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SATURDAY MAILBOX

Clergy fulfill duty by denying Communion

The Sun's editorial "Church politics" (May 26) was way off base. Refusing Holy Communion to a Catholic may have political repercussions, but it is not a political act. It is a religious duty on the part of the priest (or bishop) to refuse Holy Communion to someone when he knows that person is not in a state of grace.

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I'll state the bare bones of authentic Catholic teaching on this issue as simply as possible: When you receive Holy Communion, you are receiving the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. You must be in a state of grace to do so -- that is, without any mortal sin. Otherwise, you are committing sacrilege.

The world Communion says it all -- the celebrant is communing with Christ. If he or she has flouted His law by deliberately committing a serious (mortal) sin, and has not repented of it and received absolution in confession, how can that person be in communion with Christ? It's a contradiction in terms.

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Catholics are responsible for not attempting to receive Communion when they are in a state of mortal sin. In most cases, only they themselves know when they are in mortal sin; the priest may not know, for example, if a man or woman has committed adultery, or has had or has assisted in procuring an abortion.

There are cases, however, in which a person persists in manifest (public) grave sin. That person should not present himself or herself for Communion, because doing so involves committing sacrilege and causing further scandal.

If that person does attempt to receive Communion, and the priest knows of his or her behavior, the priest is obliged to refuse Holy Communion; it is the priest's duty to protect the sacredness of the Holy Eucharist.

Ideally, both the person's bishop and his parish priest should warn him privately not to receive Communion and urge him to confess and repent of his sin, so that he may receive Communion. But if he doesn't, that person must be refused Communion.

Canon Law is law, not a suggestion. The scandal is not that a few bishops have stated that pro-abortion politicians -- who have facilitated abortions with their votes -- should be refused Communion; the scandal is that so many bishops have failed in their duty to admonish their flock and to protect the sacredness of the Holy Eucharist.

Diane Levero

Baltimore

Joyfully receiving link to the divine

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Permit me to share a highly personal perspective on the refusal of some Catholic bishops to serve Communion to Sen. John Kerry and others who "hold views antithetical to church teachings," such as support for abortion rights, stem-cell research, euthanasia or same-sex marriage ("Church politics," editorial, May 26).

I share The Sun's view that in so doing, bishops are "wielding a holy sacrament as a clumsy, political weapon."

Here's my story: It's one of blindly accepting the teachings of the Catholic Church in my youth; questioning all aspects of my so-called faith in my early adult years; and understanding and embracing the richness of the Catholic tradition (and all faith traditions), as opposed to the institution of the church, in my middle years.

Most days, I now joyfully receive Communion, recognizing my intimate and direct connection with the divine. As I accept the bread and wine, I understand that the spiritual world is perfectly hidden, yet perfectly revealed in the physical world, and I understand that my divine is within, at the center of all things.

This personal transformation is at the core of my outrage that some in the Catholic hierarchy have pronounced that Mr. Kerry, and others who hold similar beliefs, should not accept Communion.

How dare this flawed institution question the worthiness of Mr. Kerry, myself and others to participate in one's own intimate and direct connection with the divine.

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I will not allow this institution to again drive me away, as it did in my youth, from the rituals and expression of my faith that I hold sacred.

William Sciarillo

Lutherville

All religious leaders should fight abortion

In a front-page article in The Sun, our beloved Cardinal William H. Keeler said he believed Catholic bishops should not get involved in political issues and should not denounce politicians who support abortion rights or prohibit them from receiving Holy Communion ("Cardinal Keeler calls for keeping politics out of Communion," May 28).

The cardinal went on to say that every Catholic should follow his or her individual conscience in these matters.

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But abortion is a moral issue. Abortion has only been made into a political issue by the politicians. Abortion is the killing of innocent children; it is wrong, and should never be a matter of a believing Christian's individual conscience.

I believe the bishops and priests standing up and calling into question the actions of politicians who do not have the courage to follow their faith on the moral issue of abortion are the church leaders who are doing their job properly.

Abortion is wrong, and religious leaders of all faiths should be teaching and preaching this fact.

Richard Zabela

Catonsville

Early motherhood a dance with death

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As reporter Douglas Birch points out, many Afghan mothers are still children themselves when they give birth ("Birth shadowed by death," May 27). Motherhood at such a young age is a dance with death for these mothers and their babies.

Because the bodies of young girls are not physically mature enough to deliver a baby safely, pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 in the developing world, including Afghanistan, according to Save the Children's recently released State of the World's Mothers 2004 report.

The prospects for the babies of these young mothers are just as tragic: one out of six babies born to a teenage mother in Afghanistan will die within its first year of life.

To save these young lives, we need to give girls options for delaying marriage and motherhood until they are physically ready to have children.

Education is key. Research shows that educated girls are less likely to marry and have babies at a young age.

In addition, health services, including voluntary family planning, should be tailored to meet the needs of these child brides and child mothers.

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Mary Beth Powers

Westport, Conn.

The writer is senior reproductive health adviser for Save the Children.

Students can handle freedom, sexuality

As one of the graduating high school seniors Susan Reimer addressed in a recent column, I don't appreciate her cracking her verbal whip when I'm finally beginning to feel independent ("Graduates: Time to show responsibility is a priority," May 25).

Yes, I understand that people my age face increased responsibilities, but I also hope we would be allowed greater freedom, which Ms. Reimer seems intent on limiting.

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I found particularly insulting her assertion that college students are not mature enough to handle sexual relationships.

Ms. Reimer must be aware that it is unrealistic and unfair to expect that all young people wait the eight to 10 years between physical sexual maturity and college graduation to have such relationships. And unless Ms. Reimer knows personally every member of every graduating high school class in the area, she cannot judge with any authority our maturity or readiness.

College should be a time for new experiences, not a time for imposed morality.

And a person's sexuality is his or her own choice, not that of a newspaper columnist.

Eric D. Mulligan

Reisterstown

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The writer is a member of the McDonogh School Class of 2004.

It's time to execute killer of three women

I am writing regarding all the publicity Steven Oken is getting regarding the death penalty and his claim that it would violate his rights ("Oken seeks stay in execution," June 2).

I lived in an apartment on the second floor of the building in which Dawn Marie Garvin was murdered in 1987. I didn't know her except to say hello in passing. But I did receive a knock on my door from the Baltimore County police asking if I had heard gunshots the night she was murdered. I was terrified and devastated. And the week before, I'd had a knock on my door from someone who said he needed to "use the phone" in my apartment. Thank God I told him to go to the 7-Eleven down the road. Was it Mr. Oken? I'll never know.

Rights? Let's talk about the rights of Ms. Garvin. She was a young, beautiful newlywed who was sexually tortured and murdered by Mr. Oken. As if that wasn't enough, Mr. Oken continued his horror show and murdered two other women.

There is no doubt of Mr. Oken's guilt. He premeditated these tortures and murders and now he is crying that execution would violate his "rights." I cannot even believe that our government entertained this claim.

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Appeals? He has had more than he ever deserved. How many times do you think these three women appealed for their lives? What "rights" did Mr. Oken ever consider that they had?

Maryland taxpayers have wasted way too much money already on Mr. Oken -- it is time for him to die.

Ms. Garvin's family deserves this. Our community deserves this. It has been long enough.

Carol Carey

Baltimore

Cosby, Kane speak for silent majority

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Writing something that no white person would have had the guts to write, Gregory Kane correctly scolded America's black leaders for far too often taking the side of black criminals while ignoring the plight of black crime victims ("Black leaders must choose between criminals and victims," May 29).

I have always believed that there was a silent majority of blacks out there who sympathize with the victims first and foremost, and worry about the safety and well-being of their families more than the political moves of groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Yet the pressure of the powerbrokers in the "civil rights" movement far too often involves siding with criminals against society, and crying foul when a white police officer beats a black detainee.

It takes a lot of guts for men such as Bill Cosby and Mr. Kane to say what they say and write what they write.

Yet it is necessary, because for too long the civil rights movement has been hijacked by people who seem to have no concern for the plight of the innocent, and who do not seem to view the freedom to live in and move around one's neighborhood unimpeded by thugs as a civil right at all.

Michael P. DeCicco

Severn

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Infill development helps save the bay

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation couldn't agree more that Maryland needs a revolution in favor of more infill development ("Infill needed," editorial, May 17). Making vacant and underutilized urban land a priority for development makes sense for a wide variety of reasons, including the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

Polluted runoff from growth in the form of sprawl has been a driving factor in the bay's decline. But when existing, under-built sites are redeveloped with the installation of state-of-the-art stormwater management, growth can actually serve as an engine driving the improvement of water quality.

State and local government must make infill and redevelopment a top priority. The state must emphasize urban investment, especially the transportation, water and sewer infrastructure needed to support growth.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Maryland's urban highways are in worse condition than its rural highways. But regrettably, in his May 15 letter to the editor "Moving into the city is no Beltway solution," state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan questioned the wisdom of investing in Baltimore instead of building suburban highways, in part because people are leaving the city anyway.

But the state, and the Transportation Department in particular, should lead the way back to the city, not facilitate its depopulation.

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Local governments must also institute policies to encourage infill and redevelopment, including making an inventory of their underdeveloped tracts of land. The ongoing State Land Supply Task Force, of which the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is a member, has revealed that most local governments don't know how much underdeveloped land they have.

Historically, greenfields have been the raw material of choice for development in Maryland. It is time to make underdeveloped urban lands or grayfields the raw material of choice.

If we do, we will help save the city, the countryside and the Chesapeake Bay.

Kim Coble

Annapolis

The writer is Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

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Social workers face a caseload crisis

As a child advocate who works closely with the Baltimore County Department of Social Services, I am confronted regularly with the staffing shortages state Human Resources Secretary Christopher J. McCabe glossed over in his letter to the editor "State is hiring workers to aid in child welfare" (June 1).

And while Mr. McCabe may choose not to use terms such as "hiring freeze," that is certainly the effect of the policies at work here.

Caseworkers now routinely handle loads of 29 to 30 cases in a system designed on the basis of caseloads of no more than 20 per worker. Recent departures left unfilled vacancies throughout the department, and those few positions that are filled are not staffed with experienced personnel.

The social workers I work with are frustrated by their inability to service their clients properly and by the refusal of the powers that be to acknowledge this critical problem.

They are frightened for the welfare of the children who depend on the system, and certain that when the next inevitable tragedy occurs, they will take the fall.

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Lisa Paschal Snyder

Owings Mills

Film is much more than flashing lights

Like Linda Chavez, I have often been disappointed with the movies Hollywood supposes we will accept ("Now playing at multiplex: Propaganda," Opinion

Commentary, May 27). But unlike Ms. Chavez, I have found that too many movies follow the advice of Samuel Goldwyn that she quoted -- "If you want to send a message, call Western Union."

I recently went to see the Center Stage production of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow. And I think Ms. Chavez's desire to see movies that give us nothing more than changing lights on a screen validates Mr. Mamet's satire. But film is something greater than a two-hour respite from the elements.

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Film is art. Art occupies a unique position in our culture, and film is one of the most accessible art forms. Art creates a shared cultural understanding because it reveals the world to us and it articulates the ways of our culture.

Art takes what is normal in our culture and re-presents it to us in a manner that makes this normalcy unusual. Art reveals our culture, so we may be able to pose questions.

Instead of our usual position of having the door slammed in our faces with "facts," art holds the door open for us, and allows us to set forth our questioning.

Art actively engages us in our culture and helps us attain human individuality and freedom.

Morgan Wallace

Baltimore

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Wasteful habits drive up price of gas

Are we expected to shed tears because an Oregon couple has to drive to the shore on weekends in their Acura instead of their SUV and are a little cramped ("Fueling Trouble: High prices may cost Bush his re-election," May 31)? No wonder the world sees Americans as spoiled brats.

Common sense dictates that reliance on foreign oil makes us weak and vulnerable, but instead of subjecting ourselves to a little discipline and sacrifice - such as driving less, carpooling, using smaller cars and paying taxes that would promote aggressive development of alternative energy sources - we have bought gas-guzzling behemoths and driven everywhere, getting fatter, destroying the environment and subjecting ourselves to the whims of the oil companies and Middle East regimes.

Now that gas prices are rising, we whine like babies because our pocketbooks are forcing us to do what we should have done long ago.

We should follow the lead of our disciplined parents and grandparents from the "greatest generation" and grow up.

Jane Santoni Smith

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Towson

Congratulations to The Sun for reaching a new low in Bush-bashing in "High prices may cost Bush his re-election" (May 31).

It is a stretch to feel sorry for the Bowens of Portland, Ore., because they have to leave their SUV at home and use their Acura to go to the seashore on weekends because gas prices are so high. However, reading the article, it is clear that few if any of the people interviewed really blame President Bush for the high price of gas.

And here's a suggestion to owners of SUVs who complain about the high price of gas: Get rid of your SUV and get a more fuel-efficient car.

John J. Brocato

Sparks

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On a day when America honored those who died to protect our freedom and way of life, The Sun ran an article featuring an Oregon couple whining that they cannot afford to drive their gas-guzzling SUV to the shore because of high gas prices. They complained of having to take their second car on their pleasure drives.

These people fail to appreciate the privileges they have. They have not given up their trips to the shore, only the use of their vehicle of choice.

It is not surprising that gasoline prices have risen when you couple increased consumption with the surging growth of the U.S. and Chinese economies and the U.S. Senate's refusal to allow expansion of oil drilling in Alaska, which would decrease U.S. dependency in foreign oil.

Driving, and the vehicles we select, are privileges. No one has a right to cheap gasoline. But policy decisions can and will affect prices.

And when one chooses to purchase an inefficient pleasure vehicle, one should not complain when gas prices go up.

Boyd K. Rutherford

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Columbia

The Sun printed a series of articles regarding the sudden rise in the cost of gasoline ("Fueling Trouble," May 28-May 31). While this is a newsworthy topic, the inclusion of personal stories is unnecessary since every reader of The Sun is individually experiencing the effect of high gas prices. And the tales of woe described were exaggerated, to say the least.

Let's face it: Gas is expensive, but it is still cheaper than it was 20 years ago if inflation is taken into account. Sure, we all need to make adjustments in our lifestyles, but Americans have long been ignoring the effects of our cavalier attitude on gasoline consumption.

We have refused to make any sacrifices and still find ourselves at the mercy of the OPEC nations.

Now, just as President John F. Kennedy called for America to put a man on the moon within 10 years, President Bush should propose a grander goal: for the United States to develop alternative energy sources (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) and vehicles (hybrid, hydrogen and electric cars) so that within 10 years we would not have to buy a drop of oil from the Middle East.

We should place an additional $1 per gallon tax on gasoline to fund this research, and persuade reluctant Americans to buy more-fuel-efficient cars and carpool more frequently or use public transportation.

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Even with such a tax increase, we would be paying less for gas than consumers in any European nation.

E. Mitchell Arion

Goldsboro

Please stop with the stories about how expensive gasoline is and how bad our lives have become because of it. We've been paying bargain rates on gasoline long enough, and it's time someone slapped us across our faces with this truth.

Beyond the fact that when the price is adjusted for inflation, gasoline is cheaper today than it was 20 years ago, the bigger truth, the one that will affect us for many years to come, is that we have never paid the full price for our energy.

To be sure, we pay the costs of building wells, refining oil and shipping it all over the world and of the government's excise taxes. But the price we pay for oil has never reflected the larger costs - those caused by the pollution it creates.

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And if you're sure the problems from fossil-fuel burning won't impact you, think about that next time you buy a bushel of crabs and gawk at the price; a large portion of the Chesapeake Bay's nitrogen pollution, that which destroys the crabs' breeding grounds, comes directly from the tailpipes of our cars and SUVs.

It's time we started paying for the damage we're doing.

Ian Kennedy

Columbia


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