Letters 12.07.2008

Good Editorial

Thank you for your rational and calm editorial a few weeks back (“Dear Pro-Choice Friends,” Nov. 2). It is only by that kind of rational discourse that you will touch my mind or my heart. Banning people from Communion, making assertions without reasons, or distorting my views only turns me off.  

Monique C. Lillard
Moscow,  Idaho

Failing Faith Formation

Your recent article, “Catholic Students Losing Their Religion” (Nov. 9), cited statistics indicating that “Catholic students are confused about their faith and acting out in ways that most parents and university administrators would find shocking.”

I am not surprised at these statistics. But the problem lies, not in our Catholic colleges, but in earlier faith formation. In that, we have failed abysmally!

Look at the statistics: Only a minority of children attend Catholic elementary and high schools. And those schools struggle in sharing the faith. Textbooks are often weak, and little is demanded of the children.

Most pastors are distressed to find that a significant percentage of their children who attend parochial and Catholic high schools fail to attend Sunday Mass or the sacraments.

Our CCD programs for non-parochial youth often have a very low priority. Teachers are not well-trained, and test scores reveal limited success. It is no wonder, though, for students get only about 25 hours of instruction per year in the typical CCD program. That is about the average time American children watch television each week!

Several years ago in hearing confessions at a Catholic high school, I was shaken to discover that very few of the teens understood repentance or knew how to make a good confession (something they should have learned in elementary school).

The only kids who consistently impress me with a wholesome grasp of their faith are those who have been formed through home schooling. There seems to be something very special about home-schooling families. They often produce kids who know the faith and are at home in it.

We are failing to successfully pass on the Catholic faith — and it is not the fault of our Catholic colleges.

Father Don Blickhan

Quincy, Illinois

Editor’s note: See page B1 this week for an aid to confessions.

Not Impressed

Regarding Father de Souza’s Nov. 23 commentary, “Am I Missing Something?,” I couldn’t agree more. 

Perhaps it’s my cynicism, but I’m not usually impressed by “firsts” simply for the sake of it. 

I’d be impressed if he had to really fight for that spot of the presidency besides running for it.  He didn’t have the hard-knock life the media ascribes to him. It’s a myth. His grandmother was the vice president of the Bank of Hawaii for 15 years. He went to elite private schools from youth through feel-good liberal colleges where he was loved for simply being black, ironically. 

He wasn’t challenged in the media on his positions. They made sure they promoted him in the best light whenever the right tried to uncover and expose his phoniness and his astute bullying Chicago politics and extreme abortion positions.

How many people know he had challengers thrown off the ballot when he ran for Illinois state senator? He ended up running unopposed.

The presidency was his the moment the media decided so after his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Now, Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in the 1940s by being the first black baseball player on a white team? That’s impressive. What he put up with just to play baseball — that stuff brings tears to your eyes.

It does mine.

Eugenia Slater

Portland, Oregon

Much Ado About Nothing

What an excellent piece by Father de Souza (“Am I Missing Something?,” Nov. 23). But here are the points where I disagree with him:

1. It is historic. That can’t be denied, and we are living through it. So I agree with Peggy Noonan. A black man has been elected to the presidency of the United States, the most powerful nation in the world. What is great is that the system worked, not that Obama is great in any sense of the word. 

2. The death of Princess Diana was a tragedy, and the grief was real. She brought major attention to the poor and sick. Where she went, the news went, so the poor were given a lot of attention. It is a tragedy to equate Obama’s smallness with Diana’s greatness.  

On everything else, I, of course, agree with Father de Souza. The Obama noise is “much ado about nothing.”

Cathy S.
Centennial, Colorado

Loving to Hate Wal-Mart

Susie Lloyd is shocked — shocked! — that Wal-Mart’s CEO earns $14,000 per hour. How dare he! His average employee earns only $10 in that same hour. Ms. Lloyd’s accusation, sandwiched between a description of sweatshops and some fretting about “corporate greed,” is clear: The outrageous salary of Wal-Mart’s CEO is wrested unjustly from the hands of oppressed laborers at home and abroad.

Ms. Lloyd doesn’t mention, though, that more than 2 million people work for Wal-Mart. If her numbers are accurate, we find that it would make a difference of less than a penny an hour for the other employees if the CEO’s earnings were redistributed among them. According to her numbers, the CEO’s compensation amounts to less than 1/10 of 1% of the company’s payroll budget.

It would be interesting to compare Wal-Mart’s executive compensation plans with those of other organizations. According to Charity Navigator, for example, the average charity will spend more than 3% of its total budget on CEO salary this year. That’s total budget, not payroll budget.

Everyone loves to hate Wal-Mart, but non sequiturs don’t really serve the argument. An in-depth, nuanced analysis of the Wal-Mart phenomenon would be welcome. Please leave the cheap shots for a lesser journal.

Ben Dunlap
Santa Paula, California

Response from Mrs. Susie Lloyd: No, I’m not shocked, and the real story was not about Wal-Mart. What you object to is a short lead-in to a story about the community conscious efforts of a small apostolate called Goods of Conscience. I used Wal-Mart as a lead-in because it is the biggest and most well-known example of how businesses enlarge profits by paying workers less. My use of the CEO’s salary as an example was a simple case of comparing apples to apples. The top guy can light cigars with his wages. Meanwhile, his employees live in slums or rely on government assistance to survive. It is only one example. Check the Internet for the rest.

You say that perhaps Wal-Mart does a great deal of charitable giving. If so, good for it. However, the dignity of the worker demands that he can earn a living, not be on the dole. For an in-depth look at Church teaching on the subject, read one of her numerous encyclicals on labor, like Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus.

And hey, give the good guys at Goods of Conscience the notice they deserve. They are living Catholic social teaching and inspiring others to do the same.

RejectingHumanae Vitae

In his piece “The Year We All Became Protestants” (Nov. 9), Father Thomas D. Williams, LC, lamented the Catholic rejection of Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth). There is more.

Chosen to be the salt of the earth, Catholics were to be the spiritual leaders of our nation and the world. They lost their savor when they defied Christ in rejecting Humanae Vitae. A long list of aberrancies followed. Catholics, not Protestants, will be the first to have to answer for the subsequent spiritual decay of our society. Protestants were not blessed with the truth. Catholics were. God chose Catholics to be the light of the world. Christ also said, “To whom more is given, of him more will be expected.”

What has happened to our unborn, to our country and to our world will be charged first to the many Catholics who rejected the truth.

We need to pray for Catholics.

Hugh McGrath Jr., M.D.

Metairie, Louisiana

Parish-Based ‘Springtime’

Since the elections, there has been a great deal of analysis of what the bishops did or did not do, especially about pro-life issues. But the truth is: Bishops do what the bishops do. Our job is to do what we are to do, which includes dramatically improving the spiritual opportunities and atmosphere of our parishes, as you note in “New Springtime of the Faith” (Nov. 30).

It is not as hard as it sounds. It is simply a matter of encouraging your parish to be a “Cardinal Parish.” A “Cardinal Parish” is one that sponsors Eucharistic adoration, Divine Mercy devotions and the Parish Rosary Program (see ParishProjects.com).

There is no greater work than to bring souls to Jesus. “We are called to be faithful, not successful,” said Mother Teresa. We are not to be like the servant who buried the single talent he was given because he feared he might not trade it successfully. How awful for anyone who fails to wholeheartedly attempt to lead others to Jesus — even worse, for those who deliberately, inadvertently, or by omission, like the Pharisees, become stumbling blocks to the sources of grace.

Patrick S. Hirzel

Battle Creek, Michigan