Letters • September 7, 2020


COVID-19 has given us new perspective

This pandemic has been a time of uncertainty and sadness for those sickened by its effects, and for those who lost their life to it. Many of us have found ourselves working from our basements, trying to teach our children and attend to the needs of others in lockdown, praying not to fall victim to the virus or, worse, unknowingly give it to someone else.  

It has been odd to become so focused on staying well, crowding out the “normalcy” of life with its frenetic running around with work, school, after school activities, the gym, housework and church on Sundays.  

It took me a while to realize that as awful as this virus has been, it has had the effect of humbling us and giving us perspective. Perhaps we are not as in control of our lives as we thought. Maybe we have spent too much time filling our days with the good things of life instead of filling our lives and our hearts with the gifts that last.  

We have been forced to slow down, to stay home with our families and to do and think about things differently, adopting a new balance in our lives. Having Mass on YouTube has satisfied a hunger within, and yet, we do not need Wi-Fi for God to be part of our lives — we have only to ask.  

Ultimately, I found that spending time in prayer with my community of faith was my true longing — and all the normalcy that it brings. Being away from others may keep us from getting sick, but for me, only God and life in community can keep us well. – Patti Peters, Roanoke 

Focus on your heavenly destination

“The world is thy ship, not thy home” — words of the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, have been on my mind.

In recent months, we have experienced mass death from infectious disease the likes of which have not been seen in generations. We have seen our churches close, and though they are open again, life is far from normal.

We have seen communities torn asunder by political division and violence. We have seen fear grip the hearts of millions around the world. And we have seen increasing rancor between our fellow Catholics in social media, in our parishes and even in these pages of The Catholic Virginian.

Truly, the enemy is on the march.

The pandemic is no light matter, and political quietism is not something for which Catholics can advocate. Yet I cannot help but think that many of our troubles are caused by excess attachment to things of this world and our constant “need” to react to the latest news bulletin, COVID count or outrage-sparking video.

Holy Mother Church has provided us many ways to order our lives so we can focus more on our heavenly destination and less on whatever storms may assail us during our short time on Earth. 

She has marked out great feast days and appointed days of penance. She has given us the Divine Office and the thrice-daily Angelus to provide many opportunities for prayer.

Perhaps by becoming more in tune with “Catholic time” on earth and the life to come with our Lord, we may have a better perspective toward our journey and a greater understanding of how to address troubles in this world. – Matt Blumenfeld, Charlottesville 

Put blame for gun violence where it belongs

This is in response to the article: “Bishop: Gun violence should not be ‘new normal’” (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 24).

The bishops’ “commonsense” solutions to stem “gun violence” cited in the article would have no effect and would put a burden on law abiding gun owners.

Between 80 to 90% of all gun related murders are committed in the inner cities between rival gangs fighting over drug turf. Virtually all of these involve black market handguns. Yes, over the past few months, this violence has increased for good reason.  

With the recent calls to defund police, mayors of large cities such as Chicago, New York and DC have eliminated the law enforcement units that had stemmed such violence; further, the mayors have allowed the revolving door justice system to perpetuate. Criminals now shoot each other with virtual impunity.

The bishops say they are for “commonsense” gun control such as banning the ownership of military style firearms. If they would consider that of the 18 million of these firearms owned by Americans, less than 0.0006% of them are ever used in a nefarious manner. Further, such a ban has been tried before with absolutely no measurable effect. Thus, this solution does not sound so “commonsense” to me. 

It would be refreshing for the bishops to lay the blame for gun violence where it belongs: on the criminal; point out those who allow the violence to perpetuate: the mayors; and stop echoing the talking points of the liberal left. – Don Barnett, Salem

Credits BLM for increasing awareness of injustices

In response to the anti-Black Lives Matter letters (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 24): 

Rose LaTulipe implies that BLM divides Americans by destroying “their monuments, their history and their constitution…” 

The reality is that the Constitution, with its original three-fifths clause, the “lost cause” monuments, and the true history of the United States – including slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, mass incarceration and voter suppression – are what have divided the country. BLM seeks to erase those divisions and bring equal justice regardless of skin color. 

Timothy Richardt declares, “You should not… portray BLM as … good for our nation, for our society, for our state …” I wonder who the “our” is in that statement, because it certainly doesn’t include people of color. BLM seeks justice for the victims of systemic oppression present since the founding of this nation, society and state.

Delia Laux encourages blacks to “improve their own lives by encouraging marriage and strong families” while ignoring the “alleged” racism within society. Would having a wife or stronger family ties have removed the deadly knee from George Floyd’s neck for even one of the 466 seconds it took to kill him? Systemic racism killed George Floyd and BLM seeks to eliminate that racism.

I, too, am appalled by the violence at some protests. But violence by some doesn’t negate the good that comes from this movement. BLM has made me aware of injustices I didn’t know existed. And through resources provided by my parish, lots of challenging reading, many online resources such as the “21 Day Racial Justice Challenge” and much prayer, I become more aware every day. – Jim Triplett, Midlothian

Other voices of black leaders offer solutions

I am writing in reference to the vigorous viewpoints expressed by readers regarding Black Lives Matter and Catholic associations with this organization (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 24). I believe all of the writers are committed to the struggles of our brothers and sisters in Christ and especially the ongoing plight of many black Americans. 

I also share the concerns about BLM as a group. Yet concerns about Black Lives Matter does not mean, as Delia Laux pointed out, that black lives do not matter. That false dichotomy needs to be avoided. 

Are there alternatives? Yes. I would commend to readers the perspectives of several vibrant African American voices. They include Coleman Hughes, Carol Swain and Ian Rowe. In addition, Robert Woodson’s “1776 Unites” project and his incredible work on Violence Free Zones are outstanding examples of positive directions and sustainable change. 

In the last election, there were several organizations purportedly based on Catholic Social Teaching that were unfortunately fronts for political agendas. They abused the gracious hearts (and wallets) of many Catholics. I would again caution my sisters and brothers in Christ to avoid those who would use our faith to further their political agendas.

The challenges facing the black community are many. I personally see value in these other voices of black leadership who offer solutions to the fundamental issues and hard questions from a black American perspective. – Kurt Elward, Charlottesville

Don’t write hurtful letters

I am a 76-year old, Virginia born, black Roman Catholic. I was in grade six of a segregated school when 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi for allegedly talking fresh to a white woman. Till was two years older than me. 

During my long lifetime I have repeatedly read about senseless murders of blacks, and now I read letters in my diocesan newspaper that denigrate the Black Lives Matter organization and condemn it as Marxist or Communist in order to label it as something evil. 

 During the 1950s and 1960s, the NAACP was branded a communist organization, and the Civil Rights Movement a communist conspiracy. Some years later, Martin Luther King was dubbed a communist as a means of demonstrating why his birthday should not be a national holiday. 

Given the current political polarization in the United States, why should I expect anything less for the Black Lives Matter organization? Why should this vitriol be in the diocesan newspaper where I hope to read about love and people coming together? 

Come on folks! Rather than write hurtful letters, read a good book. As a starter, I recommend historian Patricia Sullivan’s “Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement.” – Ted DeLaney, Lexington

Words of pilgrims didn’t sound Marxist

After reading the opinion letters in the Aug. 24 Catholic Virginian, I was confused. Several letters mentioned either BLM Global Network Foundation or the BLM movement and its relationship to Marxism. Confused because the article they refer to in the Aug. 10 issue spoke about a prayer pilgrimage focusing on black lives and racial equality. The Aug. 24 letters focused on hidden agendas, destroying monuments and violence.  

Rereading the original article, I found nothing supporting these things. Instead I read about a working group formed by “Catholics and Friends for Black Lives and Racial Equality” for a day of “reflection, remembrance and healing.” The pilgrimage started with prayer “in the memory of the peacemaker we follow.” As stated by Abby Causey, it was to be a day where members of the black community could tell their stories while others listened.  

The speakers who followed did tell stories of their personal experiences with racism. The article ends with one of the organizers speaking to the need to keep the momentum inspired by the pilgrimage going “to be moved by our faith into action.” 

None of this sounds Marxist to me. In the same Aug. 10 issue, the guest commentary by Richard Doerflinger titled “Why Catholics should be in the forefront of fight against racism” is worth reading.   

The millions of citizens, including many Catholics, supporting Black Lives Matter see it as a social justice movement to end racism and promote equality. I say Black Lives Matter because sadly there are those among us who don’t agree. – Colleen Hernandez, Salem

 Accept sacrifice to protect neighbors from disease

Regarding Liz Wetzel’s letter (Catholic Virginian, Aug. 24): As I read her statement, she is concerned that the Church’s attendance restrictions, such as wearing a mask, are sending people away from the Lord. On the basis of that understanding, I have two observations in response. 

Although the Church is the sacred temple of the Holy Spirit, it is simultaneously a human institution, and therefore, the Church always welcomes its members within a certain political and social situation. It must abide by the laws of the earthly city (provided that does not conflict with life in the Spirit), in this case CDC and other governmental recommendations.

More importantly, Christians are called to make sacrifices for the wellbeing of our neighbors. I do miss having such ready access to communion with our Lord through the Eucharist, but is it not better to sacrifice that privilege for a time to show love for our brothers and sisters? I gladly accept these sacrifices to protect my neighbors from a potentially devastating disease. Therefore, these restrictions can be practiced as an expression of love and compassion for our neighbor, and surely Christ is present in that. 

Moreover, I suspect that in the future, when we are again able to fill our churches, I will be less prone to take communal participation in the Mass for granted, and more deeply savor the riches bestowed by liturgy. – Eric Gleason, Waynesboro 

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