National Catholic Register


Letters 03.29.2009

BY The Editors

March 29-April 4, 2009 Issue | Posted 3/20/09 at 12:41 PM


Forthright Response

I am Jewish. But that fact, far from lessening my abhorrence of the bill two Democrats wisely refrained from introducing in the Connecticut General Assembly, only increases it (“Bill Sought State Role in Church,” “3 Ways Connecticut Co-Opts the Church,” March 22, and various Daily Blog posts).

The violation of Catholics’ freedom of religion — which surely includes the right of Catholics to organize their church in whatever way they please — is an assault on everyone’s freedom of religion.

I stand in solidarity with the good people of Connecticut, Catholic and non-Catholic, Christian and non-Christian, who with their voices and their physical presence at our state Capitol, bore witness to one of the many enduring freedoms that make America, for all its failings and frailties, truly a light unto the nations.

I note with disgust the role of the Democratic Party in the entire matter. The Democratic Party, both in Connecticut and nationally, has become the Atheist Party. I do the same in the case of the ACLU, which inveighs against nonexistent breaches of the church-state barrier by “right-wing evangelicals,” while ignoring the very real one the two Democratic legislators were eager to carry out.

But I am heartened that organizations such as yours responded so forthrightly in response to such a blatant assault on our Constitution.

You have my respect, admiration and best wishes.

Jay Bergman

professor of history

Central Connecticut State University

Obama’s ‘Boondoggle’

I guess I was mistaken about President Obama. I thought he said in his campaign that he was going to try to make peace among the various interest groups. But he has seriously offended Catholics twice already and unnecessarily — after only seven weeks in office. First, he cut loose money for abortions abroad.

Now he is rescinding the ban on using federal money to fund research on embryonic stem cells (“Clone-and-Kill Boondoggle,” March 22). If supporters were really sincere in their statements that this kind of research held out great promise, then they would have respected the passionately held Catholic viewpoint against this research and gone and raised the funds for this research through private sources. Since they did not do that (or did not work hard enough at it), it indicates that they are not sincere in these alleged beliefs and don’t mind offending Catholics by using their tax dollars to fund this endeavor.

It also indicates that supporters of this kind of research are lazy and realize that the president and Congress are easy marks for money, even to the extent of funding research on the odor of pigs. Apparently all one has to do is bang the bucket often enough and Congress will dole out money for anything, including bridges to nowhere.

If the president were really thoughtful, he would have to concede that both Aristotle and Thomas Jefferson were equally great contributors to the forward progress of mankind. But, instead, he said he will base decisions like this on science rather than ideology. A thoughtful person would not make a broad generalization like this, unless he assumed that most of his hearers were unintelligent or blindly committed to the dogma of the zealots in the Church of Political Correctness.

Gil McLean

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cell Phone Advantages

I read with interest Dr. Ray’s advice about cell phones for teenagers (“The Cell Sell,” March 15). While usually spot on, I think he needs to rethink some of his advice on this one. My wife and I are the parents to 10 children, so we have figured out some rules that seem to work for us. First of all, Dr. Ray is incorrect when he states, “Cells don’t come with GPS homing devices — yet.” Cell phones, in fact, do — for quite some time — have homing devices if parents want to use them. Google Latitudes is a free service that you can install on many cell phones that will track your teen or anyone if you so desire. And other phones have GPS built into them that will do the same for a fee. Parents interested in this should talk to their cell phone provider.

Second, just like the computer, you can monitor very easily online what your teen is doing with his or her phone by logging online to your cell phone account and seeing exactly who they are calling or texting, for how long, and at what time. This is useful to know when they are supposed to be in bed at 10 p.m. and you find them talking at two in the morning.

Third, cell phones are easily taken away as a consequence. If they won’t hand them over because they are at school or somewhere else, you can call the cell phone service provider at no charge and deactivate them easily. And just as easily turn them back on.

And finally, none of our children has ever gotten a cell phone until they agreed to pay for it on our family plan. So it was never given to them. They needed to get a job and contribute to get one. Of course, the downside is that cell phone companies are not family friendly. They will only allow five people to share a plan. We had to start another plan when we had more teens join our plan.

The point is: Kids communicate differently than we did; they use cell phones, texting, Facebook and things we didn’t have available to us. As parents we need to understand how to use those tools and also take advantage of the same technology to appropriately monitor and set limits. In the end, they will appreciate them — and you — more for it.

Mark Armstrong

coauthor of Amazing Grace for Fathers

Bismarck, North Dakota

Fairness to Video Games

Please give video games a fair chance. Your snippet of information presented in the Feb. 22 “Facts of Life” made for a poor treatment of the subject.

Unfortunately, the article contained no hard factual evidence at all, unless you would consider a poorly documented study of a very small population at a single university reliable enough to label as “Facts of Life.” I certainly wouldn’t.

On a related note, I would implore you to distinguish correlation from causation; the article states that these researchers “found a correlation between heavy ‘gaming’ and weak relationships, not to mention risky behavior such as drug use.” The title “You Play, You Pay” entails a direct causative relationship between the playing of video games and the consequences listed in the article, despite the fact that the study’s findings support no such relationship. 

And then there is the small matter of the illustration accompanying the article. Napoleon once said that “a good sketch is better than a long speech,” and it appears that this sketch conveys a very strong, very negative message. From my own personal experience, I can assure you that this is not what your average college gamer looks like. Perhaps it would be appropriate to ask Mr. Bedan to restrain himself slightly.

And I would have to disagree with the conclusions of this study from personal experience. As an avid “college gamer,” I feel that this characterization is patently false and serves only to perpetuate the stereotype of the gamer as an anti-social or socially awkward outcast who engages in “risky behaviors such as drug use.” Personally, I use gaming as a pastime to avoid the drug or alcohol abuse which is so incredibly prevalent yet so incomprehensibly tolerated at so many universities. Leaving the realm of established facts behind, I would postulate that the findings of this study (not the conclusions of Professor Walker) may have a bit of truth to them.  But this is because both “weak relationships”/“risky behavior” and video gaming are incredibly common in the college community. So I would contend that studies on this topic will inevitably be skewed when surveying these types of populations. 

I do not mean to sound harsh or angry, but I would remind the Register that there are gamers who are faithful Catholics. 

Andrew Gunderson

student, The Catholic University of America

Editors note: On this week’s Arts page, you’ll find the latest installment of our monthly video game column. We hope you will find that the column takes an open-minded but morally serious approach to video games.

Free Catholic School

In response to “Assessing Catholic Schools” (Jan. 25), declining enrollment in Catholic schools cannot be magically fixed by allowing school choice through tuition vouchers. This is myth No. 1 about declining numbers.

Actually, tuition vouchers would spell the death knell of our current Catholic education system in the United States. Government funds eventually lead to governmental control of curriculum. Just look at the problems confronting Catholic schools in the United Kingdom. Students are taught sex education, and tolerance and diversity are taught, as well as all types of “marriages.”

Why? Because they accept government funds! Therefore, the government has the right, according to the fund providers, to regulate what is taught.

What will it take to make Catholic education more affordable to the average American? (This is the No. 1 reason why more parents choose public schools over Catholic schools.)

Just two things: First, American Catholics need to believe, practice, and live their faith again like our immigrant ancestors. Look at the explosive growth that took place. New churches, schools, hospitals, etc. All from a generation that really had no spare capital. It was truly sacrificial.

Is this possible today? Does any diocese in the United States currently provide a tuition-free education for elementary and high school students?

That brings me to my second point: The Diocese of Wichita, Kan., should be the model for all dioceses. I know because I lived there for 11 years. The cost for my oldest daughter’s elementary school education was a $200 registration fee. That’s it!

The Wichita model is based on discipleship. I don’t believe it was ever intended to help provide a tuition-free education. However, it was an added benefit after the program was instituted diocesan-wide in Wichita.

Can this model work elsewhere? I live on the East Coast currently, and I always hear, “But that’s the Bible Belt, and they always tithe better there.” All I can say is: I believe that if it was accomplished successfully anywhere else in the world it can be replicated! Jim Hamel

Chicopee, Massachusetts