A Chicken or Egg Question

Saturday, October 30, AD 2010

The question above has nothing to do with cooking.  Rather, it has to do with the ongoing debate over the role of government vs. the role of the family, churches, charities, and other voluntary private organizations in assisting vulnerable persons such as the poor, children, the handicapped and the elderly.

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19 Responses to A Chicken or Egg Question

  • Gov welfare policies do not work.

    They spent over $1 trillion in 1964 dollars on the Great Society and the number of poverty-stricken was the same after all that blown tax money. We the people have $13,000,000,000,000.00 in federal debt and nothing to show for it. Obama added $3 trillion in debt in less than two years and what do we have to show for it? Our children and grandchildren will suffer for it.

    1. Absolutely correct. Add to divorce, fornication and promiscuity generating children among people who can’t support themselves in the first place. Many of the poor (and probably 99% of liberals) are avid practitioners of the at least three or four of the seven deadly sins. CA food stamps/welfares checks routinely cashed in Las Vegas.

    2. In my family, all my wife’s gross salary pays taxes; net doesn’t come close to our variious tax bills.

    3. True.

    4. Too true!

    5. Obamacare will end that problem.

    ” . . . liberals argue that government should take the lead . . . ” because they must have expanding dependencies (the indigent, government employees, public employee unions, big labor unions, etc.) voting to keep in power.

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  • “Add to divorce, fornication and promiscuity generating children among people who can’t support themselves in the first place.”

    That would be included under “single parenthood.”

    “CA food stamps/welfare checks routinely cashed in Las Vegas”

    Actually, that sounds like an urban legend to me.

  • Excellent post, Elaine.

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about education lately. The whole situation seems loony to me. Parents work themselves to the bone and spend nights tossing and turning worrying about college tuition bills, when the truth of the matter is that many kids who would be happy and useful being carpenters or plumbers or chefs end up miserably occupying a cubicle in, say,an HR Department. The present-day belief that a college education is a “right” everyone is entitled to has only led to the further debasing of the worth of a bachelor’s degree. Virtually every young college student I know believes he or she will have to go on to a post-grad school to land a really good job, because bachelor’s degrees are – well, I would say a dime a dozen, but with the tuition at private colleges running about $30,000 a year these days, and even state schools becoming increasingly expensive, it’s not dimes we’re talking about here.

    Bringing back societal respect for the dignity and worth of the trades and manual labor would help. I know middle class parents who would be very disappointed, even ashamed, if their child chose to be say, a plumber, rather than an IT specialist, but hey, you can’t outsource a plumber’s job to India, can you? Yet Obama talks of ensuring that even more young people go to college. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    (The whole higher education bubble is, I think, one reason – among many – why even Catholic couples end up using the Pill, condoms, etc. Putting even one child through college can be ruinously expensive these days. And, unfortunately, the days of working your way through college are long gone.)

  • “Bringing back societal respect for the dignity and worth of the trades and manual labor would help”

    True, but bear in mind that many of these trades are heavily unionized, which has its advantages but also distinct disadvantages.

    “Unfortunately the days of working your way through college are long gone”

    If you insist upon completing a full bachelor’s degree in 4 years or less of full-time attendance while living on campus, yes, it will be difficult if not impossible to earn your own way completely. But if you live at home while attending a community/junior college for the first 2-3 years, or take classes part time, or do a stint in the military first and take advantage of GI Bill benefits, it can be done.

    The notion that putting a child through college means sending them away from home and paying for 4 years of tuition, books, supplies, room and board completely on the parental dime, or having the child literally mortgage their future with student loan debt for decades to come, isn’t necessarily true.

  • I have to believe that the demise or at least the curtailment of statism would naturally lead to a renaissance of private initiative.

    The problem is that society would inevitably pass through a painful phase of readjustment, having been dependent for so long upon public largess.

    Individualism has made it such that everyone is expected to make their own way. People often think I now support individualism because I oppose statism, but the opposite is true; only voluntary collectivism can replace statism, which is really forced individualism.

    Because we are not unified or in communion in any meaningful sense through the state. The Leviathan is an artificial creation, a machine with cogs and gears, not an organic development that passes through trial and error, shedding what fails and retaining what works. The Leviathan is an aggregate of individuals who gravitate towards it as iron shavings to a magnet. If the magnet loses its pull, the individual shavings collapse in a disorganized heap.

    But it is not a part of our natural condition to remain in such a way. We have a social instinct, which the Leviathan smothers but cannot kill. The first generation after Leviathan’s collapse may suffer greatly, but subsequent generations would reform themselves on natural principles and reason (both of which are God-given, woven into the fabric of our being). This is the significance of Locke, and why I stridently reject the notion that he was a “Hobbesian.”

    Leviathan is ultimate the product of philosophers and the home of bureaucrats. Nature is the home of the rest of the human race, and organic civilization is its product.

    Philosophers in their own minds soar above the rest of humanity, while bureaucrats are terrified of it. Regular human beings simply organize spontaneously on rational principles. MJAndrew and I had quite a debate on all this, and I’ll say there that from Aquinas to Locke there a gradual need developed to redefine what was evident and rational from nature as a positive, God-granted right that needed to be defended against the likes of Hobbes or Louis XIV. And that need is still with us today, which is why I think Locke’s argument still matters, for Catholics and for everyone. And that in turn is the significance of Rerum Novarum.

    I’ll be putting that in more succinct form for an upcoming Inside Catholic article very soon. The bottom line is that we must still defend ourselves against Leviathan, and as Catholics we can actually do this better with natural rights arguments than we can with most “traditional” arguments, though we ultimately need both since we see how arguments from rights can be savagely abused.

  • Right on the money, Elaine.

    Except for #3 ( the NZ economy is still dependant on our agricultural economy) our system has become “cradle to grave” dependency. It was out hope that with the election of the present National govt. back in 2008 that much of the socialisation that has happened under successive ‘socialist’ style govts over the past few decades would have been eleimated.
    However, much to many of us on the right-of-centre political leaning, our present masters seem to have – once the snout was in the trough – have continued along the same hand-out-mentality path.

    The next hope is for the upcoming election next year for them to consolidate their position and then get rid of the ‘dependency syndrome’.

    Am I holding my breath? 🙁

  • “While I am no fan of an intrusive nanny state, I have to say that simply shutting off the government spigot won’t necessarily yield the results these people expect, at least not in the short term.+”

    Though that is a strawman. I don’t believe there are many conservatives who argue about eliminating govt. programs completely. I believe there are many who are arguing enough is enough and that further expansion of our, very generous, current welfare system is harmful to economic and social conditions and thus to the common good.

  • Another question to ask is, which came first? the feminist movement of the ’60s and ’70s or the economy requiring a two-income household?

    And how about this? the feminist movement or the obesity epidemic, especially among children?

    And how about this one? the feminist movement or the break-up of the family unit?

    And–, the feminist movement or the sexual revolution, with the resulting 50 million abortions?

    And–, the feminist movement, or the reliance of women on government handouts and programs such as daycare?

    How about–, the feminist movement or the disintegration of the young male psyche who was despised because he wasn’t a girl?

    Or, the feminist movement, or the fact that more men are losing their jobs today than women?

    Nobody in the media dares to approach any of these questions. They would rather blame MacDonald’s for their fat kids instead of the woman who is too tired at the end of the day to prepare a meal with real food. My heavens! most young women today don’t even know what real food is, let alone how to make a meal of it.

  • Louise, all that may be true, but notice that my #2 point is not ONLY about working women.

    BOTH men and women work farther away from home for more hours than they used to, leading to more reliance on fast food, at the same time they also spend more hours sitting down at computers, in cars and at home. Result: obesity.

    Another big reason kids are fat: they don’t play outdoors as much as they used to… partly because they may prefer to watch video games or play on the computer, it’s true, but also because fear of crime and lack of acquaintance with neighbors (see #3) prompt parents to keep their kids indoors more.

  • Another point: I don’t think the sexual revolution was entirely a female invention. Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner did just as much or more to promote it as, say, Gloria Steinem or Helen Gurley Brown. Go even farther back and you have figures such as Bertrand Russell and George Bernard Shaw promoting what was then called “free love.” And Margaret Sanger didn’t act entirely alone when it came to promoting Planned Parenthood — she had a lot of help from the (predominantly male) eugenics movement.

  • “I don’t think the sexual revolution was entirely a female invention.”

    You can put a few exclamation points after that Elaine! The sexual revolution has been a dream come true for predatory males, and women, kids and decent men have been the victims.

  • Great article, Elaine.

    Two other things that strike me are that:

    – A rapidly industrializing society offered people in a more traditional society (whether that be 1700s England or late 20th century India) the chance to make far more money, but only if they moved away from family and village support structures. This probably helped create the vacuum that statism fills.

    – I don’t think we really would have got to this spot if it weren’t for the fact that people often prefer, on a pragmatic basis, relying on government to relying on family, for the simple reason that relying on government is more sure: It’s less likely to go bankrupt (though as Greece has seen, when the finances go south everyone is in trouble) and you don’t have to go through the work of maintaining a relationship with it the way you do with crotchety relations who nonetheless might have the money to help if you get into trouble some day.

  • Elaine, thank you for your response. Did you come of age in the ’60s or ’70s? –or later? If so, you did not experience the difference in women’s lives first hand after Steinem, Kinsey, and the woman (forget her name) who pretended to be a frustrated, unfulfilled haus frau, but who, it turns out, was an active member of the Communist party, seeking what we called “the industrialization of women.” The plan to separate women from their children, their husbands, and their homes, and to incorporate them into the workforce. it was a difference as between night and day. I am 77. I lived through it all as an adult with the experience of a different kind of life.. It was not pleasant and too long to describe, but I saw many younger women’s lives torn apart and their families as well by buying into the feminist lie. Yes, it goes back to the ’20s and before, but they really had no active role in the ’60s, except perhaps in the minds of the instigators.
    There was a commercial on TV about five years ago that showed a group of women, in their 40s, dancing in the sunshine, saying, “What a wonderful age this is.”. I used to think, “How nice for you. Do you know that you made your parents’ lives pure hell when they were your age? It was not a wonderful age for them. You all but destroyed them.”

    When you reach adulthood living in a war zone, you really can’t appreciate the devastation that was wrought on what it was before.

  • I used to think, “How nice for you. Do you know that you made your parents’ lives pure hell when they were your age? It was not a wonderful age for them. You all but destroyed them.”

    When you reach adulthood living in a war zone, you really can’t appreciate the devastation that was wrought on what it was before.

    God bless you Louise and thank you for articulating that.

  • “Did you come of age in the ’60s or ’70s or later”

    I was born in 1964; you do the math.

    “I saw many younger women’s lives torn apart… by buying into the feminist lie”

    Could you be more specific about what parts of feminism you consider to be a “lie”? A lot of different things, both good and bad, get lumped under the heading of feminism and a blanket condemnation of feminism tends to come off as a condemnation of those aspects which nearly everyone, including devout, traditional, pro-life and family Catholics, would consider good.

    In my opinion, the bad parts of feminism were:

    the promotion of abortion and sexual freedom/promiscuity (made possible, of course, by contraception);

    a hostile attitude toward men in general and toward male authority figures in particular;

    the notion that children do not need both a mother and a father and that those roles are interchangeable at will;

    the idea that all differences between men and women are purely cultural and can be changed with enough social conditioning;

    the loss of respect for stay at home wives and mothers (who as I pointed out above, often cared for older or disabled relatives as well as children); and

    the idea that women could “have it all” in the sense of being able to devote themselves entirely to career advancement without consideration for its effect on their family lives. (Of course men also need to consider this too — “workaholic” men who are never there for their wives or children have a detrimental effect on family life also.)

    Now, what were the “good” parts of feminism, if feminism is even the right word to describe it? I would say they were:

    the promotion of equal pay for equal work and of women’s right to enter any profession or occupation for which they are qualified;

    the belief that education for women should be taken as seriously as that of men;

    eliminating the attitude that women did not need education or career training because they could just rely on their future husbands to take care of them (this attitude did still exist even in my parent’s and grandparent’s generation, even though women can always lose even the most devoted husbands and fathers to death or disability, and he could always lose his job, requiring her to step in as breadwinner);

    the end of legal principles and employment practices that treated women, especially married women, as if they were perpetual minors; and

    getting rid of the presumption that women were at fault when they suffered domestic violence, rape or sexual abuse. Of course, some feminists go overboard in the other direction nowadays and act as if all men are potential rapists, or as if ONLY men are ever violent or abusive. Women can commit these crimes too. However, it was not that long ago when women who were raped or abused by male partners or relatives were routinely treated by the police and courts as if they must be lying or must have “asked for it. ”

    So, not all social changes affecting the role of women in the post-World War II era have been bad or destructive of family life. Nor was there necessarily some kind of overarching “plan” or plot to destroy marriage and the family involved. However, many social movements and changes that start out good or have good aspects can end up having unintended and ultimately destructive consequences. The trick is to weed out the good from the bad.

  • Dear Elaine,
    Sorry I didn’t answer you last night. I was exhausted after an afternoon of clearing the fence line of 10-foot wild roses and briars and 6-foot golden rod, and lopping dozens of saplings and brush. Not as young as I used to be.
    The lie of feminism. You said it yourself: it’s the lie that women can have it all; that women are entitled to it all and deserve it all; that they can have it all with no consequences to anyone, least of all themselves; that they are and always have been victims of male oppression; that, as soon as they cast off the chains of male oppression, they will live happy, fulfilled, satisfied lives (“we have nothing to lose but our chains”), etc. etc. etc. Women are the oppressed. Patriarchy is the oppressive system, and it must be thrown off. Sounds like a political philosophy to me. (BTW, Bella Abzug was the name I had forgotten–a real sweetheart.)

    As an economic policy, consider this. My husband’s first salary as a chemist was $500/month, $6,000/year. Our small family could could live without effort on that salary. (As a Lieutenant, J.G., before discharge, it was just short of that.) I don’t remember the tax structure, but, for our purposes, let’s say, 10%, we paid $600 in federal income tax. Now, if I could have been persuaded to go to work for, say, $400/month or $4800/year, our combined income would be $10,800, and our taxes, now in a higher income bracket of say, 13%, would be $1,404. ($6000 + $4800 x .13) That’s more than double the taxes due on my husband’s single income And then there is the increased revenue from gasoline taxes (two cars needed now), and probably smaller families (fewer child tax deductions and fewer children to educate, with the additional bonus of having children for longer hours to indoctrinate), less volunteerism justifying federal programs to fill the gap in addition to redistribution of wealth. You don’t think that leftist mouthes were salivating over this? Think of all the federal programs that could be maintained, and, after all, we didn’t NEED that much, and others certainly deserved it more. Sounds like a political philosophy to me and a good basis on which to build a political structure. I think that there was a plan.

    The fact that children were made to bear the brunt of this revolution by having to become the parent and the emotional support of the now-victimized mother, by being forced, as small children, to live according to an adult schedule–out of bed at 6 am (bad night? no sleep? too bad, mother’s got to go to work. See you at 6-pm–that is is of little concern to anyone, except perhaps the mother with a tender conscience.

    Education as “the fall back” insurance? How helpful is a 20-year old degree in anthropology in getting back in the workforce at an advanced level? A late career is more likely to be behind the counter or the cash register. If you want to advance in a career, you’d better stick with it after graduating. BTW, a stack of pay stubs is pretty cold comfort at the end of one’s life, and the mother who abandoned her children to day care, will probably be abandoned to a nursing home in her old age when she can no longer play golf with her friends in the retirement home.

    Lower income? As an employer why should I pay a woman as much as I pay a man if, after a year’s training, she is likely to decide that her biological clock is winding down and she wants to quit her job and raise a family, or she falls asleep in a department meeting (I”ve seen it happen) because she was up all night with a feverish child, or she takes maternity leave and leaves her work burden to fall on all of the single women in the department, whose work load is already overburdened because the economy is bad and the company isn’t hiring.

    And the boys. (Another big lie: that boys got all the recognition in class and girls were ignored. I don’t know how that got past the giggle test. Girls were the favored sex in every class I was in in grade or high school). The boys really suffered, especially during adolescence, when they are already feeling the ground shift under their feet, they are told to go to the back of the bus and shut up. It was the “girls’ turn.” I had a son who suffered that indignity (born in 1971, BTW. His nearest sibling was born in 1961). These days, every professional program in college enrolls more women than me. When I began a career in publishing after attending college in my 50s, every male acquisitions editor was replaced with a female when he left the company. Every Catholic church that allowed girls at the altar, now have almost no boys. (One parish in our vicinity has 27 extraordinary ministers on a Sunday. About 4 of them are men.)

    There is lots more to say, but that’s enough for now, except to say that the worst lie of all is the one that says that this life can be perfect if I can just manipulate and control all the people and circumstances in my life. It’s not perfect. Never was; never will be. Some sacrifices are worth it.

  • When I speak of women’s education being taken less serioiusly in the past, I am thinking primarily of higher education — the notion that women didn’t “need” or had no use for education beyond high school.

    In grade and high school, yes, girls are and always have been “favored” in the sense that teachers tend to like them better and because they are better able to sit through classes and obey the rules than most boys can. Young boys, of course, would rather be up and about doing something other than sitting at a desk, and tend to have shorter attention spans. As a result, they are far more likely to be labeled as being “hyperactive” or having ADD or some variation thereof than girls are. (Yet another manifestation of the feminist notion that all sex differences are purely cultural and can be programmed out of a child if you try hard enough)

    Although I never got to experience it myself (I attended a Catholic high school that had been all-boys but had gone co-ed a few years earlier) I personally believe single-sex education at the junior high and high school level would be a great thing — it would enable boys to learn to be men and girls to learn to be women in an environment where they don’t have to worry about how they are going to look in front of the opposite sex, PLUS they would have teachers who don’t have to deal with both sexes at once also. Now before anyone asks “But how are they going to learn how to get along with the opposite sex,” well, they have all their off hours, weekends, and summer vacations to do that, right?

    The decline of single-sex education is, I agree, one of the saddest casualties of the feminist movement.

    As for the preponderance of women among extraordinary ministers and the like… well, women are and always have tended to be more “churchy” and religiously observant than men in our culture, and in past generations (like my father’s and grandfather’s, and if you are Catholic, I am sure you remember this also) usually husbands were more likely to lapse from the faith and leave their wives and kids to go to Mass by themselves every Sunday, than the other way around. This was the case long before Vatican II.

    That, I think, is more a result of men abdicating THEIR responsibility to show spiritual leadership and leaving it to women to fill the void, than of women consciously attempting to take over.

    C.S. Lewis wrote that the “crown” of headship than the husband wears as head of the home is a “crown of thorns” that, too often, he shoves off on his wife and forces HER to carry, rather than grasping too eagerly for it himself. But, I digress. That could be a topic for another day.

  • Thanks, Elaine. Re: the church with the 27 E.M.s a week, 4 of them men (BTW, the bulletin of that parish reports a collection of only 250 envelopes or so each week. We left that parish after a couple of years.) Our present parish has only altar boys, a group of about 40 boys and young men–no girls allowed, the Faith is taught uncompromisingly and without apology, and, coincidentally, I have been observing of late the number of men in the congregation. Except for the widows and young unmarried women (the young, unmarried men are serving at the altar), just about every family on a Sunday comes equipped with a husband/father, and there are a number of widowers also. It’s true that, in many instances, women are only filling a leadership void in the family, but, do you know, it took a long for my husband to find out that I didn’t buy the woman’s lib. stuff, and, thinking that I did, he backed off his leadership so that I wouldn’t feel “oppressed.” Men read the newspapers and watch TV, too.

    My husband gave me a birthday card once with the message: “Happy Birthday from the one who rules the roost to the one who rules the rooster.” I loved it.

    There has never been “man’s work” and woman’s work” in our home. I have always shoveled as much snow as he in the winter–at least timewise, my shovelfuls were a little smaller. He dries the dishes, and he has done the cooking since I went to work and he was working from the home. I drive the John Deere, mowing all the pastures, even the long, steep front hill; he uses the electric mower to get where the tractor can’t go. I clean house and do laundry. He helps hang clothes on the line if he’s handy. He fixes plumbing and electrical connections. He plasters, I sand, paint, and varnish. He puts up wall paper. I trim sheep’s hooves while he keeps the sheep amused or sometimes holds them still on their backs in his lap on the ground. He saws downed trees and branches. I pack up the brush in the wagon and drive it to the brush pile. We both throw it up and over. I pick up the fork to get the olives out of the jar. He picks up the spoon. He has taught me, by example, to be kind; I have taught him that a huge job can be tackled one step at a time, that he doesn’t need to be overwhelmed by any job, no matter how large. He keeps me grounded; I help him fly a little. We cut each other a lot of slack because both of our physical stamina and our memories are slowing down. It was his impetus to convert to the Catholic Church. I followed along. Am I blessed, or what?

Are Public Employees Overpaid?

Saturday, October 9, AD 2010

If you believe what you read on blogs or hear from certain politicians and pundits, a new kind of haves-vs.-have-nots class war is brewing across the land. Not between the rich and the poor, but between private and public sector workers, as related here.

Scandalous stories of public officials enjoying lavish or disproportionate pay and benefits at taxpayer expense, such as in Bell, Calif., and elsewhere , frequently make headlines and prompt calls for reductions in such compensation.

As with many other economic and taxation issues, the answer to the question posed in the title of this post usually depends on which side of the political spectrum you are on. Conservatives tend to answer “yes,” while liberals tend to answer “no” .

But which side is correct?

Before I delve into that question, I will first make some disclosures.  I am a full-time employee of the state of Illinois, making $35,000 per year. I do not belong to a union, and due to the nature of my job and agency, probably never will. I have only received one raise the entire time I have been so employed (nearly 4 years) due to a promotion to a slightly higher job level. I do not expect to receive any raises for the foreseeable future; in fact a pay cut is a distinct possibility. Prior to that I worked 20 years in private sector employment in the newspaper field. In some instances the pay and benefits were comparable to, and even better than, my current job. In other instances they were not as good.

Now to the question: are public employees overpaid? That depends on who you ask and how one defines “overpaid”. The average pay of state and federal employees in general is higher than that of private sector workers in general. When broken down by education, profession, etc. the picture is not as cut and dried. For lower-skilled jobs requiring only a high school or vocational education — e.g. custodians, receptionists, guards — the public sector pays better, whereas for professional jobs requiring a college degree or higher (attorneys, doctors, CPAs, etc.), the private sector pays more — often a lot more. These articles from Kiplinger and from Governing.com explain the differences in greater detail.

Two of the biggest reasons for these disparities are that 1) public employment tends to have a greater percentage of jobs requiring a college education or beyond and 2) public sector jobs are more likely to be unionized.

Public employee unions are a favorite bete noire of fiscal conservative politicians and candidates at the moment, and much of the public seems to agree with them. The fact that public employees continue in many (though not all) states and localities to enjoy benefits most private employees no longer have, such as regular salary increases, defined benefit pension plans, and caps on health insurance premiums and co-pays, arouses resentment among ordinary citizens who are forced to pay for such benefits via taxation.

Although many officeholders and candidates talk a good game when it comes to reining in public employee benefits, in practice the most frequent targets of budget cutting measures such as layoffs, furlough days and pay cuts, are lower or mid-level non-union employees. They often end up being punished for the sins (real or perceived) of their higher placed or unionized colleagues, simply because they are the easiest targets — not protected by either union contracts or political/personal connections.

The biggest problems on a state and local level are pension deficits — the growing gaps between the amount of money in public pension funds and the amount of benefits those funds are expected to pay in the future. According to this report by the Pew Center on the States, pension shortfalls are fiscal time bombs that threaten to devour entire state and city budgets if nothing is done to defuse them before it is too late.

How did the situation get that bad? In most cases it was due to a variety of factors — yes, generous union contracts played a part, but so did repeated failure on the part of lawmakers to invest properly in public pension funds, demographic changes (aging of the Baby Boomers, people living longer), and investments tanking due to the recession. No one factor can be singled out, and the entire blame for the pension crisis cannot be laid at the feet of one person or group of people. But regardless of who is or was to blame, the problem has to be dealt with, not swept under the rug.

Private sector employees are quick to point out that while they have to support public employee benefits with their taxes, public employees are not forced to do the same for private employees — they can choose whether or not to do business with a private company.

I agree, and this is in my opinion an argument that should be taken most seriously. For that reason, public employees are by necessity accountable to the public and will always be subject to various restrictions and considerations that do not apply to private employees (e.g., their salaries being public information).  This is not “unfair” or unequal, but simply part of the deal one signs up for when working for a government body.

Another claim often made by private employees is that government workers, by virtue of the pay, job security and benefits they enjoy, are artificially insulated from the realities their privately employed neighbors face — the constant threat of being fired or laid off, lack of retirement security, worry about medical bills, etc.

That might, perhaps, be true of top officials/administrators with strong political connections who make six-figure salaries, whose spouses have equally high-paying positions, and whose children or other family members are completely healthy. Otherwise, I am not so sure.

Many public employees, particularly non-union ones, are regularly threatened with layoffs or missed paychecks (most often at the end of a fiscal year). Given the poor financial standing of many public employee pension funds, combined with the fact that some public employees don’t get Social Security, I’d say many of them (including myself) who are 10 years or more away from retirement are just as worried about their retirement as you are.

Also, most public employees do not live in a bubble or a vacuum. Most used to work in the private sector at some time in their lives, and many are married to spouses who work in the “real world” or are currently unemployed or disabled. Their grown children, their parents, their siblings, and their friends and neighbors  include private employees or unemployed persons looking for work. The only exceptions I can think of might be political “dynasty” families like the Kennedys or Daleys. Plus, public employees pay all the same taxes everyone else does — federal, state, sales, property, the whole works. If taxes go up, it cuts into their budgets too.

Just because someone has a government job doesn’t mean they have, or should have, no interest in whether private business succeeds. If factories close and move overseas, if private companies go bankrupt and abolish or raid pension funds, if high taxes drive up the cost of living, if college education becomes unaffordable without taking on ruinous levels of debt — it affects them and their families too. It is in everyone’s interest, no matter what kind of job they have, to have a fiscally sound and honest government, competent public employees, and a sustainable tax structure.

Also, do not forget that for every instance in which a public official received undeserved pay, pensions or perks at taxpayer expense one could probably cite an equally egregious case of a private business executive enjoying lavish pay and benefits at the expense of fired workers, closed factories/offices, or raided pension funds. Greed is greed no matter where it occurs, and no sector of the economy is exempt from the effects of original sin.

Finally, since this is a Catholic blog, we should approach this issue from a religious perspective as well. Christ Himself chose a public employee, Matthew the tax collector, to be one of His Apostles. He also told His followers to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” So, apparently, He did not believe that working for the government was inherently evil, unproductive or exploitive.

Some more pointed advice was given by Christ’s precursor, John the Baptist, to the public servants of his day who came to see him (Luke 3:12-14):

“Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”

John was referring to practices for which the public employees of the day were notorious — tax collectors often overcharged citizens and pocketed the “profit” they made, while Roman soldiers were known for shaking down citizens of the provinces they occupied for money, food, or other goods. Here John is telling them simply to do their duty, not demand any more of the public than the law requires, and be content with what they are paid. If today’s public officials and employees did the same, there would be a lot fewer problems.

As with most problems in a fallen world, there is no perfectly just way to balance the need for a professional, competent government workforce with that of a private sector free of unnecessary taxes and regulation. This does not mean, however, that we should not attempt to find as just a resolution as possible. However this will require people who are not to blame for the situation to help clean it up, and at considerable personal cost.

For public employees, this means more work for less pay, more out of pocket expenses, and for some, no job at all. For the rest of us it could mean higher taxes, reduced services or some combination of the two. All these things will impact thousands, even millions, of good, hardworking people who are simply doing the best they can and had no part in creating the situation. It may not be perfectly fair, but life ain’t fair.

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18 Responses to Are Public Employees Overpaid?

  • Excellent Post, Elaine!!

    But… I would like to raise a couple of points.

    Also, do not forget that for every instance in which a public official received undeserved pay, pensions or perks at taxpayer expense one could probably cite an equally egregious case of a private business executive enjoying lavish pay and benefits at the expense of fired workers, closed factories/offices, or raided pension funds. Greed is greed no matter where it occurs, and no sector of the economy is exempt from the effects of original sin.

    While I do agree that greed is a problem in some cases, I believe that there are instances where people can be too judgemental of a person who is wealthy or “rich” in the private sector who has been successful in life. Some may perceive a particular “rich” person as being greedy but in actuality that person may give to causes and foundations but we just may not know about it. Maybe, they want to donate and not have it spread across the news? Both envy and jealousy are also sins.

    In the private sector businesses usually either make it or they don’t, whereas with the public sector the workers or that particular government program can pretty much count on being bailed out, and if “needed” taxes will be raised or a new tax will be implemented without having the taxpayers consent, in most cases. Plus, the private sector doesn’t usually get bailouts as they did under Bush and Obama. And, that was only a few companies.

    Private sector jobs do not force people to patronage them like the public sector demands taxpayers to pay taxes to be subsidized by the public. Yes, the “little guy” usually draws the short straw and is the one to pay. While I believe that layoffs are a terrible thing, do you honestly think that a successful entrepreneur who started his/her own business, been in business for a number of years,and is being affected by the downturn should be the one to “pay” the consequences of downturn? The business person/owner may not be the employee who is being layed off, and probably doesn’t want to layoff any employees but in actuality he may feel compelled to layoff some employees just to keep his/her business afloat in tough economic times.

    When I lived in MD, the property tax prices were skyrocketing ( one lady’s taxes went from $300 to $900 in one year) because of how much the teachers and government bureaucrats in the Dept. of Education were being overpaid so the taxpayers voted on a ballot initiative to limit their increases to 2% per year. I believe there needs to be a cap on the amount of pay increase that ALL public sector employees may receive each year- maybe at 2%?

  • I’m not saying that ALL private sector layoffs are evil or motivated by greed, but mainly thinking of those really infamous cases like Enron or cases that involved actual fraud or embezzlement.

    Mainly I’m just saying that I’d prefer not to see the same kind of class warfare rhetoric that conservatives find so offensive when applied to the private sector rich in general, being applied to public sector workers in general — i.e. demonizing them as all lazy, unproductive, corrupt, etc, the way liberals do to the “rich.”

  • While this post displays a sense of justice toward individuals whether they be employed by the public or private sectors it also seems to operate on the premise that their is some level of equivalency between the two.

    From an economic and social justice perspective the goal ought to be minimizing the number of government employees and maximizing the number of private sector employees. How we get there can be debated but this needs to be the fundamental premise.

  • The use of “their” should be “there” in the above post.

  • I’ve been in the civil service for 16 years. During most of that time, study after study showed us to be greatly underpaid for our work. During the Clinton Administration – a period of unparalleled economic prosperity – the Administration repeatedly sought to limit pay and benefits increases because the government sought to pay down debt. Until quite recently, getting candidates for other than starting-level jobs has been quite difficult.

    I’m not complaining. I believe that I am paid fairly for my work. However, the present complaints about civil service pay are really quite silly. Most of our jobs were scarce sought after during better economic periods. It is only during economic downturns that people are anxious for public sector employment.

    Really, this has nothing to do with pay… It has EVERYTHING to do with uncertainty. The complaint is spurred by the uncertainty of the private sector. Job uncertainty is terrifying and unpleasant and many feel that it is just not fair that the public sector has job security. I’d wager that lower wages would not make those complaining feel any better. They feel like we need to be punished. We need to suffer job uncertainty. We need to fear the loss of our station in life if “fairness” shall reign. In other words, everyone should suffer together.

    It is hardly a Christian sentiment but is surely is a human one.

  • “At a time when workers’ pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees’ average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
    Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row. The compensation gap between federal and private workers has doubled in the past decade.

    Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.

    The federal compensation advantage has grown from $30,415 in 2000 to $61,998 last year.

    Public employee unions say the compensation gap reflects the increasingly high level of skill and education required for most federal jobs and the government contracting out lower-paid jobs to the private sector in recent years.

    “The data are not useful for a direct public-private pay comparison,” says Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

    Chris Edwards, a budget analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, thinks otherwise. “Can’t we now all agree that federal workers are overpaid and do something about it?” he asks.”


  • In my above post “patronage” is supposed to be “patronize”.


    You make an excellent point! Why is there so much disparity of pay between private sector and public sector jobs? And, these days much of what the government does is filled with wasteful projects, and the money could be allocated in a much better fashion.


    While some government employees are not corrupt and unproductive others are indeed corrupt and unproductive ( I am in no way saying you are corrupt or unproductive). There isn’t really class warfare being engaged by those criticizing the employees pay in the public sector but rather taxpayers are wanting our monies to be allocated properly, and not wastefully used on excesses, as is happening in our government Today. When the taxpayers are responsible for subsidizing those who work in the public sector and not those employees in the private sector than it isn’t a double standard to criticize one group and not the other. There are different circumstances and relationships involved between the taxpayers and these two groups of employees.

  • I’m a private sector employee in a sea of public sector employees. On the one hand, it isn’t exactly fair to compare government workers to private employees when they are, on average, more highly educated. Something like 80 percent of the population in the DC metro area have some form of graduate degree, and obviously many of these work for in the public sector. Based on education and experience, I would say the public sector compensation is largely fair.

    That said, there is a comfort level that public sector employees enjoy that those in the private sector do not. While strictly speaking it’s not impossible to be fired, it is a bit more difficult to get the axe if you work for the government at any level. Are many public sector jobs superfluous? Yeah, and I say that as someone who had such a job back when I still lived and worked for the city of New York. We had pretty much an entire agency where five people could have done the job of the 30 or 40 of us that were there.

    I think the question isn’t whether public sector employees are overpaid (they’re not), but rather whether or not there are simply too many of them (there probably are).

  • A good analysis of the comparison of public and private compensation:


    I think differing education levels between public and private employees are somewhat misleading. I have a secretary who has been with me for 25 years. She is a high school graduate. She is also bright, hard working, a superb organizer and an excellent learner. She manages my office and assists me with the litigation portion of my practice. During the past 25 years she has attained a good practical grasp of legal procedures. I have no doubt that if the roles she fills were staffed according to federal job procedures, I would have at least two employees, one with an Associates Degree and the other with a BA. In the private sector my secretary has the skills and the jobs but not the educational credentials.

  • I think the question isn’t whether public sector employees are overpaid (they’re not), but rather whether or not there are simply too many of them (there probably are).

    Paul’s conclusion is correct. I recently began working for the federal government, and the problem isn’t so much that federal workers are overpaid and lazy, but that there are way too many statutory requirements driving their workload.

    Let me give you an example:

    A story hits the newspapers; the Dept. of Defense paid $700 for a screwdriver. Never mind the fact that this is probably mostly a fluke of cost averaging in some account ledger; Joe Q. Taxpayer is outraged! Our Congresscritters listen; they pass a law called the Defense Acquisition Workers Improvement Act (DAWIA – Google it, if you’ve never heard of this lovely). Henceforth, all federal civilian workers in the defense contracting field must take five bazillion hours of training in How Not To Pay $700 For A Screwdriver. Congratulations, America – you’re now paying $100,000 to save $695 on a screwdriver.

  • I think NRO recently looked at this. As noted public employees tend to be better educated. Part of this is certain govt. programs that reimburse for classes thus encouraging better education. Controlling for better education (as well as a number of other factors noted) public employess still make about 12% more than private sector employees.

  • “Henceforth, all federal civilian workers in the defense contracting field must take five bazillion hours of training in How Not To Pay $700 For A Screwdriver.”

    The running joke of the last few years among State of Illinois employees is the so-called “ethics test,” an online training tool in Q & A format which all workers have to complete once a year. When you complete it, that fact is registered electronically and you also have to print out a certificate to sign and present to your supervisor.

    Many of the right answers are or should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense and honesty, and it could easily be completed in about 10 minutes by experienced State employees who are familiar with the subject matter, questions and answers. However, there have been cases of employees “flunking” the test — not being registered as having completed it — because they completed it that quickly. In order to avoid this, many workers resort to dilatory tactics such as taking coffee or bathroom breaks in the middle of the “test” so they don’t finish it too fast.

    Of course, the biggest irony surrounding the ethics test is that it was instituted by Governor Hairdo as a way of demonstrating his commitment to reform in state government.

  • This is a very good article and discussion.

    With regard to education, we have a big problem in this country revolving around discrimination law. An employer doesn’t look for the best person for the job; he looks for the person he can document is the most qualified person for the job. The bigger the organization, the greater the priority on quantifiable credentials. The open secret is that degrees don’t make you a better worker. But HR isn’t looking for better workers.

  • Oops. Let me finish that thought. I’d like to see less consideration of a person’s academics in determining his wages. Under our current thinking, it’s reasonable to have the best-educated workforce the government can get, and it’s reasonable that they should be paid more on the basis of their education. But that way of thinking is wrong. Ultimately, it’s unjust.

  • Elaine,

    The economic consequence of this kind of legislation (whether it’s your ethics example or my DAWIA example) is that it takes time away from doing actual work. Unless there’s a corresponding return on that training investment (which I strongly doubt), it’s spending more dollars than dollars saved. Marginal cost exceeds marginal benefit. And it requires that the government hire more FTEs for the same amount of work.

    Why not do a better job of screening new hires in the first place? In my experience, that’s what the private sector does better. They don’t require their employees to take hundreds of hours of training because they’re confident that they’re getting people with the right experience or, at the very least, are smart enough to figure out their new jobs. My #1 complaint (so far) working for the government is, they don’t treat their people like adults. Sometimes that attitude is deserved, but for most of us, it’s insulting and wastes our time. I have graduate degrees and 12+ years of professional work experience; do I *really* need to take that course in report writing???

  • I’d like to see less consideration of a person’s academics in determining his wages.

    Ideally, public sector wages would have some relationship to value marginal product of labor. But how do you measure government “output?” If the federal agency that employs me were eliminated tomorrow, the Earth would go on turning just fine. However, it’s also likely that we’d see fraud, waste, and all sorts of bad outcomes creep up over time if went to a completely self-policing regime. So our “product” is probably worth something more than $0 and less than the hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for it.

  • Most of us know public sector and private sector employees who are overpaid and others who are underpaid. It is people who may or may not be overpaid.

    Recalling E.F. Schumacher somewhere in Small Is Beautiful, only something like 4% of modern society actually produces something tangible of real worth. The remaining 96% of us sell it, warehouse it, advertise it, account for it, legislate about it, sue about it, transport it, broadcast about it, blog about it, keep tabs on it, deal with warranty claims about it, stock and shelve it, scan it, accept payment for it, put it on layaway, display it, and on and on. Most of us work in a world of electronic digits. Actually productive citizens are few and far between, says Schumacher. I think he’s dead right.

  • Update: New Washington Post poll shows majority of Americans believe federal employees to be overpaid and less hard working than private sector workers:


The Third Rail of the Catholic Blogosphere

Friday, September 17, AD 2010

The “third rail” to which I refer — a topic likely to severely burn any Catholic blogger, particularly a male blogger, daring or foolish enough to touch it — is the issue of modest and appropriate dress … specifically, whether Catholic women ought to prefer wearing skirts/dresses rather than pants or jeans at all times.

This Great Pants Debate seems to have triggered an intense reaction on some other Catholic blogs. So, as a currently active female member of TAC, I thought I would tackle it so the guys would not have to endanger themselves or their domestic peace by doing so.

The debate began with this recent post (http://www.catholicity.com/message/2010-07-30.html) at CatholiCity. The author counsels observant Catholic women to eschew pants and wear skirts or dresses at all times because this will, he says, enable good Catholic men like himself to appreciate their God-given femininity without being (ahem) distracted or tempted by certain physical attributes.

Meanwhile, other bloggers (http://simchafisher.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/pants-a-manifesto-2/) and commenters (http://markshea.blogspot.com/2010/09/go-simcha.html) reacted with amusement, outrage, resentment, defensiveness, or some combination of them. Some dubbed the author’s teaching “sola skirtura” and characterized it as merely a chauvinistic man’s attempt to control women instead of controlling himself. Others saw it as a ham-handed attempt to create a litmus test for judging a woman’s piety, chastity, and/or obedience to her husband. Still others attempted to defend the author by citing the dress code Padre Pio imposed on penitents and the reported warning of Our Lady of Fatima concerning “certain fashions… that will offend God very much.”

I must admit I was surprised at the level of interest in this subject — more than 600 comments just on Simcha Fisher’s and Mark Shea’s blogs alone. I would have thought that a debate over whether or not it is appropriate for Catholic women to wear pants would be about as timely as, say, the Kennedy-Nixon debate over Quemoy and Matsu. For most people that train left the station at least 40 years ago. Why the big deal now?

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17 Responses to The Third Rail of the Catholic Blogosphere

  • Looks like whoever writes the dress code in Rome agrees. 🙂

  • Note that the author of the piece that triggered this inanity alleges that _he_ wears skirts, a rather peculiar style for most men in most places these days. In line with usual journalistic practice, it might be worth checking out the nature of the source before paying any attention to his words.

  • Elaine, the author of this post, is most definitely not a man.

  • I read the linked Catholicity article.

    Does the bloke who wrote it really a Muslim – perhaps of the Taliban persuasion?
    I found his points 1,2,4,5,6 & 8 very extreme.

  • Don, some of the commenters on Simcha Fisher’s blog seemed to know the guy by reputation at least–it seems there is at least anecdotal evidence that he’s a rad trad Catholic of extremely Puritanical stripe (also, a general jerk and hypocrite on some matters other than Apantscalypse 2010.) I’ve often reflected that political diametric opposites actually resemble each other; perhaps the same can be said of religious diametric opposites.

    And thanks for providing me the opportunity to work “Apantscalypse” into this thread! “Legmageddon” also came to mind, but it just doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely.

  • The consensus seems to be that the author of the original Catholicity article — the “rad trad Catholic of extremely Puritanical stripe” — was Bud McFarlane. However, I prefer not to get into a debate about HIS character. I was simply rather struck by the fact that hundreds of people would be so concerned about the viewpoint of one “rad trad Catholic”.

    At least the whole affair has inspired some creativity — sola skitura, Apantscalypse, Legmageddon 🙂

  • As a practicing (and conservative) Catholic, aged 26, I confess to be completely astonished by this controversey.

    I can’t be considered an orthodox Catholic, but I don’t know what the controversey really is with jeans and pants.

    But those I do know who are orthodox Catholics do not seem engaged in this controversey either. I see them wearing the same things everyone else is — with a bit more modesty in terms of shorts, of course.

    I could just be used to current dress, however. But between wearing pants and wearing a skirt — I am completely befuddled.

  • I (a man) like the idea of women wearing dresses and skirts; but I find the common reasoning — that it’s less distracting to men — unconvincing. A pair of slacks covers at least as much as a skirt, and as long as they aren’t tight, they don’t show off any physical attributes. On the other hand, a woman in a dress or skirt does look more feminine, and isn’t femininity in itself distracting for men — especially when it’s rare, as these days?

    I find the same thing to be true about veiling. Some say women should veil to hide their distractingly attractive hair from men. But the first time I went to a Latin Mass, the first person I met was a young woman wearing a long veil, and I thought, “Wow, she’s gorgeous.” Meeting her later in civvies, I realized she was pretty enough, but not as stunning as she had been in dress and veil.

    If women should wear dresses and skirts (and veils), I think it has to be because it makes them look and feel more feminine, not because it reduces temptation for men. If that were the goal, they should all wear baggy sweats — and not wash them very often.

  • “If that (reducing temptation for men) were the goal, they should all wear baggy sweats — and not wash them very often.”

    LOL Aaron! I know some of the commenters on the other blogs had a sneaking suspicion that the men who are most insistent upon women always wearing dresses and wearing veils to Mass were not really interested in minimizing “distraction” — just the opposite, they wanted prettier looking women TO distract them!

    Hmmm, maybe I could start a counter-movement of women who wear baggy sweats, don’t do laundry or wash their hair too often, and eat lots of chocolate and potato chips because they are simply trying to protect men from temptations against chastity 😉

  • To all, there is an interesting website dealing with the whole issue of Catholic modesty: http://www.catholicmodesty.com/

  • As a man, maliciously forced into celibacy, I am quite torn about this. I do not want the temptation but as a man I remain attracted to women and enjoy their beauty. I would not want to be a near occasion for sin for anyone
    and I certainly do not want to place myself in a position where temptation would be unlikely to be resisted.

    So its my tough luck. I am glad to be old enough to deal with my circumstances but I have sympathy for those who find the temptation a great burden. I resent priests who moan about celibacy, when they had a choice. I wish they would shut up, grow up and understand others are forced, by the policies of the Church, to live the life they chose. I am not a fan of a lot of priests. But that is a diferent axe to grind.

  • I think there might be a generational and sexual divide on this question. I have no problems whatsoever with pants (my wife wears them quite frequently and I have no objections-though quite frankly she’d laugh at me if I did). Men of my generation have been raised in a pornographic culture-by the internet and media, men are trained to automatically objectify women, and it’s quite a struggle to turn that habit off (though it can be done, through grace). It’s difficult for women or men who grew up without the Internet to quite comprehend this. It seems to me that standards of modesty might need to be increased or emphasized more to counter this. That said, Elaine’s suggestions for modesty seem perfectly reasonable to me, so I guess I’m simply advocating for women to be conscious in how difficult a struggle it is for many men of my generation.

    Now, I might argue that Padre Pio was correct, in that a skirt or dress in his culture and ours is dressier and thus more appropriate for the serious occasions of Mass & Confession. However, I’m a guy who wears suits to Mass, so I tend to be a little stricter than the norms on such issues.

  • My saintly grandmother referred to proper, modest attire as “dressing with charity.” As in, don’t frighten children, startle women, or cause men to commit an instantaneous mortal sin. I think I read something once in the FSSP newsletter about women wearing dresses (there may have been a lightly implied “or else”), but otherwise I’ve never encountered the topic off these internets. I’m desperately mildly curious to know how women keep warm in skirts during northern winters. And how kilts fit into the overall picture. And if manufacturers should take some responsibility, and simply say no to micro-miniskirts, superscooped halter tops, and mankinis.

  • Thanks for the moderation and common sense you express on this issue.

    I’m amazed at the vitriol and hatred directed at those who suggest that pants might not be the optimally modest dress for women in many situations.

    It does, I think, underscore a division between the more liberal folks who have imbued the spirit of the post-conciliar age, in which such questions are prima facie indicators of incurable fussiness and puritanism, and those who hearken back to a time, only 40 years ago, when Catholics routinely asked these questions about the parameters of modesty. Perhaps, with traditional Catholicism on the upswing, these types of issues are bound to surface, as the the younger set, or converts perhaps, unaware that these issues are even important, discover that yes, Catholics think it worthwhile to figure out what’s modest, what’s not, and seek for perfection, rather than for whatever fashion or habit urge us to accept.

  • I must admit that as a woman, I find myself confused. Dresses seem far more alluring (more feminine) than pants are. I think of pants as practical – business suits, jeans. Assuming the pants aren’t too tight, I would think that they are even more modest than dresses/skirts. I’ll admit I’ve never given this much consideration, but this is the exact opposite of what I would have expected from a modesty standpoint.

  • “My saintly grandmother referred to proper, modest attire as ‘dressing with charity.'”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself Suz. Actually the virtue of modesty isn’t ONLY about avoiding occasions of lust; it also means avoiding tempting others to envy or making them feel embarrassed or out of place. Someone who flaunts their ability to afford and wear designer clothing, for example, in front of people who are not as affluent, may also be guilty of immodesty even if they are completely covered from neck to toe and not a flash of skin is showing.

Filial Responsibility Laws and the Fourth Commandment

Friday, September 3, AD 2010

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD, your God, is giving you. — Exodus 20:12

The Fourth Commandment is most often interpreted as a directive for children to obey their parents and, by extension, for persons of all ages to obey lawful authorities. It has also been interpreted to mean that children remain obligated to respect, honor, and love their parents even after they reach the age of majority and are no longer bound to obey them.

Moreover, other passages in Scripture make it clear that this commandment carries with it a certain level of responsibility to care for parents who have become elderly or disabled:

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12 Responses to Filial Responsibility Laws and the Fourth Commandment

  • One problem is assessing the degree to which adult children can and should be held responsible.

    1. It is atypical for members of the current generation of elderly to have any kind of long term care insurance. The full force of expenses fall on the assets of the family.

    2. The minority who are admitted to nursing homes for aught but temporary rehabilitation are there (if I am not mistaken) a mean of two years or so. The cost for such would be ruinous for all but a few families. Mean annual charges for residence in a nursing home run to $104,000 here in Upstate New York.

    3. Care at home is agreeable, but it will commonly require some adult to give up their employment (which in turn impairs the ability of the family to support any future institutional care).

    4. Filial responsibility assumes something that is commonly but not universally true: that the infirm and addled parent will co-operate with their children in arranging various aspects of their care.

    5. Adult children are not legal guardians of their parents. An elder lawyer of my acquaintance recently informed me that guardianship proceedings are wretchedly expensive, emotionally wrenching, and will at times fail for the plaintiff.

    You have to be very careful with this sort of thing and see to it that structural mal-adjustments are removed (points 4 & 5), transactions costs (lawyers’ fees) are brought to a minimum, and an understanding is arrived at as to what portion of the assets of adult children can be attached and what sort of condition the parent must be in before institutional care is considered advisable. I have known people who sacrificed a great deal for their infirm parents (an engineer of my acquaintance has not worked for 14 years). I have also known elderly who were perfectly pig-headed and unmanageable by those around them.

  • Should their be penalties when deliberate neglect can be demonstrated? Possibly. But before such laws be enacted, I’d like to see a more just tax system in place, so that children can financially support their parents or provide for their care, etc. Welfare should be a last means of resort for those who have no other means of support. The government should not be taking away from income what should be used to meet one’s social obligations (including those beyond the family).

  • We live five blocks from my parents and less than an hour from my wife’s parents precisely because we have a responsibility to help them as they get older. Right now, this is not troublesome. We move boxes, fix things up around the house, take them shopping when they don’t feel up to driving, etc. Someday though, it is likely that the care required will be greater than we can manage while raising our children (3, 6, and 9).

    My brother is the director of a geriatric center and his stories are troubling. Of course, the most upsetting are those elderly persons who lie abandoned but the more common problem is that a lifetime of assets are wiped out very soon after admission to a full-care facility. If one has very few assets, $50,000 for example – the assets will be gone before a year is up and insurance will pick up from there. If one has a middling level of assets, perhaps $250,000 for example, your assets will also be gone before two or three years are up. Even the middling wealthy will last only five years or so before insurance is picking up the bulk of the cost.

    All this is to say that longevity due to medicine appears to have rendered the idea of saving for the end of one’s life a quaint notion. The end of life is now a democratized existence of managed care, insurance, and subsidy. Perhaps this is a fitting precursor to what follows.

    I am “investing for retirement” only in the sense that I want to live as well as I can before my body gives out. I expect to expend my assets BEFORE I require significant care. That will make me largely a ward of the State for a few years at the end but there is nothing I can do to forestall that so it is better to use the resources during a point that they can do me and my kin some good.

    This raises an ugly discussion about whether longevity without health is really a societal, familial, or individual good. Perhaps that is a topic for another time but it is a discussion I would like to see occur.

  • A filial responsibility law requiring all the siblings in such a scenario to contribute toward the cost of a parent’s care may help ease the burden on the primary caregiving sibling.

    If the assets of the other children can be attached by local courts. In the three cases of which I am personally acquainted, half of the children of the infirm parent live out of state.

  • “I expect to expend my assets BEFORE I require significant care… during a point that they can do me and my kin some good.”

    If you do, however, you should do so at least 5 years before you end up broke and in a nursing home (provided, of course, you have a crystal ball and can predict exactly when you will need to apply for Medicaid).

    Due to the change in federal law, nursing home residents who apply for Medicaid may be subject to penalty periods of ineligibilty equal to the amount of time they COULD have paid for their own care with any assets they gave away or disposed of at less than fair market value within the previous 5 years.

    If a penalty period is imposed, and a hardship waiver cannot be obtained, the resident then will have to get their children to cough up the money, move out of the home until the penalty period expires, or leave the nursing home holding the bag for those costs. This is the point at which some people think filial responsibility laws should be invoked.

    The purpose of the law, of course, is to discourage wealthy people from intentionally giving away significant assets to their children for the express purpose of “impoverishing” themselves so as to qualify for Medicaid.

    Unfortunately, depending on how the law is interpreted by Medicaid caseworkers, elder law attorneys, etc. it could also potentially come back to bite people who simply wanted to be generous to their children, grandchildren, friends, churches, charities, etc. if they cannot prove those transactions were made for a reason other than to attain Medicaid eligibility.

    This is a very difficult issue in that we have to balance the legitimate desire of people who have worked hard all their lives and want to leave something behind for their children and grandchildren, or give back to their community or church, with the legitimate interest of the state in insuring that Medicaid is reserved for the truly needy who have NO other means of obtaining care.

    How we can accomplish this, other than through encouraging people to purchase long term care insurance when they are still young and healthy enough that it won’t cost them an arm and a leg, I really don’t know.

  • This is where the locus of control is important. The parent may alienate assets without the knowledge or consent of her children (or at least a working majority of the children).

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  • One aspect that has not been discussed here: The choices that a couple make in readying for their later years affect and are affected by the economic structure of society. 100 years ago, most people aimed for having at least 4 or 5 kids, often more. As a result, when social security kicked in 1935, they could peg 5 paying workers for every retiree as an acceptable model. This ignored the fact that once people got to assuming that government would provide a healthy chunk of their retirement income (most people at the time, and for 50 years thereafter, assumed it would be the entirety of their retirement income) they ceased to have the same motivations toward having 4, 5, or more children. Family sizes dropped, which killed the possibility of retaining the 5 workers per retiree model. So a national choice to shift the responsibility onto “them” (the gov) induced changes that make meeting such responsibilities impossible.

    Similar problems occur with elderly home and health care. In point of fact, nobody can expect to live their last 2 years of life alone, without assistance. But with the reduction in the number of children, and the increase in house size and cost, the economic model of wife working (after 6 to 8 years out of the workforce, perhaps) means almost no wives are at home, available to care for grandma and grandpa.

    My family planned a bit better: we built a house with an in-law suite for my parents, 10 years before they hit their end-of-life issues, and my wife did not work outside the home. We had family available to care for the parents, including 2 of my sisters who were free to move in with us for several weeks at a shot, over the last 8 months of life, which Mom spent at home instead of miserable in an institution. But to be honest, all that still would not have been sufficient, if God had not also provided what we needed: there were many, many alternative scenarios where the resources that we had available would NOT have been adequate.

    While we need an economic model that encourages families to assume that they will care for their own parents, we ALSO need things like long-term care insurance to be a normal part of family expense.

  • Another consideration is that with the decline of manufacturing industries, the deterioration of certain urban areas and neighborhoods, etc., many times children must move hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their parents to find work. In the days when just about any able-bodied person who could read and write (and even some who couldn’t) could find work in a factory or mine or on a farm in their community, it was easier to stay close to family. However, that’s not always the case today.

    If Mom and Dad live in some fading Kansas farm town and Junior has gotten a high-tech job in Seattle, or if Mom still lives in the West Virginia coal mining town where the mine Dad worked at closed years ago, and her kids live in Texas or Georgia or wherever, what are the kids supposed to do when she gets sick? Quit their jobs, uproot their spouses and their own kids and move them someplace where there is no work to speak of? While Mom or Dad could always uproot themselves and move in with one of the kids, if they absolutely refuse to do so, the kids can’t do much about it.

  • 1. Some years ago I had to do an analysis of census data collected in 1990. One datum I discovered: at any given time, 65% of the population live in the state in which they were born.

    2. Back in 1979, a man of my acquaintance turned in an honors thesis to the History Department at the University of Rochester which incorporated an an attempt at assessment of migration rates in the Genesee Valley between 1825 and 1835 (when a great deal of agricultural colonization of the valley was ongoing by migrants from New England). He studied two townships now in Monroe County. His conclusion: in a single decade, 70% of the population of these townships had decamped elsewhere. That is a level of demographic churn that I am not sure you would find even today.

    3. I would not wish to deny that social security programs and private pensions have their effect on fertility levels. The shift from agricultural to non-agricultural employment also has its effects. The decline in total fertility rates antedated the advent of social transfers in this country and the advent of social transfers did not prevent periods of increasing fertility during the years running from 1946 to 1957 and again after 1978.

    4. My great-grandparents spent their last years not in the town in Tennessee where they had lived nearly all of their lives, but shuttling between their older son in the suburbs of Washington and their younger son resident in a small town in northeast Pennsylvania.

    5. I have been investigating long-term care insurance. Cannot verify this at this time, but the consumer guides the agents pass out estimate that some 40% of the population will see the inside of a nursing home before they die (bracket out those receiving rehabilitation care in such settings). Some other portion will spend time in assisted living, but that is private pay and thus has a niche clientele. The point being, a large fraction of the elderly do not require long term care.

    6. Sorry to be repetitive on this point, but the notion that wage work was unusual for the female population prior to 1970 is one that needs to be retired. I cannot help but notice that the census taken 10 years ago found 18 million women between the ages of 20 and 62 and not in the labor force. There were about 64 million women in the workforce. I think housewives still exist in large numbers.

  • “At any given time, 65 percent of the population live in the state in which they were born.”

    That is true in my case. However, unless you live in a geographically tiny state like Rhode Island, that doesn’t necessarily mean you live within reasonable commuting/ driving distance of the community in which you were born or where your parents/grandparents/other relatives live.

  • True, but your parents’ feet are not nailed to the floor either. You commuting may not be a realizable option, but them electing to spend some of their retirement years in Springfield rather than Rockford may be.

Mosque Opponents: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Get It

Saturday, August 28, AD 2010

The debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York has raised public interest in, and opposition to, other proposed or recently built mosques and Islamic centers throughout the country.

In areas where Muslim migration or immigration has been significant, some citizens have attempted to discourage construction of new mosques. Few come right out and cite the threat of terrorism; more often they seem to resort to time-honored NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) tactics such as creative interpretation of zoning ordinances, claims of decreased property values, or claims of real or potential problems with traffic, noise, etc.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I understand the need to be vigilant regarding the potential for violent subversion, as well as the dangers of taking such a politically correct approach to militant Islam that people hesitate to report obvious suspicious activity for fear of being labeled bigots (as seems to have happened in the Fort Hood massacre case).

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45 Responses to Mosque Opponents: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Get It

  • Outstanding article — thank you!!

    Question (and please forgive this social-networking-backward-participant!):

    Why doesn’t American Catholic enable readers to SHARE this via Facebook? (Maybe I’m flunking the IQ test and missed the link??? I just did a “copy & paste” on the link above on my FB page . . . Sad to say, I am still trying to figure out this RSS stuff!!!)

    Thank you!

  • Elaine,

    You raise some very valid points. But, did Catholicism, or the perversion therof, and Catholics or any Christians for that matter murder 3000 innocents on September 11? Or have Catholics or Christians committed bombings in recent years or pose threats of bombings around the world?

    I think the problem here is that the Muslims who have proposed this mosque have displayed absolutely NO sensitivity to the families of victims of 9/11 while demanding all the tolerance in the world from those 9/11 families,as well as other citizens. These “moderate” Muslims claim that they want to build bridges but all they are doing by forcing the building of this mosque at this partiular ultra-sensitive location is burning bridges. Why is this location so important when there are over 100 mosques located in NYC already? How is this mosque being funded? By terrorist organizations or not? I believe in order for the community as a whole to benefit from this mosque our government and our citizens must be as certain as possible that this mosque is not funded by terrorist organizations and will not be used as a terrorist training center under the guise of religious freedom. If the mayor and others would be willing to look into the mosque’s financial funding I believe that this would allay many peoples’ fears.

    I do understand that the people behind the building of the mosque has a right to be built according to civil law. But, as Charles Krauthammer pointed out, if zoning laws and aesthetics can trump one’s right to build why could the sensitivity to those families who had loved ones killed by a single act of war trump one’s right to build?

    As to the issue of this mosque being two blocks away from the primary ground zero site: Would you agree that wherever the planes hit or any of its part on 9/11 should be considered Ground Zero? If so, then so should the Burlington building since a part of the plane hit that building.

    I think this whole controversy could have been avoided if the NYC commission had shown some prudential judgment and declared the Burlingtion building as a historical landmark.

  • I agree that it wasn’t a good idea for the mosque/Islamic center to be built so close to Ground Zero. I see nothing wrong with encouraging them to build elsewhere. The $64,000 question, however, is whether or not the local government has a right to explicitly FORBID them to build at the site. That’s where the danger of setting a bad precedent comes in.

  • Elaine a ban on construction of new places of worship would be clearly unconstitutional and would not stand up in court longer than the time it takes a Chicago alderman to pocket a bribe. No one has been disputing the right of the Flim Flam Imam and his Cordoba Initiative (Dhimmis Always Welcome!) to build this Mosque, but whether it is right for them to do so. I am keenly aware of the frequent divergence of a legal right and a moral right. My opposition might well not exist if a local group of Muslims had wished to put up a Mosque for local worship. I think the Flim Flam Imam clearly has an agenda that has little to do with worshiping Allah, and quite a bit to do with furthering his Cordoba Initiative which has one message for gullible Western elites and another message for his backers in the Middle East.

  • I thought this post by Bob Murphy about the Glenn Beck rally today was a propos:

    Of course Mr. Beck and his fans have every legal right to hold a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech.

    Nonetheless, we are asking that they hold their rally a few blocks away, and on a different date. There are 364 other days in the year; what’s wrong with them?
    Now look, we know full well that Mr. Beck and his supporters claim that they are trying to heal racial division. Intellectually, we black Americans know that just because we have been brutalized by angry white conservative males for as long as we can remember, that doesn’t mean that all angry white conservative males pose a threat to our physical safety.

    But this isn’t about logic or rationality. This is about sensitivity to our feelings. Surely Mr. Beck can understand why a majority of American blacks wouldn’t appreciate him holding a rally on the anniversary of Dr. King’s famous speech. If he goes ahead with his plans, he won’t promote racial unity. So we ask him to hold the rally in a different place, on a different date.

  • Teresa – Did you seriously just say that Christians have not bombed or killed significant numbers of people? Check the stats on our current wars sometime.

  • As usual, Blackadder mistakes cuteness for substance. By now Blackadder is aware that the objections to the Mosque are not grounded in a general objection to anything at all being built near Ground Zero.

  • “Teresa – Did you seriously just say that Christians have not bombed or killed significant numbers of people? Check the stats on our current wars sometime.”

    Our wars being the equivalent of Bin Laden’s murder of 3,000 innocent men, women and children? Moral equivalency: the opiate of the politically correct.

  • While I agree with Donald that the proposed ban shouldn’t pass constitutional muster (there’s a case that states you can’t ban all forms of religious speech-I think it’s Rosenberger v. Rectors & Vistors of UVA), you are absolutely right in stating that the opposition to the mosque establishes a precedent that is far more dangerous to Catholics than to Muslims insofar as some are advocating legal means to interfere with the building of the mosque.

  • “I think the Flim Flam Imam clearly has an agenda that has little to do with worshiping Allah, and quite a bit to do with furthering his Cordoba Initiative which has one message for gullible Western elites and another message for his backers in the Middle East.”

    Donald, I agree.

    If Alveda King has no problem with the rally I don’t see why any other person, of any color black, white, red, brown etc., should have a problem with Beck and others honoring Martin Luther King Jr’s message of equality for all. Yeah, and if he didn’t do anything honoring Martin Luther King the Left would make accusations about no person caring about blacks and spreading King’s message, so Your “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” according to liberalism.

    First, is that an admission that our nation is rooted in Christian values?

    Second, Did we really go to war as “Christians” or as a nation fighting against terrorism and for our nation’s national defense?

    Third, I didn’t know that a group of Christians not associated with the U.S. government went off on their own and specifically targeted a building or another location just to murder Iraqi inocents? I think your the person who is a little confused with reality, Martin.

    Fourth, Please name me one war in history that has had no civilian casualties?

  • I’m with Gen’l. (Vinegar) Joe Stillwell, “Don’t let the bastards wear you down.”

  • It isn’t even a matter of where the mosque is being built – replace the entire WTC site with the biggest mosque in the world, no problem – PROVIDED Islam changes its ways.

    I realize all the 1st Amendment issues involved here – but until I am no longer considered such subhuman filth that I cannot enter the precincts of Mecca, then I’m going to hold that Moslems must be curbed in what they do in the United States. Not stopped – not expelled; just carefully curtailed to ensure that everyone, especially in the Moslem world, knows that we have not lost our back bone.

    Tolerance does not mean going along happily with whatever someone wants to do – it is a two way street and it requires some compromise. We can easily tolerate a mosque in Manhattan – but we can’t tolerate it hard by Ground Zero…not now, and not until Islam changes its tune.

    Mark Noonan

  • Blackadder,

    I wonder if the author of that piece can find even a single black man brutalized by a conservative white man in the past 40 years.

  • We might just consider the possibility that these local pols want to limit the quantum of non-taxable property in that particular locality. Piggy, but unsurprising.

    It is not a novelty for houses of worship to face zoning tangles. Given the size of the metropolitan New York area, you will have to excuse me if I suggest that prohibiting the placement of a 13 story building of a particular character at a historic site of modest dimensions is a measure different in kind than prohibiting all construction of houses of worship in a given municipality.


    As far as I am aware, the Marine Corps does not have an icon of St. Michael on their weaponry and al-Qaeda does not do civil affairs projects.

  • Here’s my $64,000,000.03 question.

    If religious freedom/tolerance requires a $100 million mosque over the WTC site. How is religious liberty/tolerance served by denying the rebuild of THE Orthodox Church that THE muslim terrorists destroyed on 11 Sep 2001?


    No! It’s much worse than that! USMC heroes wear (gasp) US flags on their uniforms.

    Re AQ civil affairs projects: They’re helping make Americans good. They believe the only good American is a dead American.

  • Lot of assumptions in this post; the assumption that the REAL motive folks have is fear of terrorism, and that they can’t possibly object for the reasons they give:

    zoning ordinances, claims of decreased property values, or claims of real or potential problems with traffic, noise, etc.

    Evidence for this claim? I know that the blog Beers with Demo did the research to show a pattern of harassment against a church in his area, but a blanket claim that 1) Mosques are being unusually opposed and 2) it is because of fears of terrorism is a claim that requires more than just a claim to be taken seriously.

    There’s also the issue of using charged terms inaccurately. NIMBY, while meaning “not in my back yard,” also implies that something is not opposed in general. (Example, opposing wind power generators in your area while promoting wind energy in general.)
    People who are worried about Islamic terror risings from Mosques are going to be bright enough to remember the home mosques of the 9/11 terrorists were far, far away, and would appose them in general, not just specific.

    Your notion of equivalence between “there shall be no non-profit organizational buildings in our district” and “no, you may not build a triumphalist religious center on the ruins created by said religion” is mind bending.

  • Martin-
    Go troll someplace else.

  • Wow. Far-ranging discussion.

    First, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The religion piece really has no bearing on the discussion over the Cordoba Mosque proposed for Ground Zero.

    How many mosques are there in Manhattan? About a hundred? Sounds like pretty free exercise of religion to me.

    Second: I challenge any black person who reads this blogs, or any black person who’s a friend of someone who reads this blog, to tell me the date of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. I had to memorize parts of it as a child (stand down, racialists: I’m Black). Never knew what day it was given; barely knew it was in August. Glenn Beck planned this rally (which I wish I had had time to attend)for the last Saturday in August. An lo and behold, what date did that happen to fall on? Why, August 28! August the 28th, which happened to be an anniversary of Dr. King’s speech!

    Why should a mosque be built at the site of a murder committed by people motivated by Islam? Why should a church of any type be built at the site of the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people (and others, including Catholic Saints)? Why should the Japanese in Hawaii build a temple at the site of the sunken USS Arizona?

    Answer? None of them should. Because it’s disrespectful. Why is this so hard to grasp? And what does it tell those who truly hate us about whether we will truly resist them?

    It is not un-Christian to stand up for common politeness.

  • Gee, RR, why didn’t you link to this much more recent article on those idiots?


    Those morons were accused of racial hate crimes and seem to be gang related. Notably, not “conservative white men”– just idiot gang members. (is that redundant?)

  • What are you trying to prove by arguing that white people no longer attack black people? For one, it’s a sad, callous, and absurd battle to fight. Do you, like, remember this one time, in, like, 1992 in LA where, like, some white cops beat up this black guy named Rodney King? White on black violence occurs a lot, as does black on white, white on white, black on black, brown on black, brown on white, brown on brown, white on brown, black on brown, etc, etc, etc.

    Also, please STOP calling it a mosque. A mosque is specifically a Muslim holy place where only prayer can be conducted. This is a Muslim community center, similar to a YMCA. It will have a culinary school, basketball courts, etc. With a prayer room on one or two of the fifteen or so floors.

    I can think of Catholic terrorism pretty easily: the IRA. And that was specifically religio-nationalist.

    It is utterly absurd to demand that “Islam” renounce its terroristic ways before the community center is built, as Mr. Noonan said. A religion cannot change its ways. People can change their ways, but abstract nouns cannot. And the people behind this community center have no terroristic tendencies to modify. Furthermore, there is no central authority for Islam as there is for Catholicism. In fact, some radical sects of Muslims hate opposing Islamic sects more than they hate America. Like al-Qaeda. Bin Laden hates America not “for our freedoms” but because we prop up the (in his mind) heretical Saud monarchy in Arabia.

    Quite frankly, it’s astounding that a debate over a Muslim community center is occurring in 21st century America. As someone who would never have voted for George Bush, I will say that I am so grateful that he modeled Christ’s love to American Muslims by not targeting them after 9/11, as seems to be occurring now.

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  • I would like to ask everyone – Do you think that Islam can be a “moderate” religion? I am not saying Muslims cannot be moderates, but can the religion itself really ever be considered moderate since it follows Sharia law?

    If Sharia law is one of the precepts of Islam then why wouldn’t Sharia law fall under the guise of religious freedom and challenge the constitution in several capacities and force all of us citizens to respect and follow Sharia as well? Is Sharia law and the Constitution really compatible?

    If those who believe in the “letter of the Constitution” instead of the “spirit of the Constitution” with regards to religious freedom truly believe that religious freedom is absolute without taking into account our national security interests (as it seems to me) how could one deny Muslims the “right” to follow their “moderate” religion that includes Sharia Law which would also impose Sharia Laws on the non-Muslim citizens when that clearly clashes with our Constitution?

    You might want to look at a some things that Sharia law demands:

    1 – Jihad defined as “to war against non-Muslims to establish the religion” is the duty of every Muslim and Muslim head of state (Caliph). Muslim Caliphs who refuse jihad are in violation of Sharia and unfit to rule.

    2 – A Caliph can hold office through seizure of power meaning through force.

    3 – A Caliph is exempt from being charged with serious crimes such as murder, adultery, robbery, theft, drinking and in some cases of rape.

    4 – A percentage of Zakat (alms) must go towards jihad.

    5 – It is obligatory to obey the commands of the Caliph, even if he is unjust.

    6 – A caliph must be a Muslim, a non-slave and a male.

    7 – The Muslim public must remove the Caliph in one case, if he rejects Islam.

    8 – A Muslim who leaves Islam must be killed immediately.

    9 – A Muslim will be forgiven for murder of: 1) an apostasy 2) an adulterer 3) a highway robber. Making vigilante street justice and honor killing acceptable.

    10 – A Muslim will not get the death penalty if he kills a non-Muslim.

    11- Sharia never abolished slavery and sexual slavery and highly regulates it. A master will not be punished for killing his slave.

    12 – Sharia dictates death by stoning, beheading, amputation of limbs, flogging and other forms of cruel and unusual punishments even for crimes of sin such as adultery.

    13 – Non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims and must comply to Sharia if they are to remain safe. They are forbidden to marry Muslim women, publicly display wine or pork, recite their scriptures or openly celebrate their religious holidays or funerals. They are forbidden from building new churches or building them higher than mosques. They may not enter a mosque without permission. A non-Muslim is no longer protected if he commits adultery with a Muslim woman or if he leads a Muslim away from Islam.

    14 – It is a crime for a non-Muslim to sell weapons to someone who will use them against Muslims. Non-Muslims cannot curse a Muslim, say anything derogatory about Allah, the Prophet, or Islam, or expose the weak points of Muslims. However, the opposite is not true for Muslims.

    15 – A non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim.

    16 – Banks must be Sharia compliant and interest is not allowed.

    17 – No testimony in court is acceptable from people of low-level jobs, such as street sweepers or a bathhouse attendant. Women in such low-level jobs such as professional funeral mourners cannot keep custody of their children in case of divorce.

    18 – A non-Muslim cannot rule even over a non-Muslims minority.

    19 – H***sexuality is punishable by death.

    20 – There is no age limit for marriage of girls under Sharia. The marriage contract can take place any time after birth and consummated at age 8 or 9.

    21 – Rebelliousness on the part of the wife nullifies the husband’s obligation to support her, gives him permission to beat her and keep her from leaving the home.

    22 – Divorce is only in the hands of the husband and is as easy as saying: “I divorce you” and becomes effective even if the husband did not intend it.

    23 – There is no community property between husband and wife and the husband’s property does not automatically go to the wife after his death.

    24 – A woman inherits half what a man inherits.

    25- A man has the right to have up to 4 wives and she has no right to divorce him even if he is polygamous.

    26- The dowry is given in exchange for the woman’s sexual organs.

    27 – A man is allowed to have sex with slave women and women captured in battle, and if the enslaved woman is married her marriage is annulled.

    28 – The testimony of a woman in court is half the value of a man.

    29- A woman loses custody if she remarries.

    30- To prove rape, a woman must have 4 male witnesses.

    31 – A rapist may only be required to pay the bride-money (dowry) without marrying the rape victim.

    32 – A Muslim woman must cover every inch of her body which is considered “Awrah,” a sexual organ. Some schools of Sharia allow the face and some don’t.

    33 – A Muslim man is forgiven if he kills his wife caught in the act of adultery. However, the opposite is not true for women since he “could be married to the woman he was caught with.”

    The above are clear-cut laws in Islam decided by great Imams after years of examination and interpretation of the Quran, Hadith and Mohammed’s life. Now let the learned Imam Rauf tell us what part of the above is compliant with the US constitution?

  • Ryan-
    who are you talking to?
    NO ONE was talking about “whites never attack blacks”. Blackadder posted a quote of someone claiming that “angry white conservative males” have been brutalizing blacks for “as long as they can remember,” and someone else challenged him to find a single case of a white conservative assaulting a black person. RR then posted an article that implied but did not claim anti-Dem motives, and which five minutes of research showed to just be gang idiots.

    Secondly, go yell at the Cordoba House proponents, and even the initiative itself; half the time, they call it a mosque. (Generally when they want to drum up the religion side of it; when it’s more flattering to emphasize the “community center” side, it becomes a building that includes a mosque.)

    If the reading comprehension and careful consideration of the argument you’ve shown in this post is standard for you, no wonder you can’t see how this is a topic for valid debate. Straw men with only a nodding acquaintance to the topic aren’t very good aids to understanding.

    A wise lady once told me that if you can’t argue the other side of something, you have no business arguing your own side because you clearly don’t know enough about the topic. I try to keep it in mind, maybe you should try it?

  • In response to jihad etc…

    I am not sure where you are getting your information on what jihad and sharia is….but you have incorrect information. Jihad and sharia is much more complex then what you have stated. As I have reserached this extensively I will just point out very plainly and in layman terms what jihad is. Jihad means “struggle”.
    More commonly known in the Muslim world as an internal spiritual struggle to be better and serve God. It can also mean warfare where one needs to defend themselves when attacked- so it has two meanings to it. There are a lot of inaccuracies in your e-mail and I do not have time to go over them now…but one just to correct one is that bride money is not given for sexual organs. Bride money is called “mehr” and it is an obligatory gift that the groom must give his wife so that she is not left with nothing if he decides to leave her. It is the right of a woman and not a man. Actually in researching Muslims I found that there are a lot of similaries to Catholicism…and then there were differences as well. An interesting bit of information I came across was “Marriage helps men and women to develop along natural lines and head towards development and success through mutual co-operation. Marriage prevents immorality licentiousness and irresponsibility. The spouses in marriage agree to share rights and responsibilities to develop a happy family”….doesn’t that sound like something Catholics believe in as well? What happened on 9/11 was plain WRONG. I have friends who are Muslims and they beleive it is wrong…they say that the people who did this are crazy. So I have to think before I judge anyone and encourage you to do the same.

  • Sandy-
    please do not misrepresent your study, which seems to have been of the more modern and mild forms of Islam, as representative of Islam in general.

    Also, your definition of “mehr” is incorrect, (In Canada, it often functions like a pre-nup– often enough that a basic google will bring up a LOT of legal help boards.) as is your characterization of Jihaad.
    (links to understanding-Islam.com, which is affiliated with Al-Mawrid Islamic Research foundation out of Pakistan.)

  • Foxfier, white conservatives can’t be in gangs?

  • RR,

    Gangs are color neutral, but I’m having a hard time picturing how a conservative could be in a gang since gang life and activities run counter to conservative values. My guess is that you’re perhaps angling toward skinheads because the media like to call them conservatives. However, conservatives have about as much appreciation for neo-nazis as they do racist gangs/parties typically associated with the left, which is to say none.

  • “Gang life and activities run counter to conservative values”

    Well, it goes without saying that violence, vandalism, drug use, other criminal activity, and intimidation of non-members go against conservative values (and probably even the values of most moderates and liberals I know).

    But, isn’t it true that gang membership, especially among urban teens, basically takes the place of the families they don’t have — giving them a structure, culture and sense of belonging that they don’t get from absent or incarcerated or unknown fathers, mothers who change boyfriends as often as they change clothes, being shuffled from one relative to another, etc.?

    So in that sense, gang membership does express (albeit in a perverted or distorted fashion) one very important “conservative” value: the absolute primacy of the family as the basic unit of society, and the consequences that result when it is undermined or destroyed.

  • I can think of Catholic terrorism pretty easily: the IRA. And that was specifically religio-nationalist.

    True to some extent. But it wasn’t expansionist.

  • Actually I think in a number of areas there are limits on, if not the building of churches, at least the size of churches. Where I once lived this limit made it impractical to build a Catholic Church as the size limit was too small for what was required to meet the needs of the Catholic population without building multiple small churches. Those restrictions were placed in the 90’s as I recall. No big First Ammendment concerns have been raised. Perhaps they should.

  • Mary Margaret Cannon,

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    Until recently, WordPress.com did not allow this function (WordPress.org does I believe).

    But today I noticed this option was now available and I have just finished adding this particular function.


  • Hey, why not make a page, too? You can set it up to autopublish your blog with the “notes” feed, or us
    e http://apps.facebook.com/blognetworks/newuser1.php

  • Foxfier,

    We have ‘something’ on Facebook, not sure what.

    I’m going to investigate and get this set-up/streamlined for greater social-networking-optimization (SNO).

  • Scott Gentries might want to take a look at this:

  • …Might strike home if the primary arguments weren’t specifically related to the history and culture of Islam, Ryan.


  • RL, if conservatives can’t be in gangs by definition then sure there are no white conservatives in gangs. There are no Catholics in gangs either then.

  • i would like to point out that the proposal only bars new buildings, and not changing the use to of already constructed ones. the mosque near to us was once a church, a church was previously a synagogue, and the nigerian christian group uses a clothing warehouse.

  • Teresa, half of what you said is inaccurate / disinformation. if the USA followed the other half, maybe they wont have millions of inmates that the taxpayer has to support.

  • I would just like to point out a couple of things that are on point:

    1. It’s not a mosque. It’s a community center, and you can read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/opinion/08mosque.html?_r=1&src=tptw the words of the chairman of the project, stating that one of the many goals of it is to include prayer centers for those of Christian and Jewish faiths in hopes that this will strengthen interfaith relations.

    2. I’m not usually a fan of Charlie Brooker, but he hit one point straight on the head when he said that being a 2 minute walk and around the corner is not at all the same thing as being AT the same location. He said something like, he’s used a bathroom 2 minutes away from Buckingham Palace, and has yet to be arrested for defecating on the Queen’s pillow. We’re talking about Manhattan, and if you’ve ever been there, it’s a crowded place. How close is too close, exactly?

    3. To the person who said Catholic/Christian extremists haven’t bombed or killed significant numbers of people in recent years, I ask: Have you ever heard of the Irish Republican Army? Visit Belfast or Glasgow sometime and ask around – just… be careful in which neighborhood you ask and what colors you’re wearing when you do.

  • 4. On the topic of how Muslim women are clothed, ask yourself if you’ve ever questioned the chaste garb (and lifestyle, for that matter) of nuns and priests. I bet you just take it as a matter of course, because it’s what you’re used to. Of course, there is spousal abuse and other unsavory activity that goes on among members of the Islamic faith, but again, look closer to home. Surely you cannot insist that no Catholic or Christian has ever abused another human being.

  • Brian,


    The IRA is a nationalist organization. To be more accurate, they are a violent Marxist nationalist organization looking to impose communism under the guise of being “Irish” and “Catholic”.

    Being Catholic has nothing to do with it.

    They don’t espouse anything Christian AT ALL.

    You’ve never heard them saying they are dying in the name of Jesus. Only in the name of Ireland.

    You need to do better than that to espouse your anti-Christian bigotry around here.

  • Brian,

    Again your bias is grossly revealing itself.

    Religious wear their clericals as a choice, not in being imposed.

    Whilst on the other hand Muslims force women to wear burkas, regardless of their religiosity.

  • Brian, you’re exposing your ignorance or willful blindness– the folks building it called it a mosque until their PR guys realized that was not so good. They also called it the Cordoba House, until word got around what that indicated, especially with the 9/11/11 opening date.

    Also, you’re pointing to an opinion piece in the NY Times. Not exactly hard, unbiased facts– I notice you didn’t bother to do the research Powerline did about another time that “chairman” spoke in the NYTimes.

    As Teresa pointed out above, a building destroyed by chunks of the plane on 9/11 is part of ground zero.

Deliver Us From Blago

Friday, August 27, AD 2010

According to legend, the Vikings were so greatly feared by the people of northern Europe during the Dark Ages that they used to pray “From the fury of the Norsemen, Lord, deliver us!”

Of late, I suspect that many Illinois residents like myself are making a similar petition to be delivered from the fury of another force nearly as frightening.

I am speaking of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose trial on 24 separate federal corruption charges ended on Aug. 17 with the jury finding him guilty of just one charge — lying to federal agents — and deadlocking on the other 23. Federal prosecutors will retry Blago on at least some of the unresolved charges, but in the meantime, he has once again resumed his nationwide media blitz, protesting his innocence to anyone who will listen and making a complete idiot of himself in the process.

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5 Responses to Deliver Us From Blago

  • Bravo Elaine. Fitzgerald has dropped the charges against Blago’s brother which means that he can call the brother to the stand the next go round. That should be an amusing few days of direct examination!

  • My heavens, you know that Illinois is the Sucker State – that’s not a well-known nickname.

    It’s horrible to be an Illinoisan right now, and a Chicagoan. What terrible examples we have put into the public arena! We actually are nice people here.

  • From the perspective of an IL resident who will be going to college next year, talking about this issue at length with my friends has led the vast majority of us to decide to jump ship and leave the state as soon as possible, never coming back, more for our children’s well-being than ours. Given the unofficial motto, “I need a Zoloft,” and the state’s financial and ethical bankruptcy, claiming to be an economic or political refugee shouldn’t prove to be terribly difficult.

  • Jason, I do not blame you at all. If I were young and starting out, I think I would probably leave the state also, and that makes me very sad. Illinois was a great state once, and I hope it will be a great state again.

  • Ah, don’t despair folks. Somebody’s got to stick around and clean things up, right? And if Louisiana and New Jersey can get their act together, so can we… heck if Russia can be converted there’s still hope for us 🙂

    On the lighter side… I just went to see a local theater production of “Chicago: The Musical” and it’s actually funnier than ever because of the obvious parallels to recent events. Heck I could see a musical being made about the Blago case someday … oh wait, that’s already been done (Second City’s “Rod Blagojevich, Superstar!”).

The Varieties of Civil Disobedience

Friday, July 30, AD 2010

The 1849 essay “Resistance to Civil Government”, better known as “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, by Henry David Thoreau is one of the most influential writings of the 19th century. Written to expound Thoreau’s ideas on resistance to a U.S. government that at the time permitted slavery and was waging an unpopular war against Mexico, the essay inspired other famous activists, most notably Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, to espouse the notion of changing unjust laws and government policies through active but non-violent resistance.

In this media-driven age civil disobedience seems to have taken on yet another meaning. Today it most often refers to instances in which activists for a particular cause engage in public lawbreaking (usually trespassing or blocking access to public facilities) designed primarily to attract attention and/or provoke authorities into arresting them.

As a result we have actions such as PETA’s public displays of nudity and their attacks upon fur wearers; Greenpeace’s placement of banners in unauthorized locations; anti-war protesters trespassing upon, vandalizing or defacing military installations or missile sites; abortion clinic blockades; gay activists disrupting Catholic Masses; and pro-life activist Randall Terry’s entering the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last fall and tearing up a copy of the 2,000-page healthcare bill, all being characterized as “civil disobedience” in the tradition of Thoreau, Gandhi, and King.

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9 Responses to The Varieties of Civil Disobedience

  • Seems to me that category 3 is part and parcel with another facet of (apparently) the same malaise: doing a walk-a-thon, raising money from friends and neighbors for each mile you walk, for MS, or cancer, or spina bifida, or green rose dust syndrome. There is nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, that walking another mile has to do with the rightness or wrongness or worthiness of the cause. All it says is that I, personally believe in this enough to walk another mile. It calls attention to my personal attitude about the cause, not the inherent rightness of the cause.

    I am not quite sure that a public march along a set route has the same defects. The whole point of the march is, normally, to make people aware that many, many people take the cause seriously. But it doesn’t pay any attention to any individual thereof – it is only in collection that it matters at all.

  • I agree 100% with the thoughts expressed in the article – and would add this: that the proliferation of the third kind of protest and lawbreaking has made many of us calloused and skeptical of all forms of protest – seeing most as just another attention seeking group and not worthy of interest – and if there is no violence or some other “gimmick” at play the media could hardly care less –

  • Henry David Thoreau has always struck me as one of the most buffoonish and over-rated characters in American history. His aunt paying his taxes for him so his great tax protest lasted one night, his accidental setting of a fire that consumed 300 acres of Walden woodlands, Thoreau contracting the tuberculosis that would kill him as a result of a middle of the night excursion to count tree rings and the pacifist Thoreau writing a pamphlet in which he claimed that John Brown, a murderer, embezzler, cattle thief and congenital liar, was humane are only a few of the many episodes in his life that are worthy of a great satirical novel.

    I am usually adverse to breaking any law unless the consequences of obeying the law are dire. If one is content to live in society, one must observe the rules or anarchy results. When one must disobey the law one must also be willing to pay the price of disobedience. Of course this depends to a certain extent on the government. A freely elected government where basic human rights are protected, has I think a greater claim to observance of its laws than a tyranny that rules by force. However, even in a tyranny most laws: against stealing, murder, traffic laws, etc are a force for order and should be respected. A long train of abuses can bring into play the right of rebellion set forth in the Declaration of Independence, but such a right should never be invoked for light and transitory reasons. Even bad law should normally be put up with until adherence to the law is a greater offense from the standpoint of morality than adhering to it. Saint Thomas More is a good guide in this area:


  • Originally I was going to expound more on Thoreau’s concept of civil disobedience, but upon actually reading his essay I found it to be rather confusing and of little help in defining what appropriate civil disobedience would be. It’s basically a lengthy rant on the evils of government and why Thoreau felt it necessary to demonstrate his lack of allegiance to it. So I just ran with my own thoughts on the topic.

    I note also that the third type of civil disobedience (deliberately trying to get arrested) seems to be more often associated with left-leaning causes like animal rights, pacifism, G8 summit protests, etc. Despite what the MSM says, I don’t believe we have seen much of this kind of action from the Tea Partiers. Pro-lifers like Randall Terry do it some of the time but I believe the majority of regular pro-life protesters who pray at abortion clinics, etc. don’t set out to get arrested.

  • It seems to me that a major purpose of Civil Disobedience, when it iis not simply refusing personal participation in a perceived or real injustice (#1), is to coerce someone in a position of authority to do something they would not do otherwise. Often the target is quite sincere in his belief (perhaps mistaken) that his actions are morally acceptable or even required to fulfill the trust that came with the authority.

    Coercing someone to do something that they believe is wrong is a violation of human dignity. It is sometimes necessary – as in coercing a thief not to practice his trade with the threat and actuality of jail. The Catechism in the sections on the 4th and 5th commandments as detailed discussions which are worth while reading.

    Yes, there are times when Civil Disobedience is necessary to stop an injustice. It is certainly preferable to armed rebellion which is permissible under extreme circumstances. It would seem to me that the test to use civil disobedience is the Classic Just War Doctrine, perhaps with a lower standard of evidence because of the less serious nature of Civil Disobedience. .

  • I wonder if we may not all be called upon to perform our little piece of active, civil disobedience by withholding our participation in systems in which nobody usually accomplishes all of an evil alone. To recall the examples of hiding slaves or perhaps priests in Elizabethan England, our society leans on technology and what I take to be the nearly infinite parcelling out of duties. Many offices, many participants are sometimes required to accomplish some evil. If the authorities are to arrest a priest for preaching the Church’s teaching on marriage or sexuality, there will be a judge somewhere in the mix, the judge will have a clerk, the clerk will work with a sheriff, the sheriff may well delegate the arrest to an under-sheriff, there is a garage where the squad cars are maintainted, there is a clerk in the sheriff’s office, and so on. Nobody will likely be called upon to accomplish such an arrest alone, but many will have their part in just following orders, just doing their job. It is in such work that we may be called upon to render civil disobedience: in dismissing the arrest warrant request, in misplacing the arrest warrant, in failing to fill the squad car with gas, in allowing the arrested priest to be bailed out. These are the sorts of things I can foresee being the arena of civil disobedience in the future. Somebody told me once, “God can change paperwork.” We may have to help Him change it.

  • refusal to be drafted into military service to fight in an unjust war; a parent’s refusal to obey custody laws that would cause his or her child to be placed in the hands of an abusive or dangerous ex-spouse; or a reporter refusing to obey a court order to reveal confidential sources, if there is serious reason to do so (for example, the source’s employment or personal safety may be endangered).

    Those all seem like examples of #1.

  • I classify them as #2 because the laws being broken are not inherently unjust or harmful in ALL cases, they just happen to be so in a particular case. Even a well-written child custody law, for example, can be misinterpreted or abused by a bad judge. The laws that allows contempt of court citations against jailed reporters also exist for good reason but SOMETIMES cause more harm than good. A military draft, I believe, can be justified in certain cases but there may be instances in which it is not.

    I think it is important to distinguish between laws that are inherently evil (like those allowing slavery or commanding worship of false gods) and those that are morally good or neutral most of the time but sometimes have a bad effect. The first kind of law deserves to be defied or disobeyed ALL the time, the second kind does not.

  • Rather late to the party — I’ve been behind in my reading lately — but I think this is a very good analysis and gets at the core of why so many have become jaded with “protest” as a means of political agitation.

Should Catholic Hospitals Remain Tax Exempt?

Friday, March 19, AD 2010

On the heels of the Catholic Health Association’s endorsement of Obamacare comes another precedent-setting decision affecting Catholic hospitals and other institutions.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Catholic hospital in downstate Urbana is not entitled to exemption from local property taxes because, among other things, it failed to devote enough of its resources to charity care of patients:

Provena Covenant Medical Center, one of six hospitals in the Provena Health system, had fought for six years to regain the tax exemption stripped from it in 2003 by a local tax board. Since then the hospital has been paying more than $1 million per year in local property taxes. The case was being watched by Catholic hospitals around the nation because of its precedent setting potential, and the Catholic Health Association intervened in the case.

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7 Responses to Should Catholic Hospitals Remain Tax Exempt?

  • Here is a link to the text of the decision courtesy of Illinipundit.


  • Part of me wishes to say chickens meet roost. You want government to run the show in regard to health care? This is a taste of what you can expect, you bloody fools!

    However, I do believe this is an appallingly bad decision from a public policy standpoint. I do not want government micro-managing charities. I especially do not want judges attempting to do it, since they have no expertise outside of the law. I do think that too many non-profits differ little from their for profit brethren, but my concern in that area is outweighed by my fear of government intervention doing long term damage to all charities in this country.

    A great and timely post Elaine.

  • I think you might reduce if not eliminate finicky controversies of this nature if you replaced property and general sales taxes with simple personal income levies as a means of state and local finance. An incorporated entity might still be held responsible for collecting Pigouvian excises, paying tolls and fees for select services (e.g. water provision), and paying excises for their purchases of supplies (of gasoline, for example). Taxes on the net profits of corporations could be limited to those which have a body of owners to which to pay dividends, which would commonly exempt philanthropies.

  • Just recenty we had a chaplin for Ministry for Prisoners to help prepare them for life in the outside world. I was told that they cannot speak about the Gospel to their clients because they recieve money from the Faith Based Initiatives fund.

    This plus the problem of our “Catholic” Colleges and Universities speak loud and clear to me that taking Government money is the Devil’s bargin. But evidently the Hierarchy does not agree.


  • I don’t think that the “Catholicity” problem of our colleges and universities can fairly be laid at the doorstep of government funding. Most such funding actually goes directly to students or is earmarked for specific research, and this funding does not include problematic strings. Catholic primary and high schools also have similar “Catholicity” issues even though they typically receive no government funding at all. This is not to say that government funding does not create risks and problems in some environments, but I think the case against it is more murky and contextual than clearcut.

    As far as tax exemptions go, I do think the public policy of extending such exemptions to non-profit organizations is sensible to the extent such organizations provide servics that reduce the burdens that otherwise fall on government. In such cases, the exemption is not only in the interest of the non-profit, but also in the interest of government.

    But as Faustina suggests non-targeting general funding of a charitable organization by the government does present some legitimate challenges for faith-based charities. The United States Supreme Court has said that faith-based organizations may not use “direct” government support to support “inherently religious” activities. Basically, this means a grantee may not use any part of a direct federal grant to fund religious worship, instruction, or proselytization. Instead, organizations may use government money only to support the non-religious social services that they provide. Therefore, faith-based organizations that receive direct governmental funds must normally take steps to separate, in time or location, their inherently religious activities from the government-funded services that they offer. Such organizations should also carefully account for their use of all government money. This does not mean a charitable organization can’t have religious activities. It simply means it can’t use taxpayer dollars to fund them. Some faith-based organizations set up separate charitable organizations (so-called “501(c)(3) corporations”) to keep programs that receive government money separate from those that engage in inherently religious activities. Whether these encumbrances are inappropriately burdensome on a Catholic non-profits mission depends on the nature of that mission, but in some cases they would be.

  • I guess that is a mistaken impression about the colleges; I remember reading some where about the Land o’Lakes resolution declaring their independence from the Magisterium. They opted to become like secular schools wit lay governance and government grants. Maybe the idea was that the board started to cater to the thinking of politicians who push that grant money.

    The other example I can think of is a person who use to work for the Archdiocese of ….. She said their was nothing Catholic about the local Catholic Charities. This corroborates what I have heard from some other urban Catholics in another city that “on the street” people go to the Catholic church for social services but go elsewhere for the Gospel…

  • That would go along with what I’ve been hearing in a course I’ve been taking. Personal conversion is not important as personal orthodoxy is not important. What is important is right action or orthopraxis. When there is orthopraxis then there will be orthodoxy. Of course orthopraxis gets defined as greater govt. social programs.

Genuine Urban Renewal As Envisioned By Pope Benedict

Wednesday, December 9, AD 2009

Hat tip to Amy Welborn

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday took advantage of a traditional homage paid to Our Lady by residents of Rome on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to deliver this timely reflection on urban life.

Some of you may remember the TV series “Naked City”, which closed with the famous line “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This… has been one of them.”  Then as now, of course, the media focused mainly on the stories of corruption, violence, and depravity; however, Pope Benedict reminds us that there are many, many other stories of grace which go untold and unnoticed.

I find this address particularly pertinent in light of the fact that many cities have come to be identified so closely with their most notorious residents or elements (e.g. gambling and prostitution in Las Vegas; decadent entertainment and lifestyles in L.A./Hollywood; political corruption in Chicago; financial greed on Wall Street/NYC) that it’s easy to forget the good that many of their residents do quietly and faithfully every day.

Here is his address in its entirety:
Dear brothers and sisters!
In the heart of Christian cities, Mary constitutes a sweet and reassuring presence. In her self-effacing style, she gives everyone peace and hope during the happy and sad moments of life. In churches, chapels or the walls of buildings, a painting, mosaic or a statue stand as a remainder of the Mother’s presence, constantly watching over her children. Here too in Piazza di Spagna, Mary stands high, on guard over Rome.
What does Mary tell the city? What does her presence remind us? It reminds us that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more (Rom., 5:20), as the Apostle Paul wrote. She is the Immaculate Mother who tells people of our time: Do not be afraid, Jesus defeated evil, uprooted it, freeing us from his rule.
When do we need such good deeds? Every day, in the newspapers, television and radio, evil is told to us, said again, amplified, so that we get used to the most horrible things, and become desensitised. In a certain way, it poisons us, because the negative is never fully cleansed out of our system but accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts become gloomy. For this reason, the city needs Mary, whose presence speaks of God, reminds us of Grace’s victory over sin and makes us hope even in the humanly most difficult situations.
Those who invisible live or rather survive in the city. They make it to the front page of newspapers or the top of TV newscast—they are exploited until the end, for as long as the news and the images are newsworthy. Few can resist such a perverse mechanism. The city first, hides then exposes them to public scrutiny, without pity or with false pity. Everyone would like to be accepted as a person and considered as something sacred, because each human story is a sacred story that deserves the utmost of respect.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are the city! Each one of us contributes with our lives to its moral climate for better or worse. The border between good and evil runs across everyone’s heart and none of us should feel entitled to judge others. Instead, each one of us must feel duty-bound to improve ourselves. Mass media make us feel like “spectators” as if evil only touched others and that certain things could not happen to us. Instead, we are all “actors” for better or worse, and our behaviour influences others.
We often complain about air pollution, that in some parts of the city the air is unbreathable. That is true. Everyone must do his or her part to make the city a cleaner place. However, there is another kind of pollution, which the senses cannot easily perceive, but which is equally dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit, which makes us smile less, makes us gloomier, less likely to greet one another or look into each other face . . .
The city has many faces, but sadly, collective factors lead us to forget what is behind them. All we see is the surface. People become bodies, and these bodies lose their soul, become faceless objects that can be exchanged and consumed.
Mary Immaculate helps us rediscover and defend what is inside people, because in her there is perfect transparency of soul and body. She is purity in person in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are fully coherent in her and with God’s will. Our Lady teaches us to open up to God’s action and to look at others as he does, starting with the heart, to look upon them with mercy, love, infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, scorned or exploited. “[W]here sins increased, grace overflows all the more.”
I want to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, in deeds not in words, strive to practice the Evangelical law of love which drivers the world forward. There are so many of them even here in Rome. They do not make the headlines. They are men and women of all ages, who realise that it is not worth condemning, complaining or recriminating; that it is better to respond to evil doing good; to changes things; or better, to changes people, hence improve society.
Dear Roman friends and all of you who live in this city! Whilst we are busy in everyday tasks, let us listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She tells each one of us that wherever sin increases, may grace overflow all the more, first in our hearts, and then in our lives! Thus, the city shall be more beautiful, more Christian and more humane.
Thank you, Holy Mother, for this message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!
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Moving Halloween to Saturday: Treat or Trick?

Thursday, October 29, AD 2009

In recent years Halloween has gone from a primarily child-oriented holiday to an occasion of commercial importance comparable to Christmas or Easter. National retail sales figures indicate that Halloween is the 6th biggest holiday for retailers — behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day — and rapidly gaining ground, particularly among young adults.

The trend has now sparked a movement of sorts — led by the Spirit Halloween retail chain — to move Halloween permanently to the last Saturday in October. Their online petition at this link (http://www.spirithalloweekend.com/ ) asks Congress to lend its official endorsement to the change, although that would not be strictly necessary since Halloween is not a federal or national holiday.

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15 Responses to Moving Halloween to Saturday: Treat or Trick?

  • Darn, I wish Spirit Halloween had a combox. Darn, darn, darn!

  • I vote (B) a concession to worldliness and indifference.
    Vigils, feast days, birthdays… the actual dates count for something. I enjoy a movable feast as much as the next guy, but it should have a better excuse behind it than grubbing for cash or extending the weekend.

  • Remember that they then consolidated both Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays to “President’s Day”.

  • Halloween and All Saints have a particular significance for me since my wedding anniversay falls on All Saints. If they change it, I will have to come up with some other way to remember, so I vote no. Or maybe I can convince my wife to celebrate the solemnity of our marriage along with All Saints, rather than the actual day of our wedding?

  • I think you make a compelling argument overall. Actually changed my mind, as a matter of fact.

    As to changing the date – I actually find it to be more confusing. When I’m looking at my calendar, it’s so much easier to assess the fixed-date holidays as compared to the floating ones. “Which weekend is that on this year?”

  • For the record, I also would vote “no”.

  • Pingback: Vatican Condemnation of Halloween False « The American Catholic
  • Also, I really need to give credit here to Todd Aglialoro, now a writer for Inside Catholic, who many years ago when he worked for the Peoria Diocese Family Life Office, wrote a column for The Catholic Post titled “How Halloween Is a Very Catholic Thing.”

    It was in that article that I first came across the quote from Chesterton on paganism and Christianity. Unfortunately, I cannot find this article online anywhere, and I no longer have print back issues of The Post to refer to.

    If you happen to be reading this, Todd, thanks for the inspiration, and can you tell me where to find that article?

  • Instead of moving Halloween to Saturday, it needs to be moved right off the calendar. There is nothing good about it- junk food for kids, wild parties for adults, strangers ringing your doorbell all evening, drunks in the ER all night. Once again, America has taken a religious day and turned it into a mockery.

  • I understand your concerns, Annie, but by your standards, St. Patrick’s Day should probably be “moved right off the calendar” too.

    It lacks only junk food for kids and strangers ringing your doorbell… although strangers in an adjacent apartment who start their St. Paddy’s Day party at 2 in the afternoon are just as annoying 🙂 Likewise, it too is a religious holiday that has been pretty much turned into a caricature of itself, at least in the U.S.

    Also, I read somewhere many years ago that the government of Ireland, back in the late 50s or early 60s, briefly considered moving St. Patrick’s Day to September so there would be better weather for outdoor celebrations! Needless to say, that didn’t fly.

  • And speaking of moving holidays to weekends — if I remember correctly, students at U. of Ill. in Champaign observe something called “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” on the Friday or Saturday closest to the actual St. Paddy’s Day. The observance consists entirely of hanging out in bars and getting as drunk as possible.

    I suppose that no matter what happens to the Spirit Halloween petition drive, the preceding Saturday will become, if it hasn’t already, “Unofficial Halloween” for adult partying purposes anyway.

  • Goodness, perhaps someday the secularists will wish to ensure “Christmas,” which they will call “The Winter Holiday,” always falls on Friday so everyone gets a 3 day weekend.

    Awfully pesky the way things are now, when Dec. 25 can fall on a Wednesday. Once you remove the religious significance of these holidays, there’s no point to keeping to a set date.

  • Some of you should read up on history a bit.

    The reality is that the Church chose Dec 25th for Christmas in an attempt to add religious meaning to an already existent pagan holiday. There is circumstantial evidence that Jesus was actually born in April.

    Back to the holiday at hand…Halloween is and always has been a pagan holiday. The religious holiday that the Church attached to it (once again, in order to add a religious meaning to it) is All Saints Day. This petition doesn’t mention moving All Saints Day. In fact, you might end up with more people in the pews on Nov. 1st if they haven’t been out trick or treating and then stuffing themselves full of candy all night the night before.

  • Martha,

    I wasn’t aware that the Hebrews were pagans. Wasn’t Dec. 25th the date the temple was re-dedicated? It seems like a religiously significant date for the temple in Jerusalem and since Jesus refers to Himself as the temple – it makes sense, don’t you think?

    As for Halloween – move it, don’t move it – it doesn’t matter – for most of us, including the secularists, it is just a fun night to dress up act silly, beg for candy and share some frivolous entertainment with each other. There is a danger that the occult becomes cool, but I think for most people this is innocent fun. As for all the drunks, rowdy morons, witches and satanists – they are going to do what they do, with or without secular Halloween and they’ll do it on Oct 31 and/or the last Sat in Oct – do they really care?

    People are not skipping Mass on All Saints because of Halloween – how else do you account for all the other days they skip Mass?

    Holidays have the significance we give them. Christmas can be just a day to drink egg nog and get gifts. Easter can just be about chocolate eggs. We are not forced to worship God; we are just as free to worship ourselves – at least for a little while – then Bam! Halloween won’t mean a thing although some of the imagery might be familiar in hell.

  • Thanks for sharing with information. now i know more about holloween..please keep posting. I will visit again.

Faster, Higher, Stronger… in Faith

Tuesday, September 8, AD 2009

Next month, the International Olympic Committee will decide whether the 2016 Olympic Games will be held in Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, or Tokyo. The Windy City’s Olympic bid is believed by many to have a good chance of succeeding, although others predict Rio will get the nod in order to bring the Games to South America for the first time.

Supporters of Chicago’s bid (the most ardent among them being Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley) say the Games will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase the city to the world, increase tourism, and promote economic development.

Those who don’t want the Games, however, argue that it will burden the city and the entire state of Illinois with years of additional taxes and debt, displace poor and vulnerable people from their homes and places of employment, leave behind crumbling “white elephant” venues, and promote exactly the kind of pay-to-play corruption that has made Chicago and Illinois infamous.

Whatever the outcome of the Olympic bid (which we will know on Oct. 2, when the IOC meets in Copenhagen), the competition for the Games has gotten me to thinking about another world-class event that has been proven to have lasting positive effects on the communities and countries that host it: World Youth Day.

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2 Responses to Faster, Higher, Stronger… in Faith

Clout and Catholic Education

Thursday, July 23, AD 2009

Too often, Catholic education, particularly at the high school level, seems to be valued not so much for its moral and religious content as for its prestige in the community, or for its ability to produce graduates who get into the “right” colleges and get higher-paying jobs later on.

In my experience, Catholic high schools tend to be known in their communities as 1) schools rich kids attend, 2) a way to escape poor-quality public schools, 3) athletic powerhouses, or 4) institutions whose graduates enjoy disproportionate wealth and influence — the quality Chicagoans famously call “clout.”

Just today, in fact, I heard someone refer to alumni of a local Catholic high school as a “Catholic mafia” that allegedly dominates local business and politics. Although this characterization is probably not entirely justified, many alums of this particular school do seem to end up in positions of influence in the community.

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19 Responses to Clout and Catholic Education

  • I wonder if it’s also because so many Illinois politicians exercising their clout are Catholic (Quinn, Durbin, Madigan, Daley, Emil Jones, the Strogers, etc.) so their social network, including the people they exercise influence on behalf of, is made up disproportionately of well-to-do Catholics. My downstate, public high school had 1 person, while the local Catholic school also had one.

  • I serve on the board of two Catholic high schools — my alma mater in Chicago (a south side school not mentioned in any of the Trib articles that I read) and my children’s alma mater in Atlanta. For the most part I agree with Elaine’s observations. That said, I would mention that in my experien the board leaders tend to be very serious about the school’s Catholicity and spiritual environment. Parents, however, are a mixed bag, and it is true that many have misplaced priorities (like most Americans). These schools operate in very competitive environments and must compete for students and teachers, and these constituencies often have imperfect priorities as well. The Chicago school is all boys and could not recruit students successfully without emphasizing athletics. Period. Just a fact of Chicago’s south side. The school’s president and the board view this emphasis as a tactic to attract boys so that we have an opportunity to educate and mold them into genuinely Catholic young gentlemen. The broader community may see us as athletics focused, but the board fully understands the distinction between means and ends. The co-ed school in Atlanta does not need to emphasize athletics quite as much, but does have to spend inordinately on unnecessary resources (in my view) in order to attract students and teachers. Private high schools in Atlanta (mostly non-Catholic) are much better endowed than us and have more attractive facilities. Both schools struggle mightily with keeping tuition as low as possible while balancing difficult budgets. Both schools are aware that a good percentage of students come from Catholic in name only families who are attracted to the educational value (good education at a bargain price compared to competitors). Overall, they do a pretty good job of imparting the faith in what is virtually a quasi-evangelical environment. I serve on many non-profit boards (Salvation Army, United Way, etc), but none are more challenged than the Catholic high schools.

    Finally, I am not as offended at “clout” as some others. I am more offended at the faith-oriented shortcomings of Catholic schools. I’m happy if Catholic kids get to attend U of I, even if assisted by a call or two. I just want them to have a sufficiently well-formed faith that they won’t lose as soon as they leave home.

  • ability to produce graduates who get into the “right” colleges and get higher-paying jobs later on

    You speak as if this is a bad thing. It’s as bad as holding a dance and asking if a church should have offered a Bible study instead. If the schools are deficient in morality training or religious education, it is fine to complain. To act as if they are values opposed to achievement in industry after graduation or the school’s prestige is just wrong.

  • Might the “clout” list include a lot of higher-income schools and Catholic schools because they have a better education results, and it’s unlikely that folks on those lists just suddenly got backing now, and have instead had backing to get into the “good” schools the entire time?

  • M.Z., I never said it was inherently “bad” for Catholic school graduates to get into good colleges or get good jobs. My concern is that when Catholic schools come to be known ONLY or primarily for those things, they may lose some of their potential to be “salt and light” to a fallen world. Just as there’s nothing wrong with a church sponsoring dances, bingo, or other social events, but when that’s ALL a church is known for doing, maybe they need to reexamine their priorities.

    Also, I’m not complaining about the quality of Catholic education so much as the perception that Catholic schools are only for the wealthy and powerful, or are dependent upon them for their survival. Any religious institution that depends upon the wealthy and powerful to survive has to take extra care not to lose sight of its mission.

  • Fox, I’m sure that kids from higher income schools (private or public) have always had a certain amount of “clout” or “pull” in the college admissions process. In the case of the U of I, however, it appears to have become much more blatant in the last few years. Plus since U of I admission has become highly competitive, anyone who gets in based on clout is more likely to deprive an equally or more qualified middle- or working-class student of admission.

  • M.Z.,

    I didn’t really understand Elaine as suggesting that worldly achievement or its facilitation is inimical to Catholic values, but that it should be subordinated to faith formation in terms of prioritization. I agree with her that many Catholic families are attracted to Catholic schools for the wrong reasons, and Catholic schools are often tempted to reorient their priorities accordingly. When that happens, “morality training or religious education” suffers. A number of years ago there was quite a public kerfuffle at a very affluent Catholic school when parents accused the school of being “too Catholic,” because the school administration was trying to beef up its religion courses and requirements. Eventually, many of these parents left when as a consequence. The irony is that the high school now sends an inordinate number of grads to Ivy League and other prestigious schools due to the efficacy of its “classical” education.

    The bottom line is that most graduates of Catholic schools are terribly catechized, and that is partly the result of the schools’ understanding that such catechises is not a primary value of most parents. The schools feel pressure to respond to the marketplace by replacing Catholicism with something called “in the Catholic tradition.”

    Finally, I do sense things are getting better. The schools that I serve are very conscious of their Catholic identity, and it is not watered down, even though I suspect (just suspect) that catechesis could be more rigorous. That said, I think high schools struggle with catechesis in part because most Catholic grade schools send students who are largely uncatechized. Most cannot name the seven sacraments or the ten commandments; and very few can explain the types or meanings of grace.

  • Elaine-
    I’m suggesting that the high school selections are part of the same process as the college, not that the selections themselves are “good.”

    If the kids got into “good” high schools in the same way as colleges, the same objections would exist– moreso for public schools than private, but it’d exist.

  • MZ — no one said, as far as I can tell, that morality is opposed to achievement. The post was about people who prioritize achievement (and not even real achievement but positions purchased by clout) over moral training. Do you have anything to say about that?

  • First, you are not going to find too many poor minority schools on the “clout list” because they have their own form of “clout list”, i.e. affirmative action, but it is too un-PC to mention in the public debate on this matter. I see these two forms of clout balancing each other out. As always it is the great majority of Americans in the middle that get s****ed.

    Of course, private universities have their own clout lists. When my daughter was accepted at Notre Dame they made it quite clear that she was admitted during the early admissions process because I was an alumni (she had a near perfect SAT and a 4.0 GPA but alot of ND applicants do). Should public universities be more egalitarian and fair in their admissions process because they are public . . . dream on.

    Secondly, I totally agree that Catholic Schools K-12 & universities have totally lost their initial mission, i.e., to educate Catholic children while keeping them strong in the faith. That is why I have never wasted my money on Catholic Schools for my kids (including my daughter who eventually accepted a full ride academic scholarship to a state school and got nothing from ND). It is also why my parents never spent a dime on Catholic education except my sisters and me except for CCD and when the nuns stopped teaching that in the late 1960’s they even stopped sending us to CCD. [We were poor enough where they didn’t have to pay for me to go to ND – I lived at home, worked and got enough in state scholarship funds to cover the rest.]

    Catholicism as taught in Catholic High Schools consists of call men with Roman collars “Father” and work in soup kitchens on weekends. I’d be shocked to learn of a current Catholic high school graduate who could define “transubstantiation” or discuss the notion of “baptismal regeneration” or list the 7 sacraments. This is why Cathoic Home schooling is growing in some communities – a notion unheard of 40 years ago except in communities without Catholic schools.

    Finally, a couple of years ago Bishop D’Arcy of the South Bend/Fort Wayne, IN Diocese ordered the dismissal of a popular teacher and coach at St. Joseph High School in South Bend because he had married a divorcee and had left the Church to become a Baptist. Parents and staff and faculty members of course were outraged. So, I also agree that Catholic High Schools are just supplying what the public wants – a good secular education with a thin religous veneer. Of course, the religous attitudes of most of these parents have also been shaped by the piss poor religous teaching that they have received from Catholic Schools and Cathoic pulpits during the past 40 years.

  • I think that Ms. Krewer’s argument is poorly drawn. Her concern is on a. perception of the school by outsiders and b. the desire of parents at a few Catholic schools to get their children into a good college. I don’t see anything about the students themselves!

    The schools can talk about a need for “public relations” work, but the reality is that the school has very little ability to change a perception that “its a sports school” or “its a rich kids’ school.” Such statements, in my experience, are always made by people with no real world exposure to the school, so how much credibility or concern can you put on such statements?

    Whether the parents want their children to go to a good college doesn’t seem to really be connected with whether the high school is a good Catholic school or not. I just don’t see the connection in her argument.

    That’s not to say that every Catholic high school is successful, either academically or spiritually. All Catholic high schools (that existed before Vatican II) were built around a clerical teaching staff. The decline in vocations has resulted in a largely lay teaching staff today. Does that make them less Catholic? Maybe, maybe not, depending on who got hired to replace those priests, nuns and brothers. I am a proud alum of a Catholic high school, which my children also attended. It was also all boys in my day and almost all clerical teachers. Now it’s co-ed and has only a handful of clergy. In my opinion, it is a much better school today, spiritually, academically and socially. This is a school where a survey found that seniors are more likely to attend Mass on Sunday than freshmen. The students have a choice on Friday between getting a jump on homework so they won’t have to do it on the weekend or going to Mass. Over two-thirds of the students choose Mass, including many of the people of other faiths.
    In my book, that’s a school that is religiously successful. But it has a reputation in the community as being only for athletes and only for rich kids.

    I would like to hear discussion about people of other faiths attending “Catholic” schools. Should “non-Catholics” be allowed to attend? How large a portion of the student body should be Catholic? Perhaps one can think about what the mission of the school is. Is it to teach Catholic kids so they will continue as Catholics? Is it to help raise the future of the students who otherwise face a bleak future, regardless of their religious faith? I’d point to the parallel of Catholic hospitals. Are they Catholic enough? How do you decide what ‘Catholic enough’ means?

  • If opposition between secular achievement and religious instruction was not being attempted, the comparison shouldn’t have been made. I remember talking to a Jewish graduate of Marquette High School. He felt he understood the Catholic faith adequately. He went to that school in part because of the hockey program. Was this a bad thing?

    I have nothing against trying to improve religious education. Serving on two school boards, Mr. Petrik is probably well aware that the parents that send their children to these schools for prestige and/or academics are the same parents that write large checks. These parents are given the deference they are given, because politicians (and the best pastors are good politicians) are willing to work with what they have in order to improve rather than tear what’s working down and create unnecessary animus. As seen from the Notre Dame saga, the one thing you couldn’t say about Notre Dame was that it was a pauper. (Yes, I know blessed are the poor, and I’ve embraced that more than I cared to have.) There have been more than a few start ups that have attempted to embrace the faith alone and ignore things like achievement or money only to find themselves tits up.

    Finally, I agree with Mr. Petrik that things are improving at a lot of schools. Certainly there is nothing wrong with encouraging that improvement.

  • would like to hear discussion about people of other faiths attending “Catholic” schools. Should “non-Catholics” be allowed to attend?

    I rather like the idea of non-Catholics in Catholic schools– partly because of the witnessing opportunity, partly because I have seen what it results in– a lady friend who recently passed went to a Catholic school when she was a kid, because it was the “best” school and that’s all her parents cared about. Sixty years later, though still a (highly irascible) vague Christian, she would jump down the throat of anyone who tried to spread the usual “Catholics worship Mary” type BS. She was better at defending the Church than most Catholics I know!

    I’d point to the parallel of Catholic hospitals. Are they Catholic enough? How do you decide what ‘Catholic enough’ means?

    My book? They follow Catholic teachings as related to their work, and allow or support the action on those teachings that aren’t related to their work. (don’t want to get mission bloat, it would make them not as good as hospitals)

  • I have no problem at all with non-Catholics attending Catholic schools, but would not want any Catholic kids displaced by non-Catholics without good reason. In general, a Catholic school’s primary mission is to serve the Catholic community by educating its children in a manner that is consonant with our faith.

    To MZ’s earlier point, quite frankly some of the most ardent Catholic parents are also the most generous, though that certainly is not always the case. The idea that somehow the financially successful are not as good Catholics as those of more modest means (which is not at all what MZ said) is just a silly conceit. I have observed little correlation. Many of our wealthier families are quite devout, and also quite generous, but certainly not all.

  • If opposition between secular achievement and religious instruction was not being attempted, the comparison shouldn’t have been made.

    You certainly have a point . . . CS Lewis notes somewhere, maybe in a letter, that readers are often like witless sheep who will take the first detour possible, even if it wasn’t intended.

  • I too have no problem with non-Catholics attending Catholic schools; in fact some of the first Catholic schools were set up in predominantly non-Christian areas as “mission schools”.

    To some extent a Catholic school cannot fully control how OTHERS in the community, who aren’t associated with the school, perceive it. But I’m sure there are other times when taking a look at oneself “from the outside” is helpful and a needed corrective.

    A big part of the problem with Catholic education as it exists today is that very few if any schools can survive on tuition alone — charging every parent the full cost of their child’s education would put it out of reach of all but the most wealthy — so a lot of time and effort has to be spent on fundraising and on extracurricular activities such as sports that make money for the school. Which usually translates into 1) hitting up wealthy alumni and business people for donations, 2) holding a lot of fundraising events (bingo, carnivals, auctions, dinner/dances, etc.), and 3) recruiting the best athletes.

    Now again, these things are not inherently evil or wrong in themselves, but they CAN become a diversion from the schools main mission if its administration isn’t careful. What to do about that?

    Perhaps the most radical approach has been taken by the Diocese of Wichita, Kans., where ALL Catholic schools are funded completely by tithing and NO tuition is charged to any Catholic student. This is done through a comprehensive stewardship program that emphasizes giving of “time, talent, and treasure” as a way of life. As a result, its schools are thriving (as are its priestly vocations) and other dioceses have taken interest in this approach. Whether it can be successfully transplanted to large urban dioceses, particularly those with large numbers of recent immigrants, remains to be seen; but I think it is worth looking at.

  • Elaine, I like the comments about funding. My pastor is the oldest of five boys in the family. His parents moved to a house down the street from the Catholic church. His non-Catholic parents went there and asked how much it would cost to send their children there. The answer was $500 a year (This would be back in the ’50s) if they were not Catholic and free if they were Catholic. “So we became Catholic!”
    Parishes in our archdiocese are limited to a certain percentage of their budget that can be devoted to the parish school (if any.) The rest of the cost has to come from the parents. I think there are good arguments for at least some funding to come from parents. First, you do not value anything that is free. You have no “skin in the game.” Second, parents have to be responsible for their children and that includes their education. The entire parish should not have to pay the family’s expenses. I’m sensitive to those parishioners who do not have children in the parish school. I guess the parallel is public education, where the general public pays the whole bill and they do so in a grudging fashion.

    There are also Catholic schools that would not exist if tuition were the only source of their income. I am familiar with a “Nativity” middle school locally, that only admits children whose families can’t pay (although they do charge $20 a month, for the first reason I mentioned above.) Their student body are from low income homes, almost all minority, almost all not Catholic, some are immigrants. They typically come to 6th grade with reading and math skills at the 2nd or 3rd grade level.

    My point is that there simply isn’t enough money to have a school like that if you only look at the neighborhood community. Their ability to raise funds from the Catholic community in our city is all that stands between these children and life on the streets. So does it make a difference if most of the students are Catholic?

    You posit that fund raising should not be a diversion from the school’s main mission. On the face of it, I agree. I just have a hard time analyzing how I would know, at a specific school, if it is a diversion.

    There is a Catholic high school in our city that puts the students to work to pay for the cost of running the school. The students have jobs in the community, one day a week, that covers their tuition. As I understand it, they have classroom work four days a week and they work the fifth. These students and their families do not have the economic means to pay tuition on their own. The kicker is that the work part makes their classroom work meaningful. “I need to learn how to write better because that’s what it takes at work.” (And that lack of understanding of why studying is meaningful is one of the biggest problems in public education, in my opinion, as a former school board member.) So you can paint their school as exploiting the students or you can paint it as giving them a meaningful education that they couldn’t otherwise obtain.

  • Any funding mechanism, within reason and morality, that keeps Catholic schools from becoming accessible only to the wealthy, or dependent entirely or almost entirely on wealthy people to keep them running, is OK by me. Charging a small or sliding amount of tuition to insure that families have “skin in the game” is fine, but again, the idea should always be to insure that Catholic education is accessible to all income levels.

    The Catholic high school you mention that has students work to earn their tuition one day a week — that sounds like a great idea to me, because it enables the students to gain real life job experience. I wouldn’t consider it “exploiting” them at all, unless the jobs in question were exceptionally dangerous or exhausting.

    Should parishioners who don’t have children be responsible for supporting a parish or diocesan school? Well, it depends on how you look at it. Is the school an integral part of the Church’s mission to which ALL Catholics have some obligation to contribute (in line with the Fifth Precept of the Church)? Or, is it a purely voluntary/optional service which only those who participate in it are obligated to support, like a sodality or men’s/women’s club?

    When does fundraising become a diversion for the school’s main mission? I would say the line is crossed if the school comes under pressure to compromise or downplay Catholic teachings or other practices (e.g. dress codes, rules against teachers being married or cohabiting outside the Church), or to look the other way at obviously immoral or egregious practices of a major donor, in order to avoid losing the funds upon which it is dependent for its survival.

    I really appreciate everyone’s thoughts on this matter, and hopefully it will get everyone thinking about how best to support Catholic education. I didn’t mean to be excessively hard on Catholic schools but simply to point out a potential stumbling block to their mission.

  • Eric called my attention to this entry last week, shortly after it had been posted, and in the chaos that was last week as one of my best friends got married, I left this open on my computer all week, not getting to it until this evening. I know the discussion has died down days ago, but if others are still interested in continuing the discussion, I find the Wichita approach very interesting. In response to the statement that what is free is not valued as much, I would like to call the attention back to the priest whose parents converted for the free education–their son had a vocation! That priest valued what he received so much that he ended up giving his life to God to continue to serve the same cause!

    I live in Houston, which is a large city with a number of immigrants (many of whom are Catholic), as well as many other “higher end” Catholics. It is interested that some parishes tend to serve either one end of the spectrum or another, based on location or other factors, but there are also parishes that are more “mixed”. I can’t speak for all parishes, but of these latter, I have seen a dichotomy within the parishes, where some kids can afford to go to the parochial school and others, no matter how devout of a home they come from, simply cannot afford it. They are then put through the public school system supplemented by a sub-standard Sunday catechesis, and we wonder why we have so many teens having pre-marital sex and a breakdown in families, especially in this lower-end demographic.

    It is because we have not taken it on as our responsibility as the Church to provide for the needs of our young people, all of them! One of the saddest things that has happened in the past half a century or so, at least in my opinion (which I believe can also contain an objective moral point), is the loss of the importance of the parochial school. I have been reading the history of a Franciscan religious order, which simultaneously tells the story of the development of Catholic schools in America. They were founded to further instill morals and an understanding of the Church teachings in all young people-immigrants, orphans, the poor, and yes, non-Catholics.

    Of course, the schools were easier to fund when they were run mostly by nuns. We didn’t have to pay competitive wages to lay men and women who have to take care of their families, and since we do rely on these people, we cannot cease to pay them now. But we can’t lose the mission to educate just because someone can’t afford the price tag of a solid Catholic education.

    In Wichita, I am sure that for this to function, many parents are aware of the cost of their child’s education, even if they aren’t the ones paying it in full. And if this is indeed working successfully, I am sure that there are parents who can afford it that write rather large checks as part of the lifestyle of stewardship. But to answer the question above, I do think that it is also appropriate that others who do not currently have children in the parochial school (or may never have children in it) to support it in some way or another. It is a vital ministry that ensures the future of the Church as it provides a place of the seeds of vocations to be nourished.

    I am curious if anyone knows more about other dioceses that are looking into this Wichita method and any studies being done, especially concerning the more urban areas.