The National Catholic Review
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Pastoring the South Shore

Hingham is a town on Boston’s tony South Shore, whose Main Street was once called by Eleanor Roosevelt the most beautiful street in the country. It is an attractive town. Recently, however, the town was the scene of a not-so-attractive controversy. The pastor of Hingham’s St. Paul’s Parish forbade an 8-year-old boy from entering the parish elementary school because his parents are lesbian. The couple was told by the pastor that their relationship was “in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The Archdiocese of Boston addressed the situation, which seems to have taken it by surprise, with wisdom and care. Initially, Mary Grassa O’Neill, the superintendent of Catholic schools, said, “The archdiocese does not prohibit children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic schools. We will work in the coming weeks to develop a policy to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future.” She also offered to find another school that would welcome the child. Later Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, praised the Hingham priest as one of the best pastors in his diocese, but also wrote the following on his blog: “Catholic schools exist for the good of the children and our admission standards must reflect that. We have never had categories of people who were excluded.” Going forward, Cardinal O’Malley promised, the archdiocese would “formulate policies and practices to deal with these complex pastoral matters.” Their first concern, he wrote, “is the welfare of the children involved.”

Overall, the archdiocese adopted a wise, compassionate and pastoral approach to a question that will increasingly face many Catholic schools, to which children come from all sorts of family situations.

No Bailout for Teens

Summer is here, but summer jobs and entry-level jobs for teens are in crushingly short supply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than six million youths age 16 to 19 are seeking work, but fewer than one in three currently holds a job. As measured against the past, a smaller percentage of U.S. teenagers are working this year than in any year since 1948, when the government began collecting employment data.

Although the national rate of unemployment is poised to reach (or supersede) 10 percent over the next few months, teenage joblessness is more than twice that rate, having grown to 25.4 percent from 21.8 percent between April 2009 and April 2010. And for black teenagers, unemployment stands at 37.3 percent. This dismal situation shortchanges teenagers, deprives them of daily structure, vital experience, job skills and income. Not all teenage wages are used for incidentals; some teens help support their parents and siblings, and more than a few teenagers are parents with their own families to provide for.

The federal stimulus that subsidized a mere 7,000 jobs for youths last year has not been replenished. The House passed a youth jobs bill, but a similar Senate bill was defeated. Senators Patty Murray of Washington and John Kerry of Massachusetts proposed $1.3 billion of federal spending to create 500,000 jobs for teenagers. But the Senate could not agree on the spending cuts needed to pay for the bill. The Congressional Black Caucus, knowing that joblessness causes stress and can spark violence, especially in hot inner cities, argued that teen joblessness was an “emergency” that should exempt it from the “pay as you go” rule. That argument did not wash either. The rebuttal was ironic: those who voted against the jobs bill did not want to burden our children with a bigger national debt.

Words, Words, Words

How much is a word worth? If it is the name of a new drug on the market, it could be several hundred thousand dollars. Some companies make it their business to invent, test and trademark brand names. Remember when Esso became Exxon? The Chevrolet Nova initially did not sell well in Mexico, because there No Va means No Go. But there is an Acura, an Infiniti, an Impala and a Lexus.

In the beginning, God made the creatures and gave Adam the power to name them. “The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal in the field” (Gn 2:20). God also numbered and named the stars (Is 40:16). Quite a task, since there are billions and billions of stars!

Now we mere mortals create thousands of new products and name them. Over 30,000 prescription drugs are trademarked in the United States alone. Eventually many of these brand names will make it into our dictionaries.

Naming a child is another creative act. New names and new spellings emerge. The letter K (Katherine, Katelyn) is much more popular than C. While we continually add new words to the dictionary, do words ever drop out? The Oxford English Dictionary lists 171,476 words in current use and 47,156 obsolete words. It is good that unusual and dying words are cataloged, because they too are part of our heritage; and surely someone at some time will want to know what a typewriter or a phonograph needle was.

Comments

Joe Kash | 6/11/2010 - 9:28am
In regard to teen labor you fail to mention the effect of minimum wage increases on decreasing low skilled entry level jobs. If you cared about economic growth and teen labor then you would get rid of the current minimum wage laws.

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