Letters From the October 26, 2015, Issue

Letters From the October 26, 2015, Issue

Letters From the October 26, 2015, Issue

Papal buzzkill… sister act… Bern, baby, bern… fuzzy math?… Greider the great…


Papal Buzzkill

Thank you, Katha Pollitt, for challenging the media lovefest for Pope Francis, and also for challenging the pass that even progressive journalists have given him and the Catholic Church [“The Pope’s Blind Spot,” Sept. 28/Oct. 5]. Have we forgotten that this pope leads an institution that excludes half of the world from its formal leadership? Or that this same institution is responsible for the death of a Hindu woman in an Irish-Catholic hospital because of its refusal, on religious grounds, to perform an emergency termination of her pregnancy, which would have saved her life?

Have we forgotten that this pope and his institution oppose condom use to prevent HIV/AIDS? That this pope and his institution are opposed not just to abortion but to virtually all forms of contraception (as well as sex education), even though hundreds of thousands of women die from risky pregnancies? That this pope and his institution have forced young girls raped by relatives to carry the resulting pregnancies to term, leading to childbirth by children, as recently happened in Colombia? That this pope decries poverty, but ignores the connection between poverty and fertility rates, fertility rates and overpopulation, overpopulation and climate change?

Yes, this pope is more liberal and personable than others, and he seems to care about poverty. But the current Saudi Arabian monarch is also a bit more liberal than previous leaders. So is Iran’s leadership. Yet we still feel obligated to critically evaluate their institutions and policies.

Pope Francis, for all his gentle ways and concerns about poverty, still represents a hierarchical, authoritarian, patriarchal, ideologically narrow, science-challenged, anti-democratic, powerful, and powerfully rich institution—one convinced that its truth is the only truth!

Carol C. Mukhopadhyay
san mateo, calif.

Sister Act

Thank you for your articles about Pope Francis [Sept. 28/Oct. 5]; I appreciated all three. In “A Vision So Old It Looks New,” Nathan Schneider expertly tracks the Catholic Church’s tradition of egalitarian economics. However, two corrections must be made to his article—one perhaps minor, one very major.

The minor one: The pipeline in Kentucky that was put on hold in 2014 was to carry natural-gas liquids, not natural gas. These hazardous NGLs are extracted via the fracking of natural gas; their transportation has caused numerous well-documented accidents.

The major one: The article refers to the protest against the pipeline, which was slated to be developed across 200 miles of our state, as “the Sisters of Loretto campaign.” We in the Loretto community, both sisters and co-members, were indeed involved in the efforts to halt it. However, to label that work as our campaign is to create a very skewed picture of the efforts of a broad coalition.

A group from our motherhouse, where I live, joined a network of other organizations and individuals in opposing the pipeline. These included landowners, farmers, environmental groups, other religious communities, many county and state officials, volunteer attorneys, town council members, alarmed citizens, and those concerned about property rights, contaminated streams, and Kentucky’s fragile karst landscape.

Town-hall meetings, film showings, demonstrations, letters to various editors, op-ed pieces, attendance at legislative hearings, research, visits to county magistrates, door-to-door information distribution, testimonies, collection of petition signatures—all conducted by various members of the coalition—finally resulted in the company withdrawing its plans. The campaign exemplified what grassroots cooperation can achieve.

Cecily Jones, S.L.
nerinx, ky.

Bern, Baby, Bern

Eric Alterman devoted 10 column inches to making a pretty good case for Bernie Sanders for president [“Inequality in Campaign Mode,” Sept. 29/Oct. 5]. Yet he concluded that Sanders will not win the Democratic nomination, much less the election, and can only put heat on the likely nominee to follow his lead by addressing the concerns of the majority of voters. Only? Those who don’t feel the Bern are talking long shot or less; those who do are on the streets, and it’s working.
Ken Sandin
rockville, md.

Fuzzy Math?

Relax or Collapse” [Sept. 14/21] informs us that “each week, the average American puts in 41 hours per week” and that “the average workweek in the US is nearly a whole workday longer than 40 hours.” Inquiring minds want to know how both statements can be true at once.
Ross Boylan
san francisco

Bryce Covert Replies

The discrepancy comes from using two different data sources looking at different questions. The 47-hour-workweek figure—that is, the one that’s the basis for the claim that the average workweek is nearly a whole workday longer than 40 hours—comes from a poll of American workers conducted by Gallup, which asked them how much time they put in at work, on average. The 41-hour-workweek figure comes from an international comparison based on a time-use survey, which may also have been adjusted to smooth out the data between countries. It can be complicated to accurately measure the workweek and make comparisons with those other countries, but the data overwhelmingly show that we put in far more hours here than most of our peers in the developed world.
Bryce Covert
new york city

Greider the Great

Thank you for publishing William Greider. His work always seems so right on. I’ve been enjoying his articles since the 1980s, including, most recently, “The Neocon Game” [Sept. 14/21]. Not long ago, I came across an article that Greider wrote in the June 30, 2003, issue of The Nation titled “Deflation.” Here is a quote from the 12-year-old piece: “Rescuing the big boys while allowing others to drown has been the conventional approach in recent decades, including the banking bailouts engineered by the Fed.” A wise man. I wish he had a bigger following among US policy-makers.
Jim Scheidt
minneapolis, minn.


In the Oct. 12 issue, the bio for Dorothy Samuels [“Wrong on Gun Rights”] mistakenly states that she served on the New York Times editorial board from 1984 to 2014; in fact, her tenure there continued until March 2015.

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