A Fifth Conclusion

Bishop Emil A. Wcela is right, in A Dangerous Common Enemy (2/21), that consumerism and its accompanying expressive individualism are at the core of many affluent Catholics’ decision to stay away from most forms of community. He mentions four conclusions about the practice of the faith todayparish involvement, a strong family, greater emphasis on spiritual education of the laity and the need to be part of a larger Catholic communitythat are all very important to maintain a sense of the common good.

I would add the preferential option for the poor that is central to Catholic living. The Faith in Focus article Looking Into the Heart, by Peter A. Clark, S.J., illustrates this. A relatively affluent family spends a week on a Navajo reservation and are transformed in the processespecially the children, who realize that poor families in the canyons are truly wonderful Christians even without all the trappings of modern living.

This idea of volunteer vacations makes sense. Maybe affluent Catholic families from Long Island could spend some time with poor families to see how the other half lives. We even have some of these poor communities here!

Edward J. Thompson
Farmingdale, N.Y.

Fresh Air

I offer praise and thanksgiving for Bishop Emil A. Wcela’s pastoral visits to parishes in his vicariate, which he mentions in A Dangerous Common Enemy (2/21). I meet with the pastoral council, the finance committee, the pastoral staff, representatives of various parish ministries and activities, and I preach at all the weekend Masses. With that attentiveness to a bishop’s responsibilities, I picture voices of the laity being heard in the governance of their church, pastors being held accountable for their ministry and the faithful welcoming a bond of unity and love beyond their present parish walls. If more bishops would so live up to their calling, the Spirit could breathe fresh air and new life into our troubled church.

James N. Gelson, S.J.
Highland Beach, Fla.

Prudence and Fortitude

In making his case for prudence as a brake on an excessive indulgence in other virtues, Msgr. Robert W. McElroy overlooks the very real danger of an excess of prudence (Prudence and Eucharistic Sanctions, 1/31). Indeed, his specific arguments for prudence in denying the Blessed Sacrament to Catholic politicians who support abortion-on-demand seem to be based on fear of what others may think. In Sunday school, long ago, we were taught to shun human respect in the exercise of our religious duties. The concept may be unfamiliar now.

Overlooked in the monsignor’s essay is the obligation to defend against profanation of the sacrament, andfor the good of their soulsto prevent such ambiguous Catholics from committing mortal sin. Granted, that obligation may impose demands on one’s reserves of courage. But courage has long been recognized as the mother of all virtues. Without courage, prudence may well decline into pandering, leading to scandal and ending in sacrilege. Perhaps the monsignor will favor us with another essayon the virtue of fortitude?

Richard White
East Lyme, Conn.

Need for Support

Regarding Prudence and Eucharistic Sanctions (1/31), it seems to me that the mission of the church is to preach, not to judge. The only judgment for which we are collectively or individually qualified is that on ourselves. Also, let us not lose sight of the fact that abortion is in large part a response to our vicious ostracizing of, rather than support for, unwed mothers.

Thomas Weaver
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

A World of Peace

It was with great pride that I read United in Protest (2/7), written by a Boston College student, Caitlin Becker, on the most recent protest against the S.O.A. at Fort Benning, Ga. Not too many years ago I commented on the fact that there were so few students and young people involved in this issue. All that has changed, and it does this 68-year-old heart good to see the faith and enthusiasm of our young people seeking a world of peace, with justice for all people.

The only comment I have for Ms. Becker regards her statement wondering if this institution, the S.O.A. will ever close, is anyone listening, and do the protests have any effect on that happening. These are some of my thoughts on just those questions.

I have been involved in these protests since 1998, have spent time in Federal prison over this issue, and have asked myself many of those same questions and ended with the same wonderment as she has. Over the years, though, I have come away with a much different perspective on not only this issue, but also others that I am involved in.

I have become convinced that it is not up to me to see that these issues are addressed and resolved with dignity and justice for all, and as much as I would love to see the S.O.A. closed tomorrow, that is not the primary concern that I have. What I ask myself, what I pray about, what I meditate over and what I agonize over with my God is that great question: What am I being asked to say and do, and how am I asked to be involved, while leaving it up to the Spirit to address any overall outcome. Success for me, regarding these issues, is not so much being concerned with the final outcome. It is my response to them.

For me, and I believe for all Catholics who engage themselves, we are doing what Christian people dothat is, standing up for our oppressed brothers and sisters wherever and whenever, and not letting the fact that not everything goes according to our plans lead us astray. We are truly God’s people when we involve ourselves and when we live out his Gospel messages. We can then say to ourselves, well done, good and faithful servant.

Rich Wekerle
Moscow, Idaho

Become Acquainted

I have for years been wanting to write to express my gratitude for your publication and to thank you for bringing important issues before the public. Your recent story United in Protest (2/7) inspired me to write.

It is certainly gratifying to know that many of our Catholic colleges and universities continue to be a conduit for our young people in the ways of peace and justice. I am moved and impressed by the presence of the students at the S.O.A. It is good news to know that these young women and men have not only become acquainted with the trials and tribulations of the poor in the Southern Hemisphere; many have traveled to countries like El Salvador and come to know at first hand the pain and suffering.

Since 1988 I have been a member of delegations to help bring peace and justice to the people. Many of us have walked with our sisters and brothers there in great solidarity. It is the most rewarding experience of my life as a priest. I often hear Dean Brackley, S.J., say, You will meet the people, fall in love, and are ruined for life. How true!

My thanks to these young people who not only give true witness to the Gospel, but who promise to carry the torch of justice and love to our sisters and brothers in Central and South America. It is heartening to know that their education and formation in life is for life.

(Rev.) Gerald Waris
Kansas City, Mo.

Fix a Broken System

America’s editors missed the boat in their editorial on Feb. 14 about Social Security. They point out that the transition costs will reach $2 trillion (it may be less), but they fail to mention how much Social Security would cost without change. Every year Social Security takes in more than it pays out, and this surplus is then loaned to other government agencies and spent. The annual surplus is decreasing, however, and in 2018 payouts will exceed tax revenues, and by 2042 the trust fund will be depleted. Because the money in the trust fund has been loaned out, however, it will have to be made up through increased taxes or government borrowing. By 2042 this will amount to over $5 trillion, and by 2080 it will reach over $26 trillion, which would certainly make $2 trillion to fix a broken system worth it.

Reducing benefits for future retirees would probably fix this problem, but young workers are already facing losses on their Social Security payments. On average they will receive about 90 cents for every dollar they pay in. To reduce their benefits further in order to make the program solvent would be entirely unjust.

The editors also make the claim that personal accounts would be too risky. The A.A.R.P. has led the charge that personal accounts are too risky, and yet it offers its own employees 401(k)’s, which are very similar to the personal accounts. Social Security employees themselves, along with other federal employees, take part in the Thrift Savings Plan, which is also similar to the personal accounts. America’s editors claim that workers would have to be as shrewd as Hetty Green or Warren E. Buffet for personal accounts to work, but this is simply elitism, if they mean that other workers are too stupid to do what millions of white-collar and federal workers already do.

Matthew Shadle
Dayton, Ohio

Comments

Michael Bindner | 3/15/2005 - 11:35am
Matthew Shadle writes on March 14th about the problem of the contingent liability in the Social Security Trust fund. This liability will exist whether private accounts are created or not. The decision to incur the liability was a conscious decision to establish a reserve to be funded from the general fund to ease the begining of the retirement of the Baby Boomers. A reduction of benefits for current young workers will be more necessary, not less, with the creation of personal accounts. These accounts can only grow, on average, at the rate of the growth of the economy. Social Security tax revenue will also grow at the same rate, which is also the true rate of return on the Social Security "investment." Private accounts, as proposed, are immoral and ill advised for American workers because they separate ownership and control. As proposed by the Presidents Commission to Save Social Security, the fund managers will vote the shares held in these accounts for the short term benefit of the holders, regardless of their long term interest as workers. In other words, the current culture of corporate un-accountability will be reinforced by these accounts, leading to more job losses for American workers and more Enrons. The Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees is a relatively small fund in comparison to an account for each and every worker. The impact of such a fund, especially if it is unaccountable to the holders, is staggering. The only way to make these accounts "moral" is to set aside at least a portion of the holdings as voting stock in the employee's workplace, with the employees doing the voting. Shares held by the plan as part of a diversified fund should be voted in the same way as the employees have voted them. Additionally, the employee workplace shares should be distributed equally, regardless of salary level, so that all employees with the same seniority have the same voting stake. Finally, the real cause of the Social Security "crisis" is demographic, financial proposals can only go so far. You can't eat a stock certificate or a government check. There must be a large enough economy to provide a tax or consumer base to fund the retirement of today's youth. It matters not whether the source of these retirement funds are a share of a company's profits or its payroll. What matters more is the share of the economy from which these funds are drawn through either taxes or dividends. The ultimate solution must be to make child rearing more affordable by providing a gauranteed income regardless of salary and a gauranteed education (both college and vocational). This also points to a solution to the problem of abortion, although I doubt conservatives in the pro-life lobby would consider it. I suspect there aim is not the protection of life at all but the imposition of traditional cultural values - although I would love to be proved wrong.
Michael Bindner | 3/15/2005 - 11:35am
Matthew Shadle writes on March 14th about the problem of the contingent liability in the Social Security Trust fund. This liability will exist whether private accounts are created or not. The decision to incur the liability was a conscious decision to establish a reserve to be funded from the general fund to ease the begining of the retirement of the Baby Boomers. A reduction of benefits for current young workers will be more necessary, not less, with the creation of personal accounts. These accounts can only grow, on average, at the rate of the growth of the economy. Social Security tax revenue will also grow at the same rate, which is also the true rate of return on the Social Security "investment." Private accounts, as proposed, are immoral and ill advised for American workers because they separate ownership and control. As proposed by the Presidents Commission to Save Social Security, the fund managers will vote the shares held in these accounts for the short term benefit of the holders, regardless of their long term interest as workers. In other words, the current culture of corporate un-accountability will be reinforced by these accounts, leading to more job losses for American workers and more Enrons. The Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees is a relatively small fund in comparison to an account for each and every worker. The impact of such a fund, especially if it is unaccountable to the holders, is staggering. The only way to make these accounts "moral" is to set aside at least a portion of the holdings as voting stock in the employee's workplace, with the employees doing the voting. Shares held by the plan as part of a diversified fund should be voted in the same way as the employees have voted them. Additionally, the employee workplace shares should be distributed equally, regardless of salary level, so that all employees with the same seniority have the same voting stake. Finally, the real cause of the Social Security "crisis" is demographic, financial proposals can only go so far. You can't eat a stock certificate or a government check. There must be a large enough economy to provide a tax or consumer base to fund the retirement of today's youth. It matters not whether the source of these retirement funds are a share of a company's profits or its payroll. What matters more is the share of the economy from which these funds are drawn through either taxes or dividends. The ultimate solution must be to make child rearing more affordable by providing a gauranteed income regardless of salary and a gauranteed education (both college and vocational). This also points to a solution to the problem of abortion, although I doubt conservatives in the pro-life lobby would consider it. I suspect there aim is not the protection of life at all but the imposition of traditional cultural values - although I would love to be proved wrong.

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