Distinctly Catholic

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.

Most/Least Catholic States


HuffPost has a slideshow of the most and least Catholic states in the Union, with Massachusetts leading the way and Tennessee coming in last. My home state of Connecticut came in at #4 and I was pleased that the photo they chose was of St. John's Church in Middletown, Connecticut, the first church in what is now the diocese of Norwich. I am not sure how these chose the photos though. I recognize a few of the churches, but very few. (h/t to Rocco)

Bishops Back SNAP


No, not that SNAP! As the House debates the Farm Bill, the USCCB joined Catholic Relief Services and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference in a letter to chair and ranking members of the House Agricultural Committee, urging them not to support a proposed cut of $16 billion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The letter praised proposals to increase funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program and for aid to the poorest countries. You can read the press release by clicking here.

For an in-depth look at the issue, check out this article at TNR by Amy Sullivan.

Class Struggles


Class is everywhere these days. Not “class” as in “class act” but “class” as in “class struggle.” Yet, Americans remain reluctant to even employ the language that best fits the growing economic and cultural divides within this country. It is part of our national myth that our society is not and never has been hidebound by class distinctions the way, say, the Brits are. Our Constitution forbids titles of nobility. There are only two ways to gain membership in the House of Windsor, you must be born into it or you must marry into it. In America, we believe, anyone can make it to the top.

Racial/Religious Attitudes on Health Care Reform


Robert P. Jones, in an article at HuffPost, shows how attitudes towards health care reform breakdown along racial and religious divides. One thing is clear from his findings: white evangelicals are getting bad information about the ACA. He reports only 1-in-5 white evangelicals think the law will lead to increased access. You may agree or disagree with the methods the ACA adopts to achieve increased access. There is not doubt it will increase access.

Abp Lori: Scatenato!


I did not attend the closing Mass at the Fortnight for Freedom, held at Washington's National Shrine. I did watch the video of Archbishop Chaput's homily and, as I wrote last week, his sermon was quite good. But, I missed something that happened at the end of the Mass. Archbishop William Lori asked the congregation to take out their I-phones or similar hand-held devices and to text the word "freedom" or "libertad" to the number he provided. You can see the video here.


Subscribe to Distinctly Catholic


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017