Picking and Choosing

June 7, 2007

When Jim Boeheim is looking for new talent, he heads for the high schools of big northeast cities. If players can rise to the top of their sport in New York City, Philadelphia or Boston, they’re a good bet to succeed in college basketball.

But when you’re looking for new Roman Catholic priests, the situation is a little different. Interest in becoming a member of the Catholic clergy is declining over most of the country. That’s why Bishop James Moynihan is headed to Poland on a priest prospecting trip- it’s a heavily Catholic country with a relative surplus of priests and, as the bishop would see it, a more moral society:

Moynihan said the ongoing challenge of recruiting priests is linked, in part, to the clergy sex-abuse scandal, which became public in early 2002.

But he blames the drop in clergy on America’s secularism.

“It’s a toxic culture. It’s a poisoned culture,” he said. “It’s a very immoral culture. It’s very tough for a religious person in a secular world.”

The Roman Catholic Church ordains only celibate men as priests.

Syracuse Post Standard

Compare and contrast Moynihan’s church, if you will, with a denomination that broke with it centuries ago, the Episcopalians. The Post-Standard tells us today about the ordination of a woman as an Episcopal priest- one of seven people scheduled to be ordained this year in CNY. The Catholic Church ordained just two men; Bishop Moynihan says he’d like to bring four or five into the clergy annually.

The ratio of pastors to parishioners is not encouraging: Syracuse’s Catholic diocese has 264 priests ministering to about 350,000 people; the Episcopal church will have 136 serving congregations totaling about 19,000.

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Religious leaders have to be discriminating, when they choose people to join their ranks. But when lenders consider the wrong factors in deciding who gets a loan, that’s illegal discrimination.

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is widening a college loan probe that began with kickbacks to financial aid officers, into possible racial discrimination by loan companies. And he’s gotten Congress interested in the issue.

college-loans.jpg“What criteria are they using in the underwriting of these loans?” Mr. Cuomo asked. “Parental income? Student income? Student creditworthiness? How about the school you attend? How is that weighted?”

While lenders have the right to consider a borrower’s credit record, he said, “there are also civil rights and legal ramifications to what criteria they use, and that’s what we’re looking at.”

He suggested that students at historically black institutions were sometimes charged higher interest rates and fees than other students.

The New York Times

Some lenders testifying at a congressional hearing along with Cuomo said a school’s accreditation- and its willingness to fight for lower interest rates for students- are factors in who gets loans, and how much they cost. It also appears that students at schools maintaining the coziest relationships with lenders paid more, while their aid officers collected the perks doled out by the loan companies.