Yesterday, the dam broke. In comments made to Kevin Clarke at America magazine, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, with carefully selected words and a persuasive and important argument, explained his differences of opinion with some of his brother bishops regarding the best way to address the religious liberty concerns the bishops all share.
My monthly campaign analysis for the print edition of NCR is now available online. This month I look at campaign finance in the post-Citizens United era. You can access it by clicking here.
Zenit reports on the establishment of a newly endowed chair at a Roman University in memory of Pope Paul VI. The chair will look at the pontiff's early life and work as well as his later years as Archbishop of Milan and then as Pope. I have long nurtured a profound esteem for Papa Montini, not only because he was the Pope of my youth, but because the more I learn of him and of his writings, the more I see how difficult a job he had of it, steering the Second Vatican Council to its conclusion and overseeing the early years of its reforms. What is emerging clearly is that he was intensely concerned that all the reforms keep the Church focused on Christ. His apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi paved the way for what we now know as the New Evangelization. His contributions to the social teachings of the Church were exemplary. And, even his most controversial encyclial, Humanae Vitae, reads better every year in its prescient concern about the eugenic potential of human tinkering with nature.
My review of the book "Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System That Shouldn't Work At All Works So Well" by Danny Oppenheimer and Mike Edwards, is not available online by clicking here.
Reading court filings is not exactly fun, but it is often very clarifying. And, as is clear from several comments on this blog and elsewhere, and from conversations and emails, people would do well to actually read one of the lawsuits filed yesterday before pontificating on its merits. Or am I the only one tired – oh, so tired – of people blowing off steam, ignoring evidence that does not fit neatly into their prior narrative about whether Obama is hateful or the bishops are hateful, and failing to ask the kind of basic questions that should be asked when evaluating a lawsuit: Is this frivolous? Are the arguments compelling? Are there legal precedents? What are the relative values at stake?
The University of Notre Dame has just announced that it has filed suit against HHS Secretary Kethleen Sebelius and others over the HHS mandate regarding the contraceptive mandate.
"This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives,” Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, wrote in a message to members of the campus community. “For if we concede that the government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions."
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Tom Monaghan, rightwing Catholic extraordinaire, had this to say about Catholic schools: "The worst thing you can do is send your kids to a Catholic school if you want them to retain their faith.” Really? Mr. Monaghan should come to the Catholic schools here in Washington, or to the Catholic school in Connecticut where my niece is getting a fine education, or to Catholic schools nationwide that do a wonderful job helping young Catholics retain their faith. He should have come with me to St. Bernard's Catholic High School in Connecticut, where I spoke with a group of very bright and engaged students, and note how many vocations that school has produced. Maybe he should go to one of the dioceses where Catholic schools are closing and suggest to the devoted parishioners fighting to keep their school open, and explain to them why their efforts are misguided.
Catholic theology used to employ the term “invincible ignorance” when speaking of those who had never heard the Gospel preached and, therefore, could not come to an act of explicit faith, but might merit salvation if they accepted the faith implicitly.
But, Maureen Dowd has given the phrase invincible ignorance a new and different meaning. She has heard the Gospel preached. She was, after all, raised as a Catholic. But, her invincible ignorance, displayed again yesterday in a column so full of stupidity it is difficult to know where to start, is born of the preaching of a different gospel, the gospel according to Maureen, the gospel that holds that whatever she and her social circle think is humane must be humane, that whatever values they hold should be everybody’s values, but pay close attention because those values are about as permanent as the specials at one of Mario Batali’s restaurants.
I suppose if you recently ran into a burning building to save a neighbor, as Newark Mayor Corey Booker recently did, you do not have to prove your courage. Still, it was interesting to see him walk back his comment, made yesterday morning on Meet the Press, that the attacks on Bain Capital, like the attempts to revive the Jeremiah Wright issue, are "nauseating." Here is the link to the video Booker released yesterday afternoon walking back is comments.
“Put not your trust in princes,” intones the psalmist. So it is not merely a matter of desiring to appear non-partisan that should guide the bishops in their governance of the Church. And, the psalmist’s warning contains wisdom for all of us Catholics. To me, in simplest terms, this warning is a part of a broader biblical narrative, confirmed by many centuries of tradition, that we Christians should put our faith first. All of our mundane concerns, including the concerns of politics, should flow from our prior religious commitments and beliefs. Or, as I said to someone at a party this weekend, “You know, on your deathbed, neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party is going to send anyone and, besides, they would not send someone you would want. At that moment, you will want a priest.”