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July 05, 2010

Placing the Blame

Your editorial “Adrift in the Gulf” (6/21) is by far the best commentary I’ve read on the oil spill. I lived on the Texas coast for 20 years, working as a volunteer and professional with several coastal conservation organizations. I have lost count of how many acres of salt marsh I helped restore. Working that closely in the marsh allows you to see just how many tiny life forms depend on these vital nurseries for survival. The value of our coastal wetlands is incalculable, and we will never fully know the total loss from this disaster in terms of economic loss or ecological damage.

We know more about outer space than we know about the oceans. We can point the finger at BP and their partners, Transocean and Halliburton, but our insatiable desire for petroleum products places the blame squarely on us. The pathetic images of suffering birds should be on everyone’s mind the next time we fill up at a gas pump.

Samra Bufkins

Denton, Tex.

Thinking Collectively

The recent comments by John Kavanaugh, S.J. (“Uninformed Con-science,” 6/21) are timely and thought-provoking. I offer three points. First, good moral judgments require more than just data, information and evidence. They also need discernment. Any conclusion about what I ought to do must, first and foremost, be an answer to the question, What do I discern as God’s will?

Second, many contemporary issues of conscience are not about personal and private matters. At the level of society, which is the domain Father Kavanaugh is addressing, the collective ethical question is not simply, What should I do? but rather, What should we do as a society? Other questions arise: Is this proposal really viable? Will the hoped-for benefits really materialize?

My third point concerns a problem with theory. Data that do not fit well into a schema are discounted, while data that fit well get the limelight. Surprise, surprise! The data I see confirm my theory, so my theory needs no more examination. Thus we all quickly arrive at the point where we are defending our theory instead of continuing to critique and develop it. As we do this, the collective discussion takes place on the basis of essentially different data sets. So any convergence toward a consensus is virtually ruled out.

Father Kavanaugh has raised some timely and significant points. We need, collectively, to give them serious reflection.

Paul Bangasser

Grilly, France


Re “Adrift in the Gulf” (Editorial, 6/21): It is refreshing to hear the word sacrifice being used in this context. The editors have it right; we cannot have it both ways. We can’t continue to consume massive amounts of fossil fuels in support of our economy and also protect the planet. Sacrifice, in the form of higher prices at the pump and for utilities as well as adjustments in the way we live—warmer homes in the summer and cooler in the winter, more public transportation, walking and biking, etc.—must be part of the mix.

But sacrifice also leads to grace and grace to hope. We can be more hopeful about the future we give to our grandchildren, make more space to enjoy one another’s company instead of the relentless pursuit of more stuff and be more in touch with the great gift of creation by slowing down and enjoying the place where we’re planted. Catholics can take a step by taking the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor (at catholicclimatecovenant.org).

Dan Misleh

Director, Catholic Coalition

on Climate Change

Washington, D.C.

Complicit War Criminals

Thank you, Nancy Sherman, Jim Conroy and America (“To Hell and Back,” 6/7). We blind ourselves to the many horrors of our wars, including the horrors done to our own soldiers, and the strangling of our own consciences. We are sending our own children off to be slaughtered. What can we do to gain the political skill that is absolutely necessary to oppose our wars and our star-spangled militarism?

Bruce Byrolly

Cambridge, Md.

Explanation/Apology Needed

Many of us are very sorry to see Catholic hospitals disappear (“The Last Days of St. Vincent’s,” by Kevin Clarke, Online, 6/7). Much has been said about St. Vincent’s, but there are many questions concerning all eight Catholic hospitals that have closed in New York City. An explanation and an apology are in order to all the religious women who founded and ran these institutions and the nurses who gave much of their energies to them.

Rose Mary Larkin O’Connell

Windsor, Conn.

Whom Can We Trust?

Re “Uninformed Conscience,” by John Kavanaugh, S.J. (6/21): I feel like a reed shifting in the wind. I used to know whom to trust to help me form my conscience. I used to believe that we could trust people in high places in government. Certainly they would have the best access to data and would provide information honestly to the people. As we all know now, money controls most everything done in Washington. Lobbyists lavish large amounts of cash to get political favors.

I used to believe the clergy could be trusted. There are many wonderful members of the clergy who have lived faithful to their mission and to their vows, but the revelations of abuse all over the world have tainted everyone else. Churches have been sold to pay for lawsuits. Much damage has been done. It all comes down to money and scandal in the church as well. The church is not open to sharing all of the “specifics of evidence, information and data” that Father Kavanaugh mentions. Members of the hierarchy and their lawyers have been busy trying to prevent that information and data from being revealed ever since the scandals first broke and continue to do so.

Truth is withheld by corrupt politicians, and truth is withheld by the church. Therefore I do not believe that anyone can be faulted for forming their own conscience and making a wide variety of judgments, some of which are strongly opposed by others.

We all become reeds shifting in the wind and with no firm foundation because of lack of trust in the people and the institutions in which we used to believe. Trust must be restored before one can possibly say that another’s conscience is not correct.

Ken Chaison

Bethesda, Md.

The Sports Lesson

The Current Comment “A Win-Win Situation” (6/21), about the girls’ ball teams, is inspiring. I would like everyone in the whole world to read this. In a world where violence and competition have taken over, even in our sports, we need the example of these great young women, their coach and school and their parents to show us a better and more Christian way. Thank you!

Mary Ellen Loch

Wichita, Kan.

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