Meghan Clark has another thoughtful article, Part II in her series, on Thomas Aquinas and how his approach to ethical judgment requires the kind of careful analysis that some bishops - Morlino, Paprocki, Boyea come to mind - wish to ignore, preferring a kind of moral relativism that permits them to sweep all the moral failings of Mr. Ryan's budget under the rug of prudential judgment. As Clark indicates, Thomas is more demanding.
The issue of religious liberty has seemingly fallen by the wayside this election.
Over at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Steve Schneck looks at the different ways the human dignity of the elderly is threatened in our society.
Here is a nightmare scenario: We create a culture in which we put tax cuts for the rich above sustaining Medicaid, as sound conservative libertarian doctrine insists. Seniors and their families then face horrible financial burdens. Then the libertarians of the left come along with a quick fix: euthansia. That, my friends, is the culture of death and the fact that its source is libertarian in both instances tells us all we need to know about why Catholics must resist the libertarian sensibilities whenever and wherever they show themselves.
You will recall the GOP debate last winter when people applauded at the prospect of a person being left to die because he had no health insurance. That was an anecdote. We can't let it become a governing philosophy.
Also over at The New Republic, Noam Scheiber shows how the Ryan selection has been a drag on the GOP ticket. The simple reason: His Medicare proposals have so scared seniors that they are turning to Obama. Seniors have always been the toughest demographic for Obama, but he is now leading or running even with them in key swing states. Romney needs to rack up huge majorities among seniors to offset Obama's lead among young voters. This, more than anything, explains why the election is fast slipping out of Romney's grasp.
There is one other aspect to this that warrants attention and makes Romney's climb even steeper. He can run ads, he can go on the stump and say that he will not change Medicare for seniors. But, on Medicare, seniors trust the AARP more than they do a political ad or a stump speech. And, seniors are not selfish - they like their own Medicare but they want their kids to have it too.
Over at The New Republic, Amy Sullivan raises a slightly different challenge to Paul Ryan and his episcopal defenders than the ones Ihave been raising. She agrees that the moral obligation to help the poor can be achieved in different ways and that reasonable people could disagree about which ways are more effective. But, as she points out, Mr. Ryan has never suggested what those other ways might be! Just give tax cuts to the rich and hope?
It is not surprise to any regular readers that I am a big fan of New York's Cardinal-Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Some of those reasons are personal: Dolan, like myself, studied under Msgr. John Tracy Ellis, who was the most cultured man I have known, literate in the extreme (and cultural literacy is one area where being extreme is a good thing!), and a very fine priest. Ellis imparted to all his students, the future-cardinal included, a sympathy with the human condition that comes from the study of history, and a certain modesty about our own roles. Msgr. was also attuned to the workings of the Spirit in history and often quoted the words from the Gospel about the Spirit being like the wind, we see the leaves of the trees rustle, but we know not whence the wind came nor whither it goest.
Over at Religion & Politics, the still fairly new online journal of the Danforth Center, my friend Mark Silk looks at how an earlier religio-political divide in my home state of Connecticut was healed, that between the Yankees and the Catholics. At the center of the story is a "swamp yankee," Wilbur Cross, so called because he came from east of the Connecticut River. I am a swamp Catholic, also coming from east of the Connecticut River.
The tale shows all the usual suspects in sramas set along the fault line between religion and politics - there is prejudice, there is a politican's wiliness, there is the vanity of the clergy and the politicians, etc. But, there is something else too, the hope that, sometimes, not very often, but sometimes, divisions that seem carved in stone suddenly give way.
According to Pew, the Catholic vote has swung decisively towards President Obama in the last few months. Dan Burke at RNS has the story here.
Fareed Zakaria has a good op-ed up in the Washington Post thing morning as he tries to explain why Romney's campaign has not caught on. He notes the current GOP orthodoxy against raising taxes ever and against any common sense solution to immigration has twisted Romney in knots. He can't explain in detail how he will address either problem because fixing either problem will require the kind of deal that violates the orthodoxy. All that is undoubtedly true.
From the current issue of the Tablet, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols gives evidence of how a bishop can and should talk about the moral challenges facing economic decision-makers in today's society.