Current Comment

Tough Talk From Dublin

During a lecture at Marquette University last week (reported in America, “Signs of the Times,” 4/18), the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, known as a tough talker on the topic of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, talked tough. He described, among other things, the inevitable results of a clerical culture that refused to take basic precautions against abuse (one priest’s residence featured a swimming pool open only to children), the difficulty of “bringing an institution around to the conviction that the truth must be told” and the benefit of government-sponsored audits, something resisted by many bishops and religious superiors.

The most surprising admission was this: “...with perhaps two exceptions I have not encountered a real and unconditional admission of guilt and responsibility on the part of priest offenders in my diocese.” The inability of many abusers to feel remorse has been well documented. Some psychologists note that the two most prevalent traits among abusers are narcissism and grandiosity. The narcissist cares only about his own needs; others exist simply to gratify him. The grandiose person acts as a kind of Pied Piper, easily drawing children into his terrible orbit. Archbishop Martin’s comments make clear that these malign pathologies run deep and that the church is, in many places, still resisting a complete truth-telling. We need more bishops to speak the truth as bluntly and frequently as Archbishop Martin has done.


Goldstone Reports Again

Depending on one’s view, the distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone has either once more demonstrated the honesty of his thinking or has cravenly capitulated to Israeli pressure. In an op-ed article in The Washington Post on April 1, he admitted that if he had known what has recently been revealed by internal Israeli investigations, the U.N. report he chaired on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, a 2008 military campaign against Gaza, would have been different. Israeli officials, who have heretofore reviled Goldstone, praised him and played his statement as if it were a renunciation of the report’s conclusions. The former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, went so far as to contend that “if in the future we have to defend ourselves against terror...there will be no way to deal with this terror other than the way we did in Cast Lead.”

But Goldstone later told the press that, with one exception, “as presently advised I have no reason to believe that any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.” According to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, the internal Israeli inquiry cited by Goldstone “by no means absolves Israel of all grave allegations regarding its conduct.” Among the issues still deserving scrutiny, the group said, “are the levels of force authorized; the use of white phosphorous and inherently inaccurate mortar shells in densely populated areas; the determination that government office buildings were legitimate targets; and the obstruction of and harm to ambulances.” In addition, because of lack of Israeli cooperation, the Goldstone team was never able to look into Israeli policymaking. For these and other reasons the U.N. process ought to continue.

At the same time, Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, needs to be held responsible for its use of rockets against Israeli civilians and for failing to conduct investigations of alleged war crimes on its side.

Budget Cuts Hurt Women

Many proposals to cut federal spending on entitlements tend to gloss over a significant fact: entitlements benefit women—particularly the nation’s poorest women—to a much greater extent than men. The reasons are obvious: women on average earn less than men but live longer. Single parents, who are overwhelmingly female, must stretch their incomes across decades as they rear their children. Many women with young children work part time, and employers seldom offer health insurance or other benefits for part-time work. Wage parity, which would help women and children enormously, still would not close the gaps produced by longevity and childrearing. Here is the problem: since entitlements disproportionately benefit women, cuts in entitlements disproportionately harm them.

Consider Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poorest, sickest and/or most disabled Americans. Women make up three-quarters of the adults covered. That totals 17 million women between the ages of 18 and 64; most are pregnant or have children under 18. Few voters realize that Medicaid finances 41 percent of all births in the United States. These are births among the poor. Medicaid also covers 43 percent of all nursing home spending. These entitlements are vital, not just for the poor and not just for women, but for a healthy society.

Unlike abortion, these services are authentic women’s health issues. As such they ought not be cut even to reduce the deficit. Other expenses—administrative duplication, for example—should be cut and are already being removed through the Affordable Care Act of 2010. A clear link between women and entitlements is crucial information for the ongoing debates about the budget and deficit-reduction.

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7 years 9 months ago
What is almost always left out of these 'debates' is the mathematics at the core of our problem: the Federal, state, and local governments have written checks in the form of political promises that the tax payers can't back up.

Let's look at the numbers shall we? Tens of millions of American tax payers are "underwater" or treading water in our home mortgages - i.e. we owe more than our assets are worth. Despite our annual incomes and 'stuff' in our garages, we are debtors. Not net producers. Debtors.

A majority of counties and municipalities have bonds and pension liabilities that are underfunded - to the tune of over $1 trillion when you add them all up. Obviously raising property taxes on their citizenry - millions of whom are debtors or treading water in a climate of stagnant pay and a fuel, food, and other consumables' inflationary situation, is not a panecea.

Of 50 states, almost all have billion dollar short falls in their state employee pension plans...again, totalling over $1 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Raising taxes from their 'rich' is a proven loser because those rich enough to matter are rich enough to stop working or to relocate.

Then we come to the Federal Government: $14 trillion in debt, running $1.5 trillion annual deficits on a $3.5 trillion budget which our author assumes cannot be trimmed without immediate and irreparable harm to women and children.

So it's full steam ahead until..... the government is forced by the laws of mathematical exponents and a global lack of liquidity with which to keep running such slash its expenses back to its actual revenues - a full stop, 40% cut in actual budget spending. Overnight. Now which is better for "the poor" - to be weaned gently off the plantation of utter dependency on Government or to be suddenly cut off?

We get arm waving and smoke about how taxing the rich will save us. Only it won't because there aren't enough rich people to tax. If all we owed was $1.5 Trillion it'd be do-able. But we owe 14 trillion of OLD debt that's being added to at 1.5 trillion per year.... in a GDP of 14 trillion (2 trillion of which is federal spending!)... and we haven't even mentioned the unfunded social security, medicare and medicaid problems.

So here it is folks: two diametrically opposed world views; one believes that poverty can be eliminated via government wealth transfers (though oddly it never, ever, works...) from the rich to the poor thanks to the brilliant and morally pure ministrations of a noble middle man bureaucracy which just so happens to be populated by Democrats (the best the brightest). No local, municipal or state wide debacle of their making (Detroit, DC, Baltimore... or CA, NJ, etc.) falsifies their theory that more government, more taxation, more programs over more time will do the trick..... and another world view that believes that inasmuch as wealth is created in the private sector to begin with, the greater the extent of this private sector, the more wealth will be created, and thus poverty can be reduced not by ever expanding government wealth TRANSFERS but by ever expanding WEALTH CREATION in private hands who are less and less utterly dependent on government for housing, food, transportation, education, health care, etc. This world view has religion, economics, and world history from 5000 BC to the present to point to as evidence of 'working'.

So which side will you join: the faith-based utopian vision which runs the risk of catastrophic collapse due not to nefarious capitalist tricks but to basic mathematics of exponents (if debt increases faster than the actual growth of wealth, AND IT DOES, then a crash is inevitable. If you paper it over it will get WORSE, not better)? or the proven vision of growing the pie, not just redistributing an ever smaller one?
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 9 months ago
Regarding the Goldstone report, it is worth noting that today the US Senate in Resolution 138 voted to recommend that the UN rescind the Goldstone report, urging UNHRC members "to reflect on the author's repudiation of the Goldstone Report's central findings, rescind the report and reconsdier further available actions with respect to the report's findings."
The resolution was passed without a dissenting vote.
Anastasia Theodoridis
7 years 9 months ago

We need more bishops to speak the truth as bluntly and frequently as Archbishop Martin has done.

Indeed.  But this editorial, in this magazine, seems more than a little ironic, against the backdrop of last week's news from Alaska. 

Tom Maher
7 years 9 months ago
RE: Buget Cuts Hurt Women

Women benefiting more from entitlement programs is a moot point to make when the United States is in jeopardy of being unable to contiune fiinancing itself with the  hugh national debt it has.  The United States now has a 14.5 trillion dollar national dept. This is almost as large as the total annual GDP, Gross Domestic Product, of all economic goods and services produced in the United States.  The 2012 budget as proposed by President Obama will add another 1.6 trillion in debt .  Sometime in 2012 the national debt will become larger than the entire United States economy,  a financial inbalance that is not sustainable for very long.   

The IMF, (International Monetary Fund), a world agency that monitors international government fiancing reports this month that the United States does not have a credible plan to deal with its debt crisis.

America magazine readers are better served by being informed of more urgent and  immeadiate threat of our excessive and out-of-control national debt.    
Jim Lein
7 years 9 months ago

Some previous comments seem to suggest that there is no point to raising taxes on the wealthiest rather than, say, cutting off the supply of milk to infants in the WIC program.  Deregulated, badly behaving Wall Street brought on the crash, and now we are blaming WIC and other programs mainly for women and kids as dragging down the economy.  41 percent of births are funded by Medicaid.  What will happen when these funds are cut?  Many more abortions, of course.  But there's no use increasing taxes on the wealthy to avert this?  

We got out of WWII debts, helped other countries with theirs, funded the GI Bill and created the middle class, and built the freeways, thanks in large part to a 90 percent tax rate on the wealthiest for 20 years.  The wealthy then were part of the Greatest Generation that met the nation's needs rather their own wants.  Goodness gracious, our national debt  is a more urgent problem than starving babies and many women feeling forced into having abortions?  If the debt is so urgent, why not increase our revenues as much as we can before hurting the most vulnerable who didn't cause the near market crash?       

Jennifer Shangraw
7 years 5 months ago
Why do so many Catholics leave the Church?  I ask that question of Catholics who "dropped out" and their answer usually is because of the priest.  Why do so many leave one Catholic CHurch and join another?  The answer is usually the because of priest.  There are many priests in our diocese who are spiritual, humble, truly care for their parishoners, and live the life of Jesus.  There are others, though, who have the same traits as the child abusers-narcissism and grandiosity.  These priests enjoy "power over" people and engage in what can be termed as verbal abuse.  My friends say these priests often berate and yell at their staff and volunteers, who are usually women.  Their attitude at the pulpit and towards their congregation is condescending and dismissive.  There is an aloofness about them.  People are there to serve the priest, not the other way around.  One priest who took a leave-of-absence returned because he missed the "power."  Then I learned he often critisized and put people down, especially women.

I used to be friends with some of these priests.  What I discovered was that each one experienced verbal and physical abuse as children.  Only recently did I connect the dots and realized they went to the seminary to run away from their home life.  They became priests to have others meet their needs and receive praise and adulation.

I love the Catholic Church.  However, I no longer can tolerate egotistical priests.    Much has been written about the child abusers, but not about the verbally abusive, narcissistic priests.  My hope is that you will write an article about this subject.  My hope is that you can help to inform, protect, and empower staff, volunteers, and parisioners.


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