Monday, July 16, 2012

Rich don't pay their Fair Share. Paul Krugman is Right. Listen to him

The story so far: Former President George W. Bush pushed through big tax cuts heavily tilted toward the highest incomes. As a result, taxes on the very rich are currently the lowest they’ve been in 80 years. President Obama proposes letting those high-end Bush tax cuts expire; Mr. Romney, on the other hand, proposes big further tax cuts for the wealthy.

The Long Run History of Taxes on the Rich

We know that taxes on the very rich are at a historic low right now, which will go even lower if Mitt Romney wins. But how low, exactly?
All the detailed studies I know of go back only to 1960. I’ve written about Piketty-Saez; the 2010 Economic Report of the President (pdf) also provided estimates, not taking into account corporate taxes:
All these estimates show that taxes on the rich are the lowest they have been in half a century. But what about before 1960? Well, we know that the top marginal tax rate was even higher in the 40s and 50s than in the 60s; and it was very high by modern standards through much of the 30s too.
So I think it’s safe to say that taxes on the rich are currently lower than they have been for not 50 but 80 years. And if Mitt Romney gets his way, we’ll bring those taxes down to levels not seen since Calvin Coolidge.

John Dear, S.J. Psalms of Peace, Part Two


The Psalms of Peace, part two (Ps. 46)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

NYTimes. Church in China. Fascinating.

Spreading the Faith Where Faith Itself Is Suspect

Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times
VOICES RAISED The choir at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Beijing. The church treads carefully. More Photos »
BEIJING — The Rev. Peter Liu Yongbin, a wireless microphone tethered to his head, gazed out over his prospective converts and plowed into the ABCs of Roman Catholic faith. He offered a roughly abridged version of Abraham’s family tree, the benefits of frequent confession and a quick guide to church hierarchy. “Think of the pope as equivalent to the minister of a government bureaucracy,” he explained.
Enlarge This Image
Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times
“Sometimes the political pressures are exhausting,” said the Rev. Peter Liu Yongbin, standing. More Photos »
Then came the pop quiz. What if China were to experience another Cultural Revolution, the traumatic decade of Maoist zealotry during which religious adherents were persecuted?
“If a Red Guard puts a knife to your throat and tells you to renounce your faith, what should you do?” he asked the five dozen initiates, all of them weeks away from baptism. After an awkward silence, Father Liu blurted out the answer: “Never give it up,” he said, his eyes widening for effect. “Your devotion should be to God above all else.”
Such sentiments might be a mainstay of Christian belief but they border on treasonous in China, an officially atheist state that demands fealty to the Communist Party. The pope might be a ranking minister, but according to the party’s thinking, President Hu Jintao is Catholicism’s supreme leader, at least here in China.
As a priest at an officially sanctioned government church — as opposed to the legion of illicit unofficial congregations — Father Liu struggles to balance his faith with the often-intrusive dictates of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the omnipotent government body that oversees religious life for China’s 12 million Roman Catholics. (Nearly half of China’s Catholics are thought to attend underground churches.)
It is a balancing act shared by the leadership of China’s four other official religions — Protestantism, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism — who must answer both to state authority and the exigencies of their faith.
An irascible but deeply contemplative man whose knowledge of Marxist dogma rivals his command of biblical verse, Father Liu, 46, is quick to praise the past three decades of increasing openness that has paved the way for religious revival across the land. But even as he declares himself steadfastly apolitical, he acknowledges that these are trying times for state-supervised clergy members.
“Sometimes the political pressures are exhausting,” he said as he sat in his church office only a few blocks from the closed compound housing China’s leadership. The walls of his office are dominated by a Chinese flag and a crucifix.
Such pressures have been rising as Beijing and the Vatican engage in an increasingly combative struggle over the appointment of bishops. After several years of quiet negotiation and a tacit agreement to jointly name Chinese bishops, the Patriotic Association has since 2010 consecrated four bishops over the Vatican’s objections, including Joseph Yue Fusheng, who was ordained Friday in the northern city of Harbin.
Rome responded with an automatic excommunication.
The drama intensified on Saturday, when the Rev. Thaddeus Ma Daqin, the newly installed auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, stunned his congregation by announcing his resignation from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. “In the light of the teaching of our mother church, as I now serve as a bishop, I should focus on pastoral work and evangelization,” Bishop Ma told the crowded church. “Therefore, from this day of consecration, it will no longer be convenient for me to be a member of the patriotic association.”
The announcement, captured on video and posted on foreign and Chinese Web sites, was met with sustained applause from the congregation. Father Ma, who did not lead Mass on Sunday as scheduled, has not been heard from since. China has responded to the impasse with bravado, calling the recent excommunications “unreasonable and rude” and suggesting that it will continue to unilaterally fill as many as 40 vacant bishop seats. The Patriotic Association declined to comment for this article, as did the Vatican.
Catholic leaders who have spent years fostering détente between Rome and Beijing worry about the possibility of a catastrophic schism, something avoided during the darkest days of the Communist Party’s war on religion.
“It’s a very critical situation; I haven’t seen things so bad in 50 years,” said the Rev. Jeroom Heyndrickx, founder of an institute at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium that promotes dialogue between China and the church. “All the years of cooperation and progress have been torn to pieces.”
It is not entirely clear what went wrong. The animus, fed by an age-old narrative that paints the Vatican as a foreign interloper, is never far beneath the surface. But analysts suggest party hard-liners may be taking advantage of the political stasis that has preceded the once-a-decade leadership change scheduled for later this year.
Many religious leaders both in China and abroad say the effort to turn Catholics away from the pope have largely failed. The Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, editor in chief of AsiaNews, an official Vatican news service, said the government’s recent ordinations had angered many ordinary Catholics. “I would say there’s a kind of resistance against these bishops, with the faithful refusing to attend religious ceremonies when they are present,” he said.
The conflict is reflected in Father Liu’s church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which dates back to 1605, when Wanli, the Ming dynasty Emperor, permitted the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci to build a residence and small chapel near the site of the current church. More commonly known by its Chinese name, Nantang, or South Cathedral, it has a storied but turbulent past. Repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes and fires, it was burned down during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 and closed for much of the Cultural Revolution. In 1971, the soaring, gray-brick Baroque cathedral was quietly reopened for foreign diplomats, and less than a decade later, to Chinese.
Home to Beijing’s bishop, the church ministers to a fast-growing congregation, much of it increasingly young, college-educated and hungry for a moral antidote to China’s rampant materialism and corruption. Like many members, Liu Bin, 25, said he felt wounded by the government’s increasing antagonism toward Rome. “The Vatican to me is like Mecca is to the Muslims,” said Mr. Liu, a software designer. “The pope is essential to our faith.”
Father Liu’s days are long, with the first Mass starting at 6 a.m. and the last one, a lively musical youth service on weekends, ending at 8:30 p.m. Some days he officiates at eight weddings, most of them for agnostic couples entranced by the pomp and the European-style architecture. During Christmas, traffic in front of the church snarls as 20,000 people pour through the nave. Father Liu estimates that three-fourths of those who come are drawn by the music and the costumed Santas.
“Most Chinese people have no idea what Christianity is,” Father Liu said, looking rumpled after a particularly hectic weekend. “They’ll come here to get married, and then go off to a Buddhist temple.”
Not that he minds. In fact, the $450 he receives for each wedding helped pay for radiators last year, alleviating bitterly cold services where supplicants’ fingers would sometimes stick to frozen chalices.
Drawing the curious is good for other reasons: it is one of the few ways the church can legally proselytize. Rigorous state control means that China has no Christian radio shows; Bibles cannot be sold at bookstores or passed out on the street. Religious organizations are barred from accepting foreign donations for charitable work.
“We have to beg the government to do anything,” he said, yanking at his collar for effect. “Their attitude is, ‘You should be happy we allow you to exist.’ It’s not like in the West where all your political leaders are already Christian.”
Like many Catholic clerics, Father Liu comes from a family of the faithful. Before the Cultural Revolution forced a name change, his hometown in Shanxi Province was called New Catholic Village. Since 1949, it has produced 25 priests, 30 nuns and a bishop. “I learned to say the word ‘Lord’ before I could say ‘Mama,’ ” he said.
A cocky, longhaired troublemaker in his youth, he says he was largely oblivious to religion until, one day after graduating from high school, he suddenly felt the calling. He shaved his head, started wearing suits and immersed himself in the Bible. After four years studying philosophy in Beijing, he entered the seminary with the help of a bishop impressed by his charisma and intellect. “The church prefers extroverts like me because others tend to follow us,” he said.
But government strictures on religion and the continuing battle between Rome and the Communist Party have tested his faith. Sometimes, he said, he dreams of living abroad.
Then there are other challenges, including a growing shortage of priests and nuns. In the past, he said, religious families like his would be happy for a son to enter the priesthood. There was the prestige, but also the benefits of a steady meal. These days, the country’s strict family planning laws dissuade most families from giving up their only child to the church.
Experts say that clerical celibacy and the strife between the Vatican and Beijing have made it harder for Catholicism to compete with the rapidly growing Protestant faith, which has five times as many adherents. “In the Protestant Church, anyone can be a pastor and you don’t have a problem with the pope, who is considered a so-called foreign power,” said Father Cervellera of AsiaNews.
Still, about 500 people last year were baptized at Nantang, up from 200 in 2006. The conversion classes can be exhausting because most newcomers know little about Christianity. At a recent session, those gathered asked whether Catholicism would prolong their lives or make them rich.
“Will Catholicism make me get along better with other people?” asked an elderly man who described himself as a misanthrope. (“The church will give you dignity,” Father Liu responded. “Religion will make you perfect.”)
Despite the challenges, Father Liu is optimistic about Catholicism’s future in China. Religion will outlast any political party, he says, and then there is the sheer number of the unaffiliated. “As far as I’m concerned,” he said, “there are at least 1.2 billion people here waiting to be converted.”

Ian Johnson contributed reporting, and Shi Da contributed research.

Monday, July 09, 2012

R.I.P John E. Brooks, S.J. Kevin Condron's Eulogy

Eulogy for Funeral of Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J. ’49

July 9th, 2012 College of the Holy Cross
 Photo by: Rob Carlin

By P. Kevin Condron ’67

In Fr. Brooks’ later years, he would speak openly about some of his last wishes and even his desires for his funeral. A fervent Crusader to the end, he would tell me in that big, booming Brooks baritone, “Kevin, don’t let them sing ‘On Eagles Wings’ at my funeral! There will be no eagles celebrating this Crusader.”
Bishop McManus, Bishop Reilly, Bishop Rueger, Jesuit brothers, loving family and admiring friends of Fr. John Edward Brooks, Good Morning.
We gather this day to express our temporary “goodbyes” to our beloved Fr. Brooks, to celebrate his passage from this life to a new and everlasting life, to offer all the comfort and consolation we can command to his sisters, Mildred and Marion, his sister-in-law Dorothy, and his brother, Paul, his nieces and nephews and to the countless people who called Fr. Brooks a “friend.”
In preparing these remarks, it became abundantly clear that neither I nor anyone else could find the proper words to capture the uniqueness that was Fr. Brooks. His influence and impact were so extraordinary that the very campus we gather at today, his beloved Holy Cross, stands as a eulogy to the man himself. I personally was both honored and overwhelmed when I was asked to speak these words of remembrance today. Humbly, I do not feel that I, or frankly any person, could do justice to the life of the towering figure we celebrate here today. Words truly cannot capture the importance of the life Fr. Brooks led. The people he touched, the students he molded, the college he shepherded and loved for so long are all benefactors for having existed within the ambit of his influence. A list of his accomplishments, vast and impressive as they are, does little to capture the flesh and blood of the man, the loving heart and the inquisitive mind. So I will instead share just a few thoughts on this incredible man that so greatly enriched all of our lives.
It is, of course, appropriate that we gather here at St. Joseph Chapel, in the heart of this lovely campus to celebrate Fr. Brooks’ life. For the College of the Holy Cross was his heart, his love, his life’s work and his enduring passion. Throughout the 49 years Fr. Brooks spent here atop Mount St. James, he always had a crystal clear view of what Holy Cross should be. He wanted Holy Cross to be a Catholic, Jesuit liberal arts college committed to the highest standards of excellence. His passion and love for all things Holy Cross led him to insist on excellence in the student body, excellence in the faculty, excellence in the campus, excellence in fundraising. He held himself to the highest standard and expected the same from everyone and everything. He would accept nothing less for his Holy Cross. In 1993 on the occasion of the Holy Cross Sesquicentennial Mass, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago, made the following comment about Fr. Brooks: “He has that beautiful ability to combine the spiritual depth of a man of prayer with the wisdom and insight of a scholar and the decisiveness and good judgment of a skilled administrator.” The Cardinal got it exactly right.
However, as incredible as Father’s works were as a college president, it was his warmth and charm that made him so popular to so many. The German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner tells us that Jesuits must be selfless and serviceable, and that the ultimate task of a Jesuit is to help others experience God directly. They must do this while still being someone to whom we can speak and with whom we can converse. No man better exemplified this duality of service to God and selfless openness than Fr. Brooks. For many of us, his life and many accomplishments stand as an example of God’s work here on earth. For all of us, his humble and approachable manner made him a joy to have in our lives. He had such a kind and fatherly way about him that people were naturally drawn to him and wanted to help him. I saw it over the years with the staff that worked at Holy Cross, I saw it with the alumni who were so willing to offer their financial support and I saw it with his final illness with the doctors and staff at UMass who became so attached to him. Fr. Brooks loved people, he loved to interact with them, match wits and share stories. His warmth was genuine and those of us fortunate enough to be in his orbit basked in that glowing light of friendship and love.
A friend to many, Fr. Brooks was first and always, a priest. A man who devoted his life to spirituality and living the Jesuit ideals. What made Fr. Brooks so special was that he approached his theology as an ever-evolving vocation. His faith was unwavering, deep and pure. But, in the Jesuit tradition of Ratio Studiorum, Fr. Brooks was always learning, evolving and challenging both his own views and that of the church and the world at large. The renowned Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, in an oft quoted speech to the “Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe,” spoke the now famous words that we should strive to be “men and women for others.” At the time, the words were somewhat controversial though they are now woven neatly into the tapestry of Ignatian ideals. Those words, provocative as they were, were spoken in 1973. Here on the Hill, under the leadership of Fr. Brooks, Holy Cross embraced integration in the late 1960s and the college was open to women in 1972. Ever the visionary, Fr. Brooks had a real passion for social justice, which led him to transform Holy Cross into a leading institution for human rights and social change. I submit to you today that this is the true definition of a Crusader.
For all the work Fr. Brooks did changing our college and, in his own way, the greater world around him, he was, at his heart, a teacher. He loved interacting with students, challenging their ideas and learning from them as they did from him. The classroom was his field of play and he was forever interested in the unending pursuit of knowledge gained through rigorous study and passionate debate. He taught one seminar every year, and planned to teach again this fall. My relationship with Fr. Brooks began in the mid sixties when I was a student and he was Chair of the Theology department. Later we became better acquainted through our involvement with issues surrounding the city of Worcester. In the early 1990s Father invited me to join the Board of Trustees. As we worked together for an institution that we both so dearly loved, our relationship evolved. Always the teacher, Fr. Brooks became my mentor. For me, it was a chance to learn at the master’s knee. For him, it was more teaching—the profession that sustained him and engaged him every moment of his life. I don’t know if I was a good a student, but I do know that I will be forever grateful for having had the chance to learn life’s great lessons from a teacher like Fr. Brooks.
In closing, having already mentioned a few renowned theologians and scholars, I think it appropriate that the final words of today’s remembrance come from the great man himself. Fr. Brooks was a prodigious letter writer and, as those in this church who have received one can attest, his words were always insightful, rich and eloquent. I received a copy of a letter Father wrote just two months ago. It was written to Mark Shriver, class of 1986, congratulating him on his new book about his father Sargent Shriver, titled A Good Man. In the letter Father shares his thoughts on approaching death. These words, written just two months before his own passing with such clarity and prescience, offer an insight into the man and his approach to the life everlasting. In the letter, Fr. Brooks drew a parallel between Sargent Shriver’s willingness to accept death with that of the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Fr. Brooks wrote:
“May I suggest that like Hopkins, your Dad saw death not as departing from the life he loved, but rather as a passing on to a new life he loves. In his deep faith, your Dad, like Hopkins, had the capacity to see death not as an irrevocable departure from a life he loved, but rather as a passing into a new life he knew he would love. His faith, which he continuously nourished throughout his life, enabled him to grasp the ultimate relationship between life and death. And for that gift we should all be deeply grateful!”
For all of us gathered here today, I say that we are the ones who are deeply grateful for the gift of the incredible life of Fr. John Edward Brooks.
And so to Fr. Brooks we say . . .
“Life’s race well run.
Life’s work well done.
Life’s victory won.
Now cometh the rest.”

P. Kevin Condron ’67 is chair of the board of trustees at Holy Cross.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

John Dear, Psalms of Peace


The Psalms of Peace, part one

JUHAN: Initiative's goal to educate undergraduates about humanitarian crises

JUHAN INITIATIVE (CORRECTED) Jun-25-2012 (880 words) With photos. xxxn
Initiative's goal to educate undergraduates about humanitarian crises

By Daniel Linskey
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Earthquakes, oppression, floods and famine are just some of the targets of an initiative to educate undergraduates at Jesuit-run universities about the humanitarian crises such disasters cause.

The initiative is the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network, or JUHAN, formed as a result of discussions among Jesuits about students' enthusiasm for humanitarian efforts but also the recognition such enthusiasm needed direction.

They wanted to create a curriculum to prepare undergraduates for either a career in humanitarian work or "to fulfill everyday civic responsibilities."

"We felt that young people's passion for helping people wasn't being well-channeled. They would raise money to buy blankets or something and send them down to a crisis center, but it was an unsophisticated approach," Jesuit Father Rick Ryscavage told
Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

Father Ryscavage is director of Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life, where JUHAN held its third biennial conference June 12-15, bringing together faculty, staff, students and humanitarian workers from Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and other agencies.

The conference is an attempt to organize humanitarian education in Jesuit schools worldwide through an integrated curriculum; courses offered depend on the individual strengths of the professors who teach them.

"There are some broad classes like nonprofit organization studies of nongovernmental organizations," Father Ryscavage said. "Then there are others that are much more focused, like a class on sexual violence. It studies more the dynamics of women being targets in war."

The priest believes each discipline has its purpose in humanitarian studies. "Engineering is critical to humanitarian work, but not many engineers consider that type of career. Engineers are crucial when responding to earthquakes," he explained.

Humanitarian work also has a need for students interested in business.

"I think business is necessary, because whenever there is a big emergency, there is money involved," said Father Ryscavage. "We need people who are good with accounting and budgeting to manage how humanitarian aid is spent."

The humanities department also has its place in the initiative's curriculum. Father Ryscavage said, "Sometimes fiction is the best way to teach students. Just giving statistics doesn't penetrate students' hearts the same way reading the memoir of a crisis survivor can."

One Fairfield University student attending the conference, Sara Hoegen, talked about a course she took on Etruscan and Roman art and archaeology.

"It dealt with issues of human slavery and human trafficking. It was interesting to see how these problems began," Hoegen told CNS. She became involved in JUHAN initiative after the Haiti earthquake directly affected family friends.

Courses take an interdisciplinary approach to humanitarian work, according to Father Ryscavage.

"We combined those classes with field trips to get out and see the devastation of tornadoes in Joplin (Mo.), earthquakes in Nicaragua, or the hurricane in New Orleans."

The initiative recently received a $300,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation to do a methodology to codify learning objectives for an assessment.

"We managed to pull it off, and we've been very happy. Now our task is really to make the whole model more global," Father Ryscavage said.

The theme of the conference this year at Fairfield was Global Perspectives on Humanitarian Action." One goal of the conference was for student participants to develop a strategy for a humanitarian curriculum to take back to their campuses.

Fairfield University, Fordham University and Georgetown University have already adopted the network's model.

One French student attending the conference from Beirut, Alexandre Khouri, said he had gotten involved in the initiative through a Jesuit professor. He has since worked as an intermediary between Iraqi refugees and the police and military. The feedback, he said, has been encouraging.

"A country like India has conflicts and economic and political problems, so they have humanitarian issues that need to be taken care of in a targeted local school," he told CNS. "A Philippines Jesuit university will be represented, and their country often faces environmental problems and conflicts between Muslims in the south and Christians in the north."

One speaker at the conference was Evelyn Ello Hart, an Ivory Coast immigrant and a doctoral student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., who had been helping refugees relocate to the U.S. from Kenya, Sudan and Syria.

"They don't have access to education or health care, and are not allowed to leave the camp," said Ello Hart. "Hayat Muhammad was just resettled into the U.S. after 22 years in a temporary camp. How is Hayat going to have money to pay for community college classes? How can we empower Hayat?"

Ello Hart has been working with Jesuit Commons, a group of individuals, schools and institutions that help people on the margins, like Hayat.

She emphasized one Jesuit maxim -- "men and women for others" -- as a reason for her work.

The Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network was created with hopes that it would encourage students to pursue humanitarian work beyond college. Hoegen is one example of the program's success.

"Next year I will be serving as an Augustinian volunteer where I will be organizing service projects in the Los Angeles (Arch)diocese," she said. "After that I plan to get my master's in nonprofit management."

Echoing Ello Hart, Hoegen said, "'Men and women for others' is a key Jesuit value. It is social justice through education."