When Pope Benedict allowed wider use of the Latin Mass last July, he explained that he did not expect as a result any extensive return to the Tridentine rite. Rather, he said, he intended to heal rifts with traditionalist groups and allow young people attracted to the rite to experience it. He said he did not mean to lessen the authority of the worlds bishops, who until then held sway over local use of the rite. Nor did he mean to offend Jews worried about offensive language in the prayers of Holy Week. To assuage fears that the old rite might compete with the new one, the pope proposed to review the situation in three years.
The Catholic response to the permission in the United States has been predictable. On op-ed pages proponents hailed it as progress; Patrick Buchanan publicly declared himself a Latin Mass Catholic. News outlets big and small ran stories showing priests facing the altar, not the people, and confirming in quotes and interviews just what the pope had predicted: some young people like participating in Mass using a rite they had never before experienced. Something has changed.
But how broad is Catholic interest? A recent New York Times story cited an objective measure: a phone survey of the 25 largest U.S. dioceses, in which diocesan officials said that a traditional Latin Mass has emerged in just one or two parishes. That meager interest confirmed information America obtained from an independent reporter we had engaged to track and write the story. There is no story, though things might change and interest build. For now there is little to report.
Forget it, Jake, its ChinatownThe most prized American natural resource of the future will not be oil or timber or gold; it will be fresh water. Rapid migration into parched areas over the past century has been possible because we learned to exploit water resources, both aboveground and under the earth. As these are tapped to an ever greater degree, the American West and South face the prospect of massive cutbacks in water use. A drought that began in 1999 is now being called the worst the American West has seen in 500 years, and could lead to something even worse than the Dust Bowl catastrophe, which devastated the agricultural communities west of the Mississippi in the 1930s.
These days the focus of concern is not agriculture, but the cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas and other thirsty communities, including Atlanta. Lake Lanier, which supplies the five million residents of Atlanta with drinking water, could be dry in less than two months, and Georgias Governor Sonny Perdue held a prayer vigil on Nov. 14 to pray for rain. Lake Mead, which waters Las Vegas and other municipalities, is half-empty. And according to the U.S. Climatic Data Center, 67 percent of the western United States is suffering from middling to extreme drought. A few wet years will not solve the problem, since population growth continues. California alone will grow from 37 million to between 44 and 48 million people by 2025. Where will we find all this water, and how can we use it more wisely? And what kind of example can we set for the rest of the world?
Veterans Day 2007
Among the little-noticed wages of war is the disturbing fact that veterans of military combat make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population in the United States. In the days preceding the celebration of Veterans Day, the Homelessness Research Institute reported that veterans, who represent only 11 percent of the civilian adult population, comprise 26 percent of the homeless population. And that percentage is likely to grow as more and more veterans return from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. This most recent wave of veterans, including more women than in previous wars, faces new challenges. Aid workers warn that they are moving more quickly toward homelessness than did the generation of Vietnam veterans.
While the wounded warriors of this new generation receive more support from the American public than the returning Vietnam veterans did, they also bear different and disturbing wounds: higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries that might have been fatal in earlier wars. In addition, repeated and extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan disrupt families and make integration back into civilian life more difficult. High housing costs, which can account for half of some veterans income, place some 72,000 of the new generation of veterans at risk for homelessness.
As the cost of the unnecessary and ill-planned war in Iraq spirals, along with reports of billions lost through waste and corruption in the reconstruction effort, the needs of our homeless and near-homeless veterans must claim a high place in the spending priorities of the Bush administration.