Letters to the Editor

Orphans of all nationalities deserve attention

Dear Editor,
I thought I would respond to the article ["Orphans given a 'family'", by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 6 no 47, December 11-17]. It clearly revealed the flaws in the existing system in not preparing kids for adulthood. Creating a family environment for children definitely seems the most humane solution, especially for kids who have no chance to be adopted and get out of the system altogether. That would apply to probably all of the kids who are 5 years or older.
I would like to point out an interesting phenomena with pictures that are published of orphans: If you were to visit orphanages you would find that 90% of the kids who are in orphanages are Roma.
Yet, when I have seen brochures of happy orphan children, I usually see at least half of the kids in the pictures to be blond-haired, fair skinned kids. The picture you chose for your newspaper has kept to that model. It is good for fund raising. Slovaks wouldn't enthusiastically give to a project if they saw that their money would be used to take care of Roma children.
Two big steps toward helping most abandoned kids would be to recognise international standards for the human rights of children and ratify laws which allow unwanted children in Slovakia to be adopted into families where they would be loved and would grow normally. If these families live in other countries, where race and colour of skin are not issues, then let it be. (This could help many of the kids who are still quite young.)
Additionally, laws in Slovakia concerning the termination of parental rights require absolute minimal responsibility of the parents of children in orphanages and grant maximal rights. Instead of measuring parental interests (it is adequate to send a post card, or make a phone call once every 6 months), the laws should give natural parents a clearly-defined time period to solve their personal problems in order for the kids to return home. If they don't show any evidence of solving their problems, then the parent rights can be terminated. Unfortunately, according to existing laws, 90% of kids are tied into the system and not even allowed for adoption to anyone.

Bill Baker

Still searching forsome balance

Dear Editor,
The recent opinion, "Giving a Bit of Balance" [Letters to the Editor, by Mark Lovas, Vol. 6 No. 46, December 4-10] missed the main point of my letter, but in doing so ended up supporting it. The author criticises the letter for not providing proof of its assertions. Fair enough, but my point was that the burden of proof should be on The Spectator, not with my letter or any particular opinion letter. After all, it was The Spectator that wrote up its articles as "news" stories - i.e. objective, factual pieces appearing on page one - not as "opinion" on the opinion page.
After reading the first article ["Minister recommends gays seek treatment", by Tom Nicholson, Vol. 6 No. 32, August 28-September 3], I thought "OK - they don't bother to consult the Church but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt." Then came another ["Slovak gays pushed to limit", by Chris Togneri, Vol. 6 No. 34, September 11-17], a third ["Catholic Slovaks open to religious minorities", by Chris Togneri, Vol. 6 No. 37, October 2-8] - which interviewed a Bahá'í, a Lutheran, a Zen Buddhist, a sociologist, but no Catholic! - and finally a fourth ["Tolerant Dutch notch gay-rights first", by Chris Togneri, Vol. 6 No. 42, November 6-12].
I thought "this is really crazy, someone should respond to this stuff." So I did. I take the reader's point about the support of opinion, but at the end of the day, my opinion - well supported or not - is still an opinion. I don't bill it as "news."
Second, as far as my particular assertions go, I never intended to prove the Church's position is "true" (a word my critic uses but which I never did). What I said was that the Church's views are "legitimate," meaning established, recognised, authentic, and therefore deserving a place at the discussion table (by implication, this also implies that they are not "fringe"). What confers legitimacy on the Church and its views? The following are some of the more obvious points: longevity (a 2000 year history); one billion adherents world-wide; Catholic "world youth gatherings" which brought two million young people to Rome this August and an estimated five million to the Philippines in 1995 (arguably the largest gathering of people in one place for one event in recorded history); the respect of the international community (the Vatican is recognised and has diplomatic relations with most states of the UN; Popes have regularly been invited to speak before the General Assembly). If these points don't suffice in conferring legitimacy, I don't know how many more would.
As for my additional comments that the Church's views are not bigoted or anti-homosexual - I'm afraid the reader will have to have enough interest in the matter to make at least a cursory investigation into Catholic theology on the issue (space restrictions being what they are here). I will only say that I have met few scholars in my academic career - whether supporters of the Church's positions or not - who would claim that its views are based on prejudice or hatred for certain peoples rather than on theological reflection grounded in its understanding of Christ's teaching.
As for the political point, I respectfully must continue to take issue with my critic concerning the idea that a majority cannot restrict the rights of a minority in a democratic system. I can only suppose that by "rights" he understood only those that are already codified, constitutional, or otherwise legally protected rather than the much larger category of those that are "claimed" by aggrieved minority groups. If that's the case then I apologise for the confusion. I was in fact referring to this latter category of rights which democratic majorities are perfectly free to grant, deny, or limit as they see fit. This, in fact, goes on legitimately all the time. Sixteen year-olds - a large minority in most democracies - are denied the right to vote. Marijuana smokers, a more vocal minority, are denied rights to grow, possess and inhale their substance (Holland being an exception). Rights claimed by homosexuals are not constitutionally recognised in Slovakia or currently in America at the national level. Therefore, as in any democracy, they may be debated, advanced or denied - by the majority. To argue that a minority should impose them is certainly possible. But then, of course, one would be arguing in favour of tyranny.
Finally - though not a literary critic - I would venture to say that it was Huck Finn's "upbringing" that warned him not to help Jim escape. His conscience spoke otherwise.

David Reichardt

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