Conscientious Objection

Re Nat Hentoff's "The Cardinal, Gays, and Lesbians" [May 23]: The Roman Catholic Church maintains that homosexuality is an intrinsic moral disorder. In the United States, John Cardinal O'Connor was the most ardent champion among Catholic hierarchs of this vicious lie, quite a distinction given the general backwardness of the Church on sexual matters.

As the pope's enforcer, O'Connor was relentless in his opposition to any and all gay-affirmative policies, including the Rainbow Curriculum and AIDS education, even in public schools. He also opposed gay participation in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, and anti-discrimination measures in general. Yet Nat Hentoff kvells over the fact that O'Connor once met some gay Catholics and even shook their hands, as if that piddling gesture makes up for all those nasty public-policy positions.

Nauseated by the endless hagiography churned out by the daily papers since O'Connor's passing, I had hoped that the Voice would present an alternative view of the life and career of a man many New Yorkers regard as a moral tyrant. I know I'm not alone in being disappointed.

George De Stefano
Long Island City

Nat Hentoff replies: No Catholic prelate took a different position on any of these matters. That's Catholic teaching—not mine or yours. As for the St. Patrick's Day Parade, in a similar case the Supreme Court and various civil libertarians took O'Connor's position. As I wrote, O'Connor established the first AIDS-designated center in a New York hospital and visited there often, even emptying bedpans. Not quite the mark of a moral tyrant.

Organized Religion

Nat Hentoff's "My Friend the Cardinal" [May 16] admirably captured the complexity of John Cardinal O'Connor's politics. Although his provocative remarks on gays and abortion garnered headlines, O'Connor's liberal positions on the death penalty, welfare reform, and labor were often underplayed in the mainstream press.

These liberal stands, however, are in keeping with orthodox Catholic theology, particularly in terms of labor. In his encyclical of 1891, Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII urged Catholics to chart a middle course between capitalism and socialism and defended the right of laborers to form unions that would press for a living wage.

In reminding Catholics of their traditional commitment to unions, O'Connor hearkened back to an era that John Paul II, in an effort to distance himself from socialist liberation theology, has seemed determined to leave behind. If O'Connor proved himself an ally of the pope in many matters, he was not slavishly so.

Laura Pangallozzi
Maplewood, New Jersey

Web Of Hate

Ward Harkavy's article "Left Behind" [May 16] was an excellent introduction to some of the issues regarding the rise of extremism on the Internet.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has been monitoring this issue since 1995. During this time we have seen the number of hate sites grow from one to over 2000. Our annual CD-ROM report, Digital Hate, demonstrates the varieties and types of online extremism. The most recent report discusses the rise of sites aimed at the recruitment of women and children.

The attempt to deal with this issue without sliding into censorship should be a major concern to all of us who inhabit cyberspace.

Mark Weitzman
Director, Task Force Against Hate
Simon Wiesenthal Center

Ultimate Equalizer

Ward Harkavy's "Left Behind" missed an important reality: the unique distinction between the Internet and broadcast media.

The broadcast spectrum has a finite quantity of bandwidth. In any given region, there can be only a certain number of stations before the spectrum has been fully allotted. Web space, on the other hand, is infinite. It's the epitome of free speech, the endless public square. No matter its proportions, every major site is reached by a URL no different from that which services the splinter of opinion proffered by someone with no other claim to fame.

Matt Drudge, one of Harkavy's examples of Internet success, started out as a salesclerk at a souvenir shop, with an interest in gossip, a keyboard, and a two-bit Internet connection. On the Internet, word of mouth is pretty much everything. Say something that folks find interesting, and they'll read it—and keep coming back to see what else you have to say. A cheap (or free) Internet connection can be the ultimate equalizer.

Ron Schwarz
Hart, Michigan

Left in the Dust?

In "Left Behind," Ward Harkavy writes that left sites are latecomers to the Web. Not so. In fact, activist groups of left, anarchist, and libertarian persuasions were among those that pioneered the use of the Web for political purposes. Left activists had been utilizing e-mail for several years before the Web became widely usable in 1994 with the introduction of the Mosaic browser.

Within a year of Mosaic's release, there were several hundred left Web sites and dozens of anarchist Web sites.

It's because left activists have been using the Internet heavily for most of the 1990s that events like the "Battle for Seattle" and last month's demonstrations against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., were possible.

Chuck Munson
College Park, Maryland

Work in Progress

Thank you for James Ridgeway's article "Right Thinking" [May 16]. As an unabashed Rush Dittohead and a longtime admirer of Sam Smith's Progressive Review, I'm finding myself liking The Village Voice more and more these days. There's less kumbaya doofism and more common sense.

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