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Showing posts from April, 2020

Universal Basic Income in America

Universal Basic Income             Gerry OShea “Let us place a floor under the income of every family in America, and without those demeaning and soul-stifling affronts to human dignity that so blight the lives of welfare children.” You might think that this progressive political statement emanated from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in one of her commendable flights of oratory in Queens, but, surprisingly, the man who spoke those words was President Nixon, the leader of the Republican Party in the sixties and early 70’s.   Income inequality in the United States has expanded greatly since the Nixon years. In 1980, the bottom half of earners in the United States took home a modest 20% of all income generated in the country; in 2014, thirty-four years later, that percentage had collapsed to a measly 12%. During the same time period the richest 1% in America went from earning 12% of all income to 20%. Why has this dastardly situation been allowed to prevail in a country with a sup

New Models of Leadership in the Catholic Church

New Models of Priesthood in the Catholic Church     Gerry OShea Kilcummin is a substantial village with a population of close to 3000 people, located about eight miles from Killarney in my home county of Kerry. It has a thriving community with three schools, two retirement homes, a fine football pitch, and according to the village website, just one pub. Most of the people living there share the Catholic faith, and Our Lady of Lourdes Church always has a good crowd at weekend masses. The only problem is that they no longer have a resident priest. Last June, Bishop Ray Browne, after a number of clergy retirements, announced that Kilcummin, the second largest parish in the diocese, would no longer have a resident priest. This brought to eight out of the fifty-three parishes in Bishop Browne’s jurisdiction that do not have a local pastor. The people in Kilcummin pleaded with the bishop not to take this severe action against their community but to no avail. He pointed to the s

Democracy in America Today

Democracy in America Today           Gerry OShea The French aristocrat, Alex de Tocqueville, visited the United States in the 1830’s and wrote about his experiences in Democracy in America . Although very liberal for his time, he worried whether what he called “the tyranny of the majority” would bring down the whole American experiment with democracy. He feared that allowing all men to vote (we were still seventy years from women getting the franchise) would lead to the untutored masses introducing some of the revolutionary ideas that were percolating all over Europe in those years. He needn’t have worried because America never embraced any kind of proletarian agenda. In fact, for the last half century immense power has been garnered by unrepresentative special interest groups who often thwart proposals favored by a majority of the people. This recent type of governance in America is aptly called a plutocracy, a system where rich people dictate public policies that largel

America in the Doldrums

  America in the Doldrums              Gerry OShea All countries have their ups and downs, their times of elation and depression. Think of Germany in the last century, losing two world wars and promoting the despicable Nazi ideology but then turning into the 21st century as the most powerful and successful country in Europe. Despite their history of promoting the baseless idea of a superior Germanic race hostile to foreigners, their leader, Angela Merkel, almost alone in Europe, extended a welcoming hand to millions of unfortunate refugees from wars in the Middle East. Or consider Great Britain which in 1900 was ruling so many countries that the sun never set on its far-flung empire. It was the most successful of all the colonial powers and, militarily, the British navy ruled the waves. They also led the winning coalition of forces in two world wars that saved Europe from the clicking heel of German tyranny.   Now, in a fit of spleen and nostalgia for past glories, they h

Hierarchy and the Catholic Church

Hierarchy in the Catholic Church             Gerry OShea The Catholic Church with an approximate membership of 1.2 billion, operates on a hierarchical model of governance. A suitable analogy would compare it to a large pyramid, wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. The laity comprise 99% of the members and fit into the various layers below the apex. However, the top 1% - or thereabouts - have very different responsibilities and status from the rest of the membership. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the aging character, Polonius, while dishing out some advice to his son, Laertes, points to the importance of the clothes he wears because the apparel oft proclaims the man. This is hardly profound advice, but in the world of the Catholic clergy the clothes they wear often bespeak their importance in the governing structure. Above the regular priests dressed usually in a black cassock and Roman collar, comes the monsignor who gets to wear distinguishing purple clothes but not the pector