A Better Debate
In “An Election Out of Focus,” by John Carr (11/30), the author decries the failure of the presidential candidates in either party to focus on creating opportunity for those out of work, underemployed and living in poverty. As such, this is just another in the ceaseless “a pox on both their houses” complaints in the media that feeds voter cynicism and antipathy to matters of public policy by engaging in journalistic equivocation.
The simple fact is that all the candidates have been addressing this issue. The Republican candidates target what they see as excessive taxation and regulation inhibiting the free market from investing more domestically and creating jobs. They propose tax cuts and slashing regulations on businesses that they see as stifling initiative. The Democratic candidates target what they see as a lack of investment in human capital, decaying infrastructure and growing inequality. They propose programs to make a college education less costly, expanding affordable healthcare, massive new investments in infrastructure to create jobs and raising taxes.
If Mr. Carr really wants to influence the debate for the better, he would do well to engage readers in a reasoned and fact-based discussion of the relative merits of these approaches. That would, indeed, be a rare and welcome counter to the “pox on both their houses” approach that typically passes as modern journalism. It would also be entirely consistent with the historic Jesuit mission of engaging in world affairs in pursuit of “the greater glory of God.”
Words of Comfort
Re “Reversal of Fortune,” by Rabbi Daniel F. Polish (11/23): I am always happy that I subscribe to America, both in print and online, but never more than the night when the terrible news about Paris was broadcast. I thank you, Rabbi Polish, from the bottom of my heart, for sending me this so very well timed article of faith and hope. I needed it so much.
“Spotlight” deserves the high praise of reviewer Maurice Timothy Reidy (“Big Dig,” 11/16). He thoughtfully reflects that the film “in its own way calls on all Catholics to take responsibility for the church.” A few Catholics tried hard to do just that, notably through the group Voice of the Faithful. Not only did bishops refuse offers to help but very few American Catholic priests, religious or laity moved from anguish to action. Change came mostly from the work of victims and their advocates, district attorneys and grand juries. With very few exceptions, Catholic journalists asked almost no hard questions; priests’ councils and religious orders were silent; and Catholics employed by the church and church-related institutions like universities did next to nothing.
The bishops, with the help of invited, confidential advisers, were allowed to shape the post-Spotlight story. To their credit they have adopted policies that will limit future abuse. They have also carefully limited the role of local and national advisory bodies. Mr. Reidy properly thinks Catholics should take responsibility for their church; but, as a wonderful Jesuit replied when asked about that: “But Dave, they won’t let you!” So far that seems to be the final word.
The Least Bad Option
The key issue in “The Federal Mystique” (11/9), by Helen Alvaré, is whether the “state” is moving toward absolute control of the lives of individuals. Democrats, the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton are all for “free contraception and early abortifacients” in universal health insurance. Yet “the Federal Mystique,” under Democrats and Republicans alike, also gave us several unjust and wasteful wars—Vietnam, Iraq I and Iraq II. For the next election I am thinking of setting up a stand outside the polling station where I can sell old-fashioned clothespins. You can put one on your nose prior to entering the voting booth.
A Dangerous Game
Re “The Great Powers in Syria” (Current Comment, 11/2): I welcome Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict. It was way overdue. What and whom has the Pentagon been bombing for over a year? By many accounts, Putin’s month-long bombing of al-Nusra/ISIS has achieved significantly more. Why is that?
The war crime perpetrated against the Syrian people, by supplying “moderate” terrorists, has to end; otherwise, an accidental or manufactured false-flag operation could initiate what could amount to World War III. The Obama administration has not purged itself of warmongers and is now dealing with the consequences, though not so much as the Syrians.
Canada’s Abortion Politics
Thanks to John Conley, S.J., for giving a larger perspective in “A New Subordinationism” (10/19). I live in Canada, and, sadly, what Father Conley describes has been lost for generations, in my opinion. Several years ago our Supreme Court threw out the existing federal law on abortion. The newly elected Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has banned people who favor pro-life positions from running for the Liberal Party. Perhaps this country provides a glimpse of America’s future?
Our Own Bible
I can quite agree with Corinna Guerrero (“Costly Scripture,” 10/26), insofar as she recognizes the possibility of “trauma” affecting readers of the Bible. But I can by no means agree with her in her paradoxical commendation of reading the whole, undiluted version of the Bible. As one who has been teaching the Bible to Japanese students over the past 50 years, I tell them not to think of reading the book as a book from beginning to end. They will only be put off the Christian faith if they take Scripture at face value.
It is necessary to begin with the Gospels, and then to peruse the epistles of St. Paul. Then from the New Testament one may venture into the Old Testament. Thus we may each have our own anthologized version, just as Jesus himself, to judge from the Gospels, evidently had his own. When approaching Scripture, it is necessary to read between the lines, according to the warning of both Jesus himself and St. Paul: that the letter kills, whereas it is the spirit that gives life.
One Mass, Many Churches
Re “Church-Shopping,” by Kaya Oakes (10/19): I’m a young adult myself, and I also find myself having some degree of difficulty finding a place at my parish. I agree that young adult groups feel forced and are somewhat uncomfortable and that the community I’m trying to build is not necessarily one of people who are just my age. Another thing I’d add to the author’s article is the emphasis on liturgy. I grew up in a liturgically progressive parish, and for a while that was what I understood Mass to be. It wasn’t until I moved from the West Coast to the East Coast that I was exposed to traditional music in traditional spaces. I felt immediately more aware of the sacredness of where I was, of the sacraments, of the Eucharist.
One final note: we are blessed as Catholics by the number of parishes in different kinds of communities. Although I favor traditionalism because God speaks to me more clearly in that mode, I can certainly respect those who find it stuffy or boring. Maybe we don’t all need to look for the same thing? We are the universal church, after all!
Re “At a Crossroads,” by Bill Williams (10/19): As an American and an atheist I hold views of religion that I do not express out of a desire not to hurt the believers among my family, friends and neighbors. I see so much distrust, hate and even violence against Muslims in this country, and I do not wish to associate myself with such bigotry. While I see much truth in Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s criticism of Islam, it also seems very dangerous to me—more likely to incite anti-Muslim bigots than to bring about change in the Islamic world, and to insult American Muslims who have nothing to do with the barbarism Ms. Hirsi Ali describes. And it occurs to me that we might focus on our own barbaric practices, including the death penalty, torture, assassinations, gun violence and wars of aggression.
“The Hour of Our Death,” by John J. Paris, S.J. (10/5): The problem in health care for the gravely ill is that those who are knowledgeable about the treatments, the likelihood of success and probability of having horrendous side effects are those who are paid to provide treatment. Patients and families often have little idea of what the choices are in practical terms. The agony families experience over whether or not to withdraw treatment has been brought about by the advances in medicine. Fifty years ago, a family could give the emotionally satisfying directive, “We want everything possible done for our gravely ill grandmother,” and the gravely ill grandmother either got well or died in a fairly short time.
“Do everything possible” now is likely to result in a months-long illness while connected to multiple machines, infused with drugs with a long list of side effects and a death in an intensive care unit. Our knowledge and emotions have yet to catch up with our technology.