Your Letters: George Washington; Australia's Saint

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Host Liane Hansen reads letters and comments from the Weekend Edition audience, including responses to Ron Chernow's biography of George Washington and the canonization of Mother Mary MacKillop, the first Australian to be declared a saint.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Time now for your letters.

We heard from several of you about my conversation last Sunday with Ron Chernow. He's the author of a new book about the life of George Washington.

Mr. RON CHERNOW (Author): Any biographer of George Washington starts by hacking his way with a machete through an entire jungle of myths and misconceptions, starting with the cherry tree and the wooden teeth, and it goes on and on.

HANSEN: Chris Turner of Carbondale, Illinois, writes: Washington led the American force during the French and Indian war in Upstate New York. They proceeded to destroy the agricultural fields of the Native Americans. This included huge numbers of fruit-bearing trees. Since cherries were indigenous in America, it seems likely that he was responsible for, yes, cutting down cherry trees.

Tommy Armstrong of Lillington, North Carolina, adds: I really perked up when it was mentioned that George was a surveyor, and it brought back a story. In the early 1900s, my granddaddy was himself in charge of a survey crew whose job was to survey that Dismal Swamp - one of Washington's main jobs. He recounted to me how he would occasionally pick up Washington's line on 150-year-old virgin trees and would actually follow it, and commented on how it was pretty darn accurate. The swamp has changed very little in the time between Washington's job and my granddaddy's.

Many of you also wrote in after my conversation with Father James Martin about Mother Mary MacKillop, the first Australian to be canonized. She had been excommunicated for a brief time because...

Father JAMES MARTIN: Her sisters had unearthed a case of sex abuse. And to sort of punish her, in a sense, a friend of the guy who was abused had manipulated the bishop into excommunicating Mother MacKillop. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: A friend of the ACCUSED, not abused.]

And so she really suffered, you know, as a result of the sex abuse that had occurred.

HANSEN: Jo Sullivan of Lynn, Massachusetts, writes: This was definitely a cynical move on the part of the Catholic Church. This move is ironic and evident that nothing has changed, since the recent document by the church on sex abuse by priests - which still only dealt with the perpetrators and not the hierarchy -also condemns women who advocate for women's ordination.

And Amber Saint John of Tucson, Arizona, wrote us a note of clarification after listening to the interview. She says: Father Martin said that this new saint was someone that Catholics could pray to. As this priest should know well, Catholics do not pray to the saints. This is a very important distinction, because many other Christian and non-Christian traditions accuse Catholics of worshipping and praying to the saints. Catholics worship and pray to God. We talk to, often implore, the saints to intercede for us before God, but that is all. We do not worship them.

Write to us. Go to npr.org and click on the link that says contact us. We're on Facebook at Facebook.com/NPRWeekend, and on Twitter. I'm at twitter.com/NPRLiane.

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