." These are cases about which we all can rejoice -- not just the "anti-choice" supporters.
Mr. Thomas talks as though "pro-choice" people want to force pregnant women to have abortions. Not so! "Pro-choice" means exactly what it says -- give the women who face problem pregnancies the facts about all their alternatives (including adoption and public or private help for poor mothers) and then allow them to make the decision that seems right in their particular circumstances. "Pro-choice" means, "This is a private matter -- not a government matter."
"Pro-choice" means, "Don't treat as criminals the women and the doctors who choose that solution to a difficult problem."
No pro-choice person that I know would ever take abortion lightly or would ever want to see a troubled woman take such a step without consulting her minister (if she has one) or anyone else who can give her understanding and informed advice.
We believe that, in our American system, any church has the right to teach their own adherents that abortion is a sin, if that is their doctrine. We don't believe they have the right to make it a crime -- not just for their own followers, but for all Americans.
This controversy is not about what churches and other organizations can teach and what their adherents can believe. It is about whether our government should criminalize a decision taken by women who face a pregnancy that is unwanted for reasons of varying degrees of urgency.
Often only the affected parties are capable of understanding a particular case. Examples could be given of happiness or heartache which have resulted from decisions to terminate pregnancies or to carry them to term.
What Mr. Thomas talks about proves nothing at all. He talks about only the outcomes that turned out happy. He doesn't talk about the 12- and 13-year-olds who suddenly find themselves mothers, nor the poor mother, unassisted by a brutish husband, who must add a seventh infant to the already overwhelming six for whom her capabilities are inadequate. The examples producing joy or despair could be multiplied a thousandfold.
Pro-choice wisely advocates that the government leave this matter to the people it concerns.
Edward T. Heise
U.S. Can't Afford Unrestricted Immigration
Jonathan Power (Opinion * Commentary, July 24) correctly noted that free immigration had benefited this country and increased its economic growth in past generations. Unfortunately, he still seems to be living in the past. He entitled his column "Pull Down the Barriers" and said "common sense suggests that the richest countries should pull all their immigration barriers down and let people wander where they want."
We no longer have open frontiers and job-hungry industries. We already have our own migratory underclass searching for jobs and opportunities. Adding to it would only decrease their chances and add to the burdens of the rest of our society.
We are also reaching a point where the environmental cost of growth outweigh the gains. The Third World countries that supply most of the new immigrants illustrate the problems associated with allowing population growth to outstrip resources. Most are experiencing a decline in their standard of living. Many are at the stage of famine and civil strife. While we may sympathize with their plight, we cannot let them "wander where they want" until they take us down with them.
Why do columnists and special interest pleaders always point to various extremists and other unpopular figures as representing the point of view opposed to their own? Patrick Buchanan and various right wing journals may oppose extensive immigration at this time, but so do many thoughtful and moderate Americans.
J. T. H. Johnson, M.D.
Pioneer of the Celebrity Interview
On June 23, former Baltimore disc jockey Fred Robbins died. Mr. Robbins was a unique individual who moved easily and successfully through almost every aspect of the media. Starting in Baltimore, his talents soon became well known and sought after by a number of New York radio stations. He then decided to relocate to the Big Apple where he lived for the remainder of his life.
Fred Robbins' style set a precedent that future radio personalities were to follow. With the end of World War II, American needed a bold and vivacious style of music and musical lingo, and it was Fred Robbins who coined many of the familiar phrases of the day. They were catchy, upbeat and "cool" and helped move this country though the post-war transition.
Fred Robbins refined the art of the interview and, through his "Assignment Hollywood" productions, let the public in on the lives of media stars. His interviews were published in a variety of magazines, where he pioneered the type of in-depth exploration of famous people seen in popular magazines today.
Fred Robbins also made cameo appearances in such shows as "Alfred Hitchcock," hosted the Eddie Fisher "Coke Time" show and also hosted a variety of quiz shows. . . When the Beatles first landed in America, it was Mr. Robbins who was granted the first interview.
Fred Robbins was truly a media giant -- creative, innovative, varied, intense and multi-talented. His gift for bringing out the unique personality of stars made them seek him. His style and flair became a model by which others patterned their careers. We probably shall not see the likes of him again.
Dennis H. Myers
The writer is Fred Robbins' nephew.
Protect Our Jobs
The Sunday Sun (July 26) contained an article about the closing of the Smith-Corona plant in Cortland, N.Y., which once employed 4,200 people but now has 1,250 workers.
The Smith-Corona factory, which has been in Cortland more than a century, joins a growing procession of U.S. companies lured to Mexico by a work force that does not expect medical insurance or safety standards -- or anything much beyond a dollar an hour in wages.
Smith-Corona officials figure that the labor costs per employee -- including wages, benefits and overhead -- will be $3 per hour compared with $18 an hour in Cortland.
Even though Smith-Corona made $22 million in profits this year, it cited the government's inability to protect the company from predatory pricing by its chief Japanese competitor, Brother Corp., as the reason for the move. Brother assembles typewriters from Japanese parts at a Tennessee plant.
This article raises several questions.
If Smith-Corona made $22 million while paying its New York workers a decent wage, why does it need to exploit slave labor?
Why doesn't our government protect American products -- and jobs -- as vigorously as the European Common Market countries?
Why don't we impose a hefty tariff on parts and products made outside the United States?
I suppose the argument against tariffs is that other nations will do the same to American products. The short answer to this proposition is that they already do. Hasn't the time come to protect the American labor force and a standard of living commensurate with the dignity of man?
In his July 3 Opinion * Commmentary article, Lawrence J. Fedewa asserts that "just prior to World War II . . . so demilitarized was the nation that the soldiers at Ft. Myer, Virginia, the headquarters of the Army Chief of Staff, used to drill with wooden rifles because they had no real ones."
Repetition of such nonsense causes endless chains of error.
From time to time, I served at Ft. Myer during this period. Neither there nor anywhere else did soldiers -- or little boys in military schools, for that matter -- ever lack for rifles. After all, millions had been produced for World War I not long before.
In fact, because all frontline troops (mobilized a year before Pearl Harbor) had been issued newly designed rifles, the older bolt-action rifles were so abundant that they were issued to troops such as artillerymen previously armed individually only with pistols.
Contrary to Mr. Fedewa's beliefs (shared by vast numbers of ignorant Americans today), our Army was prepared well before Pearl Harbor -- mobilized, equipped, armed and trained in the greatest peacetime maneuvers ever.
I was there.
Willis Case Rowe