Distinctly Catholic

Kazin on Romney's Business Credential


Georgetown's Michael Kazin has a snappy, incisive essay up at the New Republic about why businessmen do not usually make good politicians. Amidst all the fevered speculation about when Romney left Bain, and what is in those tax returns, Kazin's lesson is more accessible and more important: The skill set needed to be successful in business is vastly different from the skill set needed to win an election and to govern afterwards. It is worth remembering that this is Mr. Romney's fourth campaign, and in the three previous ones, he only won once.

Bachmann Goes Crazy Again


Michele Bachmann released the text of a letter she sent to Cong. Keith Ellison yesterday, explaining why she is calling for an investigation into the possibility of infiltration by the Muslim Brotherhood in the u.S. government. The letter repeats earlier charges by Bachmann hurled at Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Hard to judge whether this is more vile than crazy or more crazy than vile. But, it is a measure of where today's GOP is on the zaniness spectrum. Look for Bachmann to get a rousing ovation when she addresses the GOP convention next month. She is not that far out-of-the-mainstream of today's GOP. Sadly. Very sadly.

Why Bain Matters & Why It Won't


Mitt Romney had one of his better moments yesterday, better because his words sounded recognizably human. At a fundraiser in Jackson, Mississippi, Romney said:

“I know that people in this room are probably doing relatively well, relative to folks across this country. But not everyone in America is doing so well right now, it’s tough being middle class in America right now. The waiters and waitresses that come in and out of this room and offer us refreshments, they’re not having a good year. The people of the middle class of America are really struggling. And they’re struggling I think in a way because they’re surprised because when they voted for Barack Obama…he promised them that things were going to get a heck a lot of better. He promised hope and change and they’re still waiting.”

Douthat: Half-Right


There is a quality to Ross Douthat's writings that is remarkably consistent: He is almost always half-right. His most recent essay at the New York Times details the decline of the Episcopal Church and asks if liberal Christianity is dying. He also points out that many of the more robust forms of conservative Christianity "have often been politically conservative but theologically shallow, preaching a gospel of health and wealth and not the full New Testament message."

This is better than the usual conservative Christian commentariat has to offer but even here, you can discern the mistake in Douthat's worldview. The gospel does not proclaim a message but a person. The left and the right may argue about the means and methods for engaging the world, but Christianity is not, foremost, about engaging the world. Douthat may be more nuanced than certain neo-con Christians, but he misses the ways that he, too, participates in the reduction of religion to ethics and utility. In this essay, for example, he writes:

Kaveny v. Donatists


Professor M. Cathleen Kaveny’s article at Commonweal, “Catholic Kosher,” reflects on the way Catholic attitudes towards artificial contraception may be changing from a traditional moral norm which, we believe, is part of the natural moral law and therefore binding on all, into a kind of cultic talisman, akin to kashrut, which binds only Jews. After all, Jewish deli owners can sell ham, they just can’t eat it. As always, Kaveny’s writing reflects not only her intellectual seriousness, but her deeply learned ability to distinguish what is today held forth by some as “traditional” from the actual tradition. As she notes, Thomas Aquinas would certainly not compare the HHS mandate on contraception to Jewish dietary laws.


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In This Issue

February 24-March 9, 2017