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Columns

February is Catholic Press month and a good occasion to consider this ministry of journalism in an era of newspapers folding at the arrival of e-media. Some diocesan publications are trying a new printed format, a once-a-month high-gloss magazine such as Phaith, a novel venture of our neighbors in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Subscription prices are comparable to the old Standard and Times. Elsewhere, dioceses bordering on each other have merged independent newspapers to cut costs.

This might be a good occasion to appreciate our familiar Catholic Star Herald, which arrives 45 times a year with wire-service copy as well as material from our parishes and schools. I appreciate the space it gives me for this column, and in fact I’d like to acknowledge an error I made in a December entry about immigrants and the financial hardships they face if they do not have adequate papers. In New Jersey, workers illegally here may receive workman’s compensation if injured because employers pay into the fund regardless if a worker is in the country unlawfully. If that person does not have a Social Security number, another kind of number is issued to him or her. Calling that to my attention was Algonquin J. Calhoun, Esq.

A letter writer took me to task recently for a column about scriptural literalism. The gentleman noted that he did not believe Pope John Paul denied we could read Scripture literally. The Holy Father said we could and should read literally those passages whose human author(s) intended us to read them that way, such as those I had cited, the authors of the books of Kings, for instance. But just because we read those books literally does not allow us to read the first 11 chapters of Genesis or the parables of Jesus that way. Their authors meant us to read them figuratively, as parables. They include Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the ark and the tower of Babel. Both Genesis and Jesus taught lasting moral values via parables and no one is accusing either of deception.

Another reader noted I frequently mention that two thirds of the discretionary federal budget always goes to Defense but I seem to forget the heroic sacrifice of military personnel through World War II. My point was never to slight the valor of our armed forces, who have defended us from atrocious enemies. It is their lives and wellbeing I staunchly argue to protect since politicians seem to put them at risk for far less worthy causes. One is priming the economy in defiance of five-star General and two-term President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who counseled against the abuses of the military-industrial complex. War is allowable only if it is just, not just if a president “declares” it.

A correspondent calls for proof of my claim that our military is “securing the ability of American corporations abroad to obtain resources and goods at a huge discount.” How about the overthrow of democratically elected governments throughout Latin America back into the 1950s, as with the United Fruit Company of Boston? It’s in our history books. He further objects that I attack corporate giants for sitting on piles of cash while workers seek jobs. The bailed-out banks that escaped bankruptcy thanks to loans furnished by taxpayers provide a recent example. Tried to get a mortgage lately?

Another writer well notes that the bailouts enabled giants like GM to pay 7-percent debts with 5-percent loans from the government, a neat way to farm out GM’s indebtedness at someone else’s expense. I agree because GM bondholders got stuck. But most people concede it was a dire emergency that moved Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to enact loans to avert catastrophe. Nobody said it was pretty. If there had been more big-government regulation — the kind the right abhors — the brokerage giants could not have stolen billions bundling corrupt loans with good ones and knowingly marketing them to gullible investors worldwide.

Finally, a critic argues with a term used to describe two different things. American exceptionalism means to some that our country was founded upon Christian — or at least Deistic — principles whereby God and not the state or a king gives us our liberties. With this I agree. But another sense says America as the world’s mightiest power has the right to ignore laws to which we hold all the other nations, like those about bombing, invading or occupying those with whom we disagree.

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