Shooting for the Moon by Julie A. Ferraro

The idea of traveling to the moon may not seem like it has faith-related ramifications, but when I read about NASA naming four astronauts for a 2024 fly-by mission to the moon, my interior voice screamed, “Why?!”

Why, by all that is logical, will $100 billion be spent to launch a rocket into space for a look at what is, basically, a dead rock? Especially when so many people on this planet we call home face the aftereffects of earthquakes, tornadoes, severe storms, flooding—as well as poverty, hunger, and illness?

Why, when the U.S. bishops are so busy writing statements to deny people who don’t meet certain imaginary criteria the sacraments and accuse each other of heresy, aren’t they outraged by this waste of funds that could solve so many human problems on the ground—literally?

As a Catholic himself, President Joe Biden should be cutting such funding from any governmental budget, and the same with vast sums for military equipment and weapons. While some people might complain about “isolationism,” there is nothing wrong with conserving funds and spending it on those most in need.

Among the projects that could be covered by the sum spent on traveling to the moon is temporary housing and resources for the homeless in every city. On a recent visit to the Seattle area in Washington, I was stunned by the sight of tents erected on both sides of Interstate 5—definitely a noisy and dangerous place for people to try living. The neighbors in subdivisions make a public outcry about “sweeping” those areas, displacing the homeless, but do they offer any concrete solutions?

Yet, the homeless question is a hot debate item. The argument that many of those who lack housing “want to be homeless” is pitted against the very real need, included in Catholic social justice teaching, to provide housing, clothing, and food to the “least of my people,” as Jesus said.

The Navajo people, for instance, live in terrible poverty—many without basic necessities such as running water or electricity. Charitable organizations try to help, but substantial sums—and a definite change in attitude by the governmental agencies both on and off the reservations—are needed to ensure these families have safe and secure living conditions.

But, instead, we’re going to the moon.

Court cases have arisen from the effort to give student loan relief to those who studied hard to better their lives and are saddled with debt for decades. Why hasn’t the space program been eliminated in its entirety to fund higher education at a reasonable cost for every young person? The world would be a far better place if the educated could devote their time to researching ways to cure illness, restore the planet’s natural resources, clean the air, and provide sustainable energy instead of having to worry if there’s enough at the end of the month to pay their student debt installment.

Where are the voices to speak up against the waste of funds? Politicians seldom mention the topic, touting special interest projects without specifying costs to convince their constituents they should be re-elected or elected. If they aren’t elected, some scream “voter fraud” and file lawsuits, wasting even more money, only to have a judge confirm that the election was legitimately completed.

Meanwhile, the media continues to report on the need to raise the “debt ceiling” or finalize a budget before the government shuts down through indecision.

From every pulpit on Sunday—and through the week—priests should be urging their congregations to rise from their pews and make it clear to their elected representatives, their bishops and other church leaders, that such waste in the face of such need will no longer be tolerated.

If the priests fail in this endeavor, preferring to whine about the sins of those who don’t “fit” their preconceived notions of what is holy, those in the seats should withhold their contributions during the offertory collection. The bishops—who promote their “annual appeal” (however it is titled) to dig more deeply into the parishioners’ pockets—should forego the pursuit of wealth and stand up (without mitre and crosier) to lead the people in tackling the issue of poverty and hunger in their own dioceses.

Forget instructing pastors to chant the Mass, to use certain rubrics during liturgies. Such outward demonstrations mean absolutely nothing if the heart is not focused on care and respect of others.

These narrow-minded sorts need a quick wake-up call, especially to rein in spending—at all levels—that has gotten out of hand. The U.S. doesn’t need to go to the moon. The bishops don’t need multimillion-dollar mansions just so they can accommodate meetings and guests.

The taxpayers, the parishioners, don’t have bottomless pockets. What money is available should be used to tackle social justice issues at the federal, state, and local levels, in a true effort to bring peace, equity, and understanding to our country, the church, and the world. ♦

Julie A. Ferraro has been a journalist for over 30 years, covering diverse beats for secular newspapers as well as writing for many Catholic publications. A mother and grandmother, she currently lives in Idaho. Her column, “God ‘n Life,” appears regularly in Today’s American Catholic.

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