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No one is being forced to use contraception

From the way our Catholic bishops are reacting, one might think that our government is training a corps of modern-day Malthusian storm troopers who will be forcing contraceptives upon women at the gates of Catholic-tradition universities and hospitals. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The proposed implementation of the Affordable Care Act will not compel anyone to use contraceptives. Nor will it require churches or organizations with solely religious purposes to fund insurance programs that include contraception. With the recent revisions proposed by the president, it will not even require most Catholic tradition institutions to pay for contraceptive service. And for almost all institutions, it offers a morally defensible way to provide coverage while not directly cooperating with "evil."

As was pointed out in a recent News story, the proposed exceptions are consistent with laws currently in effect in 26 states, including New York. The new regulations would represent almost no difference to local organizations such as Catholic Charities, Catholic health service agencies and Catholic universities. In light of the adjustments, the outcry from the New York bishops seems a bit disingenuous.

It is certainly understandable that Republican politicians would attempt to exploit this issue for partisan advantage. The fact that our bishops would continue to join this outcry after being provided with a solution that a novice canon lawyer could easily defend makes one wonder if they are pursuing a much more partisan agenda.

Michael Toner

Williamsville

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Mandate infringes on religious freedom

In response to Eugene Robinson's column titled, "A religious war out of thin air," I think his words were a disservice to his readers by making light of a situation that is very serious. The Health and Human Services mandate requiring all employers to cover contraception, sterilization and possible abortifacients regardless of their conscientious objections is an issue of conscience, not contraception. It is a threat to the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Why is this coverage even mandated?

Robinson mentions that Catholic women (along with many other women) already use contraception, so it is already widely available. I even read about a college that was planning on offering Plan B in a vending machine. Why is it being imposed on those who object to it and seek protection under the First Amendment?

Robinson asks: "Just how has this 'hostility to faith' " manifested itself? In 2009, after receiving an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame, and also in speaking about his health legislation, President Obama assured us of conscience protection and a "sensible conscience clause." There are many people of different faiths and organizations now speaking out against this mandate saying that the president has gone back on his word. There are legal proceedings against the government arguing that this mandate is unconstitutional.

U.S. bishops have spoken out and they are joined by other denominations, members of the Senate and House and attorneys general of several states. A lot of people think this is more serious than "a religious war out of thin air." It would be good to look more deeply into this issue.

Mary Roaldi

Kenmore

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Outraged bishops mum on other issues

The bishops do not speak for all Catholic women, including me. How arrogant for this group of men to decide what is moral for the other half of the population. If they want to be true to the teachings of the founder of the religion, then they would do well to speak more carefully about issues of morality. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke most strongly and most often about peace and forgiveness.

There are no front-page stories about the bishops complaining about wars and the burgeoning prison population. We did not hear the bishops raise their considerable voices over the pedophilia scandal. Their response seemed quite tepid. Often they blamed the victims and stonewalled litigation. While Jesus spoke against adultery, I do not see the bishops criticizing a certain male serial adulterer who is a presidential candidate.

Yet in recent years a presidential candidate was threatened with excommunication for taking a pro-woman stand. Catholic women, both religious and lay, have worked hard to have their concerns heard in the church. The bishops would be wise to listen to them. Perhaps for a change the bishops can concentrate on instructing men, both religious and lay, on the issues of peace and forgiveness.

Linda Drajem

Buffalo

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Animal shelters need additional resources

The Feb. 16 News brought us news of another animal shelter that apparently underperforms to our expected treatment of animals. Stories of mistreatment are implied, and personnel at the facilities are vilified for "letting this happen." The stories are silent, however, on the real reason for most problems at all these facilities -- too many animals and too few resources. Some people are too irresponsible to neuter their animals, others grow tired of and abandon their animals -- thus the shelters are flooded with unwanted animals. Help is almost always volunteer. Money is always in short supply -- generally, funding is from private sector contributions with no public money. The results are the conditions we see and deplore.

Rather than just lamenting the situation, people who truly want to help can do so by contributing and volunteering. Call and find what materials or supplies would help, then donate same. Send a check to help with vet care. Volunteer a few hours a week or month to help out at the shelter. Rather than sign-carrying protests or public denouncements, animal welfare groups that really want to improve the situation could better do so by finding ways to provide necessary resources.

County tax revenues are already in short supply. If the county were to license cats through the towns, some much needed funding could be distributed to local animal shelters. Hand-wringing, public protests and vilification of providers won't help. Additional resources are needed.

Robert J. Andres

East Concord

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Davila is dedicated to cats in her care

Sue Davila, the Wyoming County SPCA manager accused of hoarding cats, is an awesome person. Whenever I would see her at the group's Eastern Hills Mall location, I would ask her how adoptions were. She was excited because adoptions were going great. Not so much progress in Attica. Not many adoptions there, just drop-offs. Most people in that area want to adopt cats and have them as farm cats to kill the mice in their barns. Davila wanted nice homes for these cats -- not for them to be scavenging for food out in the cold. At least at the SPCA, it is warm and they were being fed.

I am interested to see the deplorable conditions at the Attica site. The mall site was probably cleaner than some people's houses. I'll never forget when I picked up Samson, my newly adopted cat. Davila was moving stuff around and found dust balls on the floor. She said, "Yuck, we'll have to get this swept up." When they showed the mall site on TV, you could actually see the shine on the floors. When I volunteer there, nothing is left unturned. Litter boxes are washed with bleach, floors swept and mopped with bleach, cat bowls washed, cages cleaned, fresh blankets for the kitties. There were three huge bags of dirty blankets that Davila was taking home with her to wash and bring back for the cats. She would do anything for these cats.

Cheryl Tubisz

Wyoming County SPCA volunteer and donor, Depew

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Airport should pursue international flights

With the recent announcement of future plans for the airport, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has again demonstrated its lack of vision for the improvement of the region. Nearly three decades ago, when it initially rebuilt the airport, the NFTA chose to not provide any space in the new facility for U.S. Customs inspections. Without this space our airport cannot receive international flights and therefore no carriers will book outgoing international flights. Travelers must go to Toronto or New York City for this transportation.

The cost for the bricks-and-mortar space required by Customs is nominal in relation to the amount of money the NFTA is talking about for renovations to the building for extra gates and an enlarged baggage area. The federal government would provide the Customs inspectors at no cost to the NFTA; all it needs is an adequately outfitted space. Right now the door in Buffalo for international travel is closed. An economic opportunity for our region is being missed. Jobs at air carriers, charter and tour companies, travel agencies and the aircraft service industry are all being ignored.

The three major airports in New York City are encountering delays in incoming and outgoing flights. This is due in large part to the number of flights scheduled. If the Buffalo airport were to start handling international flights, it might reduce some of the load in New York and improve the entire air system and make it safer.

For years the NFTA has pumped money into the Niagara Falls airport in a failed attempt to attract carriers. I am not the least bit interested in driving to the Falls when there is a much bigger and better airport right here, no matter how much I might save on parking my car. It should be obvious to the NFTA that Niagara Falls is not the airport of choice to the public. Buffalo is a world-class city. Why doesn't the NFTA open up our front door?

Michael Hall

Buffalo

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GOP is inconsistent regarding intrusion

The notion that Republicans want a less-intrusive government is laughable. While I agree that they want a less intrusive government for the very wealthy with respect to taxation, the party's platform is quite intrusive in other areas. A less-intrusive government would not interject itself in my religion, my schools, my beliefs regarding an individual's personal freedoms and my union. This inconsistency is baffling to me.

When discussing the notion of government spending, Republicans typically just want to spend differently -- not necessarily less. Instead of spending to improve the education and the emotional and physical well-being of our citizens, billions of dollars are spent on defending our country. While I agree that this is to some extent a worthwhile and necessary expenditure, without resources to educate and take care of our people, what are we defending?

Mark Millace

Williamsville

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Teacher evaluations must weigh all factors

I have been retired from teaching for almost 15 years, so I do not claim to have inside knowledge of the issues facing education in the 21st century. But based on my 37 years of teaching high school social studies, here is what I do know.

I had classes where I would have welcomed evaluation for my "fantastic" results, such as the 30-plus juniors in an American history class where more than one-third of the students scored 90 percent or higher in the June Regents exam and everyone passed with ease. Then there was the class of 20 in a non-Regents class where I was almost driven out of my mind. My best student in that class, for example, had her newly earned driver's license for 90 minutes and ran into a school bus in the parking lot outside my classroom window.

My point? It is one thing to rate the work of a worker who is dealing with uniform issues and objects. But the classroom teacher has many things that are totally out of his or her control. I trust that the evaluation procedures being adopted will weigh all factors that come to play in what is a very tough job, teaching children.

Robert Snyder

Clarence Center