Obama’s First Days

Vincent Rougeau’s essay, “Real Americans, Real Catholics” (2/16), raises the question of how we can build common ground with those who are visibly angry over having lost the election and the Catholic vote on Nov. 4. I believe that the majority of Catholic voters recognized that there was a powerful Catholic social justice case for President Obama. That promise has been at least partially fulfilled by, among other things, the president’s spending priorities in the stimulus measure.

The majority of Catholic voters are also likely pleased that the president in his first weeks has highlighted, not the signing of the Freedom of Choice Act, but the creation of a subsidiarity-focused Office of Neighborhood and Faith-Based Partnerships, which the president hopes will play an important role in his abortion-reduction efforts. I hope that all Catholics, whether they voted for the president or not, will come together to rejoice over these matters and give them encouragement.

Doug Kmiec

Malibu, Calif.

Abortion Reduction?

Vincent Rougeau argues that President Obama’s plan to increase social spending is a strategy for “abortion reduction.” Yet one of Obama’s first acts as president was to rescind the Mexico City policy, first implemented by Ronald Reagan, which prohibited federal funding for groups that promote abortion as a method of birth control in poorer countries. We must not congratulate ourselves for (as yet unseen) efforts to reduce abortion in this country while promoting it in others.

Christopher Thigpen

Chicago, Ill.

Human Dignity

Thank you for “Real Americans, Real Catholics” by Vincent D. Rougeau. Far too often, Catholics choose the political candidate who parrots the language of the U.S. bishops concerning the dignity of life rather than demanding concrete action to ensure that dignity. The pro-life cause is much more expansive than stopping abortion—our youth also die in the inner cities every day, or die a slow death in our worst schools, and often they are ignored by Catholics who profess a commitment to the dignity of human life.

Timothy E. Tilghman

Greenbelt, Md.

House of Cards

Re Paul Louisell’s contention (Letters. 2/2) that deregulation played no role in the present financial fiasco: Let me note the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s observation that the termination of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking, was key to creating the “casino mentality” at the root of the insane leveraging that we are now all paying for.

The additional contention that “the crisis was caused by Congress’s decision to ignore regulators who warned” about risky mortgage loans is absurd. It was the banks, not Congress, that wantonly and aggressively hyped adjustable-rate mortgages to anyone with a pulse. Congress did not bundle those mortgages into collateralized debt obligations or invent credit default swaps. It did not erect a financial house of cards so complicated that even the C.E.O.’s who ran it did not understand what was involved.

The notion that “more regulation is not the answer” echoes the mantra that Alan Greenspan repeated over and over during his tenure as Federal Reserve chairman. He now expresses “shocked disbelief” at the results. The truth is that along with better regulation and stricter enforcement, we need more regulation, and I cannot think of a better place to start than with the hedge fund industry.

Peter Quinn

Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Call to Conversion

In “Finding Renewal,” by James R. Kelly (2/16), I heard a much-needed appeal for consistency. I abhor abortion and have preached against it on many occasions, and I have supported and encouraged pro-life efforts in my parish and diocese. But to separate human lives into groups—some that we should value and protect, others that are dispensable or to whom we are permitted to be indifferent—is to create a false distinction that, I fear, is based on political expediency.

Kelly’s point is well taken: “Going back to the roots of the movement” could largely neutralize the liberal-conservative rift in the pro-life movement by energizing the movement with some much-needed consistency, rather than artificially separating abortion from other life issues which may be less palatable in certain political circles.

What is called for here by all people of good will on any side of these complex issues is no less than conversion; and as we know, such conversion is rarely easy or painless.

(Rev.) Michael J. Flynn

Washington, D.C.

All the Answers

I hope that every theologian, bishop, homilist and catechist will read Rabbi Daniel F. Polish’s reflection on belief and atheism (“When a Little Unbelief Is Not a Bad Thing,” 2/2) and take it completely to heart. If there is any fundamental thing we should understand about God before we teach about him/her, it is that God is above all a mystery that we can never adequately understand or express in human terms.

We do not have all the answers; otherwise, we would not need faith. Since our Scriptures and dogmas are expressed in human terms, they are not distinct from the changeable conceptions of a given epoch. Polish puts it well: the book of Job leaves us with a God we worship but know we will never understand.

Andy Galligan

Tracy, Calif.

From an Atheist

The calmly considered, cautionary essay by Daniel F. Polish is a welcome respite from those who profess more certainty about everything than I usually have about anything. We are all atheists about some god or another. In fact, out of all of humanity’s many tens of thousands of gods, Rabbi Polish and I are atheists on just about all of them; I’m thinking we are separated by just one more.

Perhaps Katharine Hepburn said it most succinctly: “If there is a God and I try to live a good life, then fine. If there is no God and I try to lead a good life, then fine.”

Dave Huntsman

Cleveland, Ohio

Price Wars

“The Food on Our Tables,” by Bob Peace (1/26) was confusing to me. It seemed a knowledgeable treatise on migrant labor and its associated problems, but the sweeping generalizations and broad conclusions about American agriculture were not supported by relevant data.

Peace’s premise that American farmers sell crops abroad at “below world food prices,” thereby causing hunger in Central America, is not supported by any evidence I can find, and I am a sixth-generation miller and farmer who is involved in American agriculture. My missionary friends in that part of the world are more likely to blame the corrupt governments of the region than American farmers for high food prices.

Daniel G. Thomas

Thomas Mills, Pa.

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