The Ottumwa Courier

October 4, 2013

EDITORIALS: Messages about exercise; Opening the Vatican's bank


CNHI News Service

Exercise aids health, so why is message often ignored?

(The New Castle News / New Castle, Pa.)

Have a health-related problem? They have a pill for that.

In the modern world, medication is frequently seen as the answer for what ails you. But a new study appears to confirm what is really little more than common sense.

Proper diet and exercise can be very useful in dealing with a variety of human illnesses, in some cases proving just as helpful as drugs when dealing with health problems.

A report published by the British Medical Journal touted the benefits of exercise by stating that there was no statistical difference in results between test subjects who used exercise or drug treatments after suffering coronary disease or pre-diabetes.

Basically, the outcomes among the test subjects were the same, whether they opted for lifestyle changes or medications to deal with their conditions. The conclusion of the researchers was that physicians should stress the health benefits of proper diet and exercise — which we would hope they already do.

We’re not sure this research breaks any new ground. There is a litany of medical research indicating there are meaningful health benefits found in healthy lifestyles. This doesn’t mean people should be training for marathons or counting every calorie. But keeping active has been shown to reduce heart disease risks, high blood pressure and the impact of arthritis, among other things.

There’s no secret to any of this. Yet data constantly suggests Americans don’t get enough exercise, and obesity is literally a growing problem. So why aren’t people taking better care of themselves?

The main answer, we suppose, is that people like to eat, and exercise takes time and effort. And a culture that prizes instant gratification will opt to reach for medication because it can work quickly to address a problem with minimal effort.

Perhaps this latest study, showing no real difference between exercise and medication, will be used to justify further drug taking along with exercise avoidance. After all, why not take the easy way out?

But prescription medications come with a variety of side effects. They also come at a financial cost and don’t necessarily provide the range of health benefits produced by regular exercise. A particular drug may be helping your high blood pressure, while it does nothing for the plaque growing in your coronary arteries.

The message here is that simple advocacy for a sound diet and prudent exercise isn’t enough. A wise society and its institutions will work to convey the message to individuals that it is in their long-term benefit to pursue proper fitness decisions as part of a healthy lifestyle choice.

Yes, the drugs will be there. But when feasible, the better option is to see that they aren’t needed.

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Open the Vatican's scandal-prone bank

(The Mankato Free Press / Mankato, Minn.)

It might be the ideal environment for a financial scandal: Millions of dollars in assets, a hands-off top authority with higher priorities and little background in finance, a culture of secrecy.

And thus it has been over the years with the Institute for Religious Works, the Vatican bank.

One of the mandates Pope Francis received when he ascended to the papacy was to clean up the increasingly corrupt Vatican bureaucracy, and the bank was high on the list of problems.

A milestone of sorts was reached this week when the bank, for the first time in its 71-year history, published its financial statements. The documents revealed net earnings in 2012 of nearly $117 million, with more than half that sum going to the pope for his charitable works.

The bank also said it won't do nearly as well this year, in no small part because of the expense of establishing the financial controls the rest of the world expects of a major bank.

The bank and its managers have been a recurring embarrassment for the Vatican for decades, with major scandals erupting in the 1970s and 1980s and a sensational arrest this summer amid a lengthy investigation into money laundering at the bank.

A priest-accountant at the bank, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, was arrested in June in an alleged plot to bring 20 million euros into Italy from Switzerland without declaring it at customs. He is one of at least three Institute officials currently being investigated by Italian prosecutors for money laundering.

Matters have reached the point where Francis, declaring that "St. Paul didn't have a bank account," has hinted that he might dissolve the bank completely if he can't find a way to clean it up.

To that end, he created a commission of inquiry with wide-ranging authority, and named a trusted prelate, Battista Ricca, to monitor the bank's operations. Ricca was almost immediately targeted with gay slurs in an apparent attempt to undermine his credibility — an attack that may have had a role in the pope's famous line about gay priests, "Who am I to judge?"

Shutting the bank, if it comes to that, may be an extreme measure, but Francis appears to recognize the inherent fallacy of such a major institution of faith and morality sitting atop a foundation of greed and corruption. Not merely the church faithful, but the world, expects better of the Vatican.