Saturday Mailbox


August 12, 2006

Church's role misunderstood

Much attention has been focused lately on the Archdiocese's efforts to demolish the Rochambeau apartment building and many of the facts surrounding the Archdiocese's decision to purchase the building and subsequent decision to demolish it have been distorted or altogether ignored.

The Catholic Church has many responsibilities in exercising its mission: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, to educate our children and to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Cardinal William H. Keeler is charged with carrying out these responsibilities and has led campaigns that have raised more than $250 million for Catholic education, pastoral ministry and outreach ministries to the poor and needy.

The cardinal also has embraced his responsibility as steward of a National Historic Landmark, the Basilica, America's first cathedral. Doing so meant addressing the urgent crisis created by an aging infrastructure . Repairs and updates to the church accounted for over 80 percent of the cost of the project -- the vast majority of funds for which the cardinal raised nationally and internationally. By purchasing the Rochambeau, the Archdiocese was seizing an opportunity to own all of the property surrounding the Basilica, thereby ensuring that its attraction to tourists and pilgrims could eventually be enhanced along with the Church's religious presence on this site.

Though the Archdiocese intended to operate the Rochambeau as an apartment building , it was forced to accelerate plans for the property when it became economically infeasible to maintain. The building was not acquired for economic gain or for any malicious purpose.

The Basilica restoration and construction of the nearby John Paul II Memorial Prayer Garden represent an exercise of our Catholic mission. The Church believes that all of us need more opportunities in our daily lives for prayer, education about the history of religious freedom and inter-religious dialogue. These opportunities are no more important than our efforts to promote worship in our parishes, feed the poor, house the homeless and educate our children, but they are our mission nonetheless.

Bishop W. Francis Malooly


The writer is vicar general for the Baltimore Archdiocese.

New menhaden limit is a step backward

Some observers are applauding a major step backward in fisheries management as if it were a victory ("A good fish story," editorial, Aug. 7). But if we think of rules that allow companies to continue their bad behavior as a "compromise" that benefits the environment, it should surprise no one that the health of the Chesapeake Bay and our coastal bays will continue to fail.

Menhaden, like oysters, are filter feeders -- fish that clean the water with every gulp.

These fish are commercially harvested in the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay by just one company, Omega Protein. Although Omega is not allowed to harvest menhaden in Maryland waters, the company operates along Virginia's coast, catching enough menhaden every year to push the population of this species dangerously low.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission issued a catch limit on menhaden that most recreational fishermen and conservationists felt was far too lenient because it was based on the number of menhaden Omega had caught over the past five years.

Virginia refused to implement even that gracious cap, and now has passed a limit that is not only higher than the one offered by the commission but allows Omega to catch more menhaden the next year if they fail to reach the limit in the previous year.

Meanwhile, the water keeps getting more polluted and these fish, which could help clean it, keep disappearing.

If this is what government calls a compromise, the Chesapeake Bay and other coastal bays are doomed.

Jay Charland


The writer is Assateague Coastkeeper for the Assateague Coastal Trust Inc.

The right `balance' on menhaden catch

Columnist Candus Thompson ("Minus founder, fishing trip still eases grief," Aug. 6) and the writer of the letter "More compromises will not save the bay" (Aug. 7) were right to question the use of the word "compromise" to describe the recent announcement by Virginia and Maryland regarding menhaden catch limits.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been adamant that the action was not a "compromise," and the writers' impression that I called it one is incorrect. As reported by several papers, I called the action "a balance between conservation and commerce," which is a standard of good fisheries management.

Too often, fishery decisions have been skewed toward commerce at the expense of conservation.

The result has either been the protracted loss of a fishery or the need to compensate by skewing a subsequent decision toward conservation (e.g., the rockfish fishing moratorium).

And, in truth, Virginia's action on the menhaden was not a result of negotiation.

The action will put in place the first limit ever on the industrial catch in Virginia.

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