Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 26, 2001
WCR Letters to the Editor
Moore issues judgment without understanding
The French novelist Antoine de Saint Exupery once wrote that one must seek to understand first and only then can judge (comprehend avant de juger).
This maxim appears not to be heeded by Charles Moore in his article "A Plot to Destroy Christian Civilization" (WCR, Nov. 5).
Moore's understanding of the history of Islam and its central tenets is based on citations from Hilaire Belloc's essay about Islam published in 1938. This essay is nothing more than a scurrilous polemic in which historical facts are twisted to support the author's (Belloc's) distorted view of the world.
Belloc and Moore by association, as well as bin Laden and other fundamentalists in Judaism, Islam and Christianity are seized by a millennial world vision that is based more on fear, ignorance and nihilism than on understanding, compassion and acceptance of others.
All of the so-called facts Moore cites from Belloc's essay to support the argument that Islam seeks to destroy Christian civilization are incorrect.
Moore's contention that Western thinking about history constitutes a major obstacle to understanding current world events reveals his own ignorance of world history.
His own understanding of world history consists largely of half-baked ideas and a gross caricature of a major world civilization that gave to the West insights about government, ethics, science, and philosophy which would eventually culminate in the Renaissance and the emergence of Europe as a world civilization in the 19th and 20th centuries.
I strongly urge readers to reject this type of scurrilous thinking that is both ignorant and unChristian. I recommend readers to become informed about Islam, its central tenets and history.
A good start is to read Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. The book offers a readable and balanced discussion of Islam, which reveals that Christianity, Judaism and Islam share much in common.
Before offering an opinion about something we do not know very well, it is best to understand first the issue, and only then do we have the right (moral or otherwise) to judge.
The "plot to destroy Christian civilization" lies not with bin Laden or Islam, but in the ignorance, fear mongering and muddled thinking that characterizes Moore's opinion piece.
Shame on the Western Catholic Reporter for printing such rubbish.
Prayers for the dead do move God
As an admirer of Father Ron Rolheiser, I was a little saddened to see the passive role he assigns to God in the mystery of prayer for the dead (and for others) (WCR, Nov. 12).
Father Rolheiser rightly affirms the blessings and gifts we can share with one another in the communion of saints, on earth, in purgatory (pre-heaven) and in heaven, and the importance for all of us that we do so.
But God is the loving Father of this great family, and he has made it abundantly clear that it is not beneath his dignity, as an all-knowing God, to hear and respond to the cries of his children.
He will even alter the course of things, and he often makes specific gifts and graces to us and to our loved ones dependent on how faithfully, how fervently, and how lovingly we ask for them. Scriptural examples of this abound.
We post-modern "defenders" of God in a society in which the sense of God has all but vanished may well be embarrassed by this humility of God; but Jesus reveals it and the Apostles, the saints and the little ones of earth all rejoice in it with wonder.
Like a wise and loving mother intent upon raising wise and loving children, God knows how much authority to give us, how much access to his authority to permit us, and how much to retain in his own hands.
Our prayers for the dead (and the living) do in fact move God to act on their behalf in ways that would not happen without our prayers. It's a marvel of grace, but it's true.
Rolheiser strays from explaining the faith
This is in response to the article by Ron Rolheiser "The benefits of prayer for the dead" (WCR, Nov. 12).
His response to the question, "Does it make sense to pray for the dead?" seems to be more of an exercise in sentimentality than it does in explaining an article of the Catholic faith.
Our faith teaches us that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and is composed of the Church Triumphant - all the saints in heaven, the Church Militant - the Church in the world and the Church suffering - all the souls in purgatory.
When we pray for the dead we are praying to, for, and on behalf of the souls in purgatory. The saints in heaven and the faithful on earth can intercede for these poor suffering souls.
When the mortal sins are forgiven in Confession the eternal punishment due to them is made to disappear by the merits of Jesus Christ, but the temporal punishment attached to them remains - for the wound of the soul can be healed thoroughly only in time - either here on earth through penance or in the after life in the cleansing fire of purgatory.
We can help them by praying for them, gaining indulgences for them and performing good works for them.
On German youth movements
In the generally fine editorial "The call of the Pilgrim Cross" in your Nov. 12 issue, one section gives a false impression.
Citing Father John Hugo, the editorial claims that the Catholic Church failed to attract youth in Germany after the First World War because it did not ask for sacrifices, but that the Nazis did attract youth because they did ask for sacrifices.
There may have been some instances in which this was true, but the fact is that the Catholic Church had very successful and effective youth movements in Germany before the Nazis came to power.
Surely Father Hugo should have known that the Catholic youth movements did not fail for lack of challenge. They were snuffed out by the Nazis, who feared their success.
Many years ago I watched a television interview with a former SS official, who explained that the "Hitler Youth" were organized to a great extent in imitation of successful Catholic movements.
If we are to learn from history we need, as far as possible, to be accurate about what really happened.
Fr. Jack Gallagher
St. Agnes/St. Anthony Parishes
Free market exists only in politicians' speeches
In Alberta, poverty is not so much the suffering of hunger pangs as that it rots the stricken physically, emotionally and spiritually. Because it excludes many people from so-called equality of opportunity, it is harder to bear, in some ways, than Third World deprivation.
The structural source of poverty is unemployment and underemployment, the inevitable by-products of so-called free market economies.
But this, along with the contemptuous attacks by governments on the needy, can't be debated in the mainstream media or discussed in schools.
The issue of dependency is invariably raised by those with a religious belief in "free markets," although talk of markets prompted one honest CEO to admit, "There's not one grain of anything in the world that is sold in the free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians."
As the United Nations Development Program put it, "Survival in agricultural markets depends less on comparative advantage than on comparative access to subsidies."
A study by two Dutch economists found that every single one of the 100 largest transnational corporations on Fortune magazine's list has benefitted from the industrial policy of its home country, and that at least 20 of them wouldn't even have survived if their government hadn't bailed them out with subsidies when they faced collapse.
These corporations employ less than one-third of one per cent of all workers in the world, and they are net job destroyers in consequence of mergers and downsizing. Small business created 97 per cent of all new jobs in Canada in the private sector in the past 20 years.
But it would be a serious mistake to see only wealthfare (subsidies, loan guarantees, write-offs, incentives etc.) and not the ongoing way that governments continually prop up big business through regressive tax systems.
Twenty-five years ago, in Canada taxes were split approximately 50-50 between individuals and industry. Today, less than eight per cent of all public revenue comes from corporations.
The Alberta economy is doing fine. It's just that some 20 per cent of its citizens aren't, since "quality of life" is basically income minus expenses. The rich-poor gap is growing faster here, and in Ontario, than in any of the other provinces.
Unfortunately, trying to solve poverty using conventional thinking is problematic, because the adversarial system itself is responsible for it.
Still with a more progressive tax system, and with the equitable sharing of revenues - including increased oil and gas royalties - from Alberta's astounding material resources, there would be no need for poverty, the common denominator of our other costly social ills.
Let's pray that the Alberta government, at the very least, can find the moral strength to significantly increase SFI payments and the minimum wage. In fact, it's our Christian duty to call or write to the premier and tell him to do so.