June 30, 2005

Making Poverty History

You may not know it, but July 6, 2005 could be the most important day in the history of this generation. It's the day that we can all stand up and make history by telling the leaders at the G8 Summit that it's time to make poverty history. On July 6, the leaders of the world's eight wealthiest and most powerful nations (the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia) will gather to discuss global poverty. If we can make our voices heard, we can convince them to fight for compassion and justice and do what is necessary to remove the impediments to development in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

Here's what you can do:

- Sign a letter to President Bush asking him to work toward the elimination of global poverty, specifically: to allot 1% more of the U.S. budget on a clear timetable to fighting global poverty; to cancel 100% of the debts owed by the world's poorest nations; and to reform trade rules so that poor countries can earn sustainable incomes.

- If you haven't already, sign the ONE Declaration.

- If you have a website or weblog, host a ONE Campaign banner.

- Sign the Live 8 List. Live 8 is a group of eight concerts to be held worldwide on July 2, bringing attention to global poverty and calling upon the G8 leaders to make poverty history. Adding your name to the Live 8 List will add your voice to that concert, increasing the momentum of the movement against global poverty and putting more pressure on the G8 leaders.

- Tell your friends. This campaign to make poverty history relies heavily on word of mouth advertising; so tell everybody you know. If you don't know what to say, just copy this post, stick it in an e-mail, or print it out and show it to others.

- Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to move the hearts of the G8 leaders, so that the real presence of Christ in the poor and vulnerable will be respected by the world's wealthiest nations.

In a culture that claims to care so much about moral values, it's time to put our money where our mouth is. Making sure that the one billion people around the world who live in extreme poverty are cared for is a moral value of the highest importance. We must remember the words of Christ: "Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me" (Matthew 25:45). Together, we can make poverty history -- the time is now.

- The Contributors

An Announcement

We're sorry to announce that Brian Keaney, one of our contributing writers since May 4, has resigned. Brian has gotten rather busy with the end of school, and also predicts that he'll have a busy summer. We're sad to see him go, but we understand, and of course there will always be a place here for him if he's ever interested. Hopefully Brian will still keep us updated on his personal weblog, Zoon Politikon. God bless, Brian!

June 28, 2005

Staying the Course

A few minutes ago, President Bush finished a primetime television speech that served as a slap in the face of the American people, a majority of whom now oppose the Iraq War and want our troops withdrawn from Iraq. Basically, the President dismissed the concerns of a majority of Americans and told them in response to their concerns that the American military will stay the present course whether the American people like it or not. It seems that President Bush thinks that he can throw around September 11 and pull the wool over the eyes of the American people once again.

We can all agree, of course, that a free and stable Iraq will benefit America and the entire world. We can also agree that Iraq is now a major battlefront in the war on worldwide terror. But we must state emphatically that President Bush's failed policies in Iraq have contributed to turning Iraq into the terrorist minefield that it is today. We know that President Bush exaggerated the presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the beginning of the war; but we also know that it is no exaggeration to say that this presence has greatly increased since the beginning of the war, and as a direct result of President Bush's imprudent policies. We know that President Bush exaggerated the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the beginning of the war; but we also know that it is no exaggeration to say that Iraq now has the potential to become a terrorist nation which really will develop weapons of mass destruction, thanks in large part to the President's failures there. We know that President Bush exaggerated the connection between September 11 and the Saddam Hussein regime; but we also know that it is no exaggeration to say that President Bush's failed policies in Iraq have made America less safe, leaving us open to an attack equal to or worse than September 11.

The only logical conclusion, and the one that the American people must reach and enforce in the next two elections, is that staying the course is not an option if we want a free and stable Iraq. Staying the course is not an option if we want to win the war on terror. Staying the course is not an option if we want an America that is stronger at home and respected in the world -- and that is the only kind of America that will stand a chance against terrorism.

The truth is that Iraq is falling apart, and this is a truth that President Bush and his administration refuse to acknowledge. Iraq is falling apart because we have attempted to force democracy on a people not ready for it, first through devastating economic sanctions under the first Bush and Clinton administrations, and then through an unjust, unnecessary, and poorly planned war under the current administration. Now we are left with this quagmire, from which there is no foreseeable escape. If we leave, we risk the kind of Iraq that is truly a threat to America and the entire world; if we stay, we risk more lives lost on both sides, and no progress made despite the empty platitudes offered to the contrary by President Bush and his administration. This is an outcome that we didn't have to reach: if President Bush had not rushed to war, if he had exhausted all other means of dealing with the Hussein regime, if he had worked with the international community, and if he had bothered to develop an exit strategy instead of committing our troops to a conflict with no foreseeable end -- we would not be where we are now. Are we really to trust this man, who has put us where we are, to get us out of it now?

Thanks to President Bush's poor planning of an unjust war, we are left with no answers and no likelihood of a good outcome in Iraq. May God our Father, through the intercession of Our Lady of Peace, save us from the outcome that President Bush has provided for Iraq, America, and the world.

June 25, 2005

Stem Cells in the News

A couple new bits of information about stem cells came out this week, but it doesn't seem to be big enough to make the major news channels. First, according to an NPR story it seems some embryonic stem cell lines are generating genetic defects. Some of the genes are starting to go haywire, and that's bad news for those counting on developing treatments. Some scientists are now saying we need to do more studies to figure out why the genetic abnormalities are happening, and how they may or may not get transferred to patients before we ever consider human therapies. Sounds reasonable to me.

Second, Catholic News Service reports that there is a new experimental technique for creating pluripotent stem cells without the use of embryos. That's good news, and some Catholic bishops and priests have signed on to endorse the research.

I don't think anyone really wants to see people suffer when stem cell therapies could bring relief or cures. But this is a sticky area of ethics and morality, and it deserves some caution and careful consideration. With stem cell research and development driven by big pharma, the emotions of those who could benefit from treatment, and governments who don't want to be 'left behind,' it's hard to get the societal strength for such cautious and careful consideration. Maybe these two recent events will now give people some extra incentive for such consideration.

Returning to Christendom?

In a recent Commonweal article by William D. Wood, we read about Cardinal Francis George's rather strong suggestion that the world should move away from secular democracy and toward a return to Christendom. One wonders if Cardinal George and other Catholics who favor a return to Christendom are aware that we had an ecumenical council about forty years ago, and that this ecumenical council strongly favored democratic government and religious liberty, effectively eliminating the possibility of a return to Christendom. One might think, perhaps, that Cardinal George and other "Christendom Catholics" are paying more attention to Pope Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors and less attention to the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

This desire for a return to theocracy -- make no mistake, Christendom is theocracy -- is becoming increasingly common among folks who identify with the Christian Right, and disturbingly popular within the Catholic Right. It's part of the unholy alliance that has been forged across denominational lines to declare war against relativists, secularists, liberals, Democrats, moderate Republicans, feminists, gays and lesbians, and all those other people who don't identify with the Christian Right. This desire for theocracy is often referred to as "dominion theology." It began among evangelical Christians in the 1960s and 1970s; somehow, though, it has managed to invade every Christian denomination in the United States and some in other parts of the world.

The basic premise of "dominion theology" is that, for the world's salvation, Christians must defeat the current forms of government and establish either a pseudo-theocratic government or an outright theocracy (depending on who you ask). This new desire for Christendom among some within the Catholic Right is an expression of the "dominion theology" common among evangelical Christians. It seems to me that the motto of "dominion theology" and "neo-Christendom" should be: Let's get 'em! "Dominion theology" was created in order to establish the supremacy of the Christian Right; therefore, anyone who opposes the Christian Right is the enemy.

I don't think it's difficult to see why this has a connection to social justice. Theocracy is, by its very nature, opposed to social justice. It perpetuates discrimination and often outright persecution against people of religions differing from the official religion of the theocratic government, and it also perpetuates discrimination and persecution against those who belong to the religion of the theocratic government but who do not follow all of that government's doctrinal, moral, or social edicts. The shining example of the social injustice of theocracy in American history is the Puritan experiment in New England, which culminated in witch hunts that killed many women and some men, none of whom were actually practicing witchcraft. Lest we say, however, that this is a Protestant failure -- let us remember the social injustice of Catholic Christendom: the "Holy" Inquisition, the Crusades, the endless persecution of Jews, the slaughter and oppression of Native Americans, the subjugation of women, and much more. Under "dominion theology" or "neo-Christendom," these social sins will again prevail, of that we can be assured.

But one of the biggest problems with "dominion theology" is the question that nobody seems to be asking: If the goal of "dominion theology" is let's get 'em, what happens when the Christian Right has got 'em? What happens when the enemy is no more -- when all of the relativists, secularists, etc. have been either imprisoned or killed, then what? And this is where we must pause and say a little prayer for our Catholic sisters and brothers who support "dominion theology": Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.

Because when the enemy common to everyone who identifies with the Christian Right is utterly destroyed, the question becomes: Whose theocracy is this, really? And this is where Catholics who think they like "dominion theology" need to take pause. In American history, which group of Christians has perpetuated the most virulent anti-Catholicism? Evangelical Christians -- that is, the majority of Christians in this country, and the ones who first proposed "dominion theology." When the common enemy of the Evangelical Right and the Catholic Right has been eliminated, the Catholic Christian minority in this country will be in very real danger from the theocratic government ruled primarily by evangelical Christians. Our statues and icons will have to go, of course: "idolatry" is sinful, and therefore can't be tolerated by a theocratic government established to enforce "God's law." Our rosaries will have to go, of course, and our Marian devotions will be prohibited: our "Mariolatry" is sinful, it's goddess worship, and therefore can't be tolerated by a theocratic government established to enforce "God's law." And what about the Eucharist? Are you kidding? Our worship of our "wafer god" is sinful, and therefore can't be tolerated by a theocratic government established to enforce "God's law." What about our priests, our bishops, our religious? They might be okay -- if they drop their loyalty to the pope, since such loyalty is just "papist idolatry." And what about those ecumenical councils? No sir -- "true doctrine" comes from "scripture alone."

It's time for Catholics to wake up and realize that, in America, we are still a minority. We're just a minority that the majority happens to be using as a tool against other, more hated minorities. But once we've helped the majority establish its theocracy, once those other minorities have been crushed, the theocratic and totalitarian majority will turn its attention back to us, our papist faith, and our "wafer god." That's why religious liberty is so important -- it doesn't just benefit and protect others, it benefits and protects us. It's time for us to wake up and remember that the enemy of our enemy is only our friend when the common enemy still exists.

June 23, 2005


That's the name that quadriplegics call their wheelchair Rugby sport. It's also called Quadrugby, but, having seen a clip of the trailer for that movie, Murderball is a much better name for it.

I've been aware of disabled kids all my life as a teacher in public schools. But they were off in a classroom in the corner of the school. I taught the valedictorian for 15 years running at my school. One time I had a hearing impaired student, but she was brilliant. Her Special Education teachers used to pester me about the accommodations I was making for her and such, but she was making an A in my Advanced Placement English class. Frankly, I forgot she was hard of hearing. She sat on the front row, but she was just another kid in my class. And that's exactly what she wanted to be, too. She was gorgeous, if that matters.

Since then I've become more aware of physical disabilities. Today I became aware of quadriplegics. Today I learned about Murderball, via this program on NPR.

Link: Chick here.

I've had the image of Christopher Reeve as what quadriplegic are, but that is so wrong. Those quads in the video have more ability than I do, and they damn sure have more stamina than I have. And they can experience sexual pleasure, too, which I had previously thought was impossible. If you know, or know of, a quadriplegic, visit that NPR website. I can pretty much guarantee you it will change your mind.

June 21, 2005


That's the number of people in the state of Tennessee who are, at this very minute, in danger of dying or of becoming seriously disabled because of cuts in Medicaid. The letters disenrolling them went out on June 5, 2005, and it's already destroying some of the sickest, poorest, and most vulnerable people in that state.

My friend, Nick Dupree, has been a Medicaid advocate for several years, and he alerted me to what's going on with this email:


This chilling 29 minute documentary, "323,000," is about the 323,000 who are now losing their health care under TennCare, Tennessee's Medicaid program. It is the culmination of a 6 month investigation into the largest health care cuts in the history of America. In the course of the investigation and filming, documents were discovered that prove that the drastic nature of the cuts now are part of a bigger political strategy.

To understand the REAL issues with TennCare, the motives behind the cuts, the advocacy happening now, the people who will die from losing heart, anti-transplant rejection and other medications and those on respirators losing all their in-home care that keeps them alive, you MUST watch "323,000."Click to watch



This is a social justice issue of the first magnitude. Later today I'm going to attend my first meeting as a board member for our local Council on Aging, and I hope we get information about what's going on in Florida. I know that Medicaid was "reorganized" in Florida during the last session of the Legislature, and, given the Republican majority in the Legislature and the State House, I wonder if Florida isn't headed in this direction.

Watching the documentary made me cry. What they're doing is so wrong that words fail me.

June 18, 2005

Housing for the Poor Elderly

I commented on Wednesday on my IronKnee blog about how hot it was, but I'm pleased to report things are back to normal on the Fahrenheit Scale. Today was a beautiful day, and it was actually possible to go outside without having to gasp for breath. The weather appears to be back to normal, and that's good.

In connection with the weather, this morning I was thinking about old people and electricity. Since I wrote about how many of the old people on my Meals on Wheels routes have air conditioners but don't use them because of the cost of electricity, several people have written to me about special programs that supplement the energy bills of the poor and aged. I plan to look into that on Monday.

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of the old people don't have lights on in their houses when I visit. Several times I've visited an elder to find her trying to read the newspaper in the dark. And when I say dark, I mean dark. I've had to turn a light on just to find the table where she wants me to put the food. I tease her about reading in the dark, and she says she has cat eyes. We laugh, but I can't imagine how she can see to read the paper. I know I couldn't.

They don't turn the lights on because they're conserving electricity. I have no idea what our electric bill is each month, and I don't care. I know it's levelized, so conservation doesn't really have an impact until a year later. I'm not sure that's good for the environment, but it's very good for our budget. But it really doesn't encourage us to conserve electricity. Evidently my elders don't have that advantage, and they conserve their resources by living is dark, hot houses.

Another thing I've noticed is how dilapidated some of their houses are. I've never done an inspection of anybody's house, but the floors in some of those places are so bad that I worry about falling through. And some of the ways into their houses are so bad that I'm sure they can't get in and out to go anywhere. At one house I have to go up 12 very steep steps just to get to the porch, and I only have to climb 14 steps to get to the second floor of my home. (I'm an obsessive step-counter; deal with it.) The 12 steps at that house aren't the same distance apart, either. I pretty much know that the lady who lives alone there (85? 90? Something like that.) can't possibly get up and down those steps to her front door. Ergo, she can't go anywhere. She can't even go visit the neighbors or catch a breath of fresh air outside. At another place I have to go down 10 steep steps to get to the porch, and those steps are very uneven, too. That one is even more precarious than the 12 steps up to the house, and the man who lives there alone needs for me to get him a fork and a napkin because he can't get out of his recliner to get them for himself.

I think we need the equivalent of Habitat for Humanity to repair and restore the homes of the elderly poor. Habitat's Sweat Equity model is great for younger people, but a 90-year-old lady or an 85-year-old man has already put in their "sweat equity." Maybe something like this already exists, but, if it does, I don't know about it. I wish commenters would clue me in, if they know.

I see this as a social justice issue, but, more than that, I see it as a human compassion issue. Some of our elders are suffering privation in ways that middle class people who have no contact with the poor could never know about or imagine. I see it every day now, but I had no clue about this sort of thing a year and a half ago.

Never Again War?

I've recently come across an interview from May 2, 2003 with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The interview itself primarily discusses the development of a compendium of the material presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But at the end of the interview, there is a question and an answer that I found very interesting, one which I had not heard anything about before. I don't know if this was perhaps covered by other bloggers at the time of the interview, or if it was somehow overlooked, but here it is:

Q: Eminence, a topical question that in a certain sense is inherent to the Catechism: Does the Anglo-American war against Iraq fit the canons of a "just war"?

Cardinal Ratzinger: The Pope expressed his thought with great clarity, not only as his individual thought but as the thought of a man who is knowledgeable in the highest functions of the Catholic Church. Of course, he did not impose this position as doctrine of the Church but as the appeal of a conscience enlightened by faith.

The Holy Father's judgment is also convincing from the rational point of view: There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war" ("Cardinal Ratzinger on the Abridged Version of Catechism: Compendium Expected Out in 2 Years," ZENIT.org-Avvenire, 05/02/2003).

One has to consider the first paragraph of this answer, on Pope John Paul II's opinion of the Iraq War, a non-starter. One might also consider the beginning of the second paragraph, which presents then-Cardinal Ratzinger's opinion on the rationality of the war, a non-starter. After all, the opinion of the late Pope John Paul II and the Roman Curia on the Iraq War is well known: they were, without question, in complete opposition to the war. What interests me, though, is the end of his answer, in which he questions whether or not "it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war.'"

This is language that should give any neoconservative Catholic theologian like George Weigel or Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (for whom I have great respect) some pause. While he acknowledged that Pope John Paul II didn't impose his position on the Iraq War as definitive doctrine, the man who was once prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is now pope asked a very serious question: Is it still licit to admit the existence of a just war? I am particularly intrigued by the use of the word licit by the man who was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: for him, the only alternative to licit is illicit, and as a theologian, as the Church's doctrinal enforcer, he was very much proposing that it may be illicit to consider any modern war a just war. It follows that then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wonders if there is ever any situation in which a Catholic should not be a pacifist in our modern world.

I think, now that he is pope, we're going to hear more from Pope Benedict XVI on this matter. I think there's a strong possibility that he's going to present us with something that neoconservative Catholics can't dismiss as "non-definitive" on the matter of war, and I have a feeling they're not going to like it. And I have a feeling that those who were inclined to dismiss the connection between the Holy Father's choice of Benedict as his name and the great peace pope at the beginning of the 20th century, Pope Benedict XV, are going to find themselves eating some serious crow.

June 13, 2005

Putting Kids First

At the beginning of the 109th Congress, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) introduced a bill called the Kids Come First Act into the U.S. Senate. The Kids Come First Act (S. 114) would provide health care to all of America's children, and it would also help governors and states save on health care costs by reducing the burden on states' Medicaid rolls. More than half a million people have signed on as "citizen cosponsors," and over 20,000 people have called into a hotline set up by Sen. Kerry to tell their stories about the need for all children to have health care coverage in our nation.

For pro-life Catholics, this is an opportunity to put our money where our mouths are. It's time for us to affirm unambiguously that being pro-life is more than being against abortion (although that's certainly important); it's time for us to affirm that children are just as important to us after they've been born as they are to us before birth. There's no reason why every Catholic in the United States shouldn't be writing to or calling their senators about this legislation. So pick up the phone, grab a pen and paper, or open up an e-mail and let your senators know that you want them to start putting American kids first by cosponsoring the Kids Come First Act (S. 114).

June 12, 2005

The Lost Sheep

In today's Gospel reading (Matthew 9:36--10:8), we find Jesus being "moved with pity" for those who are "troubled and abandoned." While today's reading has a spiritual dimension which tends toward the vertical, or man's relationship with God, it also has a spiritual dimension which tends toward the horizontal, or a person's relationship with other people. Let's take a look:

At the sight of the crowds, Jesus' heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd . . . Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness . . . Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, "Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."

What is the proclamation that the apostles are to make? "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." But what is the sign of this kingdom? The relief of suffering -- cures for the sick, life for the dead, health for lepers, liberation for the possessed. The sign of God's kingdom is a love that does not count the cost; it is a recognition that we have received from God without cost, and that we are to give freely to others without cost. This sign of the kingdom is inseparable from the proclamation of the kingdom: we cannot proclaim God's kingdom without the accompanying signs, and we cannot fully do God's work without the proclamation of the kingdom. Evangelization and social justice are not two separate things. In Christianity, all of it is bound up together in Christ: truth and charity, faith and work, God and neighbor. Our work for justice evangelizes, and our evangelization works for justice.

Jesus was moved with pity for the crowds because they were abandoned, "like sheep without a shepherd." When does our work end? When there are no more sheep without a shepherd; when every lamb is fed and taken care of. But where does our work begin? Jesus gives us the answer to that: it begins in our own backyard. When Jesus first commissioned the apostles, he told them not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but to start with the lost sheep of Israel. We know that he eventually called Ss. Peter and Paul, through the Holy Spirit, to evangelize all people and to work for justice throughout the world. But in the beginning, he told the apostles to start at home, with their own people. Shouldn't we be doing the same? Can we really effectively fight global injustice if we can't fight injustice in our own backyard? That is one of the challenges that today's Gospel reading presents us with.

As I've been reflecting on this dimension of today's reading, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hear my pastor's homily for this reading. Years ago, my pastor served as a missionary in East Africa for Maryknoll, and since his return to the United States he has stayed very close to the world of social justice. Without question, he sees social justice as inseparable from his vocation to the priesthood, and inseparable from man's general vocation to communion with God and one another. Over the weekend, he went to Washington, D.C. for various Bread for the World activities that concluded with BFW's annual Lobby Day on June 7. During his homily, my pastor told us about BFW's efforts to ensure that there are no funding cuts to food stamps and other national nutrition programs, and he also told us about BFW's efforts to get new bipartisan legislation recently introduced in Congress to pass.

The new legislation is called the Hunger-Free Communities Act of 2005, S. 1120 in the Senate and H.R. 2717 in the House of Representatives. The goal of the legislation is to recommit the U.S. to the goal of cutting hunger in half by the year 2010, to protect national nutrition programs from President Bush's proposed budget cuts, and to create a grant program for fighting hunger in local communities. Not only would this bill commit the government to reducing hunger by 2010, but it would also commit the government to eliminating hunger within our borders by 2015. As I mentioned, this bill has bipartisan support. In the Senate it is cosponsored by six Democrats and six Republicans (and one Independent), and in the House of Representatives it is cosponsored by 21 Democrats and 10 Republicans. In the Senate, the bill was initially sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), and in the House of Representatives it was originally sponsored by Rep. Tom Osborne (R-NE). I have little doubt that all of this bill's supporters see it as a piece of pro-life legislation, and rightfully so.

Sisters and brothers, this is an opportunity that Jesus wouldn't want us to pass up. This is an opportunity for us to be shepherds to the lost sheep in our local communities and our nation. This is our chance to commit ourselves to the maxim attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel always; if necessary, use words." This is a chance for the kind of evangelization that Jesus calls us to proclaim in today's Gospel reading. Write to or call your senators and representatives. Let them know that you aren't willing to pass up this opportunity to be a shepherd to the lost sheep of America.

And when we've done something about the lost sheep in our own backyard, let's be sure to remember that there's a whole world full of lost sheep who feel troubled and abandoned. A good place to start is by signing the One Declaration, a declaration sponsored by the One Campaign to make poverty history. It commits us -- one person, one voice, one vote at a time -- to making a better world for all men, a world in which no one feels lost or abandoned.

Jesus is calling us out of the flock to be shepherds to his lost sheep. Are we listening?

June 10, 2005

Paying for Sex

Paying for Sex
They say that prostitution is the oldest profession and that people have been paying for sex since time immemorial, but it now appears that the Catholics in the pews are paying for it...Big Time. No, Catholics aren't getting their jollies for pay. They're paying for the jollies of priests, whose jollies were both immoral and illegal. I'm talking about the sex abuse scandal, of course, and today we have a report on the cost, to date.

The cost to the U.S. Roman Catholic Church of sexual predators in the priesthood has climbed past $1 billion, according to tallies by American bishops and an Associated Press review of known settlements.

And the figure is guaranteed to rise, probably by tens of millions of dollars, because hundreds more claims are pending.

Dioceses around the country have spent at least $1.06 billion on settlements with victims, verdicts, legal fees, counseling and other expenses since 1950, the AP found. A $120 million compensation fund announced last week by the Diocese of Covington, Ky., pushed the figure past the billion-dollar mark.

A large share of the costs — at least $378 million — have been incurred in just the past three years, when the crisis erupted in the Boston Archdiocese and spread nationwide.

Source: click here.

The Catholic Church depends on free-will donations from people like me. I admire, support, and applaud the charitable work of the Catholic Church through its various dioceses and agencies, but I have to admit that I give as much, or more, money every month to an environmental protection organization as I do to the Church, and, as far as I know, that organization has been scandal free. I figure I donate something like $10,500.00 a year to our local Council on Aging in my time, and they're scandal-free, too. I believe in Catholic schools, and, indeed, I went to them for 16 years, but my wife and I have a combined record of 65 years in public education. The money and time we donate to education goes to the Bay Education Foundation, not to our parish's Catholic school.

Three dioceses have declared bankruptcy over this scandal, and, supposedly, more are waiting in the wings to do the same thing. I had never imagined that something like this could happen, but it's happening every day.

And in the face of this they want to tell me what I can and can't do in the bedroom? Or that my single daughter can't adopt a frozen embryo, if she wants to? Or that my friends who have been a faithful gay couple for 25 years can't have the same rights as a married couple? Or that a gay couple have to put up for adoption a kid they've raise from birth, once thought to have HIV but later proved not to have it, and they're not eligible to adopt him is right?

$1 billion. That's a hell of a lot of soup kitchens and homeless shelters. That's a hell of a lot of Christianity to go to waste.


June 08, 2005

Got Health Insurance?

Families USA has sponsored a study on the added cost to private insurance premiums for those who get healthcare but are not insured. They try to answer the question: How much of my health care premium goes to pay for those people who get health care without paying for it?

Their answer: $922 of the annual cost ($77/mo) for a family's insurance premium and $341 of the annual cost ($28/mo) for single coverage, goes to cover unpaid health care expenses. And there's a 'viscious circle' in this system:

As the costs of care for the uninsured are added to health insurance premiums that are already rising steeply, more employers can be expected to drop coverage, leaving even more people without insurance. And as more people lose coverage and the cost of their care is added to premiums for the insured, still more employers will drop coverage. It’s a vicious circle that will not end until we as a nation take steps to solve the underlying problems.

For some reason, our nation seems unwilling to take the steps to solve this problem, and I don't understand why. No one wants people to go without health care, and the macroeconomy is already paying (both soft- and hard-dollars) for the health care of those who can't pay it themselves. It's a matter of formalizing and making more efficient a system of delivering the health care to those who are not covered by a private plan.

Maybe it breaks down in the implementation discussions? The funding of this sort of program would look like an employer-tax, and if administered centrally it could create a huge Federal government program - neither of which appeals to Republicans. But, it could probably be shown that eventually this is a simple shift of costs from the private healthcare plans to a public plan, and therefore a net zero cost; and why can't states administer such health care plans? Republicans like to promote states' rights, and states are accustomed to this sort of program (for example, state unemployment insurance programs are required by the Federal government).

Maybe that's why I am not a politician - the solutions most always look simple and obvious to me.

June 07, 2005

A Makeover

After many requests to change our template, we've finally gotten around to doing it. This template is much simpler, much easier to read, and emphasizes the quality of our content over the style of our blog design. We hope you find this template more enjoyable and easier to read. God bless!

- The Contributors

June 06, 2005

Go in peace?

AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Un-Housing the Poor

A few years back, when I was first applying for Social Security and waiting the two years it takes to get approved and thereby become eligible for a variety of benefits available to the disabled, I was encouraged by my case worker to apply for Section 8. It's a voucher program in which poor people pay a third of their income for rent and HUD (Housing and Urban Development) pays the rest of the market-rate rent for an apartment or house.

Actually, I wasn't encouraged to apply, but to take advantage of the once in-every-18-months event when they open the waiting list, which was happening in a month or so. Now, the waiting list is 4-6 years long. And opening up the waiting list means that for one week, at a different place each day between 9 am and 2 pm, you can fill out an application to be put in a lottery to be chosen to get on the 4-6 years long waiting list. When I went to fill out what was essentially a lottery ticket, the line filled the rooms and spilled outside and down the street. A lot of the people there had kids. All of them, of course, poor and in need of safe, suitable housing.

I kept shaking my head at the Steinbeck-esque scene. And still do. My eyes fill with angry tears and all I can think is, what the f*** kind of society do we live in?

But wait! It's getting worse. Our Christian President and Congressmen are trying to reduce the amount of funding for Section 8 by offering it to people whose 30 percent would be more money than that of the very poor. Basically, pitting the working class against the poorest for housing that's rapidly becoming too expensive for them both.

Last month, Congress began hearings on two bills -- one each in the House and Senate -- that threaten to reorient federal assistance away from the families that need it most. Specifically, the legislation would double Section 8's existing median income cap to 60 percent, thereby allowing families who earn more to qualify for these vouchers.

It also removes rules which ensure that families in serious need receive the most assistance. Under the new measure, local housing authorities are free to award up to 90 percent of their vouchers to applicants that qualify under the raised income cap -- allowing them to dole out the majority of vouchers to families who earn more and therefore pay more of the rent.

It's often said that you can't just throw money at poverty. But this is something where money is the answer, as in adequately funding a program, Section 8, which so obviously needs it. I've seen the lines. I've seen the kids running around while their mother tells them to knock it off while she fills out an application, praying it will get picked so she can spend the next 4-6 years waiting and working 80 hours a week to stay out of the shelter.

"If...one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:16-17

(Cross-posted at Behind the Surface)

June 02, 2005

Prayer Wars

Hurricane Season = Prayer Wars

This season of the year--June 1 till November 30--is totally ironic, almost by definition.

Last year Florida got hit by 4 big ones. We had some damage to the roof of our house, which we didn't discover until it rotted through and we had to cut through the sheet rock in our bedroom to get 2 baby possums out, but we came out of that with the house still standing. We lost power for about 24 hours in one of those, but in the bad one that damaged the roof, we never lost power at all.

This year they're predicting another bad season. It'll be August or September before those storms start rolling in, and we pray to God we'll survive unscathed.

It's this praying to God part that's ironic. If there's a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, it's going to hit somewhere. How do you pray about something like that? "Dear God, let it hit Mexico?" "Dear God, let it hit Texas?" Or my ironic favorite, "Dear God, let it hit Mississippi and destroy all those tacky trailers and the people who live in them?" I don't think so.

My prayer from now until the end of November, every time I pass a Catholic church, will be, "From the terror of the hurricanes, O Lord deliver us. Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us." I pass Catholic churches 6 or 7 times most days, so I say that prayer a lot. It wouldn't hurt if our readers said them for us in Florida, too.