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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

>Council shouldn't interfere with diocese's decisions

The Buffalo Common Council passed a resolution that accused the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo of "ethnic cleansing." Council President David A. Franczyk charged that some neighborhoods were being abandoned. He also said that if the Catholic Church is having financial problems, it should consider selling the Vatican.

As individuals, Council members have the right to express any opinion they wish. As a government entity, they are not entitled to interfere with the internal affairs of a religious institution. When religious leaders criticize politicians for positions they take, there are always loud cries calling for the separation of church and state. The irony is that when Thomas Jefferson wrote those famous words, his primary concern was that in America religion should always be free of government interference.

The Vatican is not responsible for the finances of individual dioceses or parishes. To say that the Catholic Church should sell the Vatican makes as much sense as saying that since cities like Buffalo have financial problems, then the federal government should sell the Capitol Building in Washington.

The State Assembly recently failed to provide some modest tax breaks for parents who choose private schools for their children. Perhaps the Council could see what it could do to assist all the institutions within Buffalo that contribute to the life of the city instead of making inflammatory statements.

Rory Reichenberg


>Polish community isn't the only one suffering

After reading the front-page story in the June 29 News, I have to wonder where David Franczyk and Roger Puchalski have been during the Journey in Faith and Grace in the Catholic Church. I attended the meetings and heard all of the "right" reasons why difficult decisions had to be made. I also heard all those who had ties to churches complain and become angry at the thought of their parish closing. We have situations in my area -- they are all over the diocese -- with the same anguish.

Why would these gentlemen feel that the Polish community deserves a better break than all the others? Ethnicity! That is hogwash! Shame on Franczyk and Puchalski. They should look at the numbers and look at the shepherds of the church. There should be no question this was necessary -- obviously the conclusion of our leader Bishop Edward Kmiec and those who have been in this for years.

Ilona Klein


>Church does a great deal to help residents of city

The resolution passed by the Buffalo Common Council criticizing the closing of Catholic parishes in the city was a disgrace. Does David Franczyk have any idea how much is done by the diocese in the city, like Catholic Charities and outreach from many parishes to help people?

I admire architecture and understand the sadness with the closing of a parish. But forming new parishes with enough people to support youth ministry, senior programs and outreach to help others and develop a vibrant community is a positive event.

The "ethnic cleansing" comment was a disgrace and an irresponsible remark. Is there some hint of Bosnia or Rwanda in closing underpopulated parishes? If the Common Council is so concerned about the quality of life in Buffalo, why did it sell Fulton Street to the Seneca Gaming Corp. and why does it take so long to address the vacant house issues now plaguing our firefighters?

"Church" is not primarily about buildings, it is about communities of faith, and now we have the opportunity to enhance that. I know that these decisions are painful for the Catholic Diocese, but they are necessary to move forward to better meet the needs of the people.

Robert J. Heffern


>'Ethnic cleansing' remark was absolutely outrageous

When I heard the statement that Council President David A. Franczyk made about the diocese closing churches in Buffalo being akin to ethnic cleansing, I was outraged. Clearly Franczyk and other members of the Council are totally clueless about what ethnic cleansing is. How can they relate things like the massacre in Bosnia, where more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were lined up and shot in the back of the head in one day, to the decision to close a church?

Furthermore, when I read The News article that reported the number of parishioners in these churches, the reason for the action by the diocese became clear. It seems that most of the people who used to attend these churches have left the area, which brings up hard questions. Just how effective has Franczyk been in taking care of the area that he has represented while serving on the Common Council? And what happened to his district? Look at the stores along Broadway that are now closed.

It seems that he and the rest of the Council members have had a lot to do with the problems that led the diocese to reluctantly take these steps. Maybe the voters in this city should remember this moment when they step into the polls and cast their vote.

Jeremy Lewis


>Council members are big part of the problem

For David Franczyk or any other Common Council member to even hint that the Catholic Diocese is conspiring to commit ethnic cleansing is the height of hypocrisy. The City of Buffalo was built by Catholics. They built the churches, the schools, the hospitals, the nursing homes, the orphanages and the list goes on.

The members of these parishes left the city a long time ago. They didn't flee to Florida or Phoenix. They went to Amherst, Tonawanda, Cheektowaga, etc., to areas that placed a premium on education and safety. They fled the pandering political parasites that have been running the city for generations.

Franczyk, his colleagues and his predecessors forgot that churches need members, cities need taxpayers and schools need students. Franczyk was given a beautiful city with a vibrant collage of ethnic cultures. But the people have outgrown him and the pandering politics. They have moved on. The Catholic Church was one of the first ones in and it is now one of the last to leave. The Council, and Franczyk in particular, owe the bishop, the diocese, and the citizens an apology.

Joseph M. Shiah


>Government can't handle the demand for passports

The current passport backlog and the way the U.S. government is handling it is unbelievable! I applied for a passport for my son on March 31 and still do not have it. He is going abroad where he needs a passport, even with the recently relaxed requirements. I believe that 100 days should be more than enough time to process the paperwork.

When I called Rep. Brian Higgins' office, I was assured that I would receive the passport one to two days prior to departure. This time frame is a little too close for comfort, especially when I followed all the rules and applied well in advance. Apparently, the State Department is now processing the passports based on departure dates rather than application dates.

Higgins' aide further informed me that if I did not receive the passport within a few days of departure, we could fly to a national passport center in Chicago, New York or Boston to take care of the problem. Easy fix, huh?

Online inquires yield little information and telephone calls to the National Passport Information Center tell you not to bother calling if your trip is not within the next two weeks. The government has created this mess by imposing requirements that called for increased passport needs. Apparently, it did not plan ahead for the corresponding increase in staffing needs due to increased volume. As a result, we are inconvenienced. No surprises here!

Linda A. Gallagher


>Passports are needed to keep country safe

Disgraceful. Disgusting. Arrogant. The weekend news featured Republican and Democratic legislators' vocal objections to passport and waterway registration. Rep. Tom Reynolds, by joining Democrats, insults Conservative Republicans like myself. Passports are needed. We are at war. Our legislators must realize America's security is at stake and stop the obstructionism.

Mary A. Kless


>We must elect leaders who respect Constitution

It's quite early in the political year, but this country, with its once great ideals, is in free-fall due to an inept administration that is thumbing its nose at Congress and the will of the American people. The very essence of our democracy, the Constitution, is at risk. It is continually abrogated or ignored, and thus ultimately threatened by the very people sworn to uphold it.

Members of the Bush administration make their own rules, rationalize their behavior, thwart any attempt to shed light on sinister and perhaps illegal activities, and deny the foundation of government that we all learned in civics classes. Slowly, but certainly, we are witnessing the rise of fascism.

The administration invaded Iraq, which was not involved in 9/1 1 and posed no threat to us, then completely mishandled the war. It has set aside any domestic agenda, diminished our stature in the world, slashed our treasury, weakened our military, needlessly killed or maimed many of our finest, and ultimately weakened our security. And of course, scientific thought be damned! We have several fine, alternative choices. Please support any consensus candidate, or one who won't serve to elevate the present regime.

Leonard Gross
East Amherst


>Health care system is failing Americans

As a graduate of a college program in social work, I truly thought I understood the flaws in the U.S. health care system. It was upsetting to sit in class six years ago and see statistics showing that 40 million people in this country were uninsured, in part because I was one of them. I felt so lucky when I got a job after college where health insurance was included and paid for, something even my hardworking parents had not had for many years.

Imagine my surprise watching Michael Moore's new movie "Sicko." The number of uninsured Americans has increased to nearly 50 million over the last several years. Unfortunately, even if an individual has health insurance, there is no guarantee of obtaining the care needed to treat an illness. People die needlessly in this country because care is denied. If you doubt this, go see "Sicko," which shows stories of lives lost due to our profit-based system. This film pointed out something that we all intuitively know -- financial incentives and health care are just too dangerous to mix.

Alison Schweichler

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