Distinctly Catholic

The Politics of Smears, Lies & Low Blows


Big lies and smears. It must be campaign season.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has long been known as someone who is capable of putting his foot in his mouth. He is also known as a former boxer capable of throwing a tough body blow, maybe even one that is a bit below the belt. But, trading in gossip should be beneath his office. When Reid said that an unnamed source told him that Gov. Mitt Romney had not paid any taxes for several years, without disclosing the source, he set Romney up. There is an obvious way to rebut the charge: disclose the tax returns. But, that is precisely the thing that Romney’s campaign had decided not to do. Reid’s unsubstantiated charge, more suitable for a supermarket tabloid than the floor of the U.S. Senate, was the verbal equivalent of the famous question: Congressman, when did you stop beating your wife? To deny the charge entails repeating it. No candidate wants to see the headline “Congressman denies beating wife” although that headline is preferable to “Congressman admits beating wife.” Reid’s charge was a low blow.

Social Media and the Church


Sr. Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB looks at the use of social media by Catholics in a new post up at the USCCB website here. I was astounded to learn that 100,000 people visit the USCCB website daily to consult the Readings of the Day. There is an obvious fruit of the Council, no?

The use of social media is enormously complicated. I am currently up here in Connecticut and do not get the washington Post delivered to my door in the morning and I find using the Post's or the Times' website enormously frustrating. Amongst other problems, the web almost never invites serendipity. But, use it we must, and as Sr. Mary Ann demonstrates, it is be used well by hundreds of thousands of Catholics.

Anti-Gay Persecution in Uganda


Former Ambassador to the Holy See, Thomas Patrick Melady, who is also one of the co-chairs of Mitt Romney's Catholic outreach team, has an important essay up at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good about the persecution of gays in Uganda. Melady also served as an ambassador to Uganda. Like Bishop Cupich's letter I cited Monday, here is another example of an orthodox Catholic calling on Catholics not to traffic in anti-gay bigotry. Coming from such an illustrious member of the Republican Party's Wise Men, let's hope Melady's counsel reaches far and wide and deep. You can read his essay here.

\"Please Let It Be Ryan\"


The responses to my Veepstakes column yesterday from a variety of progressive Catholic friends was unanimous: "Please let it be Congressman Paul Ryan." I am less sanguine about the consequences that would attend Romney’s choosing Ryan, and I am always mindful of the adage “Be Careful What You Wish For.” But, I do think selecting Ryan would clarify the election as nothing else could.

Already, a host of conservative opinion-makers, from the National Review to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, are pushing Romney to select Ryan. They want this to be “a big election over big issues” and Cong. Ryan’s willingness to directly tackle the issue of entitlements seems like just the kind of “big issue” the WSJ editors want tackled.

Visiting the Abbey


Yesterday, my best friend and I drove up to St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. This Trappist monastery is set in a bucolic setting in the rolling hills of central Massachusetts, covered with a variety of trees, and the ever present indicator of New England rural life, stone walls.

We visited the Holy Rood Guild to check out their beautiful vestments. We went to Noonday prayer in the chapel. We visited the gift shop and bookstore, where I am happy to report they had a copy of my colleague Tom Roberts' book "The Emerging Church" for sale as well as their delicious jams and chocolates.

If you travel through New England, put a stop on the Abbey on your itinerary. You can get more information by visiting their website here.



The Veepstakes are heating up as we get closer to the expected announcement of whom Mitt Romney will choose as his running mate, presumably, as soon as the Olympics wrap up this weekend. Before considering the options, let’s paint in the landscape.

Usually, a Veep choice does not make a huge difference in the November election, except when the choice tells us something important about the presidential candidate. For example, when Bill Clinton was trying to reclaim and remake his image in 1992, his choice of then-Sen. Al Gore broke the standard model. Instead of picking someone from a different ideological or geographic wing of the party, he chose someone who reinforced the image of Clinton he wanted to project, a young, razor-sharp smart, New Democrat, not beholden to usual interest group politics, more of a technocratic, problem-solver. Gore did not help Clinton carry Tennessee, that was not the point. He did not help him with labor, that was not the point. But, the Gore choice was the exception. The choice of Joe Biden in 2008 was more typical, a tried and true politician who would not call too much attention to himself but would reassure people about Obama.

+Dolan on LCWR


Cardinal Timothy Dolan has a post up at his blog about religious sisters in America and the LCWR specifically. Dolan brings his historian's eye to the role of religious women in the history of the Church in the U.S. but he also goes further, calling on everyone to reject the more extreme interpretations about the Vatican's oversight of the LCWR: Dolan rejects both the "old, bad hierarchs" and the "dangerous, heretical nuns" narratives.

The most interesting comments, though, were these:

When the Second Vatican Council urged a renewal of religious life, with characteristic vigor, they obeyed, and perhaps more than any other group in the Church, took the providential council seriously.

Lord knows, that was not easy. Mistakes were made; many left; divisions occurred; controversy was common. But they kept at it.


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In This Issue

May 19-June 1, 2017