Health Care Rhetoric
Re “A Sense of Solidarity,” by Kevin P. Quinn, S.J. (3/2): I was very disturbed by the generalization and characterization of “most, if not all, conservative opposition” in the review of Health Care as a Social Good, by David M. Craig. The implication is that all conservatives believe health care should be a “privilege, rather than a right.” This generalization further contributes to the divisive political rhetoric and our inability to pursue logical discourse regarding true health care reform.
Is it not possible that many “conservatives” have equal concern for the long-term ability of our health care system to meet the needs of all citizens? I do applaud Father Quinn’s observation that “secular liberal and economic arguments” have not produced a “public narrative,” essential to long-term solutions in the health care reform debate. Perhaps the greatest benefit of religious engagement could be to force inappropriate political rhetoric out of the discussion in favor of a realistic planning process that excludes labels such as “conservative” or “liberal.”
“Constructive compromise” and efforts at “social stewardship,” as suggested by Mr. Craig, must include a realistic and nonpolitical evaluation of short- and long-term economic models. I believe we must recognize that short-term political gain may not equal long-term good nor good stewardship.
In “Good Sports” (2/23), Rabbi Martin Siegel presents a garbled discussion about “getting closer to God through athletics.” The entire piece is a mishmash of “five essential forces” that draw creatures—as fans, apparently—into a closer relationship with their Creator. By taking part in witnessing athletic events, “the fans are connected to [the Creator’s] energy through the imagery that the competition creates for them.”
Rabbi Siegel, who is working on a book entitled Renewing Religion Through Football, seems unaware of recent discussions about the physical savagery of American football and its ill effects on the participants, especially at the college and professional level. Apparently he has a thesis about how the Creator can be approached through sports activities, and he fits his data to suit his preconceived thesis. The paragraph subtitled “Winning: Not the Only Thing” is, I’m afraid, another sign of the author ignoring the reality of the behavior of fans whose teams have lost big games and the acting out that results from the frustration of being a “loser.”
Re “Prison Addiction,” by Bishop Denis J. Madden (2/23): Many are unaware of the obstacles faced by prisoners at their release from incarceration—especially in finding a place to live and a job. In 1996 Congress added another major obstacle when it passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.
This law, which applies only to felony drug convictions, prohibits for life a person from receiving federal food assistance (S.N.A.P.) or cash assistance (T.A.N.F.). Perhaps a well-intentioned part of the war on drugs, this law is now recognized by many states as a contributing factor to recidivism as well as a great hardship on the spouses and children of felons. Congress gave the states the discretion to opt out of or modify the ban. As of 2011, 37 states fully or partially enforce the T.A.N.F. ban, and 34 fully or partially enforce the S.N.A.P. ban. While a number of states have modified these bans, placing conditions or requirements on benefits, 13 states continue to deny T.A.N.F. aid to drug felons, and nine states continue to deny them food assistance—for life—though they have done their time and paid their debt to society.
Re “Saintly Sinners, Sinful Saints,” by James Martin, S.J. (2/23): The saints I love best are those who seem not to have led perfect lives. The saints who give me example and courage are not the ones who appear never tempted but the sinners who managed to triumph over their acknowledged demons—sinners, like me, who give me hope for myself.
Although not declared a saint, I love Thomas Merton because, while he was not perfect, he never gave up. He was a man: mortal, weak, brilliant, talented and dogged in his search for deeper communion with the divine. Robert Louis Stevenson said that the saints are the sinners who keep on trying. How I hope I will be one of them.
A Sound Process
In “The Annulment Dilemma” (2/16). Msgr. Paul V. Garrity notes the problem of applications not completed because of the obstacle posed by the autobiographical essay. As a graduate student in theology and an aspiring canonist who has interned in diocesan marriage tribunals, I can testify that most tribunals are very accommodating of people’s needs and capacities.
I have worked with people who prefer to converse rather than write their story, which I then type up and organize logically. The problem is not the process. The problems are: 1) insufficient financial and human resources being given to tribunals to aid individuals with the annulment process; and 2) pastors who are unaware of the resources to which they could be referring their annulment-seeking parishioners.
Monsignor Garrity also wants to see pastors have a greater role in the process. With all due respect to our priests, most do not possess a basic literacy in matrimonial jurisprudence. The current process for formal cases has been refined over the centuries; is much sounder than most people would suspect and protects the rights of both parties to the highest degree possible. Some priests should become canonists and work with marriage cases, but not all.
Single Life Sacrament
I find myself wondering if part of our current dilemma regarding marriage, annulments, homosexuality, etc., might be caused by an “all or nothing” mentality. In the 12th century, marriage was declared by the Catholic Church to be sacramental. But no such support has ever been offered to the single state of life, unless one enters the priesthood or religious life.
How can this be, since both are essential for society as a whole? It is perfectly obvious that not everyone should marry, that many individuals can best thrive and serve others without the constraints that marriage and childrearing impose. Shouldn’t there be sacramental support for this large and vital part of any community? Such a sea change might make a wider variety of relationships valid in the eyes of the church without sacrificing the procreative quality of marriage as a unique institution.
I was perplexed, to say the least, on reading “Communion Change?” (Signs of the Times, 1/19). It is pretty amazing that 66 German bishops “favor allowing divorced Catholics living in new civil unions to participate in confession and receive Communion” and that the exclusion from these sacraments was no longer comprehensible to them.
The relatively new Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear why the exclusion should be very understandable. Nos. 1650–51 speak to this issue and discuss why confession and the reception of Communion cannot be condoned or permitted for those Catholics so encumbered. It would seem clear that a second marriage cannot be embraced by the church while a first, earlier one remains indissoluble.
I do not for one minute doubt the erudition or sincerity of those bishops, priests and others with genuine concerns for the need for mercy as called for by Pope Francis. But true marriage is under assault as it is, and one wonders how much more undermining it can stand.
Readers respond to the passing on Feb. 26 of Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., former president of the University of Notre Dame and one of the most influential Catholic priests in the history of the church in the United States.