Center for Ethics and Leadership

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm Trying to be Ecologically Responsible, but I Can't Afford It.

Honest. When I bought my Toyota Corolla more than 200,000 miles ago, I wanted a Prius, but it was 1/3 more than the Corolla. And now Toyota has reworked the Prius, and fully loaded it comes in at about $34,000.

I wanted to put solar panels on my house about five years ago. I think BP, working through Home Depot, wanted 20 grand. The federal rebate made no real difference at that price level.

And did you ever compare the price of organically grown produce with the regular stuff at the supermarket?

I'm trying, honest.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Left/Right Divide over Catholic Bishops' Campaign

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), celebrating its fortieth year, is once again under attack from the Catholic right. It is an old story. Twenty years ago, William Simon called CCHD "a funding mechanism for radical left political activism in the United States, rather than for traditional types of Catholic charities" (as quoted in F. Kammer, Doing Faithjustice [Paulist Press, 1991]). Twenty years later, a group called Reform CCHD Now (RCN) has again asked the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to closely review the grant awarding activities of CCHD.

To be sure, there have been concerns, most notably with CCHD's funding groups who do not agree with Catholic public policies or have been guilty of corruption themselves. The USCCB has been addressing those problems.

That said, Bishop Roger Morin, chair of the USCCB's subcommittee on CCHD called the allegations outrageous and untruthful. In addition, he said at the November meeting of the USCCB that some of these attacks were motivated by ideological or political agendas. In fact, RCN's web page on CCHD seems as angry over its alleged "radical politics" as its violation of Catholic doctrine. RCN of course called for a lay boycott of the CCHD collection taken last Sunday in most dioceses. Eighteen years ago in Doing Faithjustice, Fr. Fred Kammer pointed out that the attacks on CCHD represented the rejection of wealthy and powerful Catholics of the Church's attempt to side with the poor "by threatening cutbacks on financial support. That would be a traditional exercise of economic and political power."

The American Catholic (Politics and Culture from a Catholic Perspective) took matters a step further. Using a headline to call Bishop Morin a liar, it closed its article with a quote attributed to both Athanasius and John Chrysostom, "The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops." Both were very powerful bishops in the fourth and fifth centuries, by the way, and both are much revered saints.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It Must Be Good. It Has Upset Left, Right, and Center.

A bill for health care reform has passed the House of Representatives. The most surprising turn of events was Speaker Pelosi's agreement to remove federal funding for abortion from the House version. Three newspapers, the liberal New York Times, the conservative Wall Street Journal, and the centrist Philadelphia Inquirer, all complained about it for different reasons.

The Times was incensed about the eleventh-hour agreement between Pelosi and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to exclude federal funding for abortion altogether from the bill. It editorialized that the action of the USCCB led to the rejection of a compromise that would prevent federal funds for paying for abortion. The USCCB has argued precisely the opposite and claimed that the proposed compromise would have been a mere dodge. (As I write this blog, I still don't quite understand the financing differences.) The Times continues to argue that a woman has a right to abortion services, as does the left. As I wrote three weeks ago, that a woman has a right to have an abortion (current law) does not mean that she has a claim on the government to pay for the procedure. The Times also rejected the idea of independent riders on insurance policies and argued that no one would buy them since "nobody plans to have an unplanned pregnancy." The logical circle (planning the unplanned) notwithstanding, no one plans on getting sick, period.

The Journal ranted along the far right's talking points and argued that this was part "of temporary liberal majorities that are intent on fulfilling their dreams of a cradle-to-grave entitlement state." I wondered when the once-noble Journal began sounding like Fox News and then looked at the masthead and was reminded that Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox, has purchased the paper. Shame on you, Rupert. You are ruining one of America's great journalistic voices.

The Inquirer rejected the bill on the grounds that it will be too costly, especially for small business and the middle class. Interestingly, freshman Democratic representative John Adler from Philadelphia's New Jersey suburbs, voted against the bill on the same grounds. Adler, however, won a seat that had been Republican for more than a quarter-century, and the governor's seat has just switched parties. Costs come in many forms, not the least of which are the drag that current costs place in hidden ways on the economy.

So there they are, complaints from left, right, and center. Perhaps some political sausage is best made when it does not satisfy any constituency completely.