National Heresy

As I read Of Many Things on March 31, by James T. Keane, S.J., and his reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the nation’s capital, I was jarred by his unnecessary putdown of the Washington Nationals’ lineup as one that would not “ever be worth remembering.” From the courageous comebacks of first basemen Dmitri Young and Nick Johnson to the dazzling play of the young third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals offer a season of promise and excitement for Washington fans in a magnificently constructed new stadium.


Mary Gordon Dubill

Alexandria, Va.

Running Dry

As a scientist and a former worker in the “oil patch,” I disagree with the conclusions of “Forestalling Disaster,” by Richard J. Green and Wil Lepkowski (3/31). The article is certainly correct when it notes that “the most important figures are the estimates of when oil will start to run out, because the price of oil determines the cost of everything else.” But the correct estimate is not 80 to 100 years, but today, plus or minus a decade.

Oil wells produce in such a manner that their output declines over time (a gross oversimplification, but true for this argument). The wells we have today will not be adequate even next week, even if demand remains constant. And as the article notes, competing and increasing demands from China and India could drain much of our oil flow away. India has even started to produce automobiles that should increase the demand for oil quite significantly.

Oil production has always gone up and down in dramatic fashion over the years. The difference now is that there are few places where “supergiant” fields can be hiding that will make up for the decline in current production. The current run-up in prices is not temporary; it is a simple reflection of decline in production combined with an increase in demand from other, less developed economies.

In terms of impact to our economy, the phrase “time is not on our side” is an understatement.

Richard Kuebbing

Kennesaw, Ga.

Alive and Thriving

Re: “A Somber Anniversary,” by Thomas J. Shelley (3/31): As the editor of a large archdiocesan newspaper, I can only say that the heresy hunters he mentions in his article are still alive and thriving. Nay, they are increasing in number today.

I have been labeled a heretic more often in the past few years than ever before, and I have spent 25 years in the Catholic press.

Tricia Gallagher Hempel

Cincinnati, Ohio

All Too Familiar

I knew nothing of The New York Review’s impressive story until I read “A Somber Anniversary” by Msgr. Thomas J. Shelley (3/31). I could not help but see disappointing similarities between the situation at the time of the modernist crisis and the situation in today’s church.

Bill Heimbuch

Hackensack, N.J.

Uncritical Acceptance

The editorial “Cuba Sí, Castro, No!” (3/10) made some good points but also conveyed an uncritical acceptance of a leftist dictatorship. For many years under Fidel Castro, Cuba was under the control of the Soviet Union and served as a military base for them (a type of “colonialism”), and the people suffered repression, controlled media and lack of freedom of expression and of travel. The “well-educated people” you describe might better be described as a well-indoctrinated people with skills. A good education is not possible in a closed society where censorship is the norm.

When one speaks with people who have recently left Cuba, one hears a much different scenario than the somewhat content and stable nation that the editorial indirectly portrays. Those who have ventured onto the high seas and attempted to flee on makeshift rafts may not agree that “socialism’s gains” in Cuba are all that satisfactory.

I hope and pray for a peaceful transition in Cuba that will bring justice and peace as well as all the values that the social teaching of the Catholic Church desires for all people.

Rafael Garcia, S.J.

Tijuana, Mexico

Dark Nights

“Shadows in Prayer,” by James Martin, S.J. (3/17), delivered an important message, but in my experience, depression has nothing to do directly with prayer. It is emotional and physiological, and the effect of these disturbances is to drag down our thoughts (thus reinforcing our negative feelings) and weaken our wills. In that case, if we try to pray, very little happens.

Campion Murphy, S.T.

Stirling, N.J.

Don’t Tread on Me

The problem to which John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., alludes in “Sharp Words From Another Jeremiah” (4/14) is hypernationalism, the idea that one must follow “my country, right or wrong.” This phenomenon blinds our ability to be self-critical and goes back to the “exceptionalism” myth first propagated by the Pilgrims and repeated all the way up to leaders like Ronald Reagan. It is in many ways burned into the national psyche. It is fundamentally racist, and the view that we are superior to the rest of the world leads to hatred. Reverend Wright, it seems, came too close to the national wound.

John Van Damme

London, Ontario

A Watched Pot Never Boils

In “Curbing Medical Costs” (3/10), Daniel Callahan starts a necessary discussion about health care. Unlike the proverbial frog in the pot of water, which did not detect the rising temperature until it was too late to jump out, the American people are becoming aware of the rising costs of health care.

There are several aspects of the problem that need addressing. First, pharmaceutical companies have led us to believe that we need to demand the latest drug or device being promoted. Television commercials may give lip service to lifestyle modifications like diet and exercise, but because no revenues are forthcoming from such advice, it is found in the fine print. Second, the disengagement of citizens from the political process has allowed big money interests, including pharmaceutical manufacturers, device makers and insurance companies, to have disproportionate influence in Congress.

I agree that we need a change in our culture; this requires that we develop the political will to fix the system. We can become engaged and influence the outcome, or we can cynically grouse and allow moneyed interests to dictate the future. Are we frogs or persons?

Larry Donohue, M.D.

Seattle, Wash.

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