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Armchair Skeptics

Re “Paris Climate Check” (Current Comment, 12/21): To those who are still “skeptical” about the cause and effect of climate change, I have a simple question: If this is indeed a hoax and an inflated claim created by the liberal tree-huggers who want to prevent “poor” people from ever escaping poverty, then what is the reason that countries like China, India and Russia, who are still poor relative to the Western countries, come to the same view about the cause (mostly man-made) and effect (dangerous disruption to the economic and politic stability) of climate change? Together with big oil producers like Saudi Arabia, they have all the necessary scientific resources to debunk this hoax; and, so far, they could not produce any serious studies to this purpose.

To those who sit comfortably in the living room of your house and denounce the call of Pope Francis, as well as the effort of the world community to tackle this critical issue, do you ever look around the world so you can see for yourself the detrimental effect of climate change and pollution that is impacting so many places? If not, what is the basis for your objection—ideology, arrogance, ignorance?


Douglas Fang
Online Comment

Climate Wager

Personally, I take a Pascal’s wager approach to carbon emissions—even if the science is not solid in every aspect, and if the worst-case scenario is highly unlikely, it is still prudent to take measures to reduce emissions and deforestation. I am a fan of nuclear energy, fracking and other technological solutions, and I believe free-market forces will be vastly more successful than government-imposed mandates.

But I object to the global warming ideologues for 1) their quasi-religious apocalyptic language; 2) their unwillingness to deal with scientifically credible questioners; 3) their over-confidence in climate models that failed to predict the past 15 years or so of the pause or at least slow-down in global warming; 4) the fact that many leaders of the environmental movement have an anti-human, anti-Christian worldview. How many of Pope Francis’ allies on reducing carbon emissions are also past or present supporters of enforced sterilization campaigns or sex-selection abortions?

So I will buy my electric car and use smart energy efficient technology but keep a skeptical eye on catastrophic projections. And I will continue to look into the assumptions and numbers behind the headlines and oppose any ideology I believe is harmful to humanity.

Tim O’Leary
Online Comment

The Only Answer

I cannot agree with the editors’ assertion in “Staring Down Terror” that there “are no easy choices ahead in confronting the Islamic State” (Editorial, 12/7). As far as I can see, it is not morally acceptable to allow terrorists to keep a country or the world fearful, ever in danger of deadly aggression, and to shed innocent blood.

Peace is always superior to war. However, adhering to St. Augustine’s teaching, it is also necessary that “although charity is good, it must never be practiced contrary to sound judgment.” Amen! And it has been said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to sit back and do nothing.” Again, Amen! In the interests of peace, the world must unite with bonding resolve to annihilate terrorists and terrorism from the earth, repeatedly if necessary. How can anything else work?

Bruce Snowden
Online Comment

Still Paying for Iraq

The key words in the U.S. response to the Paris attack are proportionality and noncombatant immunity. If President Bush had understood these two ideas, there would have been no invasion of Iraq in 2003. The problem with President Obama is he is Christian, sane and too intelligent for the American who loves the Donald Trump solution: “Bomb the hell out of them.” Mr. Bush did that and we are still paying for it.

Paul Ferris
Online Comment

A Countercultural Church

It is always a pleasure to read Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., and to appreciate the thoughtfulness of such a mind. It is also very tempting to ask whether today, 25 years after “The Uneasy Dialogue” (Vantage Point, 11/30) first appeared, he would write the same way.

Take, for example, the question of whether the church should become more “countercultural.” The church has all too often taken on the trappings of the particular culture in which it existed, particularly when those trappings seemed to enhance its power and influence. Thus, still today, its formal governance structures seem to be modeled on those of the Renaissance courts. There is a sense then, in which a truly “countercultural” church should be truthfully questioning not only the secular cultures in which it exists but the formation of its own traditional historical culture as well.

Cardinal Dulles was writing before the full force of the sexual abuse scandal broke and the enormous hypocrisy made possible by the church’s authoritarian governance structures became painfully evident, even decades after the Second Vatican Council. When he talks of a “docility to authority” as part of the Catholic tradition, we must ask ourselves whether a little bit less docility might have helped prevent the church from succumbing to that particular tragic flaw.

Nicholas Clifford
Online Comment

Shocking Study?

Contrary to the perspective of the editors in “Our Brother’s Keeper” (Editorial, 11/30), I do not see the study results about white mortality as either “new” or “shocking.” Anyone who lives in the modern world can see what is and has been going on. Drs. Case and Deaton formalized some of the economic factors. Without diminishing the economists’ contribution in the least, however, I would appreciate seeing what sociologists, psychologists and other academic thinkers have to say in light of their research.

Further, I am not sure we want to refer to the people to whom many awful things have happened as “battered by life” because, on some level, everyone is jostled by life in some way. Moreover, this notion implies victimhood rather than resilience. It is true, however, that we inadequately care about and for those who seem to have lost meaning in their lives.

James Booth
Online Comment

More Than a Sin

The editors write in “Smart Oversight” (Current Comment, 11/30), “The smart thing to do would be not to dismiss complaints [about sexual abuse] but rather to continue to focus the church’s spotlight on this great sin.” Crime. It is a crime. Treating it as a “sin” is part of what got us going in the exactly wrong direction.

Molly Roach
Online Comment

The Sacrifice of Isaac

In a letter to the editor, John A. Butler objected to an interpretation of Gen 22:1-19 included in an article in the Nov. 2 issue entitled “Violence Continues Over Sacred Sites” (Reply All, 11/30). Mr. Butler asserted that Abraham was aware that he would not be asked to kill Isaac, and what made the story compelling was Abraham’s wondering how God would intervene. A proper reading understands that what makes the story compelling is Abraham’s angst over sacrificing the son on whom the covenant depended, yet trusting God nonetheless. Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that in the original version of the story Isaac was indeed sacrificed, with a redactor intervening to have the story serve ultimately as a canonical instruction against human sacrifice. It is clear that in the story Abraham believes that he will have to sacrifice Isaac.

Joseph Alexander
Linden, N.J.

Celebrating New Life

I do not agree with the assertion in “Last Things,” by John Conley, S.J., that “our capacity to mourn…the dead has palpably declined” (11/16). On the contrary, at 78 years of age, I can recall funerals hardwired for the most morose mourning; from six dirty orange candles at the casket, dour vestments and a travesty of the “Requiem Mass” screeched by three eighth-grade girls escaping algebra class.

May I suggest that we have advanced into an era in which our capacity to pray for the dead has enlarged exponentially, when properly approached. The traditional rosary at the wake service has often morphed into the parish priest joining family members of the deceased the evening prior to the Mass. I recall happily an ambiance among those present often warmed by the gradual diminution of grief—which is the object of such gatherings. Nowadays a family might ask a hand in shaping the Mass and are usually delighted to meet the priest to discuss readings, hymns, favorite stories. None of these personal touches needs diminish the thrust of the celebration toward the Father in the risen Christ and our association with him in new life.

(Rev.) Brian M. Rafferty
Lake Shore, Md.

Catholics in the World

Re “Graham Greene’s Pope,” by Heather Moreland McHale (11/16): I agree with Pope Benedict XVI that in trying to be redemptive, politics is trying too much. Both neoconservatives and liberal progressives, for example, resolve the tensions inherent in religious freedom by simply replacing God with government. I also agree with Pope Francis that a good Catholic meddles in politics. To be in the world but not of the world does not mean you ignore the ways of the world. Though just passing through, you must of necessity relate to others and cannot avoid politics unless you join the ostrich with its head in the sand.

Ernest Martinson
Online Comment

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