National Catholic Register


Free-Market Injustice

BY Jim Cosgrove

June 1-7, 2003 Issue | Posted 6/1/03 at 2:00 PM


I read with great interest Angelo Matera's essay on the free economy and Catholic social justice (“The Pope and St. Joseph on Wall Street,” May 11-17). This is an issue of social justice that impacts the lives of every American and every place where we have exported our values. Back in my days of excess, I used to refer to my trips to the mall as retail therapy — and I used to think that there was no other way to live.

I am grateful for Pope John Paul II's eloquence and courage in speaking out against the injustices of the free market. Gospel frugality is fundamental to the universal call to holiness. But I think it scares many of us because we think that means that we are supposed to want to be destitute. Of course, what it means is that we must shun excess. On the supply side, we have to stop cutting corners where they should not be cut and defending indefensible practices.

As consumers, we need to stop organizing our lives around our latest or next purchase. It is amazing how many conversations are about getting and spending money. And, we have to stop defining ourselves and others by what we drive, what we wear and where we live. We live in a society where even children know which zip codes and telephone prefixes represent the “best” neighborhoods. We teach the children to be miniature consumers and are not surprised when they talk about what they want in terms of material possessions. Even sectors of society not in the free market, including universities — where students are seen as consumers — are defined by the market logic. If we could make our economy more human and more Christian, I think we would breathe a collective sigh of relief.

In defense of the short-term focus of the free market, John Maynard Keynes is often quoted as saying, “In the long run we are all dead.” That, of course, is entirely the point.


Columbus, Ohio

From War to Battle

Now that the war is over we have to ask ourselves one question: What did we accomplish? According to the just-war theory, there are certain conditions one has to meet in order for war to be all right.

The first condition is being the last resort. In this particular war against terrorism we really had no opponent to face because you can't put a link to who's responsible for terrorism. I believe the United States failed to meet the first criterion of just war.

The second condition is having legitimate authority to declare war. After the attacks of Sept. 11, President Bush promised there would be retaliation on those responsible for this horrific act and will be put to justice. I feel that the United States did have legitimate authority because the longer we waited, the more time it would give the terrorists to plan another massive strike on this country. The big question is whether or not Osama bin Laden is associated with Saddam Hussein. We know Saddam has many chemical weapons he would like to experiment with on the United States. The United States did give Iraq plenty of chances prior to war to disarm and make Saddam step out of power. We gave Saddam an ultimatum and he did not cooperate with us.

I feel the United States did a good job of meeting the conditions of the last two just-war principles. With our strong army, we had reasonable expectations of success. Our military was well prepared and very few U.S. lives were lost. The ultimate goal in war is to re-establish peace, which is going to happen for the Iraqi people. No longer will they be oppressed and abused by a dictatorship.

There's only one problem with this victory of war. The terrorists such as Saddam are still out there, but now they just want to retaliate and destroy the United States even more. If Saddam is still alive, I'm sure he would want nothing more than to mess with our country like we did to his “dictatorship.” I think we are in for a long battle for the next years to come.


Dubuque, Iowa

A Pro-Life Sourpuss

Cathleen Cleaver always writes well for your paper. I appreciate her writing style and good content, almost more than any other writer you [publish].

I do, however, have one beef with Cathleen's recent article on The WB network's show “Everwood.” It's not just Cathleen who has highlighted in the Register the pro-life position of Patricia Heaton, the wife in “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Several of your commentators have done the same thing over this past year.

I understand that the pro-life community is eager to find and highlight pro-life role models in Hollywood. But, while it is commendable that Heaton is pro-life, I have a hard time admiring her simply because the character she plays on television doesn't seem very “pro-life.” I'm not talking about abortion here. Heaton's character is an eye-rolling, sarcastic woman who doesn't often seem happily married and who experiences constant tension with her in-laws and even her own husband. The basis of the show is “put-down humor.” Every time I see Heaton's character, I can't help but think how miserable she seems. This kind of negativity makes a family comedy — and one of its main characters — laudable?

If Heaton wanted to live out most consistently her pro-life convictions, it seems she would abandon her role in “Everybody Loves Raymond” for a role that communicated the joy, beauty and fulfillment of marriage and family life.


Cincinnati, Ohio