Pray About FOCA

As a pro-life Catholic, I am disheartened by the reality of the moral decay and prevalent culture of death. As Karen Berkon noted, President Obama will unleash havoc when he signs FOCA, a bill that will result in the voiding of all state laws put in place to prevent abortions (“What FOCA Really Does,” Jan. 11). Among other things, it would allow underage children to obtain an abortion without parental consent; but in school, they require parental consent to be given an aspirin.

I am also disappointed to learn that 54% of Catholics voted for someone who openly disregards the teachings of the Catholic Church. Despite these disappointments and my own shortcomings in defending life, I know it is important to recognize that God is in charge. We need to continue to pray and actively support efforts to protect life at every stage!

We need to be “in their faces” everyday with our pro-life commitments, just as they are constantly “in our faces” with their culture of death, utilizing all forms of media — magazines, pornography, same-sex unions, etc.

As we know, evil begets evil; abortion and its associated sins (i.e. euthanasia, sex before marriage, contraception and homosexual acts) cry out to heaven. There will be an extreme need for prayer and solidarity once FOCA is unleashed.
Many cannot march, participate in sidewalk counseling or contribute money, but everyone can pray and wear a Precious Feet pin to show their faithfulness to God, who said, “Whatever you do unto the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”

Annette Alfonso
Mendota Heights, Minnesota

FOCA Facts

Although Karen M. Berkon (“What FOCA Really Does,” Jan. 11) has provided some lengthy background and what ifs about the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA), she has failed, like so many people recently, to provide accurate information to fight FOCA. In her opening paragraph she states, “Currently, FOCA is out of committee but still awaits passage through Congress ...”. This is false. Currently, there is no legislation in either the House of Representatives or the Senate proposing FOCA again. The previous bills (S.1173 and H.R.1964) never made it out of committee and died with the close of the last Congress, thanks be to God!

FOCA has been introduced several times in previous Congresses, always sat in committee, and died with the close of each Congress.

Are we now reminding the pro-choice politicians to reintroduce this horrible legislation early in a new Congress? Very likely.

She also failed to provide any resources for people to take action against FOCA, such as congressional contact information and a good, accurate letter for citizens to send.

We can’t let down our guard, but we certainly must not be fearful, especially based on incomplete and inaccurate information. The defeat of FOCA requires us to both pray and work: We must pray as people of life and work in exercising our duties as citizens toward our elected officials.

Paul Lachmanek

St. David, Arizona

Disappointing Interview

Edward Pentin’s interview of Lord Brian Griffiths (“Who’s to Blame for the 2008 Crash?,” Jan. 4) was a disappointment. I’ve noticed an irritating tendency among “modern journalists” to conduct their interviews of public figures more in the guise of opposing counsel on cross-examination, trying to score ideological points, rather than as a journalist trying to elicit informative facts. I’m sorry to see this trend is being copied by the “religious” media, too.

Lord Griffiths obviously knows worlds more about the global capital markets than I and most of your readers do, and I wish we all could have learned more about them from this interview.  Griffiths’ answers were instructive in themselves — mostly, it seemed, due to his own ability to get some of his message out, rather than the interviewer’s abilities, which seemed to me like an attempt to solicit expert opinion for his own view that ubiquitous, high-level greed created a disaster that will harm only “the poor.”

What I wish we could have learned from buying your periodical is Lord Griffiths’ explanation of what problems he identified years ago that led him to predict the financial crisis before others did and why — apparently — nobody listened to him at the time.

And, since Griffiths is unwilling to blame a simple cause — like greed — would he please describe the structural or institutional defects he sees within the market system itself that are the cause?

In any event, the article was not a total loss. I was able to Google Lord Griffiths to find some better information.

On the more positive side, I greatly enjoy your coverage of Pope Benedict and really appreciate the Register carrying the full text of his weekly addresses on St. Paul. Pope Benedict has a “voice” that is clearly recognizable, even when one reads on paper addresses that he delivered orally. I sometimes find that “voice” largely missing in your published translations.

A. Chepey

Corpus Christi, Texas

State of Catholic Schools

You note that the issue of school vouchers is still pending (“School Choice Still on Hold,” Jan. 11). But what about the state of Catholic schools? Most of us are familiar with the disturbing statistics that illustrate the decline of Catholic schools — from an enrollment high of 5.6 million students in 1965, the total has dropped to just over 2 million, with further decreases continuing every year.

As the parent of three Catholic school students, I experience firsthand the bitter cycle of declining enrollment and rising tuition.

Either we are going to passively accept the eventual disappearance of the Catholic school system or we will have to address this issue in a serious fashion.

Unfortunately, many feel Catholic schools are for the wealthy, which is erroneous. If that misconception was not so prevalent, the problem could be solved with simply an annual special collection — or two. However, many may not contribute to what they feel is the luxury of a few.

To counter that resistance with self-interest, why not have diocese-wide lotteries to benefit Catholic schools? Some parishes are already using lotteries to benefit their own particular school, but expanding the pool to include the many parishes without schools would greatly increase the financial impact.

I am not sure of every legal or logistical hurdle that would have to be overcome in implementing this, but I am certain that if we delay taking substantive action much longer, we may have little left to save of a critically important part of American Catholicism.

Karl Miller

Coral Springs, Florida

The Catholic Choice

Your article “School Choice Still on Hold” (Jan. 11) discussed the issue of parental choice in education, an issue clearly supported by Church teaching. The article mentioned that school choice serves the dual objective of promoting educational quality through competition and allowing parents to select the academic environment most supportive of their views on key moral issues.

Both are valid reasons for advocating choice in education. But there’s another key reason, as well. All school choice or scholarship/voucher programs I’m aware of, and they are growing in number, provide scholarship aid in amounts well below the cost of an equivalent public school education. In New York, the difference is enormous. Our average public school education now costs $15,000 per pupil, while an equivalent Catholic school education costs only $6,000, and this cost includes state aid for transportation, special education and books.

New York, like many states, is facing a monumental fiscal crisis next year with a $15 billion deficit. Based on a N.Y. Senate study done in 1991, our state would save $4 billion each year with a full parental-choice system. Today, that saving would exceed $8 billion per year. The only reason state legislators fail to move is fear of the public school teacher unions. This failure to act, in fear of the unions, severely penalizes all students, parents and taxpayers. What a shame!

Frank J. Russo Jr.

Port Washington, New York

Context Correction

I’m a fan of Mark Shea’s writing. I like his down-to-earth approach and the way that he orders his arguments.

But no one is perfect, least of all myself. I may be wrong here, but I think that in “Treebeard in Rome” (Dec. 21), Mr. Shea placed a quote in the wrong context. The issue was not the French Revolution but the American Revolution.

The year was 1976 and the nation was celebrating, and boasting, its bicentennial. I watched an interview on TV in which Ambassador Chou En Lai was asked whether he thought the American Revolution had been successful. He reflected for a moment, then answered, “It’s too soon to tell.”

In the ensuing years, I’ve often recalled that interview and Chou’s answer. At the time, it seemed a humorous response, reflecting what we often think of as Chinese conservatism. However, I am increasingly beginning to believe that he was correct. Perhaps the next eight years will be revealing.

Bill Stimson

Charlottesville, Virginia

Mark Shea’s response: I stand corrected.

Protesting Photo  

In the article “Maryknoll Priest ‘Excommunicated’” (Dec. 21) the photo is inaccurately labeled. It states that “Father Roy Bourgeois shown above protesting at the School of the Americas at the Pentagon …”

The School of the Americas (now long closed) was located at Fort Benning south of Columbus, Georgia, not in Washington, D.C., near the Pentagon. What the picture caption should have said was that Bourgeois was protesting at the Pentagon. (The issue that he was likely protesting was the school, although Bourgeois has a long history of protesting many issues.)

I served at Fort Benning as an Army chaplain and am very familiar with Bourgeois’ misguided protest movement.

Father Don Blickhan

Quincy, Illinois