Thanks to Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., for “The Plagiarism Plague” (5/14), a timely article on an important matter. As a college teacher, I have encountered a fair bit of plagiarism and have always sought to expose it and address it with students to get them to take it seriously. Thankfully, I’ve always been backed up by department chairs and administration officials.
Why is plagiarism such a problem? Social institutions, like living organisms, rot from the inside out. When the core goes bad, the corruption spreads to the rest of the social body. That’s why the sins of the priests and elders required a greater sacrifice for atonement than the sins of the ordinary people (Leviticus): official sin corrupts the faith community. The corrupted behavior of religious, political, educational, business and professional leaders is followed by increasing corrupted behavior of those participating in the institutions they head.
Darrin W. Snyder Belousek
Will Ethics Be on the Final?
There is something to be said for the “sudden-death” exam system that I went through back in the 1970s. We had no continuous assessment at all. We wrote essays and were awarded marks, but these were considered just feedback from the teacher. For the degree everything depended on the final exams at the end of the three years.
If you didn’t actually learn something and engage thoughtfully with it, and if you didn’t develop the ability to organize it rapidly and write it down coherently, you failed. You would have to be a complete fool to imagine that you could get a degree in such a system by plagiarism. Could “sudden-death” make a comeback?
Chris Chatteris, S.J.
Cape Town, South Africa
Sign of Change
Re “Take a Deep Breath,” by Thomas Massaro, S.J. (5/14): When the Vatican II changes started, I thought some were trivial and even annoying. I thought the sign of peace was silly. Then one day, I had a day off from work and went to Mass with my daughter’s class. I sat well back in the church, with no one near me. As the time for the sign of peace approached, I suddenly realized I had no one to exchange it with. I immediately moved farther up the church near the other parents.
At that point I realized the silly sign of peace had become important to me. Now I go to a church in Toledo at St. Martin De Porres, where the sign of peace is enthusiastically shared among the congregation, including hugs from many of the members. The changes really did mean something.
Education and Mourning
Re the assessment of Jesuit universities by John P. Schlegel, S.J. (Of Many Things, 5/14): I am a proud product of a Jesuit education and prouder still that my son followed his parents to Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Yet I am in mourning for the church I knew and the faith that formed me. The scandals rocking the church have done more damage than anyone cares to admit, but there are some steps that might improve the education and formation of priests in the United States and elsewhere.
One welcome step would be to close the undergraduate divisions of diocesan seminaries everywhere. Accept men for formation who are college graduates from places like Jesuit institutions and insist on training their minds in one other discipline beyond theology or counseling. We need priests who are products of the real world, not the perfumed parlors of funeral homes and rectories. I cherish my Jesuit education for many reasons, including the options it has offered. I sometimes think the current scandal arose from despairing men, brain-bored and poorly formed for the joys and rigors and terrors of life facing the rest of us. In Philadelphia, the laity is better educated than the clergy from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, and it shows.
Concerning “Requiem for the 8-Hour Day?” (Current Comment, 5/7): Only when a society is committed to good working conditions and wages sufficient to support family life can we begin to revive the eight-hour day with a wage structure based on it. Today, the vast amount of unpaid labor beyond the eight-hour window is staggering, leaving the actual hourly wage a mirage. And when it requires multiple wage earners with multiple jobs to amass what is needed to support a family, it is clear that something is very wrong.
One answer is to have wages reflect not just the labor market but the productivity returns that labor now rarely sees. It is these productivity gains that have produced the immense income gap that is rapidly diminishing the middle class and leaving the bottom underpaid, unemployed or underemployed. When productivity gains belong only to capital and management, society must use its taxing power to provide human dignity and family security to those excluded from a civilized work force.
Francis X. Gindhart
Making a Difference
Re “Why They Left,” by William J. Byron, S.J., and Charles Zech (4/30): I certainly can identify with many of the respondents. I was one of them for too many years. I rationalized all sorts of reasons to avoid my responsibility to be a Christian. Only later in my life did I soften my heart and finally see that if the church is going to change for the better, it had to start with me. As they say, if you’re looking for a perfect church, as soon as you join it, it will no longer be perfect.
Look for the good. Do not dwell on the negatives. Be an active, productive participant. Don’t expect others to meet your every need. There are plenty of saints to model your life after. Make a habit of investing time in spiritual reading, divine adoration etc. It can and does made a difference.
New Braunfels, Tex.
Where Are They Now?
Re “Why They Left”: I wish to see some information about the “brain drain” in the church. Having worked as a chaplain at our local state university, I realized that I would see only a tiny fraction of the “best” of our Catholic college graduates. They were and are faithful to the church. I’ve witnessed their marriages and baptized their children. But they were fewer than 10 percent of the total graduates in any of the classes I saw during the 1970s and 80s. They are now the young professionals who are making a major contribution to our economy and our society, but only a few contribute to the local parishes. Where are the young professionals now? What is the church doing to “feed” them and utilize their talents?
John E. Anderson
Las Cruces, N.M.