Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 5, 2007
WCR Letters to the Editor
Give us responsible gov't
Glen Argan correctly points out how Catholic social teaching applies to stewardship of the environment ("Leave a habitable earth for our children," WCR, Feb. 12).
The overwhelming evidence is in, and scientists agree that human activity is the major cause of climate change. Already the commercial media drumbeat has started: All of us must all fight against global heating, because we all contribute to it. Corporate CEOs and politicians firmly agree on that (and most everything else).
Even little children are being enlisted to bring pressure on their parents to do something about climate change. A recent article in a mainstream newspaper was titled, "Let your kids lead charge to help end global warming."
But buying a few energy-saving light bulbs misses the point. In fact it serves to divert people's attention away from the real problem. It is huge corporations that account for pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in overwhelming measure.
Why shouldn't they pay to clean up the environment that they have befouled? They certainly can afford it, given their record-breaking profits lately. But greed, apparently, is limitless.
A local newspaper reports that an oil company operating in Alberta, Penn West Energy Trust, is demanding $200 million in public funds to sequester some CO2 gases underground. And why not, the columnist asked. After all, the Alberta government gives $60 million a year for horse racing.
No doubt, the poor and the gullible middle class will be forced to pay for most of the "fight" against global heating.
The mainline media are themselves big business, or are parts of even larger conglomerates. They may say that something should be done about climate change, but they won't advocate that the worst polluters pay their proportionate costs for stopping the earth from becoming Venus.
The public must pay hundreds of millions of dollars, as it did, to clean up the U.S. DEW Line installations in the North, and the Tar Ponds in Sydney, N.S., just to give two quick examples among many.
People will be reminded that it is they who demanded the goods life and the internal combustion engine. Happiness, the ads implied, could be found in a very big house, one that is twice the size - and twice the heating bill - of those built in the 1950s. Supply and demand propaganda.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Large corporations created the markets and most everything else that is wrong with modern consumerism. Their purpose is immediate profit, not environmental responsibility. SUV sales remain high. "Shop more," said U.S. President Bush at Christmas time.
Argan is right: "Governments have a special responsibility because market forces will not do the job." Or, as economist J.K. Galbraith put it, "People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction (and ours) rather than surrender any material part of their advantage."
Isn't it time we addressed the root causes of what is wrong with "our" economic system?
An EXXON spokesman, V.P. Cohen, recently stated that his company "expects worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases to increase an average of 2.3 per cent through 2030." The provincial government has nothing if not blind corporate faith. Its current position is to allow the oil companies to exploit the Athabasca Tar Sands and pump even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as long as they do it at a slower rate.
If something is not done soon about climate warming, it may be too late to save the planet for human habitation; CO2 gases stay in the atmosphere for centuries. The Kyoto Accord promises to forestall what may be inevitable, but the federal government has rejected it.
When will we ever get governments that are for economic democracy and which govern with the conviction that the economy should serve all of the people fairly and not just rich business investors?
We need governments that will legislate against pollution and greenhouse gas emissions coming primarily from the private tyrannies - giant corporations - who collectively own and control most of the country.
We need governments that won't scare us with false statements about economic collapse in consequence of climate change. We need governments that will govern for the common good, which is another aspect of Catholic social teaching. We need these kinds of governments if only to survive in a livable world.
Make Lent a time to adjust life's compass
Re: Editorial,"Unlock Lent's gift with the key of prayer" (WCR):
Reading Glen Argan's well thought out piece on Lent actually made me reflect on my own journey.
When I was young, I had an incredible set of beliefs. I used to think that you would go to hell if you ever ate a hot dog on Friday. I even wondered if you could be condemned for eating only half a hot dog or even one bite.
I still remember the first time I was caught wanting. I had gone to a ball game at the Wanderers Grounds in Halifax one fine Friday evening. I was with a boyhood buddy of mine.
He was, what one might say, very close to God. He knew the Baltimore Catechism inside out and in a moment of lapsed conversation could break into a recitation of the latest nuances of the catechism.
As for myself, I had just purchased a hot dog with all the trimmings.
Now you have to understand that where I came from, fish was the main staple of our meals.
My dad would even take a herring or a mackerel in his lunch pail most days.
Being told to eat fish on Friday really was not any earth-shaking penance.
I loved fish!
However this fine Friday evening I had wanted a hotdog. My quarter allowance did not go far but for a hot dog with all the trimmings it was quite enough. I had kept that quarter all week just for this moment.
My friend Albert had just arrived and was about to sit when he suddenly began to go into a state of frenzy as he saw me about to take my first bite.
We didn't call them First Friday police or anything in those days but Albert would have been a general in that army.
Springing into action, Albert lunged at me and, ripping the hotdog just as it neared my mouth, he threw it with the flair of a Moses parting the Red Sea over the stands exclaiming at me, "Are you crazy; it's Friday!!"
At that moment Albert must have sensed something in my eyes and it wasn't a mea culpa. He started to run and didn't stop until he got to his home 10 blocks away.
I have thought of that moment so many times over the years.
Eating meat on Friday has long ago gone behind the stands so to speak.
And I wonder now how many people still suffer in their minds because of years of unwarranted guilt - especially as we approach Lent once more.
Many of us, especially those over 50, have been practising hell avoidance for most of our lives. But I did wonder about the other half of the coin because this half certainly did not seem enjoyable at all.
For many of us our spiritual lives have been surrounded by fear ever since we were children. In those days we turned heaven and love on its head.
The result of this early training has meant that our lives have been conditioned to practise a lot of avoidance behaviour and a lot of blame behaviour.
Ever since we were young, we have generally blamed others whenever something went wrong - "Mom, Audrey hit me" - usually overlooking that we started it by kicking Audrey.
In our modern society it is still there. "We would get better grades if the teacher would only . . . We would have been promoted if only the boss . . . We would go to church more if only . . ." And on it goes.
Christianity is a religion of love, forgiveness and community. It is not about just avoiding the wrong thing but doing the right thing.
Catholics, I think, have waited a long time to hear these ideas - and yet some people still don't want to hear them at all.
"I hate all this love stuff. When are we going to hear about hell and sin again? I need a guilt fix."
Lent is a time for us to focus again on the important things in our lives, on our commitments to ourselves and to our faith journey.
It is time to consider not only the journey, but also the journey's end. If we are going the wrong way we need to turn around and get going the right way.
Repentance to the Jewish people meant exactly that - a turning around.
We need to ask for a new Spirit and a clean heart. Each of us should be filled with joy with this promise of life everlasting.
It is winning the eternal lottery.
What we need to do this Lent is to scrape away the years and look deeply at ourselves and our journey so far.
It's never easy.
We must not give up; we must stay the course because the rewards are great.
Rocky Mountain House
Encourage men to consider the priesthood
I am sick and tired of all the complaining over the shortage of priests. We all know that there are not enough priests for every parish; this is a fact in our country.
Complaining and writing letters about it is not going to change that.
Advocating for the ordination of women or married men is not helping anything either; at best it is creating scandal and division.
To put it bluntly, the real problem in the shortage of priests lies primarily with you, the average reader.
When was the last time you encouraged a young man to examine and discern the priesthood?
Have you ever talked to your sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, about becoming priests?
Compare that to the number of times you have complained about not having enough priests or access to Mass; or the number of times you have discouraged a young man from the priesthood because he was too handsome, too nice, would make too good of a husband, or because you want grandchildren?
Where are your priorities now?
Priests do not come from thin air; they come from a family. If you are not willing to give up your sons and brothers to become priests, what right have you to demand it from someone else?
This may sound harsh, but it is meant to get you to think. If parishes are closing for lack of a priest, it is only because you have not given enough of them.
Today's crisis of vocations is not about a shortage of celibate men or even a shortage of priests. It is about a shortage of prayer, a shortage of encouragement, a shortage of self-giving.
And it will not turn around until you are ready to let your sons and brothers give of their lives, for you and for the whole world.
There are many young men and boys who dearly want to give their lives to the Church, they simply await your support, your encouragement, your prayers.
I have been privileged to receive much support from my family and friends, the Knights and the CWL, and even from total strangers: Thank you!
But I know many young men who have not been so blessed, and very few of them ever enter the seminary.
Promoting priestly vocations is not just the responsibility of bishops; it is the responsibility of all Catholics, especially parents.
Letter to the Editor - 04/09/07
The lowdown on high interest
The article on usury ("Lure of payday loans targets working poor," WCR, Feb. 12) is a poor exposition of a complex problem.
Sadly, the catechism does not even mention the word, but usury and unethical business practices, such as cornering and monopoly, were condemned even by pagans. It was usury that ruined ancient Rome.
Aristotle considered usury the most hated practice, because it makes gain out of money itself, not considering the natural object, to which it ought to be attached. Money was invented to simplify exchange of commodities, to be spent, not to be excessively accumulated or made to breed more money by simply charging interest.
The Scriptures offer some clues, but we can only wonder about Jesus attitude towards Zacchaeus, the wealthy man in the Gospel.
It took over 1,000 years before a comprehensive Christian theory of social justice was developed by St. Thomas Aquinas, who further elaborated on Aristotle. Profit should not be the goal in itself, but it can be a just reward in a fair business transaction. "Usury" is derived from the Latin "usura," meaning "use, enjoyment or interest on capital."
The word thus hides different meanings, some valid, some objectionable. There are exchanges where one can justifiably reap the rewards, even by charging interest for commodities used in everyday life, like house rental.
However, there is an inherent problem when interest is charged for commodities which are meant to be consumed, such as food or energy. It is partly this kind of usury in which the commodity is "used up" that was condemned by Aristotle and by the Church.
There are two kinds of traders, those who exchange in order to maintain their life, like most people, and those who seek money in exchange for money or for commodities for the sake of profit. The latter may have been condemned by Aristotle, as it seems that such commerce has something shameful in it.
Although this may not be an honourable profession, Aquinas concludes there is nothing implicitly immoral in it, and it is not opposed to virtue.
With the invention and advance of capitalism, the economic problems got even more complex, and it required bright people like historian Hilaire Belloc to dig deeper when looking for solutions. His 1931 essay "On Usury" starts with a surprising introduction - "Usury does not mean high interest."
Belloc explains this common misconception and illustrates the problems with interesting examples. A œ1000 legitimately invested 370 years ago at five per cent would be twice the size of the annual revenue of U.S. in 1931. Very high interest and huge profit are not necessarily immoral, although the governments must limit both interest and loan's duration for practical reasons.
There is nothing morally wrong with lending $1,000 to a prospector for a 50 per cent share to develop his gold claim into a mine, making both the lender and the borrower filthy rich. Or, while a mortgage for a rental house is legitimate, the primary residence is a different issue. Also, it would be immoral to lend money for profit for somebody's life-saving medical treatment.
The interest on money lent to people like Jose Martin - the construction labourer in the Feb. 12 article - ought to be curtailed at reasonable rates which will not ruin poor families.
The blatant ignorance and denial of Catholic social teaching after the Reformation has finally led to our "Money for nothing, and chicks for free" society, in which ethics has been totally separated from our banking and investment, and where it is perfectly legitimate to demand the highest possible interest on all productive and unproductive investments; this despite such "usury" being condemned in Benedict XIV's encyclical Vix Pervenit.
So who is the culprit? Belloc identifies the birth of "legalized usury" with the Bank of Amsterdam, which under Calvinism in 1609 "started on its great career of stimulating fortunate capacity and ruining the unfortunate."
Exacerbated by the rapid advance of physical sciences and Industrial Revolution, one after another the Christian nations succumbed to this new scheme, and today usury works side by side with legitimate profit in the dark and smelly cauldron of modern economic witchcraft.
Catholic would welcome moderate Anglican voice
An Agence France Press article published on Monday, Feb. 19 in The Edmonton Journal under the heading "Will Anglicans join Catholic Church?" explored proposals that would reunite the world's Anglicans with the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope.
I am a Catholic who long considered the Anglican Church in Canada a moderate Christian voice.
I would welcome this union, if it would result in a more open Church: A Church that would permit married priests in the Latin Rite (married priests are already common in the Eastern Rites of our Church), that would allow women priests, that would hold more realistic views on contraception, and that would be more welcoming to the gay communities.
Reading the conservative Catholic press and listening to conservative Church leaders, in recent years you might think the only important issues were stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, contraception and a woman's right to choose.
I for one would prefer to see at least as great an emphasis on some of Jesus' teachings, such as peace and pacifism, tolerance and understanding, charity and assistance to the poor, and community and acceptance of the marginalized.
Yes, indeed, we need the Anglicans!
The Anglican and Catholic bishops who were the main authors of the report cited in the Agence France Press article have dismissed the article's speculation about imminent union between the two churches as "greatly exaggerated" (WCR, Feb. 26).
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