November 09, 2009

Four Tough Questions

I don’t have a problem with the bishops calling for abortion funding not to be included in the health care bill (Signs of the Times, 10/26). I do have a problem with what I see as the inconsistency involved in their position, especially when some of them say that politicians who vote in favor of a bill that includes such funding, in whole or in part, should not present themselves for Communion.

1. Where are the bishops demanding that Catholic senior executives and owners of the insurance companies that design, market, sell and administer health care plans that include at least some funding for abortion (50 percent to 90 percent of plans, depending on whether you use figures from the Kaiser Foundation for the Family or the Alan Guttmacher Institute) should stop presenting themselves for Communion?

2. What about Communion for those Catholic senior executives and owners of businesses buying for their employees health care plans that fund abortions in whole or in part (which thereby force all their employees to fund abortions)?

3. What about Catholic employees who begin to examine their health care plans and find that those plans fund abortion in whole or in part? Should they not demand of their employers that they find other plans, or even change jobs to a company that offers an abortion-free plan?

4. Should not Medicaid be questioned, since (from what I understand) it allows in whole or in part for abortion funding?

If the principle applies to politicians and new programs, should it not apply equally to the private sector and old programs? Where is the consistency?

Ray Temmerman

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Constructive Engagement

As an Episcopalian who believes in a consistent ethic of life and sees an urgent need for health care reform, I rely on the Roman Catholic bishops to provide the leadership needed to ensure that we get a health care reform program and that it respects conscience and does not fund abortion. It will be hard to tell when co-mingled funds (funds from insurance premiums paid by individuals and private companies and subsidies for health care paid by the federal government) are funding abortion. This is a great challenge. It is important that the bishops’ efforts not overreach and attempt to restrict abortion further than the funding issue. If we overreach, we lose. Keep it up, but please be engaged in the process. We get nowhere by folding our arms and waiting for the various committees to come up with a proposal we will like.

Christian Rideout

Alameda, Calif.

Overburdened, Underappreciated

Re Of Many Things, by James Martin, S.J. (10/19): Thank you for your observations. Personally, I don’t know what a typical day is like for the pastor of a parish. I imagine he gets pulled in all different directions, and parishioners must think their pastor has a photographic memory and instant recall. But if those pastors picking you up at the train station had only asked someone of their parish to pick you up, instead, I’m sure there would have been a stampede of volunteers wanting to help, if only he would let them. Also, it is one thing to pray for vocations to the diaconate; it is another thing to encourage and accept vocations to the diaconate. The purpose of the diaconate is to assist priests so that they aren’t overburdened, frazzled and harried.

One of the most beautiful things in the world to see is a happy, hearty, loving priest leading his parishioners in the sign of the cross at the beginning of Mass in their own church. I agree with you wholeheartedly: Parishioners love, love, love their parish and their priests.

Bill Sjostedt

Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Emboldened to Speak Out

I want to commend Donald J. Moore, S.J., for his article in your Oct. 12 issue, “When Silence Is Betrayal.” Given the evidence about the violence committed by Israel’s military forces, not just recently in the Gaza Strip, but over a period of many years, it is about time for the government of Israel to be held accountable. This is not to say that Hamas has not committed atrocities of its own, but these are far less severe than those of Israel.

It was interesting to read that Avi Shlaim, an Israeli who served in the Israeli army and is a professor of international relations at Oxford, “describes Israel’s treatment of the inhabitants of Gaza as ‘one of unbridled and unremitting brutality.’” Given this, perhaps other persons and organizations will be emboldened to speak out. I hope that the leadership of the U.S.C.C.B., even in the face of sure criticism from Israeli watchdogs, will have the courage to address this matter.

Lastly, it is about time for our own government to understand that “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” Our government has betrayed the human rights of the Palestinian people by its silence about Israel’s cruel conduct, which is aided and abetted by all the aid that our government gives to Israel.

(Most Rev.) Victor H. Balke

Bishop Emeritus of Crookston,

Moorhead, Minn.

Flawed Judgments

Your editorial “Siege Mentality” calls for an investigation and trial of the Israel Defense Forces at the International World Court. The article offers a one-sided argument.

Here in Santa Fe we just celebrated the 400-year commemoration of Spain’s conquest of the territory, a land grab by any standards, not to mention the enslavement of the Indians who lived in the nearby pueblos. Last week a high Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe honored Felipe Prince of Asturias, son of King Juan Carlos of Spain. The historical land grab by Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had the full cooperation of the Catholic Church. It is documented that the Catholic Spaniards were cruel to the local Indians. This history coincides with Spain’s Inquisition of the Jews who were forced to be baptized, subjected to expulsion and the confiscation of their homes and assets and were tortured and killed by the Inquisitors of the Catholic Church.

Would you say this was “siege mentality?” Your judgments against Israel’s I.D.F. are flawed in light of your own history. Once more you are launching a very troubling campaign against the brothers of Jesus. I can say this because I was baptized 70 years ago in the aforementioned cathedral.

Yolanda Hesch

Santa Fe, N.M.

Come and Flourish

Re “Imagining the Immigrant” (10/26): My grandfather was an immigrant from Greece, my grandmother from Brazil, and my wife and her parents emigrated from England after World War II. They came not to escape oppression or poverty but in search of a land of opportunity and to pursue a better life. None ever wished to return to their country of origin. All made a life in the United States not of spectacular riches, but of ordinary sustenance and respectability.

My wife and I are the heirs of their commitment to build life anew and in both cases represented the first in our families to achieve a college education and professional work. Is there not room for many more? Immigrants bring to us far more than we can ever imagine. Let us not be just a haven for refugees but also a beacon calling people worldwide to come and see, come and be, come and flourish!

(Deacon) Mike Evans

Anderson, Calif.

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