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August 16, 2010

Make Room on the Scrap Heap?

Re “Repeating History” (Current Comment, 7/19): The editors’ commentary on the G-20 meeting seems to assume that economic conditions in 1930 and 2010 are similar, that the global economy is in the best interests of everyone and that tax cuts and deficit spending are the keys to solving the current economic problems. Trade mismanagement by the United States and European nations has created enormous trade and current account deficits that threaten their economies and long-term existence.

Since 2000, more than $5 trillion has been lost from the U.S. economy, as the United States buys more goods and services than it sells. Rather than address the problem, the political party in power has consistently produced budget deficits by cutting taxes or increasing spending to stimulate the economy, to prevent a depression and to try to stay in power.

A nation that loses 3 percent to 6 percent of its gross domestic product each year as a current account deficit, while borrowing more than $1 trillion a year from foreign nations, will soon be bankrupt and penniless. Unless the United States changes its investment laws and uses agreements and tariffs to achieve a current account/trade balance, it will end up on the “scrap-heap of history.”

Joe D’Anna

Los Alamos, N.M.

Don’t Just Say No

Re “Dream On” (Editorial, 7/19): So because one party is unalterably opposed to any solution proposed by President Obama or even resurrected from the Bush administration, we should abandon all attempts to fix this terrible system? That’s like telling people health care can be only for the healthy. Our collective religious leaders, thoughtful political leaders and stakeholder groups, like employers and families of immigrants, can be connected to work together on a sensible solution set to these issues. To do only minimal things, or to do nothing, serves no one and lets the party of “No” control the agenda.

(Deacon) Mike Evans

Anderson, Calif.

Debating the Undebatable

“Rules of Engagement,” by Thomas Massaro, S.J. (7/19), is an excellent article that provokes several important issues and questions:

1. How can there be debate on moral theology and controversial church teaching when the pope determines such teaching is definitive and cannot be reformed?

2. Does each member of the body of Christ, clerical and lay, have a responsibility, duty or right to question definitive and unreformable church teachings based on their informed consciences?

3. What mechanism should be used to hold accountable bishops of the church who allow two different teachings to exist on the same subject? What is the best way that disagreements over the moral responsibility to teach the full truth by bishops and priests can be brought forward for debate and resolution?

Michael J. Barberi

Carlsbad, Calif.

No Knee Jerk

The article by Kevin O’Rourke, O.P., “Complications” (8/2), is why I read America. It was solidly reasoned and not the knee-jerk reaction that Catholics are so often treated to in this area of moral thought.

John D. Fitzmorris Jr.

New Orleans, La.

The Placenta Is Key

I am following up on a critical issue in the Father O’Rourke’s article on whether the procedure in Phoenix was a direct or indirect abortion. The placenta is the diseased tissue that, as part of the uterus, is most commonly believed to promote the underlying induction of the pulmonary hypertension that was putting the mother’s life in danger. Hence, as in the analogous case of the cancerous uterus, the removal of the placenta would be justified morally even though the procedure would indirectly result in the loss of the pregnancy. I shared this with a prominent priest/moral theologian/bioethicist, who agreed. The bioethics community needs to discuss the detailed medical history in this case to provide guidance for the teaching magisterium.

J. H. Keffer, M.D.

Murphy, N.C.

Theology Is Not Enough

The insightful moral and canonical analysis by Kevin O’Rourke, O.P., notwithstanding (“Complications,” 8/2), this case illustrates the limitations of traditional moral theology. Perhaps it is better to think in terms of the calculus of “approaching limits,” since it is hubris—even in the name of faith—to believe that casuistry will solve all cases. Sometimes the best we can do is to know where we choose to allow ourselves to tremble…and trust in the mercy of God. If there had not been a termination of the pregnancy and the fetus inevitably died along with the mother, how would any of us have answered the bereaved husband, now with four motherless children, if asked, “Did you do everything possible to save my wife?” The only life that could be saved was saved. Surely that makes sense even in the admittedly tragic limitation of the loss of life that made it possible.

David E. Pasinski

Fayetville, N.Y.

But What Did He Really Say?

I suppose the approach of Luke Timothy Johnson in “Reconstructing Christ” (8/2) is fine for those who are already committed Christians, but what about those who are uncertain? Johnson’s approach requires a great deal of faith—faith that the early church chose wisely as it established the canon, that the Evangelists correctly interpreted their sources, that those around Jesus understood what he was saying and passed along the tradition without significant distortion. Johnson would have us believe that sharing the faith of those who wrote about Jesus is having faith in Jesus.

What Jesus says about marriage in Mark 10 is more strict than what he says in Matthew 5, and Paul invents a loophole. If you believe the church is guided by the Holy Spirit and cannot be wrong, then you take the church’s word that Jesus absolutely prohibited divorce and remarriage. It may be that the search for the historical Jesus is futile, but certainly the historical-critical method can be extremely useful. What followers write about a charismatic leader cannot always be taken at face value.

David Nickol

New York, N.Y.

Catholics and Guns

Re your editorial “Guns and the Court” (8/2), about the Supreme Court overturning Chicago’s handgun ban: It is unfortunate that the court with, I believe, a Catholic majority has taken such an un-Christian view.

Paul Kelley

Reading, Mass.

Lighten Up

Margaret Silf’s “Faith, Hope and Humpty” (8/2) really speaks to me. The fall of Humpty Dumpty can be added to death and taxes as a universal certainty. Not much else can be. It is amazing what can appear in our lives when we let go of the belief that we can be in total control and we relinquish the need for that. I have seen relationships improve when I’ve given up the impulse to control other people. When the universe throws something weighty at us and, in faith, we let go of the initial panic, there can be a corresponding “lightness of being.” Faith, both child-like and mature, may emerge.

Winifrid Holloway

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

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