Distinctly Catholic

When Humor Isn't Funny


It takes a lot, and I mean A LOT, to offend me. I believe with all my heart that comedians should be given wide latitude in skewering their targets. But, last night's episode of "The Daily Show" contained a segment that was so filled with offensive nonsense - against the Pope, against Italians, against the importance of defending the right to life of the unborn - that while I will not go so far as to say it "crossed the line," I will go so far as to say this. I deeply regret that a person I deeply respect, Sr. Simone Campbell, was a party to the charade and I hope she did not know the purposes to which her involvement would be put. It is one thing to disagree on a serious issue like abortion rights. It is another to mock those who care about the unborn.

Douthat \"Half-Right\" Watch


Ross Douthat has done it again - put forward an important argument with bad evidence to support it. His worry is that there are some who wish to reduce freedom of religion to freedom of worship. Fair enough. As I have said before, one of the reasons the HHS mandate was seen as a Catholic issue is not just because of our position on contraception but because the Catholic Church, which did not deman the importance of works during the Reformation, employees so many people in its many and varied ministries.

But, after noting that the founders used the phrase "freedom of religion" not "freedom of belief" or "freedom of worship," he then concludes: "It’s a significant choice of words, because it suggests a recognition that religious faith cannot be reduced to a purely private or individual affair." Actually, I have not once encountered a shred of evidence that the choice of words was significant to the founders. And, most of the evidence does suggest that the founders wanted religion to be understood as a purely private matter.

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:


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In This Issue

March 24-April 6, 2017