Sunday, June 3, 2012
Grading the Missal
I am a cradle Catholic who has sung in choir on and off for over 6 decades. I now sing at a liturgically ideal parish - an excellent music director/English adult choir leader (it says something to have to be that explicit in his role), a deacon who is taking singing lessons to be able more fully fulfill his liturgical role, and three English speaking priests who can sing and will sing on occasion. The laity sing robustly, at least at the choir Mass. The music parts were introduced last summer. When the choir restarted at Labor Day, they were singing the new music with the new translations, mostly unison. To the choir and general congregation, it was just another music setting that took some getting used to. The one (of three) deacons who sings does more than before. But that trend started as a personal commitment of his own dating back to his ordination. The other two do not sing. It is probably best that way. We have to know and accept our limitations. The priests are not singing more. Two small prayers, one at the start of Mas and one just before the distribution of Communion are said or sung by the cantor. We have a professional tenor cantor with a strong clear voice. It is easy to defer to him. Other than the Mass parts, the choir repertoire has not changed. Two sources dominate: classical composers (e.g. Faure) and modern composers of good polyphonic music, mostly not Catholic. Net result: nada, except for general griping, which happens anyway but now has a liturgical focus. I just hope that those who invented and implemented these changes got a good warm fuzzy. On a personal note, I know and understand enough Latin, and appreciate well written English, to think too many of the changes are ill-begotten abominations. Such is the way of autocratic bureaucracy. At my work, We recently did a major corporate reorganization. I had philosophical differences with the leaders of the division into which I was placed. I posted out and am transitioning to another division. This may be coloring my view of the new translation. I don't find that an option in my liturgical life.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
In the case of the current federal, state and local government budget crises, trying to do that, in almost all cases, causes a political outcry. So it is avoided. It was certainly avoided in your editorial "State of the Unions." To your credit you did mention "get long-term entitlement costs under control."
The problem far exceeds that.
The scandalous financial crises over the years have laid bare the unsustainable nature of government policy at all levels going back decades. The state workers feel like victims - they are. But then so are and will be present and future citizens of the state and the nation - our children and grandchildren. It is difficult to name any public (or more than a few private) policies that are sustainable. As I write this, the price of gasoline is soaring. Nobody's budget for fuel costs going forward is adequate. That will ripple through the world economy.
Until realistic analysis of the future costs and available resources are made, the most endangered species is humanity. The root cause is a failure to understand and act on the insight of Gn 1:28a - God blessed them, saying: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it."
One can only fill what is finite. What is finite has limits. When you get to the limit, that is all there is. When you get near the limit, the scramble for the diminishing amount left is not pretty.
This deeply cynical attack on workers' rights brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol in Madison and induced the Democrats in the Wisconsin senate to flee the state, thus denying Republicans a quorum and stymieing the governor's plans, at least temporarily. These tactics are not likely to stop Walker's legislation in the long run, however, and its passage will be a blow both to economic justice and to good government.
Few knowledgeable people doubt that the medical and pension benefits of most unionized state employees need to be renegotiated if the states are to balance their budgets and get long-term entitlement costs under control, a fact already conceded by Wisconsin's unions. For decades, too many governors have signed off on generous benefit packages for state workers, leaving their successors to figure out how to pay for it all. But to suggest, as Walker and a number of other Republican governors have, that the current fiscal problems in the states have been caused by the unions is scapegoating. The states have been plunged into the red by the ongoing effects of the recession, which was caused not by unions but by the financial skullduggery of bankers (see Charles R. Morris, "The Two Economies"). The worst recession since the Depression dramatically reduced tax revenues while simultaneously increasing the need for social services. Stimulus money from Washington helped the states balance their budgets over the past few years, but Republicans in Congress have put an end to such "bailouts." A combination of higher taxes and government belt-tightening is now needed--in other words, shared sacrifice, not political pandering. Illinois and Connecticut are trying to implement such fiscally responsible policies. Governor Walker has chosen the low road, exploiting the economic fears of voters by demonizing public employees. (Or most public employees: his legislation shamelessly exempts the unions that supported his candidacy, such as firefighter and police unions.)
The right of workers to unionize and bargain with employers for a living wage and decent medical, disability, and retirement benefits is a long-standing principle of Catholic social teaching, enunciated in unambiguous terms in encyclicals issued by nearly every pope from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI. Wisconsin's Catholic bishops and other religious leaders have voiced their opposition to Walker's proposal and their support for the unions and the rights of workers to collective bargaining. Economic justice, not economic growth, is the cornerstone of the church's social teaching. It condemns the social and material damage done when employees and their families are treated as voiceless underlings or disposable parts. It understands unions to be vital mediating institutions between the state or corporation and the otherwise isolated individual, who would be ineffective if she or he acted alone. The defense of the rights of workers is also one of the important ways in which the church supports and strengthens democratic institutions and government. Unions, like churches, civic and voluntary organizations, professional and business groups, families, and a host of other associations, are essential in creating the "social solidarity" we need in order to recognize what actions best promote the common good. It's true, of course, that unions sometimes abuse their power, and when they do they must be held accountable. But, without them, who holds employers accountable?
In the 1950s, a third of all American workers were union members. Today that number is less than 12 percent. Public employees now account for more than 50 percent of all unionized workers. As union membership has declined, so have all working- and middle-class incomes. At the same time, the concentration of wealth among the top 1 percent of earners has reached levels not seen since the 1920s. As Peter Steinfels points out in his review of Winner-Take-All Politics ("The Great Reversal"), "our democracy has become the most economically unequal nation in the advanced world." This did not happen by accident. Over the past three decades, business and corporate interests have spent billions to limit taxation, constrain the reach of government, delegitimize unions, and attack any effort to distribute the nation's wealth more equitably. Institutions that used to look out for the welfare of the average American worker have disappeared or looked the other way--and that includes the Democratic Party. Is it any wonder that the average citizen is so alienated from government or that the nation's politics have become so bitter and confrontational?
For democracy to work, citizens must organize to defend their legitimate interests. For the market to work--for everyone--workers must have a say in the decisions that affect them and their families. That is what unions are for. The weaker the bargaining power of unions, the fainter the voice of the people becomes.
- the Editors cw2011Mar11
Monday, January 31, 2011
Monday, November 29, 2010
In that short time since I rotated, it appears to me that we are succeeding on the ability of team members to get their jobs done in spite of the system. There is a lot of information stored between team members ears and much information stored on servers. There is no knowledgebase that pulls it all together. Text search as a technology is, if I remember rightly, about about 5 decades old. Without information organization - a publishing event - one is constantly searching for what which someone else just searched for.
Silos of information have high local optimization of information storage, retrieval and usage. When tearing them down, there needs to be a replacement for the local community.
Going back to the movie Roots, when Alex Hailey found his ancestor in the memory of a local "library" resource, he wrote down the bits and pieces he wanted. Unless others did the same, it was lost when the resource died. Recording the memory would make it serially reusable. Publishing it, in the true sense, requires it to be organized - a rewarding task that only pays off other than in the short term.