A tip of the biretta to Fr. Joseph Komonchak at Commonweal for pointing me to an essay by noted sociologist Peter Berger about the state of religious freedom in the U.S. Berger's balanced analysis is worth everyone's time.
It has been a rough week for a certain type of conservative, the type who has an over-arching need for literal certainty, who worries about straying from the party line, and who inclines towards fundamentalist understandings of all issues. First, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Supreme Court’s four liberals to uphold the Affordable Care Act. Now, here comes Pope Benedict XVI, appointing as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, a man these fundamentalist conservatives have accused of heresy.
My friend Enrique Krauze has a very incisive article about the Mexican elections at the Washington Post. The article was published Sunday, when the results were not known officially, but as predicted, the PRI took back the presidency after 12 years out of power. As Krauze notes, those twelve years were important, and Mexico has made great gains, but more needs to be done. Just as the PRI of today is not the PRI of even twelve years ago, or the PRI of 1968 that murdered dozens of demonstrators just weeks before the opening of the Olympic Games, we can hope that the modern PRI will be less hostile to the Church than its earlier incarnation.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, released a statement regarding the Supreme Court's decision last week to uphold the Affordable Care Act. You can find it by clicking here.
To my mind, Cardinal O'Malley's words reflect exactly how bishops should speak in the public square. There is no stridency. There is no attempt to appear like he is a scholar of the commerce clause. There is no doomsday-worst-case-scenario interpretations of the ACA. There is, instead, a restatement of the moral principles at stake in the fight for univeral health care and encouragement to all politicians to continue working to fix the parts that remain objectionable.
Rick Garnett, the esteemed and readable law school professor at the University of Notre Dame, has an op-ed at the Chicago Tribune about the legal fallout from the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the ACA.
Garnett also gets high marks for a short piece at the National Review Online in which he chastises those conservatives who are dumping on Chief Justice Roberts. One of the obligations of those of us in the blogosphere is to poliuce our own side of the ideological divides as fiercely, perhaps more fiercely, than we do those with whom we normally find ourselves in disagreement. Garnett is one of the notable conservative thinkers who is not afraid to call out fellow conservatives. We need more like him, on both sides of the aisle.
Lisa Miller at the Washington Post has a fine look at how the Obama administration has so far failed to reach out to the religious community regarding the Affordable Care Act. Money quote: "Obama may have listened to his principled foes in the religious sphere - certainly he knew they were out there - but he did not hear them." The article goes on to point to how out-of-tune most of the President's religious advisors are with the views and values of believers. I have long complained that Melody Barnes, who served as domestic policy advisor for much of the first term, thought she understood the religious community but did not. And the faith-based office, which does understand the religious community, lacks the juice necessary to affect policy decisions at their most critical points. The President should listen to his faith-based advisors more, and/or place someone around him who genuinely understands religious sensibilities. Until then, he will continue to stumble into avoidable problems, like the HHS contraception mandate.
“Seek joy where joy may be found.” If the joy you seek is veracity, politics is a bad place to seek. Still, I was especially disappointed with Congressman Paul Ryan’s comments on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” yesterday regarding the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Cong. Ryan has indicated a willingness to at least try and engage the social magisterium of the Church, and I am one of those people who is just old-fashioned enough to believe that politics is better conducted by engaging those with whom one disagrees than just hoping to beat them at the polls. But, it is hard to engage with someone who so easily, and effectively, parrots the more extreme lies perpetrated against health care reform.
You can see the interview by clicking here.
There will be a flurry of polls over the next few days about people's attitudes towards the Affordable Care Act, but the ACA will not be on the ballot in November. The important thing to watch is whether or not the polling numbers of President Obama and Governor Romney move in the next few weeks, especially in the battleground states which are the only ones either campaign is spending advertising dollars in.
To keep an eye on that, Real Clear Politics has a nifty map that tracks the current state of the electoral college vote. They average the polling data in the states and compile a map that shows states that are strongly leaning one way or the other, marginally leaning, and toss-ups. Keep an eye on these numbers in the weeks ahead.
Today is the Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul, founders of the Church of Rome to which we RCs throughout the world all get to belong. The ties that bind us to Rome, like all familial ties, are not without there moments of challenge and misunderstanding. But, at Mass this morning, the Holy Father presided at an altar constructed over the tomb of the man who was Jesus' best friend when He walked the face of the earth. That is one tie that binds and binds happily.
Over at Religion & Politics, the new website from the Danforth Center, Michael Waggoner has a review of a new book by Steven Green that looks at the battle in the U.S. courts over Bible reading and prayer in the public schools.
As bad as the HHS mandate is, the breathless claims that all this is unprecedented is not historically convincing.