Place of Privilege
Re “Breathing Space,” by Alex Mikulich (10/26): Thank you for this very powerful article. As an African-American woman who has taught in Jesuit schools for 14 years, I appreciate Mr. Mikulich’s acknowledgment of white privilege in Jesuit institutions. Many Jesuit schools offer wonderful opportunities to students of color, but often the students’ ability to cope with the level of racism they face in these institutions can be daunting. In the words of St. Ignatius, “Love is seen more readily in deeds than in words.”
Healing the Sick
Re “A New Subordinationism,” by John J. Conley (10/19): While I find many reasons to agree with Father Conley in his concern over the state’s increasing subordination of religion in the United States, I would find such concern more ingenuous if it did not so often coincide with increasing financial burden on the poor and middle class. Sadly, this iteration of subordinationism has raised its head in reaction to the Affordable Care Act, which provides medical coverage for so many of our citizens. Religious liberty is not a Gospel value; care for the sick most certainly is. Jesus healed the sick but did not enjoy religious liberty under the government of Rome, nor did his disciples.
Understandable as is conscientious objection to the birth control provisions of the A.C.A., I believe we would have provided a more powerful witness to our faith had we been equally vocal in our support for this first valiant plan to provide affordable health care, quietly working out the birth control issues on the side. As it has turned out, the church’s support for health care has been drowned out by our loud objections to infringements on our liberty. Let us instead use our religious liberty to speak out and address issues of violence and injustice, the sacredness of life and family, knowing full well that like Jesus, we may not always find sympathetic ears.
“Bringing New Life,” by Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I. (10/5), shares exceptional insights about the passion and death of Jesus. The author’s comments about “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two” were especially arresting and, for me, gave rise to something akin to what our brothers on the road to Emmaus felt. Despite church language that might be understood otherwise, I do not think we are called to believe that God our loving Father demanded Jesus’ crucifixion as a needed counterweight for a sinful human balance sheet. I am grateful for Father Rolheiser’s careful reflection encouraging us to persevere in believing what is beyond our human understanding: that despite our sin, even the unspeakable way in which we killed the son God sent us, the person behind “the veil” has unchangeably offered each of us unconditional love. Father Rolheiser has identified a field worth digging continuously as we endeavor to discover the treasure against which all else pales.
Bursting the College Bubble
Re “Why Educate?” (Editorial, 9/28): The cost of college is soaring, growing at double the cost of health care and four times the cost of housing. At the same time, the rigor of the education is going in the opposite direction. This is clearly an economic bubble situation, and bubbles are unsustainable. Most colleges are so ideologically constrained that they may be mainly miseducating their students, ethically and factually, so that students must re-educate themselves when they get a job in the real world. Senator Bernie Sanders has a plan that will only increase that cost further and delay the market correction that is sorely needed.
The increasing sophistication of online courses and other electronic resources will likely burst the college bubble. A combination of online education and a part-time college presence could provide an excellent liberal education for most in half the time and at a fifth or tenth the present cost. This will be fiercely resisted by academics (less money and less time to indoctrinate the students in their pet ideologies) and their political allies, but it is likely to succeed all the same. Other colleges and universities can then focus on technical education and the professions.
‘Extend the Sphere’
Both the Of Many Things column by Matt Malone, S.J., and Robert David Sullivan’s “TV Comes of Age” (9/28), are poignant reminders that “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” The business model of cable news channels and online news sites, which build mass markets for advertisers by “severing from one another” different demographic groups, Father Malone says, “enfeebles public discourse” and is “deeply complicit in the political polarization of the electorate.” “The result,” writes Mr. Sullivan, “is sensationalism and appeals to partisan prejudice.”
This is not the first time in our history that the negative effect of splinter groups on the well-being of the nation has been an issue. In formulating the U.S. government, the founders were most sensitive to the threat of factionalism. In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison argued that liberty would be better protected if the constituent units of government were not too small: “Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens.”
Labor’s Catholic Roots
“Worked Over” (Editorial, 9/14) diagnoses some of the problems in the American culture and economy today but does not address the central issue, which is that 93 percent of private sector workers are not organized for collective bargaining with employers on income, working conditions and benefits. The editors refer to Archbishop Wenski’s Labor Day statement in 2015, which damns workers’ organizations with faint praise by noting their imperfection and indicates there is very little institutional memory about the robust and constructive contributions of the Catholic Church in America to the gains made by labor in first half of the 20th century.
The U.S. bishops have expended incredible energy in their fight against abortion, contraception and gay marriage. When have they taken a militant stand for increasing the minimum wage? The statement speaks of reflection, which is a lot easier than proposing a course of action, like extolling the rights of people to organize into unions and negotiate for their just due. With so little union activity in the private sector, we live in an era of food stamps, Medicaid and welfare. The bishops need to smell like the sheep, and they should extol the working class and unions, celebrating neither Democrat or Republican policies and politics but leading us as a society even beyond the message of charity to a message of human justice.
A Ways to Go
Re “Not a Maverick Pope,” by Gerard O’Connell (9/14): I love Pope Francis, but it is factually incorrect to assert that he “never puts himself above anybody.” He does. He puts himself and all Catholic males above women. I love him in spite of his shortcomings. I am grateful for what he has begun to do in the church, and I pray for him to be able to ordain women as priests and to do much more to address the horrendous conditions imposed upon women worldwide. He could be a powerful voice but must start with the misogyny in his own house.
In “What the Synod Did” (In All Things, 10/25), James Martin, S.J., points to five important accomplishments that came out of the bishops’ deliberations on issues related to the family. Readers offer their own takeaways.
I give Francis great credit and hope he will continue his efforts to open the church to mercy. That said, here are five things the synod did not do: 1) Allow women attending to vote; 2) Have theologians present to provide context; 3) Have a real discussion on sexuality (the church in America has no moral standing when it comes to sexuality after “Humane Vitae” and the sexual abuse scandal); 4) Discuss in a deep and serious way the role of women in the church (only one bishop had the courage to talk about women as deacons); 5) Recognize that the church’s teaching on sexuality divides the body and the spirit and therefore is a theology that simply is ignored.
Five more things the synod did: 6) Created unrealistic expectations tailor-made for “thought leaders” to blow out of all proportion; 7) Aired the hierarchy’s dirty laundry; 8) Deepened the cultural divisions among the laity; 9) Distracted the church from the tried and true methods of spreading the Gospel through preaching and the sacraments and handing on the faith through priestly formation and rearing children; 10) Set back the cause of ecumenism and further weakened the moral voice of the church in the world (not an easy task these days, to say the least). Bravo!