Distinctly Catholic

Opening Night for the GOP

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The Republican National Convention opened one day late…and a dollar short, or was I the only person who found all the speeches either flat or strangely disconnected from reality? One thing was obvious, or better to say confirmed what has been increasingly obvious for some time: The Romney campaign may not be very good at running campaigns.

Surely, they vetted the speeches, yes? Then how to explain that Ann Romney, the nominee’s wife, began by invoking, repeatedly, the importance of love and the next speaker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie began by saying, also repeatedly, respect was more important than love. Most of the speeches before the two main events portrayed Mr. Romney as supremely competent, the turn-around artist from Bain and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, but I couldn’t help thinking how the adjectives used sounded just like those I heard in Atlanta in 1988 when another Massachusetts Governor, Mike Dukakis, accepted the nomination of his party. He, too, was presented as “Mr. Fix It!” He, too, was the non-ideological candidate, the candidate of competence and technical know-how and hard work. He lost.

Happy Feast

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Today is the Feast of St. Augustine. Where would any of us be without him? Say a prayer of gratitude today to God for His gift of faith to the man of learning and wisdom whose writings are, to my mind, unparalleled in the Christian canon.

No Schadenfreude

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I am sure that some people are tempted to indulge a little schadenfreude over the news that the oh, so censorious Archbishop-elect of San Francisco has been charged with a DUI. I hope that the incident will invite Archbishop-elect Cordileone to think with greater compassion about the complicated lives we all lead today. Just as his arrest does not tell us all there is to know about him, so too, does the fact that a couple uses contraception, or that a given man or woman is gay, exhaust all there is to know about them.

I will also point out that, by definition, drinking while under the influence is not an intrinsic evil, but Cordileone better hope his case is settled soon because his colleague, Bishop Morlino in Madison, seems intent on expanding the category of intrinsic evil to include just about anything that does not cohere with the Republican Party platform. Even the GOP, I suspect, is not about to propose overturning drunk driving laws.

Dear Republican Catholics

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Here is an open letter to Republican Catholics. Next Tuesday, I will publish a similar letter to Democratic Catholics. Please note the placement of noun and adjective. If you are first and foremost a partisan, there is nothing I can say to you. I am writing to those for whom being a Catholic is the noun, and their partisan affiliation is an adjective, not the other way round.

Dear Republican Catholics,

I write to you from my heart. I believe that the nation’s political life needs a robust conservative movement, just as it needs a robust liberal movement. The different ideas of the one and the other can, should, and must serve to correct the excesses of each other. Wisdom resides in appreciating the insights of those with whom one disagrees. Those liberals who have read Conor Cruise O’Brien’s magnificent biography of Burke, “The Great Melody” know what I am speaking of here, as do conservatives who have read Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Age of Jackson.”

Liberal Federalism

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I am a big fan of stealing pages from the other side's playbook when it comes to policy. For starters, neither party has a monopoly on new or good ideas. In this morning's Washington Post, there is a story about how several counties in Texas are figuring out ways to expand Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, even though their state's Governor, Rick "oops" Perry, has stated the Lone Star State will not participate in the expansion. The article reveals that these large counties have already engaged in a range of health care programs that help the poor and make their cities more livable. My guess is that there is a model here for some liberal federalism. And, if Mr. Ryan is so intent on finding subsidiarity in action, here it is. Will he endorse it?

Jeb Bush Is Right: Stop Blaming W

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Jeb Bush is right: The Obama campaign needs to stop blaming his brother, President George W. Bush, for the bad economy. (Of course, according to most polls, most Americans still hold Bush more responsible than Obama for the economy.) I do not think Bush's policies helped the economy, but I don't think they were completely responsible for the economic collapse either. The Glass-Steagall Act was on life support when a GOP Congress and President Bill Clinton finally drove a stake through its heart in the late 1990s, and it was the repeal of this Act that did more than anything else to lay the groundwork for the downturn.

But, the real culprits were not the politicians but the financiers, that class of investors who recklessly tried to exploit every opportunity for financial gain, no matter the economic or social consequences. So, stop blaming Bush and start blaming Romney, the venture capitalist extraordinaire.

Papa Luciani Speaks

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It is one of the funnier characteristics of a certain kind of liberal Catholic, that they love to entertain "what if's" to explain why reality has not tended towards their views. So, they wonder, what if Pope John XXIII had lived to see the Council to completion? One obvious answer: the Mass would still be in Latin! The brief pontificate of Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I, was another such moment. Of course, when Pope John Paul II was first elected, liberals embraced him, hoping his penchant for skiing somehow indicated a desire for theological experimentation. But, within a year, the musings began - if only Papa Luciani had lived. (In Rome, bumper stickers appeared that read: "Paul come back. All is forgiven!")

In a story over at Vatican Insider, we find that the possibility of a liberal heyday under Pope John Paul I was unlikely. "The Lord wants us to obey the hierarchy," he is quoted as saying. Alas, he had a great smile, and he had an undeniable pastoral sensibility. But, he was no liberal.

Why Romney's \"Joke\" Was Vile, Not Funny

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Mitt Romney made a joke the other day, telling a Michigan audience that "No one ever asked to see my birth certificate." Setting aside whether the most scripted man in political memory is capable of an impromptu bit of humor, a range of GOP surrogates took to the airwaves yesterday to say that they thought it was a shame that no one can even tell a joke anymore.

I agree. I detest the culture of political correctness that takes umbrage too quickly. And, I wish with all my heart that Romney's comment could be interpreted merely as a joke, as a source of mirth. It could be so interpreted if birtherism was really a fringe idea held only by the fringe. But this is one fringe idea that, according to a poll last year, 51% of GOP primary voters believed. As in, a majority. In that context, Romney's joke was not funny, it was vile.

Dems For Life: The Politics

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This weekend, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and his colleagues were discussing their latest poll which shows that 11 percent of the American electorate remains undecided about the presidential contest. Blitzer noted that both campaigns have pursued the kind of scorched earth strategy designed to fire up their base but which may not be persuasive for this group, the very people who will decide the election. Indeed.

This week, as the Republicans gather in Tampa, you can bet that they will try to avoid talking about the issue of abortion. In the wake of Congressman Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape,” the issue appears toxic. Besides, the GOP, at least Mitt Romney’s GOP, has concluded that their best chance at victory emerges if the campaign remains focused on the economy. How could it be otherwise with a nominee who has defined himself in the public square by his private sector experience, and whose position on abortion over the years would do an Olympic gymnast proud.

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In This Issue

December 2-15, 2016

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