Current Comment

Look to Black Catholics

A new report from the University of Notre Dame offers an optimistic look at an often-overlooked Catholic demographic: African-Americans. Commissioned by the National Black Catholic Congress, the first national Black Catholic Survey found that African-Americans are more engaged in their parishes than their white counterparts. Not only do many black Catholics attend Mass regularly, they also take part in other parish-sponsored events. What’s more, many young black Catholics are also committed to their faith. “This is a bright spot for the church,” said Bishop John H. Ricard, president of the National Black Catholic Congress.

In their analysis of the report, the authors conclude that “African-American Catholics behave and look like African-American Protestants,” who have a long tradition of religious commitment. Here, then, is an example of a Catholic community that has flourished in America’s ecumenical society. The Catholic Church’s historical treatment of African-Americans has been mixed, but the majority of those surveyed felt that the church is meeting their needs today: 78 percent said that parishes served their spiritual needs “well or very well,” compared with 67 percent of their white counterparts. Still, there are areas for improvement. Fewer respondents (62 percent) felt that the church met their social needs. And a majority felt that the church could do more to promote black saints and recruit black priests. It is disturbing, too, that a quarter of respondents “encountered people avoiding them or refusing to shake hands.”


The example of African-American Catholics, who place less emphasis on “the individual and more on the communitarian aspects of a church,” according to Bishop Ricard, should be held up as a model for all Catholics to emulate.

Hooked on Drug Profits

Even as health care costs consume a greater share of the U.S. gross domestic product, some pharmaceutical companies are aggressively working to extend their patent protections on blockbuster drugs. Pfizer’s cholesterol-reducing drug Lipitor, for example, has been hugely profitable; it accounts for a quarter of the company’s revenues over the last 10 years. But the patent for Lipitor expired in November and generic drugs to lower cholesterol, like atorvastatin, are entering the market. Since after the first six months or year of start-up expenses generic versions tend to cost much less than brand-name drugs, the generics benefit consumers, insurers and the government, which subsidizes millions of prescription drug purchases through Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To hold on to its market share as long as possible, however, Pfizer has made deals with insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and patients to sell its brand rather than a generic. The company has also promised discounts on co-pays, temporarily lowering its prices to keep the generic-drug makers from gaining a foothold.

If Pfizer’s efforts succeed, the profits will serve shareholders at the expense of society at large, for the price of Lipitor will go back up. And if other pharmaceutical companies follow Pfizer’s lead, the delay in transition to generic drugs could become costlier still. One pharmaceutical consultant reportedly said that more than $80 billion in brand-name drugs are poised to go generic over the next two years. If the price falls to $10 billion, he said, that would mean saving $70 billion in health care costs. Whatever the actual price difference, federal regulators ought to scrutinize such deals now, lest the big pharmaceutical firms hooked on drug profits divert desperately needed savings in U.S. health care.

A Long Goodbye

The Vatican’s dogged pursuit of the Society of St. Pius X was rebuffed yet again in November when the society objected to the wording of a still mysterious “Doctrinal Preamble.” That document is intended to begin the canonical reconciliation of the recalcitrant Lefebvrists with the church. Unfortunately, they seem to be holding out for a renegotiation of the Second Vatican Council.

What amazes is the Curia’s patient attention to this grumpy micro-minority of schismatic Catholics. The enduring reconciliation campaign is disconcerting when throngs of nonschismatic Catholics—outraged parents, for example, and exasperated young women (including former altar servers)—drift away in search of greener pastures. Yet these ongoing losses have not provoked comparable intervention. Can anyone imagine Rome maintaining such forbearance in negotiation with, say, Call to Action or Voice of the Faithful? Unity is always welcome, but how much does the church gain from restoring these 19th-century romantics?

Surely the good shepherd searching for the lost sheep remains a standard of pastoral care. No one can deny the moral beauty of the shepherd’s calculated risk-taking. But when the shepherd surveys his flock and spots one sheep straying over a hillside to the right while a third or more of the flock is disappearing into a forest on the left, can there be any doubt about which way he should go?

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6 years 10 months ago
Thank you. I, too, wonder why the Vatican, the Curia, and many vocal bishops cast a compassionate gaze and extend open arms to some while others who are faithful Catholics receive an impatient glance and a cold shoulder.
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 10 months ago
Almost anyone who asks an older experienced physician what developments over his career have been most crucial to saving lives and reducing human suffering is likely to hear in response the creation of life-saving and enhancing drugs. The development of these drugs in a safe and consistent manner is an extraordinarily expensive process. Most are very costly failures in the long development and certification process; a very few become immensely successful and pay the many failures and provide a profit for the drug companies as well as fund the immense capital investment required to further their research. There are legitimate complaints to make concerning drug companies and their paid lobbyists from the govenment -corporate revolving door such as Tom Daschle, yet a headline such as "Hooked on Drugs" and demonizing drug companies such as Pfizer for profits largely used to produce the products which have so improved the lives of citizens world-wide borders on ingratitude. Probably half of the seniors in our country are alive today as a result of the drugs this amazingly successful, disproportionately American industry has developed. Let's be certain not to bite the hand that sustains us.
Tom Maher
6 years 10 months ago
Re: Hooked on Drug Profits
I have to agree with Walter Mattingly.  The suspicion expressed in this editorial toward Pfizer, a very old and reputatble American pharmacutical company that is completely deserving of respect,  and its profiting from its highly effective and in-demand product Lipitor is unfounded.  This editorial lacks gratitude and appreciation for all the many life-enchancing medicines Pfizer has made available to the great benefits of people worldwide for decades.

Let's be serious. This is not the 12th century.  New medicines are being developed at great cost, effort and risk by private companies employing very high skilled people.  These products take years to develop and years more to study and document the effectiveness of any new drug. Many drugs after years of development and testing are terminated due to lack of effecitveness or unacceptable safety risks.  With the long development cycle and risk of develpment failure, the risk of hugh financial losses are an inherent part of the pharmacutical business.   To hire the skilled people needed, go through a long development cylcle that can fail t and be able to sustain losses without going out of business requires that a large porfits be made to fainance all these efforts and the risks.

The cynical belittleing of profits does not make sense.  Profits must be made.   Only profit making companies produce the number of effective new medicines needed by 21st century society. 
6 years 10 months ago
"But when the shepherd surveys his flock and spots one sheep straying over a hillside to the right while a third or more of the flock is disappearing into a forest on the left, can there be any doubt about which way he should go?"

An excellent analogy!  I'm one of the "third or more" who left after years of VOTF meetings as well as writing letters to bishops and Pope John Paul II, begging them to hold bishops accountable for covering up clergy abuse. 
At Penn State and Syracuse, those who covered up the abuse of children either resigned or were fired.
Except for those who retired or died, the bishops whose negligence spread the abuse across the planet are still in positions of power and honor, and John Paul is on the fast track to canonization.

T?he survivors of clergy abuse who still stand outside Cathedrals ?e?a?c?h? ?w?e?e?k?? are the ones responsible for any positive changes in the church in the past ten year?s?,? ?n?o?t? ?t?h?e? ?h?i?e?r?a?r?c?h?y?.
ed gleason
6 years 10 months ago
I love the rightie consistency of Mattingly and Maher who think that Medicare saving 80 billion is chicken feed [deficit be damned]so that drug companies can to avoid patent laws and  the 1% can keep getting fat. they don't seem know the song  O Canada.??.
Tom Maher
6 years 10 months ago
Hooked on Drug Profits

For your information,
I just re-ordered a 30 day supply of Lipitor for a family member by phone with CVS. The copay was $50 last month.  The pharmacist informs me that they can make a substitute for the generic by Massachusetts law without a new perscription.  So this month Lipitor copay for my insurance company will be $20 dollars, the same copay that I pay for most perscriptions. - a 60% reduction in monthly copay.

So the price for Lipitor has come down as you would expect now that the patent has expired.  The Lipitor formula is now in the pulbic domain so any company can now legally produce and disrtibute the exact same formula as Lipitor under their own brand label.  So Pfizer's Lipitor will have lots of compition that will keep the price lower.  No need for suspicion of a price conspiracy which is illegal.  The system works and all parties are acting properly under the law. 
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 10 months ago
While I'm glad you love my "rightie" consistency, you might like it even more if you encountered what I actually wrote. For example, "There are legitimate complaints to make about the drug companies and their paid lobbyists from the government-corporate revolving door such as Tom Daschle," such as the non competitive, anti-free market agreement on drugs forged with the likes of Daschle under the Bush administration with drug companies. Yet Pfizer lowering its price through lower copays on Lipitor as it moves to generic status is a legitimate way for it to maintain market share. The larger point, however, is the consistency which "lefties" such as yourself object to corporate profits. It likely outrages you that the richest of all the greedy corporate pig 1%ers, Bill Gates, by himself rivals the effectiveness of the World Health Organization and its many bureaucrats in life-saving efforts.

Likewise, if you can only succeed in sufficiently undermining the profits of drug companies, they will slow down on developing the properly named miracle drugs that have so benefitted you and me and the rest of humankind. But like the Occupiers, whose bogus reference to themselves as we are the 99% is actually about 33% who approve of them, your "1%" who "keep getting fat" is off by almost a similar amount, for as you may already know, we are the fattest people in the world, with obesity issues named as the main single factor contributing to our rising health costs. If you successfully propagandize against the companies who develop needed drugs, perhaps you can successfully prevent them from developing a drug for diabetes and other weight-related problems, allowing us all to suffer together from the high health costs and the chronic illnesses and early deaths we enjoy from these diseases. But we will, if those of a socialist orientation succeed, be equally deprived of such benefits as we join Greece, Cuba, and Venezuela in a shared solidarity of penury. 
Sheila Harrison
6 years 10 months ago

Re: Hooked on Drug Profits
I think it is most important to research a companies social responsibility. Possibly
there is some truth on both sides, although it is important not to idealize the
goodness of the drug companies.  It is time in our history to reward companies
that consider social responsibility and profit making. Pfizer is listed as a corporate
Villain. MM's "Worst Corporation" list for 5 yrs. - Named " Environmental  Laggard" by
CEP - # 17 in " Top 100 Corporate Criminals"- Spent $93 million on Washington lobbyisits.  Over all rating of corporate responsibility in "The better world shopping guide- F . Also our government ( the american people) provide subsidies- for the
research of the new drugs. There is a huge effort in the marketing of drugs. Believe
we are the only industrialized nation that allows this. The bottom line drugs should
be developed to promote well-being- should be made available not only to those who
can afford them. I do work in the health care industry- There are many that benefit
from named brand drugs and if you do ,count yourself lucky, because many never
have that opportunity. Pfizer had a long relationship with our community- downsizing
sent operations elsewhere. Change begins with each and everyone of us.        -

Leonard Villa
6 years 10 months ago
Your commentary on the SSPX and Rome was to say the least lacking in charity. By the way the SSPX is not currently in schism. They are irregular to be sure but not schismatic in the formal sense. Forebearance with Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful? Are you joking? What happened to them? Were they ever excommunicated or suspended or even reprimanded by Rome? I dare say there are more serious and formal departures from the Faith and Council there than you can complain about SSPX folks! That's part of the problem and crisis. Lots of these folks have been in de facto schism/heresy for years with the support evidently of your magazine and other church clerics and organizations. The bottom line is that the Pope has made it clear that the interpretation of the Council has to be in continuity with the Tradition contrary to the interpretation of the Council as rupture with the Tradition that was in play for many years. We have never had a so-called "Pastoral Council." Rome said that the documents in their formulations can be criticized. Part of that criticism can be the question of the connection with the Tradition and the language and the doctrinal authority of various statements. Distinguished theologians have asked the Holy See for an autoritative interpretation of the Conciliar texts especially in cases of ambiguity. If you read the Conciliar history and the history of the texts you can see that the so-called liberals wanted that ambiguity so they could precisely argue for rupture with past Catholic tradition because they no longer believed in it! I think your magazine is nervous because that tactic and that ambiguity is being addressed by this Pontificate in the attempt to regularize the SSPX with canonical status.At the moment in which there are serious questions about the meaning of the conciliar texts, at the moment in which the Holy See says these texts can be criticized how can the Holy See demand that their prior recognition be an indispensable condition for the regularization of the Society?
Nicholas Clifford
6 years 9 months ago
On the Long Goodbye -
 I rather liked the way it appeared in the print magazine, finishing "one sheep straying over a hillsode to the right while a third or more of  [blank]. . . ."

A proofreader's error no doubt, but its virtue is that it allows us to fill in the blanks! which of course many of us would do in the way your online version suggests.

On Penn State and the continuing scandal in the Church (I see it's now the turn of the Dutch, and the requisite Dutch bishop has now uttered the usual "apology"):

If I were running Penn State, I would hold an open-to-all seminar on how and how not to handle the problem of sex abuse. And among those many whom I would invite to participate would be the Catholic bishops, and perhaps also a representative of the Vatican, though he (or she) would hold only observer status, to listen.

Norman Costa
6 years 9 months ago

Re Black Catholics:

The infusion of musical forms and sounds, from African roots, into the culture of America was both an impetus toward, and measure of, racial equality. When the music directors, and choir masters in Catholic Churches perform choral pieces by the Rev. James Cleveland, and jazz devotional compositions, and do it on a regular basis, an important transformation will begin. It has been said of Anglican/Episcopal Churches, "Alas, some come only for the music." Maybe this time, they will stay for the community of spiritual fellowship.
Elaine Tannesen
6 years 9 months ago
Re Hooked on Drug Profits

I don't think we need to be concerned about slowing down all the research the large drug companies make by restricting their profits.  They actually do very little research, spending most of their money on advertising, lobbying, and paying their shareholders and CEO's.  You might find this web site interesting
6 years 9 months ago
Re "A Long Goodbye," the Jesuit (no doubt) printer's devil who removed an entire line of completed type, cutting off the valid controversial comment that the good shepherd would really be wasting his time worrying about one sheep lost over a hillside to the right if (it was here that your readers were forced to supply your missing printed reason), if one third or more of the flock was disappearing into a forest on the left. The Society of St. Pius X is the lost sheep the Vatican has long been concerned about. What is, really, 'the third or more of the flock disappearing into the forest'?

One in 10 US adults are former Catholics. In the USA there are 228.1 million adults(from a 2008 study by the PEW FORUM ON RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE).  Therefore, there are 22.8million ex-Catholics in theUSA.  As a denomination, it would be the second largest in the country, behind Catholics (68.1 million, according to the National Council of Churches’ 2010 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches). The ex-Catholics would far outnumber the next largest denomination, Southern Baptists, who claim 16.2 million members.  (Tom Roberts, NCR editor-at-large, ‘The ‘had it’ Catholics: the emerging Church”, NCR 10/15/2010)

Jim McCrea
6 years 9 months ago

Maybe the church will worry with the one-third becomes the 99%. Then who will fund the clericalism with its attendant perks, dresses, obeisances, palaces and scores of little sychophantic newly-minted priesty boyz who are so madly in love with the 19th century?

I've taken steps to ensure the hastening of that day. May it come sooner rather than later. From what I have seen of the church in Europe and, yes, the US, "sooner" is not just a pipe dream.


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