Visiting prisoners is a work of mercy

As the prison chaplain for the Diocese of Erie, Pa., I found your editorial "Slam the slammer" (March 1) hit the nail right on the head. I wish your editorial board could run our judicial system and our department of corrections!

One point made that I believe needs more attention is the corporal work of mercy in which we are called to visit the incarcerated. Many of the men and women I visit have been shunned by family and friends. Some have never had a visit by anyone in years.

We, as the people of God and followers of Christ Jesus, can assist our incarcerated brothers and sisters with visitations, even if just by a letter. Your local, state and federal prisons have chaplaincy departments. Contact them and ask them how you can write or visit an inmate.

If you want to really make a difference in the lives of those who are incarcerated, become a volunteer at your local prison. In our diocese, volunteers conduct Bible studies, teach religious education classes, hold retreats for the inmates, provide music for services and attend Mass with them. The inmates are so grateful for what they do, and often tell me what they most appreciate is that "outsiders" take the time to come "in." What a great way to show God's love for those less fortunate than us!

By the way, inside those "walls" of razor wire and fences are some truly remarkable holy people. I have told many people that if I could create my own parish, I would chose many of the "inmates" over the "outmates"!

-- Deacon Ralph A. DeCecco, Prison Chaplain Director, Diocese of Erie, Pa.

Order's charism

I read with interest your article regarding Father Marcial Maciel ("Revelations of order founder's double life," Feb. 22), and would like to share some thoughts.

While revelations of Father Maciel's "double life" are distressing, and have prompted some members of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi to doubt the validity of their calling, untenable is the view that their charism, a gift from God, must be inextricably linked to the order's founder, and thereby brought into question. The good works of the Legion and Regnum Christi cannot be discounted, and the faults of one man, albeit founder and leader, cannot nullify the charism that has been gifted through the Holy Spirit. Whether the Church's original approval of the charism was based on inaccurate information about Father Maciel, the ongoing works of the larger community demonstrate that God continues to bless, inspire and provide despite circumstances that detract.

Many are disappointed with Father Maciel, but revelations about his personal life only serve to remind us of our proper place with respect to God, for the temptation to ascribe the value of one's existence to the legacy of an imperfect man, rather than to God, borders on idolatry. The Legion's true founder and leader is the one whose name graces its title -- Christ himself. God chose Father Maciel to introduce to the world the remarkable order that has been a blessing to many, and God's choice of servants often seems a mystery. Why Moses? Why David? Why Peter? Why Paul? Imperfect men, entrusted with a mission from God. The Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, should embrace their calling as they look to their true founder and leader, Jesus. As for Father Maciel, let God be judge. As for us, let us persist in the work God calls us to do.

-- Ronald D. Parshall, Poland, N.Y.

Conscience as guide

Russell Shaw's comments seem to have hit very close to home for some Catholics. ("A quiz for your Catholic conscience," Dec. 28). They sound like the politicians who privately are against abortion but still vote for legislation in favor of abortion.

Christ himself said that you can't serve two masters. We are also to say "yes" when we mean "yes," and "no" when we mean "no." We are also told that they will know we are Christians by our love and, according to St. Francis, when we preach continuously, sometimes even using words.

Catholics need to vote their conscience in all matters. I'm sure that the apple that Eve gave to Adam tasted very good, but that didn't erase the disobedience to God's command. Legalized abortion is a grievous sin. According to the Church, one grievous unrepented sin is enough to send us from God's kingdom for eternity. When one puts aside pride, the choice doesn't seem complex.

-- Name Withheld, Humble, Texas

Where in the world?

I really enjoy reading OSV. It is a gold mine of material for reflection and up-to-date knowledge. I had a good laugh at the geography of a Feb. 8 letter that hypothesized about terrorists launching missiles across the Tigris River into St. Peter's Square.

-- Rev. Robert J. McGlinn, Delafield, Wis.

OSV replies: Thank you for pointing out the gaffe. Of course, the letter should have referred to the Tiber River in Rome, not the Tigris River, which flows through Iraq.

Old Testament truth

Thank you for professor Robert Gagnon's debunking of Newsweek's cover story of Dec. 15 ("Does Scripture really say homosexual acts are acceptable? Don't bet on it," Feb. 22).

It seems to me that the Old Testament account of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Gn 19:1-29) belongs also as an unmistakable and forceful testimony of God's complete rejection of homosexuality. He could not have "shouted" louder or more emphatically.

An ancient tradition holds that the Dead Sea has displaced the two cities. No life of any kind can exist in it, a symbol of the deadly nothingness of homosexuality.

-- Theresita Polzin, Denver, Colo.


A sidebar in the March 8 edition of Our Sunday Visitor incorrectly identified former Vatican Ambassador Thomas Melady as a board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He is on the group's advisory council.