Middle Class 2.0
Re “Defending the Middle Class” (Editorial, 1/4): The primary issue with reversing the shrinking of the middle class is job quality. The service economy has proven to be incapable of supporting middle-class incomes. High school-level microeconomics explains why: Service businesses do not generate enough gross margin to support middle-class employee wages in addition to proper benefits. Place the blame on greed, weak management or anywhere you would like. Whatever the underlying cause, the result is a middle class being slowly destroyed as real incomes decrease year on year.
Government subsidized housing is nothing but a Band-Aid on the hemorrhaging middle class. Middle-class wages need to result from two- and four-year degrees and jobs with ongoing training for career development. Now is the time for state and federal economic development to focus on commercializing the next generation of manufacturing technologies for new consumer products—pharmaceuticals, electronics and the like. This is the path to creating companies that can support a vibrant middle class.
I heartily agree with Robert D. Sullivan’s comments in “Too Much Authenticity” (1/4). Can we imagine any current candidate rising in the polls with rhetoric like Abraham Lincoln’s? Love of country today begins and ends with waving the flag rather than putting shoulder to the wheel. Candidates like Mr. Trump prove their presidential disqualifications with every news cycle.
The challenge described in “Humanities and the Soul,” by John Conley, S.J. (12/21/15), may actually be a two-part business problem. First, the academy has clearly produced more Ph.D.’s who fully expect teaching and/or research jobs in their chosen field without regard for the number of such professionals that might be needed to fill vacancies. Second, sadly, too many bright people have committed years of post-grad work to attain their credentials without carefully estimating whether the number of job seekers in their cohort will exceed the number of available positions. This is equivalent to a hobbyist who decides to open a business because “I like doing this,” without determining whether customers will want the product in sufficient quantity and at a price adequate to support the business.
As a liberal arts graduate, I do appreciate the value of coursework devoted to discovering how humans have thought about and acted on the great questions of life. That understanding, though never complete, is valuable in business, politics, medicine and most other professions. I do not think the problem reflects a lack of appreciation for the humanities but a lamentable market imbalance arising from a failure to consider the numbers.
A Predictable Response
Re: “Staring Down Terror” (Editorial, 12/7/15): Less than three weeks after the Paris attacks, the United States suffered the largest terrorist attack at home since Sept. 11, in suburban San Bernardino, again by radical Islamic jihadists. And the Obama administration’s response (and that of his apologists in the press) is once again totally predictable and completely inadequate. Just as they tried to categorize the Fort Hood massacre by Nidal Hasan as primarily one of workplace violence, claimed that ISIS had been contained and said the Paris massacres were a setback in a winning campaign, the administration was last to see that the San Bernardino killings were terror related.
Then, in his speech to the nation, Mr. Obama seemed once again far more concerned about Islamaphobia than ISIS. I note the editors have the same instincts, as the editorial is more worried about anti-Islamic “hysteria” in the United States than the Christophobia of ISIS. Just who is sinning the most against proportionality?
Re “You Were Once Aliens” (Current Comment, 12/7/15): Having read with interest the process by which Syrian refugees are approved for refugee status in the United States, it is possible to conclude that those admitted are tested, graded, documented and certified truth-tellers. Of how many governors, senators and congressmen can one say the same?
A Curious Review
It was most curious to see the letter by the Rev. John Feehily (Reply All, 12/7/15) on the film “Spotlight”—which he doesn’t plan on seeing—given prominence in a Jesuit magazine, given that it flies in the face of one of the cornerstones of Jesuit education. My 10-plus years of liberal arts education under the Jesuits told me that one reads or sees or hears the material that one is going to address in a critical way. Thus if I am to dispute Nietzsche or Richard Dawkins on matters of atheism, I am obliged to find out what their arguments are before I can attempt to refute them.
Father Feehily does not bother to go through these steps, and thus his observations on this splendid film on true journalism and what monumental efforts it took The Boston Globe to “crack open” the full story behind the pedophilia scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston miss the mark.
I advise the reverend to see this film and he will come away impressed with the professionalism with which the whole messy topic is treated.
“The Fight for Religious Freedom,” by Barry Hudock (11/30/15) is in many ways more interesting for what it does not say than what it does. For instance, can there really be any doubt that those who opposed the views of John Courtney Murray, S.J., (Lefebvre, Ottaviani, Siri, etc.) were in fact quite correct in saying that those views ran completely counter to the church’s historical teaching on the evils of religious freedom and freedom of conscience?
Were Gregory XVI’s “Mirari Vos” or Pius IX’s “Syllabus of Errors,” for example, magisterial teachings? If not, why not? Did Popes Gregory and Pius believe they were subject to change? If so, how? Would I be a heretic, or at least the first cousin of a heretic, if I were a premature believer in the values of religious liberty in 1910 but thoroughly orthodox in those same beliefs in 1970? Why? Simply because the church had changed its mind and caught up with me at last? If so, what do such questions say of the place of the magisterium, the role of the magisterium and so forth?
Obviously I do not expect a short article to answer such questions, but I think it should at least raise them, particularly since the American bishops, in their quadrennial “Fortnight for Freedom” are apt to sound as if Catholicism invented the whole idea of such liberty.
The Church at Sea
Re “Deep Catholic Waters,” by Peter Reichard (11/30/15): I was a young Navy chaplain on my first sea duty tour in 1980-82, the last years of the active Navy career of Capt. Jake Laboon, S.J. His Naval Academy training gave him an understanding of the Navy that most chaplains do not have and allowed him to bridge the gap between the chaplains and the line Navy.
There have been two warships named for Navy chaplains. One was named after the Rev. Vincent Capodanno, a Navy chaplain serving with Marines in Vietnam, and the second is named after Father Laboon. There are mixed sentiments about having warships named after chaplains. On the one hand, they are ships of war; on the other hand, there is a sense of pride in the history of the Chaplain Corps, a reminder of the cost paid by chaplains, men and women who serve worldwide to ensure that sailors and Marines are able to receive the sacraments of the church and have a moment of hope in one of the toughest times of their lives. Wherever one falls on that issue, however, Capt. Jake Laboon, S.J., was truly a “Navy Priest.”
Canada’s Abortion Politics
Thanks to John Conley, S.J., for giving a larger perspective in “A New Subordinationism” (10/19/15). I live in Canada, and, sadly, the subordination of the church to the state that Father Conley describes has been happening 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 persons that favor pro-life positions from running for the Liberal Party. Perhaps this country provides a glimpse of the future of the United States.
A Just Resolution
In Of Many Things (10/19/15), Matt Malone, S.J., writes, “Both supporters and opponents of same-sex civil marriage should be concerned about how the matter was settled.” Given that many people were affected by laws they felt to be unjust and unconstitutional, it is hard to imagine the court refusing to deal with cases crying out for resolution. Would it have been preferable for the issue of marriage equality to have been resolved through dialogue within society, involving the faith communities, all affected populations and ultimately the legislatures? Certainly. But was that dialogue not underway and making progress while Obergefell was wending its way to the court? And how long were those excluded from marriage to wait “patiently”?