Disgruntled vs. Gruntled

According to your editorial “Voting Bloc” (10/25), the disgruntled folk are the more energized portion of the electorate. For sure they are the most energetic bloggers. But allow me as a reasonably “gruntled” citizen to put in a word. The Obama administration and the much despised Congress have done some very heavy lifting in the past 20 months, for which they deserve a lot of credit and my vote. Though partially hamstrung by Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, they did what they could to stanch the economic hemorrhaging they inherited and to bring order to the financial markets. They brought the country kicking and screaming into the middle of the 20th century with the health care bill. My view is influenced by my experience living in European countries where universal health care has been in effect for generations; and costs are lower and medical outcomes much better. It stems from being a member of a community, of being in it together rather than every man for himself. If you want to call that socialism, that’s your privilege. I prefer to think of it as Christian solidarity.

Richard Cross


Bethesda, Md.

The March Resumes

The column “Voting Angry,” by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., (11/1) is dead on until he reaches a conclusion not justified by his previous trenchant analysis. Pollyanna might claim that “if bad things happen, maybe bad things will draw us together,” but Father Kavanaugh really knows better. Any fair analysis of our national “regress” since the Supreme Court’s electoral interference in 2000 must acknowledge reality, despite a recent two-year pause in the march to the abyss. It is delusional to claim we’ll soon see the light in dealing with war, poverty and justice. Does anyone expect that a brighter future awaits Iraq and Afghanistan? Prisoners in Guantánamo? The homeless and the foreclosed? The unemployed?

The list could go on. I have seen a lot in my “three score and ten,” but this is as bad as it gets. I find it particularly amusing that so many Catholics are returning to the Republican party after a short flirtation with the Democrats. It must be the new-found commitment to “social justice” that the Republicans are touting!

Paul Loatman Jr.

Mechanicville, N.Y.

Pepsi Cola Hits the Spot

Thanks to America and Kyle Kramer for “The Wounds of Appalachia” (10/4). My husband and I fell in love with the beauty of West Virginia in 1994, when our son enrolled at Wheeling Jesuit University. Since then we have visited many times, becoming gradually aware of the destruction of the mountains and the lives of Appalachia.

One concrete way that those of us who live outside these mountains can help to preserve them is to write and call our elected representatives to let them know this is happening and ask them to fight for justice in the region. Mountaintop removal is not only destroying the beauty of Appalachia forever; it is destroying a treasure of the entire country.

As to the health of the people there, look no further than Pepsi Cola, which pours thousands, perhaps millions of gallons of their Mountain Dew drink into Appalachia every year, where because of poverty and the lack of nutritional education, this high-sugar, high-calorie drink is consumed even from baby bottles, causing widespread tooth decay, diabetes and other health problems.

Three years ago, a small group of us from St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Manhattan went to Wheeling, W.Va., where the Appalachia Institute of Wheeling Jesuit University is working to bring justice to the mountains. We were encouraged to come home and educate our neighbors about the actions of the coal industry and companies like Pepsi Cola, which make their fortunes exploiting the poverty of Appalachia. Our sisters and brothers in the mountains need us to speak up for them. A phone call or letter is a simple but powerful tool.

Mary Naughton

Bronx, N.Y.

Catholic Anti-Intellectuals

As the current comment “Halfway to Heaven” (10/18) demonstrates, lack of knowledge about the Catholic faith is surprisingly common. I’m surprised the bishops seem unaware of this. I suspect many Catholics have been trained in blind obedience concerning religion and knowledge. They are encouraged to approach the faith devotionally and not intellectually. For this reason I encourage Catholics to read the new U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, which I use in a weekly class with inmates in the state prison. The strong anti-intellectualism in the Catholic community is disappointing, and it is amazing how many Catholics hate The New York Times. Meanwhile many Catholics listen to provocateurs in the media, read tabloids and prefer to reside in an intellectual ghetto.

Bernard J. Campbell

Manchester, N.H.

Oasis of Syria

In your editorial “Truly Catholic” (10/4) you listed the six Catholic churches of the Middle East, and you called the last one Syrian Catholic; actually it is Syriac Catholic. Also in Signs of the Times you praised Jordan as an oasis for Christians. The true oasis for Christians in the Middle East is Syria, more than any other country.

Naji Arwashan

Honorary Consul General of Syria

Troy, Mich.

The Mobile Eucharist

In response to your item in the Signs of the Times on Haiti, “Bishops Present Plan for Rebuilding Church Life” (10/11), I don’t know how much control the bishops have over the disposition of real property in Haiti, but I would hope that the concentration on helping parishioners in their daily lives, to include shelter, safety and sanitation, would remain a priority for a while. As to the rebuilding of churches and cathedrals, I have been very impressed over the years with the adaptability of the Eucharist. It is a mobile sacrament, going wherever the priest goes, including under shade trees.

C. R. Erlinger

San Antonio, Tex.

What About the Nuns?

As one of the 5.2 million Catholic school students of the 1960s referred to in “The Catholic Schools We Need” (9/13), I endorse wholeheartedly Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s argument for the extraordinary moral, intellectual and ecclesial value of Catholic schools.

There is one facet of the decline of those schools to which the archbishop does not refer, however. Not once in nearly 2,000 words does he mention Catholic sisters. Surely their declining numbers is the central factor in Catholic schools being unaffordable for many less economically privileged Catholic families.

Admittedly, the archbishop refers to “religious teaching orders,” but the engine that made Catholic schools work was not generic teaching orders; it was Catholic sisters plain and simple. The editors of America get this, since the photo of a teaching sister appears on the cover of the education issue in which Archbishop Dolan’s article appears. The archbishop, however, replicates the invisibility and worse that was all too often accorded sister-teachers by bishops and pastors throughout the century-and-a-half when they staffed the vast majority of American Catholic schools.

Particularly striking in this regard is the paragraph—the longest one of the article—in which Archbishop Dolan praises a series of American bishops for having the wisdom to prioritize Catholic education, including, in particular, his predecessor Archbishop “Dagger John” Hughes. As the historian Maureen Fitzgerald documents in her study of Catholic sisters in New York, Archbishop Hughes forced the separation of the New York Sisters of Charity from their motherhouse in Emmitsburg, Md., and then engineered the election of a superior who shifted the New York Charities from their traditional ministry of direct service to the poor to the almost exclusive staffing of Catholic schools. Yet still they get no mention.

Several times in his article Archbishop Dolan mentions the essential role Catholic schools play in fostering religious vocations. Acknowledging explicitly the pivotal role that Catholic sisters have played in Catholic schools might help foster a few as well.

Marian Ronan

New York Theological Seminary

New York, N.Y.

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