Re “Go in Peace” (Editorial, 11/10): St. Pope John Paul II, in “Familiaris Consortio,” states that “The Christian family is a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason too it can and should be called ‘the domestic Church’” (No. 58). Given that statement, what, then, does the Christian family reveal about ecclesial communion that the church needs to hear and take on board? I hope that in the time before the next synod more couples and families will speak out on their authentic experience, reveal to our church leaders what they know about ecclesial communion and demonstrate the ecclesial communion they realize in their homes and families.
For too long, we have tried to define the reality of church and apply that to families. It is time to look at the revelation and realization of Christian families, and for the church to take seriously what their experience teaches. There needs to be two-way listening to and sharing of what God is revealing, not just trying to make families fit a clerical model of church.
The Spirit Moves
“When Spirit and Anatomy Don’t Match” (11/3), by Judith Valente, is a terrific piece on ministry to transgender people as the “next moral frontier” for churches. It is the perfect example of why America is very good indeed. I don’t want to be lectured and hectored and sermonated and homilified when I read a stimulating magazine; and I want more than mere information and news and data.
I want informed ideas. I want to be startled and moved. I want to be shown new angles on things. I want light where I did not realize there was such a chance at light. This piece is a very good example of that—how easy it would be to establish camps about this, and lecture each other, and insist on this and that, from rights to wrong; but how very much better to witness, to report the shivering real, to suggest that there are ways to find the love of the mercy here, as everywhere, if only we look harder. Lovely work.
I am impressed with the piece; but I want to be sure to say I am impressed with the decisions that led to its appearance. Such decisions are how a fine magazine is made.
In light of Bishop Robert W. McElroy’s enlightening article, “Market Assumptions” (10/27), on Pope Francis’ challenge to income inequality, I would like to draw attention to Bernard Lonergan’s “Macroeconomic Dynamics: An Essay in Circulation Analysis.” He explains why a “free market” cannot be considered “natural.” The natural dynamics of a developing economy involve two waves: one when the production sector is expanding while the consumption sector holds steady; the other, vice versa.
Practically speaking, expanding production requires investing, while a consumption expansion requires spending. To keep the wave dynamic moving, total investments should roughly equal total wages in the long run. While economic inequality is typically measured by income disparity, to move toward equality requires educated choices on what to do with excess, uncommitted funds.
It would go a long way toward meeting the pope’s challenge if the church would apply its teaching mission toward educating the public on the best use of corporate net profits and personal disposable incomes to align with changes in the economy.
Turn Back the Vote
A reader asks why cutting down voting times in Ohio is considered discriminatory (Reply All, 10/27). The disputed week of early voting is an “overlap week,” in which voters can register and vote at the same time. During Mr. Obama’s first run for president, many of us in Ohio, in the spirit of increasing voter turnout, worked to register more African-Americans, day workers, homebound individuals and college-age kids. Many people who had not previously registered voted during this week, as did other motivated voters. We also worked to secure weekend voting so that day workers and the poor would be able to vote without missing work. Opponents of Sunday voting argued it cost too much, but many churchgoers can be transported by bus on Sundays, encouraging voting by those who have no other means of transportation. It is for these reasons that we feel erasing a high voter turnout week and the weekend vote just before Election Day smacks of an effort to reduce the voting among some working poor Americans.
Limits of Commons
As Nathan Schneider writes in “Commons Sense” (10/20), we all need to be aware of the environment and how our actions affect nature, today and into the future. Of course, nature itself includes some powerful and destructive forces that an open and charitable sharing of the commons will not deter. That’s what is so confusing and misguided about a demonstration like Flood Wall Street. As Mr. Schneider states, “While commoning might coexist with a market or state, it is neither.” And as he does not say, we need a commons, we need a market and we need a state.
We need a market (Wall Street, and its counterparts around the world) to do what Thomas Aquinas and the popes have acknowledged cannot be accomplished in and by the commons—the stewardship, preservation and prioritization of property in ways that promote the common good. A person, whether wealthy or poor, can gather and chew the bark of a wild aspen tree to alleviate a headache or thin the blood. Commoning will get you that. But if we seek the convenience and reliability of an easy-to-swallow pill with precisely 325 milligrams of aspirin, we need Wall Street. Gathering the investors who will risk their savings (already taxed and not spent in some instantly gratifying pleasure) to build the plant, secure the raw materials and hire the workers who will make and ship those pills, is the work of Wall Street. So it is with a thousand other conveniences and necessities, including many that serve the poor. Protesting against an individual corporation for some actual offense against the commons may make sense. Protesting a market does not.
“Commons Sense” (10/20), by Nathan Schneider, seems to capture only one side of the issue. The march on climate change certainly drew the attention of many nations, including China and India, two of the major polluters in the world. The industrialization of China and India has raised the standard of living of the poor and indigent in each country. Are not the poor in China and India our brothers and sisters in Christ as well? The issue is how to balance care for the poor with care for the environment. In the United States, we have regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency that will effectively eliminate coal-fired electric plants and thus contribute to a cleaner environment. In the meantime, out-of-work coal miners are wondering where they will get their next meal. Beware of simplistic answers to complex issues.
Representative Paul Ryan tells us in “Preferential Options” (10/13) that a healthy economy protects the most vulnerable. Yet his party is doing the utmost to limit the right to vote of the most vulnerable. He tells us we take care of people in need because the whole country will benefit. How can the country benefit when the high rate of black incarceration prevents blacks from being considered for jobs when they become available? What kind of family can you have if the father is in jail?
Mr. Ryan tells us that “Washington is disorganized and dysfunctional and is deepening the divide. Let the states try different ways of providing aid.” The only state that did something about providing health care to the uninsured was Massachusetts until Washington picked up the ball with the Affordable Care Act—which many states and Mr. Ryan’s party are doing their best to stymie. I would like to see the federal government enact Medicare for all, stop giving corporations the rights of people (yet few of the liabilities), protect social security, subsidize child care and ensure educational opportunities for everyone. The government is us. Government is not the enemy. Its faults lie in ourselves, but its strengths are many.
Readers respond to “On the Way to Healing,” by Jon Sobrino, S.J., and “Truth, Then Justice,” by Luke Hansen, S.J. The articles marked the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom of six Jesuits and their lay companions in El Salvador.
In No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays (Orbis Books, 2008), Father Sobrino writes poignantly about his Jesuit brother Ignacio Ellacuría, the theologian and university president killed with the others in 1989: “When Ellacuría ‘took hold of the reality’ of the Third World, he grasped it in an important way as a ‘crucified people’…. Ellacuría said that the crucified people are one of the main features of our time, not merely something factual that we may consider, but something central that must be considered, without which we do not have a full grasp of reality.” Being Catholic can be tricky.
Just this morning I was reading about Uruguay and the granting of impunity to military torturers in 1986 and how that clemency made democratization difficult after the dictatorship. Thanks for the article by Luke Hansen, S.J. It breaks my heart that El Salvador still suffers so much violence—and that we are deporting innocent migrants back to El Salvador, where they may be murdered. These are innocent mothers, fathers and children. U.S. practices helped to begin the cycle of violence, so U.S. practices should protect the people and promote democratization.