No to Vouchers
In “Our Segregated Schools” (Editorial, 8/31) the editors call for the expansion of voucher programs as a way to combat segregation. What that suggestion misses is that Catholic schools are overwhelmingly not unionized. As such, the pay for teachers is significantly lower in Catholic schools than it is in public schools. This is the reason why I oppose any and all vouchers. They weaken teachers’ unions when they are already under attack.
The Catholic Church as a universal institution is, of course, multicultural. But Catholic schools in the United States, as well as elsewhere, are segregated because of the prohibitive expense of tuition and the segregation of our communities. More important, the pews at Mass are overwhelmingly segregated in terms of Latino, white and black Catholics as well as by class. But the injustice that leads to the segregation of schools, parishes and communities will not be solved by politically supporting vouchers. It will only be deepened. Vouchers do not advance the church’s mission if they harm the ability of working folks to resist unjust reductions in their wages, benefits and political power.
Nothing to Celebrate
As a former Franciscan friar, I read “Serra’s Sainthood,” by Jeffrey M. Burns (8/31), with interest. He should have disclosed that he is the director of the American Academy of Franciscan History, an organization that funded, in part, the Serra biography he is touting, by Rosemary Beebe and Robert Senkewicz. He sets up a straw man when he cites fringe groups that condemn the Serra canonization. There are many responsible Native Californians who oppose the canonization. Serra’s missionary conquest of California accompanied and supported the military conquest that decimated the Indian population as well as their culture. He supervised the whippings of Indians and even offered to supply stocks and shackles to military commanders if they needed them. These were not “spankings,” as some Franciscan apologists claim.
“Let us look for healing,” Burns says. But the Franciscans, the Vatican and the California bishops are not looking for healing, for reconciliation, or offering any apologies. The Indians rightfully call the mission system “genocide” and “slavery.” It doesn’t matter what the friars and soldiers intended. It’s what they did that mattered. They left a wake of sickness, death and the destruction of a culture in their wake. No, you cannot mark this with a canonization, only with sincere apologies. But there will be none of this at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington in September. There will be pomp, self-congratulations and a clerical sideshow. Native Californians consider that insulting, and so do I. A Jesuit magazine should promote the voices of the oppressed, not the defenders of the oppressors.
“Surviving in America,” by Tom Deignan (8/17), provides much food for thought. What do we do now, though? Armed with our historical perspective and a sense of what has worked and what has not, how do we plan and build a better future? In the Boston of Anthony Lukas’s Common Ground, the poor whites were pitted against the poor blacks successfully by the politicians, even though their interests were largely congruent. Editorial pages of some big city dailies still carry an all too visible hint of anti-Catholicism. When our Catholic high schools are populated, for the most part, by largely white middle- to upper middle-class students, how can we expect these young people to develop healthy attitudes toward immigrants or others who are different? And what message is being preached from the pulpit to those who identify as Catholic when it comes to incorporating the lessons of our Catholic American history into the present day issue of immigration?
The Aug. 3 column Of Many Things, by Matt Malone, S.J., sounded so very clerical, something Pope Francis has spoken against. Yes, we have many good bishops who are attentive to the welfare of their flock. However, this column could not have been written by the many parents, particularly mothers, who have approached and continue to contact bishops to report abuse of their children and have been summarily dismissed. It could not have been written by the many women who have been made to feel guilty when they bring concerns to a bishop. It could not have been written by the parents who have children who are homosexual and who are seeking the church to be more inclusive and are told to disappear. It could not have been written by the poor who see the lavish regalia of the bishops when they are seeking to just have food and housing for their families. I could go on with many others who have experienced the closed ears of many bishops. Yes, we cannot lump all of the hierarchy together, but we do have to acknowledge that many bishops have failed to serve their flock as Pope Francis has set forth in many addresses and documents.
Re “Pontifex Economicus,” by Nathan Schneider (8/3): As I see it, we must first and foremost practice “commoning” in our own parish boundaries. What if each parish provided food, shelter, clothing and health services for everyone who is needy within the boundary of that parish? Yes, some parishes would need help from well-off ones. But, sadly, we want to turn feeding, clothing, sheltering and healing over to civil government, which has no interest in treating people as if they were treating Jesus. Combine the free market with a mindset of commoning in each parish and thus include God in the mix, who then has a chance to bless and even multiply our efforts. The question, as always, is: What are we, individually, willing to offer from the personal gifts we have received from God? When we shirk that responsibility and turn it over to civil government, we lose an opportunity to be Christ-like. With man it is impossible. With God, all things are possible.
I find it rather disconcerting to find an ad for a “Pope on a Pedestal” figurine next to “Blue Skies Ahead” (7/20), a column by James T. Keane regarding air quality and with the clear connection to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment. Is America truly so in need of revenues that it must take ads for stuff like “collectible items” at an “incredible value—strictly limited,” while trying to bring home the message of “Laudato Si’” to readers, as covered in previous issues? One of the pope’s points is that we consumers buy so much unnecessary stuff and that each purchase has an environmental impact that diminishes the quality of the environment. Do we really need to have America participate in selling such stuff? Please, talk the talk and walk the walk.
In Christ’s Gaze
I so enjoy hearing from today’s “new evangelists” in the Generation Faith column. In particular, thank you and kudos to Robert Minton for “Fortified Faith” (7/6). Mr. Minton’s essay evoked in me memories of my own struggles as a student at Northwestern University so many years ago. The environment was quite hedonistic; I was constantly challenged in my striving for holiness and wholeness. I, too, was my own toughest critic.
The author wrote of forgetting his failures and gazing, “however obliquely, upon the good in others and ourselves” and using that good “as the well-spring of growth.” Bravo! Pope Francis writes of another kind of gazing in “The Joy of the Gospel.” He says we need to place ourselves in the presence of the Lord and let Jesus gaze upon us: “Standing before him with open hearts, letting him look at us, we see that gaze of love which Nathaniel glimpsed…” (No. 264). When one sits in the presence of the Lord and allows the Lord to gaze upon him- or herself, one cannot help but be moved to share that warmth and love with others.
In “Trigger Warning: On Not Looking at Dead Syrian Babies” (In All Things, 9/1), Kevin Clarke considers the decision of mainstream media outlets, including America, to not publish photographs of migrant and refugee children who drowned in the Mediterranean. Readers weigh in.
I think we’ve got it right in the United States for this reason: Those who have compassion do not need to see the pictures, whereas those whose humanity has withered are, believe it or not, unshaken in their views even by the sight of dead children. I have been totally shocked by the comments on Facebook below an image of drowned babies, people frequently saying, “It’s a shame, but we’ve no room!” So I don’t believe the images change people’s opinions, and once such an image has been printed, where do we go from there? The images become commonplace and we start to be hardened to them. We should also respect the dignity of the dead. We do not need to plaster them across social media; it doesn’t help and can have a negative effect.
Publish the pictures: from Syria, from Iraq, from Africa and from every place of conflict. Paraphrasing the words of Robert E. Lee after one of the battles of the Civil War: “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it.”