Approaching “Spiritual Death”
Re “Weakened by Defense” (Editorial, 1/18): Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned that a nation that spends more on war than on meeting human needs is approaching spiritual death. Afghanistan war costs are budgeted at $65 billion for fiscal 2010. The true total is probably closer to $85 billion or more, according to expert estimates.
Factoring in outlays for veterans’ health and other benefits, the replenishment of military hardware and the interest on debt incurred by the war, the total cost of the two wars will be “significantly more” than $3 trillion, says Professor Linda Bilmes, a Harvard University economist. She and her co-author, Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University economist and Nobel Prize laureate, estimated this in their 2008 bestseller The Three Trillion Dollar War. Adding in some social costs, the two economists put a “moderate-realistic” price tag on the two wars of $5 trillion.
It seems that we always find money to keep the machinery of war oiled at the expense of programs for social uplift, health care, education and housing. Budgets are moral documents; they reveal what we truly value. It is obvious we value funding perpetual war more than enhancing life.
(Rev.) Rich Broderick
Enforcing Unjust Distribution
Your editorial of Jan. 18 is good in its attention to the truly sinful amount of spending on the Pentagon. But I believe there are two interrelated weaknesses. The first is to fall for the rhetorical trick of calling our spending defense spending. The second is to call the aspirations of Islam maximalist. Any honest evaluation of U.S. policy, with its 1,000 and more military bases in 130 foreign countries, would admit that it is U.S. policy that is maximalist, even imperialist, not “defensive” and that U.S. attacks on Muslim countries and peoples far outnumber and outweigh any attacks by Muslims on the United States. The point is that any country that has 5 percent of the world’s people and consumes 25 percent of the world’s resources must enforce that unjust distribution by the use of a huge military.
G. Simon Harak, S.J.
A Prayer Answered
Re the cover photo on Jan. 18: One year ago, on Jan. 1, 2009, as I was reading my Daily Reader for Contemplative Living, I looked out my bedroom window and was transfixed by a most beautiful sight: a cardinal perched on the branch of a tree. I did not move for fear he would fly away. The seconds or moments my gaze was upon him were the closest I have ever been to contemplation. The sheer wonder and awe of the moment totally absorbed me. I have not seen one on that branch since.
This recent New Year’s Day the memory returned, and I wistfully told my husband the story of the gift I had received the year before and wished I could be given another. Imagine my surprise when your magazine arrived with its beautiful cover photo. I laughed out loud at how God answered my prayer.
Hyde Park, N.Y.
New Year’s Resolution
Thank you for this wonderful, scripturally based context for conflict resolution (“Conversation Peace,” by Ann Garrido and Sheila Heen, 1/4). A perfect article for the New Year!
An Incredible Journey
To the suggestions of Msgr. David A. Rubino (“Fraternal Orders,” 1/4) I would add:
1) Keep reading, from many sources and many perspectives. Read from First Things, America, Ignatius Press, Commonweal, the National Catholic Reporter and local diocesan papers. Read all kinds of blogs. Read Merton and Rohr, Teresa of Avila and Anne Lamott, Rahner and Ratzinger. Appropriate Lonergan. Priests today will have to be bridge builders between millennials caught on the shores of the turbulent waters of the conservative-liberal divide and creative artisans of a new incarnation of the tradition in the postmodern, culturally diverse 21st century.
2) Keep in conversation with those in other professions. Listening to police, nurses, doctors, politicians, lawyers, business people, teachers, workers of all kinds, will make it more likely that young priests will not confuse life-vocation issues with “religious-call” issues. The truth is that human issues are everywhere. The good news is that priesthood, in my experience, is much more interesting and varied a way of life than many others.
3) Get to know many married couples. While learning of the joys and graces of married and family life, those familial relationships will teach you that the grass is not always greener on the other side. To be a priest is a joy and a gift to be cherished. So many good and fascinating people come into a priest’s life. The endless pursuit of God is its own incredible journey. Be yourself and be the priest God’s people need.
Rick Malloy, S.J.