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55 cents and the price of stationery

Ideological manipulation, disguised as generosity, undermines institutional trust and threatens civilizations.

(Image: Scott Graham/

The rich young man in the Gospel expressed pride in abiding by the Commandments, but Jesus asked for a generous spirit. The Commandments form the moral foundation of all that we do. Charity and generosity—in its countless forms according to our respective vocations—fulfill the justice of the Ten Commandments, just as the Cross of the New Covenant fulfills the Ten Commandments of the Old Covenant.

Zeal for God’s Commandments may provoke a generous fighting spirit. In the Books of Maccabees, pagan occupiers issue decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, forcing the violation of the first three Commandments. Mattathias sparks a revolt against the evil Greek empire. Refusing to worship the Greek gods, he kills a Hellenistic Jew who steps forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol, and he flees with his five sons to the Judean wilderness. After the death of Mattathias, his son Judas leads an army of faithful Jews to victory in guerrilla warfare. The Maccabees destroy pagan altars in the villages and restore Jewish worship. Eventually defeated by the numerical superiority of the Syrians, foreign occupiers – including the Romans during the time of Jesus—are forever reluctant to force the Jews into false worship.

Generosity needs God’s favor and grace. The famous Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7, 1571, when a coalition of Catholic states (comprising Spain and most of Italy) inflicted a devastating defeat on the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Patras. In just four hours, more than 40,000 men died, and thousands more were wounded, more than in any other battle in history. Never again would the Muslim fleet pose a grave danger to Europe from the south.

For months, Pope Pius V had urged Catholics to say the daily rosary on behalf of the morale and good fortune of the Christian forces and, above all, for a successful outcome to the risky preemptive strike against the Turkish fleets. After the glorious victory, the Pope declared October 7 the Feast of “Mary, Queen of Victory.” A later Pope added the title “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.” The Battle Lepanto marks the last significant sea engagement in the Western world and stalled the Muslim threat to Christian Europe until recent decades.

But when generosity—or its counterfeit, disguised self-interest—is cut loose from the moorings of the Ten Commandments, it becomes dangerous. Examples abound.

In 1913, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. incorporated a group that became a significant force in supporting birth control clinics and played a pioneering role in the modern field of population studies. As early as 1922, the Rockefeller Foundation sent money to fund German eugenics. Of Germany’s 20-plus Kaiser Wilhelm Institute science centers, Rockefeller money built or supported three. The centers made their mark for medical murder under the Nazis. Among them was the Eugenics Institute. It listed its 1935 activities as follows: “the training of SS doctors; racial hygiene training; expert testimony for the Reich Ministry of the Interior on cases of dubious heritage; collecting and classifying skulls from Africa; studies in race crossing; and experimental genetic pathology.” (See the 2004 Human Life Review essay “The Long Road of Eugenics: From Rockefeller to Roe v. Wade”, by Rebecca Messall, for more details.)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation professes the commitment to “tackling the greatest inequities in our world.” But their primary interests focus on controlling global population growth through contraception, sterilization, and abortion. The multi-billion-dollar George Soros “Open Society Foundations” aims to build “inclusive and vibrant democracies” and “fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world.” But his support of subversive causes—including the pro-abortion “Catholics for Choice”—is notorious. If there is any question why so many of us distrust our medical institutions, we need to look no further than the influence of these billion-dollar influence peddlers.

Ideological manipulation, disguised as generosity—without the moral compass of the Ten Commandments—undermines institutional trust and threatens civilizations.

There is a commonly neglected type of generosity available to all of us, and it only costs 55 cents, the price of stationery, and our concern and intellectual effort. Old fashioned letter-writing has become so rare that the significance of one signed letter, sent by first class postage, is likely to hit its mark. (A couple of years ago, I wrote a letter to a long-lost parishioner, now a high-ranking government official. When our paths crossed months later, I learned to my delight that he had read the letter.)

The letters can be friendly and supportive or angry and resistant. But brief one-page notes—carefully written—can effectively break through the iron curtain of technology and grab attention. Invoke the Holy Spirit when writing (but don’t blame Him if you misfire). Never be abusive or threatening. Every letter should have the Ten Commandments as its foundation. Be honest and earnest, but leave the success of the letter up to God. Always sign your letters. At the very least, we can hope to disturb the conscience of the recipients for the Day of Judgement.

Some dismiss letter-writing as time wasted on insignificance. True, we should always do more. (Monitor polls, for example!) But everybody knows the difference between junk mail and a personalized letter. We always read and react to a person lurking behind a first-class stamp.

The movie classic Schindler’s List depicts the real-life war profiteer Oskar Schindler’s efforts to save Jews targeted for extermination by enlisting them into slave labor factories. At the end of the movie, as the camp was about to be liberated, the workers present Schindler with a ring engraved with a Talmudic quotation: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” Schindler is both touched and ashamed, feeling he should have done more.

We will never know the effect we have, but try we must. Abiding by the Ten Commandments is just the beginning. On the foundation of the Ten Commandments, we must erect the Cross of generosity and never give up.

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About Father Jerry J. Pokorsky 29 Articles
Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.. He holds a Master of Divinity degree as well as a master’s degree in moral theology.


  1. Not the Battle of Lepanto, but the battle of Vienna late in the next century (A.D. 1683) actually marks the farthest extension of the Islamic invasion into Europe (The Battle of Tours for the western invasion in A.D. 732). Lepanto marked future control of the Mediterranean (as noted, securing Europe “from the south”), but not of Europe.

    And, without the decisive intervention at Vienna of 25,000 cavalry under the Polish King, John Sobieski, further inroads into Europe likely would have been assured (a point noted by St. Pope John Paul II in his “Memory and Identity”).

    The final defeat of the Sultan in the east came in A.D. 1697, blocking his final attempt to establish an outpost north of the Danube, the original frontier of ancient Rome. Near the town of Zena some 30,000 troops of the Ottoman army fell to the Austrians, on September 11, a date possibly immortalized in 2001 by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

    If the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were to count as “battles,” then the largest number of battle fatalities would be claimed there, in two days (not at Lepanto). About 240,000 in total, counting those succumbing later to injuries and radiation poisoning.

  2. Fr. Pokorsky makes some very good points. But that’s not the only reason I’m glad I read this article.

    I never would have believed I would see the uprising of the Maccabees, George Soros, the Battle of Lepanto and Oscar Schindler mentioned in the same piece.

    Nicely done!

  3. I am an old-fashioned letter writer. Unfortunately, the government has grown so huge through its gluttony for power that nobody reads a letter or an e-mail any more. They have mechanisms that simply respond with pre-written “responses.” I continue to write, but I save my energy for friends and relatives who actually read what I write. And, postage is now 58 cents for a First Class letter.

    • Thankfully, my Texas senators and representatives at the state and federal level personally respond to my letters and emails.

  4. A few years ago I succumbed to family pressure and got a cell phone so I could communicate by text to those siblings who saw email as antiquated. Now there is mostly text message avoidance from them as before; the law of diminishing returns. I might as well cease all digital communication with anybody and resume my favorite letter writing. It truly is a new subversive act. I have beautiful letters from just the 1980s that I treasure, especially those from my future husband. Besides, no one will be able to read text messages in 20 years. Those messages are probably “owned” by the tech companies. There is nothing better than the slow anticipation of a reply letter in your street mailbox. Hey, let’s start a movement.

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