Look back in pity

Bravo, Michael Musto, for your brave and brilliant article about John Paul II's relentless gay bashing and intransigent backwardness when it came to sexuality ["Pope Springs Eternal—But Why?" April 13-19]. For those of us queers who have been enraged by the Vatican's toxic brew of medieval nonsense about sexuality and unabashed hate-mongering, your article was just what we needed. I broke with the church many years ago and never looked back, except perhaps in pity for those gays and lesbians who still vainly hope that one day, maybe under some other pope, they might be regarded as human beings instead of demons from hell. My only cause for optimism is the steady decline in the church's authority and influence, Wojtyla's personal popularity notwithstanding. But then, as Musto points out, hating queers is an ecumenical sport. So even if Roman Catholicism were to become extinct (I can dream, can't I?), there would always be reverends, rabbis, and imams eager to pile on. "Imagine no religion." If only!

George DeStafano
Long Island City, Queens

Defending dissent

As the co-founders of Columbians for Academic Freedom, the independent student group formed to support students' rights at Columbia University, it is important to point out that in "Report From the Upper West Bank" [April 6-12], John Giuffo repeats a false claim made often by those who have jumped to the side of professors like Joseph Massad who have bullied students: that we protest professorial conduct in order to censor pro-Palestinian opinions. This is not the case. Professor Rashid Khalidi, who Giuffo claims is among those called out by students during the recent course of events, is a case in point. We have defended his reputation as a decent professor on radio, in print, and before large audiences—despite the fact that many of his views may be deeply offensive to us. We do so because academic freedom should protect not only those you agree with, but those you disagree with; people such as Professor Joseph Massad and his supporters have yet to learn this. In denying students the right to express their position supporting Israel's right to exist, they hurt the academy as a whole by justifying censorship and preventing genuine debate. We hope the Columbia community will rise above petty political tagging and see the heart of the matter: protecting the students' right to dissent.

Ariel Beery, Aharon Horwitz, Daniella Kahane, and Bari Weiss

Scant evidence

Giuffo presents much of the story, but not all. As a Columbia grad school alumnus (1967), I wrote President Bollinger about my distress at seeing the issue framed as the intimidation of students when the intimidation of faculty by groups such as Campus Watch has been going on for several years now. Moreover, the issue was framed that way by a shadowy outside Zionist group, the David Project, whose main evidence was the word of a couple of pro-Israel students—that's all—and the avowedly Zionist New York Sun.

Columbia replied to my letter, incredibly, with a packet of materials, including four pages describing the richness of Jewish life on campus, the many Jewish courses available, and (I could hardly believe my eyes) a reprint of an article by an outspoken Zionist professor that was published in the very paper that spearheaded the attack against Professor Massad, the Sun. In short, Bollinger's major concern was not free speech and fairness, but satisfying those Jewish trustees, chair endowers, and faculty so prominent in the schools of law and medicine in particular. The university has certainly fallen from those days when it supported Professor Edward Said unflinchingly.

Miriam M. Reik
Upper West Side

Selective blindness

Michael Musto put into words every reason why I have little respect for the pope and am sick and tired of all the endless fawning over him by newspeople who never question the oppressive side of the Catholic Church ["Pope Springs Eternal—But Why?" April 13-19]. I will never consider anybody in a position of great religious power who teaches that women are second-class citizens and gays are evil as being anything other than extremely harmful to the world. I don't care how many times the pope apologized to Jews—the fact that he was capable of doing that makes it all the more reprehensible that he was so blind in other areas.

Christy Smith
Springfield, Virginia

Not to be outdone

I've always been a fan of Michael Musto, but I admit he has outdone himself—in both eloquence and wit.

Jack Brown
Houston, Texas

I am, I said

Musto's article is pretty much what I said to my family this week—that I didn't relish an old man's suffering but, come on, he did encourage the whole world to hate me as an American; a woman unfit for the priesthood; a lesbian; a lesbian mother; a lesbian who wants to marry her partner of 23 years; a capitalist who is pro-democracy, pro-choice; and a secularist who is against tax breaks for churches so they can cover up for pedophile priests.

Meredith Shambaugh
Cathedral City, California

Reverential treatment

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