Letters – May 15, 2023


Compassion is not enough for gender dysphoria

I was pleased to see the diocese addressing the difficult issues of gender dysphoria in the March 20 front-page article “Be compassionate, yet firm.”

Compassion is a very necessary characteristic of anyone’s response to someone experiencing gender dysphoria, no less than for young children experiencing precocious puberty. Cultural ideologies, including those promoting superficial and easy answers to our core human identity, are not comforting and often add to the confusion that already exists.

However, compassion is necessary but not sufficient. Our faith is not itself an ideology to be preached at children or teenagers to discourage them from wrestling with these difficult experiences.

Our faith offers us a framework for discernment, thoughtfully stepping back to inquire how we may be good stewards of our bodies in service and love, in thanksgiving, and in praise.

It is this process of discernment that I would hope our diocese would advocate, teach to our parents, our clergy, and our young people.

This same discernment can become the practice when confront- ing other issues of how to use our sexuality when making decisions on forming intimate relationships, get- ting married, and having children.

One additional point – let us not confuse the teaching of ensoulment with biologically assigned sex. Catholic natural theology does not simplistically equivocate our biologically assigned sex to our capacity to know God through reason. Consider those

children born with genetic abnormalities that obscure determination of their male versus female identity; they are still given the capacity to know God, and their sex organs neither determine nor limit that capacity. –Deacon Melvin Dowdy, Phd Richmond

Social justice is pro-life

The April 17 article on interfaith action for social justice is welcome news. Two Charlottesville groups, IMPACT and RISC, are addressing major problems, including homelessness and poor housing conditions.

Other urban centers, for example, Richmond and Tidewater, may be wise to adopt this interfaith model of the biblical Nehemiah approach to a city’s needs.

With so much achieved, and so much still to do, it may seem awkward to ask for more. In fact, some major pro-life issues require attention, not only locally, but also at the level of Virginia’s legislature and executive branch.

Specifically (and these suggestions are minimal), an increased minimum wage and enforcement of workplace safety rules are of immense importance. There have been recent revelations of high numbers of teenage migrant workers, exploited by low pay, long hours, and dangerous working conditions.

Environmental justice is also of pro-life importance, considering how many people work without protection from pollutants, and how many of us live downwind of them. These conditions contribute to miscarriages and to maternal and infant mortality.

Interfaith efforts are warranted for these problems. Whatever one’s faith, residence or economic status, nobody should have to eat, drink or breathe industrial waste. –Philip F. O’Mara Lexington

Editor’s note: As noted in the April 17 article, IMPACT is a Charlottesville-based group, while RISC works in Richmond.

We need more Catholic schools

This is in reply to our bishop’s column on April 17, dealing with Catholic schools. It was an outstanding article which needs to be further implemented with positive actions.

When I was a youngster growing up in the Brooklyn Diocese of New York, which covered downtown Brooklyn out to Montauk Point, the then-Bishop Thomas E. Molloy ordered that no new churches were to be built until a school was operating using the school’s auditorium for church services. He wanted to see that every parish had access to a Catholic school.

I attended Catholic schools for over 20 years and loved every moment. I attribute my successes to that fantastic Catholic education. We need Catholic schools to be opened, not closed, and we should start by reopening Holy Cross School, and establishing schools in the western part of Virginia, for example: Staunton and Harrisonburg areas.

Catholic schools are where religious vocations develop, and it would be great if we could have one or two religious in each school.

As for the financial aspects, may I suggest a foundation be set up just for investing principal and using only the income for funding tuitions.

Virginia is a prosperous state, and I can imagine getting funding from the people. This could reduce the tuition to manageable levels.

We need more Catholic schools – not fewer. Let’s all get together and see that it happens. –Francis Chester Swoope

Editor’s note: Learn more about the Virginia Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits (EISTC) program at richmonddiocese.org/eistc/.

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