- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

State Department responds to editor's note

I appreciate it that my letter supporting Maura Harty's nomination for the post of assistant secretary of state for consular affairs was printed ("State Department defends Harty nomination," Saturday). But the statistics used by The Times in an editor's note accompanying my letter are not quoted accurately and are misused.

During the time Ms. Harty was principal deputy secretary of state for consular affairs, from August 1999 to April 2001, 339 abducted children were returned to their homes in the United States out of 801 cases being handled. That equates to a 42 percent return rate. This fact speaks to the issue raised in your editorial.

My deputy, Philip Reeker, stated that we were able to reunite 170 children with their American parents during the 12 months leading up to July 2002. That is a different time period from the time period described above and concerns different children and different cases from the time Ms. Harty held the position of principal deputy secretary position.

The 16,000 abductions cited by The Washington Post is perhaps someone's estimate of total international child abductions from the United States since the early 1970s, but it is not ours. We consider it to be inaccurate. There is no record of how many children we saw returned to their parents before 1994, the year in which we created the Office of Children's Issues. Even if we were to use that number, it is misleading and inaccurate to divide 170, the number of children we returned to their parents in single year, by an estimate of abductions for the past 30 years to create a "rate of return" of abducted children.

At the very least, the same time period should be used when examining the number of children abducted and the number of children returned.

In any case, we always keep it foremost in our mind and in our work that these children deserve to live in the custody of their legally appointed American parents. We work on each case to solve it for the good of the child. Numbers don't tell the story of these children or of our efforts to see them reunited with their American families.


Assistant secretary of state for public affairs

State Department


Distinctly unpurple prose

I commend the reporters Jerry Seper and Jim Keary for the article they wrote announcing the capture of the snipers in Frederick, Md. ("'Thank God, it's over,'" Page1, yesterday). Their reportage is a model of clarity of information and detail. I have grown tired of reading newspaper articles that are written as if the reporter were trying to write the great American novel. This kind of writing makes me angry because I have to read to the third or fourth paragraph before finding out what the story is about.


Glen Burnie

What would Townsend do?

Since Maryland's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is now waving the bloody shirt of the recent sniper attacks to boost her flagging campaign ("Second Townsend ad raises gun-control issue," Metro, Tuesday), one wonders how she would treat this cold-blooded killer now that he and his accomplice may have been captured.

Well, if her record is any indication, the killer(s) can expect a long life, free health care, free food, free housing, media interviews, sympathetic supporters, a college education, legal assistance and always the possibility of a "humanitarian" pardon all at taxpayer expense. All this while the victims and their families are cynically used to advance Mrs. Townsend's political career that has been tough on guns, tougher on gun owners and soft on criminals.

On the other hand, if the murderer(s) were captured in Virginia, there would be some hope that we would be rid of the killer(s) permanently.



To execute or not to execute, that is the question

Wednesday's editorial "Teens, murder and the Supreme Court" leaves several critical questions hanging in the balance, and perhaps the lives of countless juveniles along with them.

The editorial poses a question: "If it's proper morally to execute a duly convicted 18-year-old murderer, why should a 17-year-old who commits a similar offense be spared?" Leaving aside the "if" in this hypothetical scenario, how far should this regressive thinking go? Age 14? Ten? Does The Times envision each case being based on the individual's background and developmental level? And, if so, by what standard should those criteria be judged and by whom?

Would it be viable for this same subjective reasoning to be applied to other areas where age restrictions presently apply: for example, to those wishing to vote, consume alcohol, marry or serve in the military and perhaps die for their beliefs? Objective legal standards are purposely inviolable, above the whims of subjectivity. Precision and impartiality are the hallmarks of our judicial system. Leave them in place.


Executive director

American Humanist Association


I read with interest "Teens, murder and the Supreme Court," which criticizes the liberal justices who dissented from the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the death penalty for criminals under 18.

The editorial asserts that the dissenters' reasoning is "absurd on its face, and should be read more correctly as the leading edge of a more general attack upon capital punishment itself." How true. Yet the intellectual dishonesty of the dissenters is vastly more monstrous than the editorial suggests.

All four of them voted in a previous case, Stenberg vs. Carhart, to invalidate a Nebraska law that outlawed partial birth abortion. For these jurists to claim that such a gruesome procedure is constitutional while simultaneously asserting that the execution of a convicted criminal under age 18 is not goes way beyond absurdity.

It is the moral equivalent of declaring evil to be good and good to be evil.



How to deal with bad priests

It is worth reminding readers, in light of Paul Steidler and Mark Serrano's column "The Vatican's day of shame" (Op-Ed, Thursday), that the Roman Catholic Church exists to forgive sin and to promote holiness.

There is nothing more abhorrent to the eyes of Christ and His church than the sexual abuse of children by priests. The church is doing everything in its power to make sure that it never happens again and to offer its healing ministries to both victims and their families. There are no excuses, and the entire priesthood, from bishops on down, will have to continue to do penance for these heinous crimes.

At the same time, the church must make sure that the due process of the law, both civil and canonical, is afforded to those priests who may have been unjustly accused of these crimes. Thankfully, it has been a minuscule proportion of priests and other clergy who have been guilty of such conduct in the past 40 years.

I would hope that all concerned, not only in the Catholic Church, but in many sectors of our society where these types of crimes are so sadly frequent, would be interested above all in identifying the causes and finding solutions rather than in imputing bad will to those who are honestly seeking to deal with this problem.



Catholic Information Center


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