Distinctly Catholic

Garnett Responds


Rick Garnett has posted a reply to my piece this morning. I think we are largely in agreement on many issues and, most importantly, on the kinds of moral framework a Catholic can and must bring to the examination of political issues. I do think Garnett is too kind to modern economics, but will leave that discussion to another day. And, I do invite him to address the questions I posed about the pervasiveness of economic ideas in our culture and why they can be as troubling as life issues, even though their content is not as immediately repulsive. This, to me, is a very important problem with U.S. culture, the whole homo economicus worldview, that enables the culture to view children and workers alike as commodities rather than people.

Romney's Blunders


We are going to need a special filing system to keep track of all the blunders Mitt Romney has made on his first trip abroad, a trip that is designed to help American voters see him as a statesman but which, instead, has made Romney look like a guy who can't open his mouth without sticking his foot into it.

First, he dissed London's organizing efforts for the Olympics, then revealed a meeting with British intelligence that was supposed to be secret, ending his time in the UK with a reference to 10 Downing Street's "backside."

Camosy v. Garnett


My smackdown of George Weigel has given birth to a very interesting and important exchange between two professors I greatly admire, Notre Dame’s Rick Garnett and Fordham’s Charles Camosy. At issue is the relationship between agreed-upon Catholic doctrine and the exercise of prudential judgment by politicians. This is a critical discussion and I hope that all three of us can help perfect the arguments of each of us.

Camosy wrote:

Romney & the Olympics


While most of the commentariat was focused on Romney's unforced error, denigrating the UK's preparations for the Olympics and Cameron's biting rejoinder, I had a different question. Mr. and Mrs. Romney attended the Opening Ceremonies which featured, among other things, a rendition of Blake's "Jerusalem" set to the magical music of Hubert Parry. Romney has frequently given his examples of his commitment to a religiously inflected American exceptionalism. What does he think of this bit of religiously inflected British exceptionalism? After all, Blake's retelling of a fable - "And was the holy Lamb of God/ On England's pleasant pastures seen!" - trumps even Sarah Palin's exalted ideas about America's special divine dispensations, no?

Profile In Cowardice


For all their bluster in January and February, it now appears that House Republicans are a lot less keen on engaging the fight over the HHS mandate, according to this story in Politico.

What changed? Not the administration's "accommodations" which have proven to be less accommodating than promised. No, what changed is that Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a "slut." The House Republican leadership could not bring itself to repudiate Limbaugh, which would have allowed them to make the case that a legislative fix for the HSS mandate was not a "war on women." And, unsurprisingly, women tell pollsters they do not support a war on women. So, consideration of the Fortenberry Bill was pulled.

Until the GOP leadership takes on the extremists within its own fold, they will be forced into these kinds of cowardly withdrawals.

Contra Garnett


My friend and fellow Catholic commentator Rick Garnett has taken issue with my takedown of George Weigel’s most recent article. I charged that Weigel is dissenting from Church teaching. Garnett thinks I may have overstated the case. Unfortunately, and quite uncharacteristically, Garnett uses a strawman or two to make his argument, which I shall consider below. More importantly, Garnett – and Weigel – seem to be unaware of the actual state of affairs on their side of the aisle, invoking the possibility of an “anti-statist” but nonetheless compassionate conservatism that simply does not exist.

First the strawmen. Garnett writes:

Kaveny on Obstacles to Evangelization


Cathleen Kaveny has posted what I hope will be the first of many items on obstacles to evangelization. Unlike much of the conversation about the "New Evangelization," which tends to focus on the use of twitter and the such, Kaveny goes to the root.

Do people in the developed world frame the fundmental existential problem in the way that Christianity does? As I understand it, the fundamental question that Christianity tries to answer is that posed by the rich young man in the Gospel: What must I do to obtain eternal life?

Kaveny notes that modern man experiences life differently from the way it was experienced in earlier times. We live longer and our faculties diminish. The idea of eternal life may not be as compelling as it once was. But, of course, it is the loneliness of death for those left behind that poses the existential question at its most acute: We Catholics should not desire eternal life, full-stop. We wish to live forever with those we love, beginning with God who is revealed to us as Love Himself.

The Olympics Begin


The Olympic Games open tonight and for the next two weeks, all other news will take a back seat as the leading athletes from around the world compete in London. There is something about the simplicity of athletic competition that appeals to our hearts: Usain Bolt, the Jamaican superstar sprinter who literally ran away with the men’s 100 meter dash four years ago may or may not face a challenge from his competitors, but no one will get to the top of the medal stand on the strength of influence peddling, insider trading, still less with any kind of compromise. The athletes win because they are, to quote the Olympic motto, swifter, higher or stronger than the competition.


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In This Issue

February 10-23, 2017