Letters To The Editor

SOCIAL SECURITY, 70 YEARS ON

Regarding “Time to Raise the Retirement Age?” (Commentary & Opinion, June 19-25):

Unfortunately, Father McNair doesn'd share with his readers the historical and substantive background of what we call Social Security, other than citing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's dream, described as “an America where no one who worked hard all of his or her life would retire in poverty.”

Then Father addresses the idea of raising the retirement age, concluding that such action would not pass the “moral” test: “Yes, we need to save Social Security. But let's do it the right way without hurting our senior citizens.”

The Social Security Act was enacted in 1935 and, prior to its repeal in 1939, provided for a minimum 31/2% return on contributions, as well as ownership of “your” account — i.e., anything remaining upon your death would become a part of your estate.

Social Security payments began in 1940 and the simple fact is that the program, as amended in 1939, is a Ponzi scheme. Today's workers pay retirement benefits to yesterday's workers and, as long as there are enough workers today paying Social Security taxes to cover those retirement benefits, all is well with the program — notwithstanding the formulas used to compute retirement benefits, which reward the low-income worker at the expense of the high-income worker.

Another term for this action is “income redistribution.” I won'd go into it, but it would be well to cover the growth of the Social Security program over the past 70 years, both in new benefits and increased taxes, to get the complete picture of this very flawed program.

How do you fix a program that is flawed in its basics? Simply stated, you can'd. That's why most politicians would like to distance themselves from the subject. The fact is that “we” must begin to transition out of the current Ponzi-scheme Social Security program. This will be fiscally painful, for sure. But, given the history of our country, I happen to believe that the American people will agree to do whatever is necessary, no matter the sacrifice required of both rich and poor, to fix a major problem such as this one.

Frankly, I think this crisis is a blessing in disguise, as it exposes the error of the socialist idea of leaving important matters in the hands of politicians, without proper oversight. Remember, this fiction of the Social Security program, sometimes referred to as the Third Rail in politics, has been operating for 70 years. What better reason to conclude that such important matters “must” be decided at government levels closer to the people, by no means at the federal level?

Father McNair, maybe you can do some more research and give your readers the benefit of a full-blown discussion of the Social Security program, its problems and prospects, covering a range of options, but always addressing the “moral” test. I, for one, would welcome such a column.

K. DALE ANDERSON

Randallstown, Maryland

Blinded by Science

Your June 12-18 article “Review Board Member Defends ‘Clonotes,’” as well as other articles on stem-cell and embryo research, provide valuable insight into some horrible errors being generated by biological research science. Particularly upsetting is the support of research cloning by Dr. Paul McHugh, a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board.

As a former Army virologist and tissue-culture specialist who grew various tissue lines such as bone and uterine tissue for viral identification, I find totally erroneous Dr. McHugh's assertion that the harvesting and replication of human cells is done all the time in medicine, and that the production of clonotes may be a harmless extension of a common practice.

The making of a new human and the increase in numbers of a particular human cell type are totally different things. The new human carries the genetic identification of Adam and is made with a spiritual soul in the image and likeness of God. On the other hand, specialized human-tissue multiplication is an ongoing bodily repair mechanism and, when carried out in vitro, continues that supportive role to humans in need.

Today's problems in cloning and embryonic stem-cell research can be identified with the ongoing removal of the private procreative marriage act — from that of one man and one woman to a public exploitation position of adulteration, perversion and laboratory mutilation.

One's body should be treated as the sacred temple of God and one is morally responsible for what becomes of it. A donor woman is responsible for the egg that is enucleated and the donor person is responsible for the use of the somatic cell he or she donated. Above all, the laboratory researcher is responsible for bringing the genetic elements together that call upon God to infuse a human soul. The laboratory researcher in effect becomes the adulterous technocrat, intervening between the functional elements of procreation reserved by God for the privacy of one man and one woman.

FRANK STRELCHUN, PH.D.

Canaan, Connecticut

Hitting the Notes

A choir member just showed me “Why Catholics Can Sing — But Too Often Don'd” (Sept. 19-25, 2004). I agree somewhat with the article.

I have just completed my master's degree in choral conducting. Unlike most directors, I have been very active in learning chant and other Latin pieces abroad, including the various types of Latin dialects. (The pronunciation of Latin in Germanic/Slavic countries is very different from that heard in Italian/Western countries.)

What is quite interesting is the slant on only the traditional chant varieties. While I agree that the contemporary music in the Church is dumbing down our faith, I still believe in a balance of both traditional and contemporary forms. I find it disturbing that a choir cannot sing a simple line in Latin but can sing a contemporary song — or vice versa.

In my experience, I have found that a balance between traditional/classical and contemporary is the way not only to a satisfactory music program, but also a very prayerful Mass or service. For example, for Easter, why not sing a beautiful Latin “Gloria,” such as the one in the Mass in C by Charles Gounod — while also singing, in the same Mass, a contemporary song like “Rise Up and Praise Him,” say, for the Presentation of the Gifts?

Not only do we retain our history as Catholics but also move forward in new traditions. In all the churches in which I was music director, I have seen the choirs and music program grow under this balance. I pray that the Church sees the benefit of this balance.

JIM PRIOVOLOS

Music Director

St. Patrick Parish

Yorkville, Illinois

Dems With a Difference

Congratulations and thanks to Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, for her courageous attempt to change her party's total and unwavering support for the culture of death (“Pushing Her Party to Protect Life,” June 26-July 2).

How great it would be if Catholics in America were able to cast their ballots based on truly political motives and not be troubled by the thought of supporting candidates whose pro-abortion position conflicts with the voter's spiritual and moral values.

At present, the Democratic Party's proud claim of being “the defender of the little man” is a complete antithesis to its leaders’ actual policy of denying any protection to the life of our precious pre-born brothers and sisters.

In spite of Ms. Day's good intentions, presenting the virulent pro-abortion Sen. Charles Schumer's support of two “pro-life” senatorial candidates is a very poor example of the great strides being made. Particularly in the Pennsylvania senatorial race, Schumer's motives are strictly pragmatic. He recognized that Bob Casey, because of his supposed pro-life claim, is the only Democrat with a chance of unseating the Republican incumbent, Sen. Rick Santorum, since all the other Democratic hopefuls were totally pro-abortion.

What a tragedy if that should occur, for Santorum has been the most faithful and effective pro-life leader in the Senate thought his terms in office.

Our prayers go with Ms. Day in the hope that we will see the day when the Democratic Party will once again become the party of the people and not one of many questionable social agendas.

DAVID AND ELIZABETH W. MAIER

Philadelphia