Distinctly Catholic



I did not have the visceral reaction many of my colleagues had to the news of the “assessment” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That was, until I read the document itself. But, before we get to the text, I have to ask myself: Why did I not instantly recognize the injustice many of my friends discerned?

In part, I have learned to resist overbroad interpretations of events that fit neatly with a previously determined meta-narrative, in this case the meta-narrative that sees the bad, old, meanies at the Vatican going after unsuspecting Catholics. I do not recall cries of “injustice” when the Vatican, in 2000, appointed an apostolic visitor to Mother Angelica’s abbey, although that too involved men assessing women, the far away Vatican bureaucrats ordering U.S.-based women religious to open themselves to investigation and, in the event, resulted in the removal of Mother Angelica from the leadership of her abbey.

Gibson on Subsidiarity at USAToday


Over at USAToday, David Gibson, one of the best religion correspondents writing for secular outlets, disentangles the Catholic idea of subsidiarity and how ti does and does not conform to Cong. Paul Ryan's invocation of the word as justification for his budget proposals.

A related observation. As Gibson notes, subsidiarity is not a word in common usage. Yet, there it is, at the heart of a major political debate in our nation in 2012. Those who continue to invoke the memory of Father Neuhaus, and warn about the "naked public square" must ask themselves - would a society that is truly banishing religious discussion from the public square find an article in USAToday on subsidiarity in its midst?

MSW Responds to Professor Butler


A person is often known by the company he keeps - and by the enemies he makes. This is especially true for those of us who blog. Not only must we write early and often, we self-edit, a difficult skill in any circumstance but one which I find is frequently affected by the amount of sleep I got the night before. It is easy to throw out a line, or an entire post, which might be ill-considered, opening oneself up to easy criticism.

The Fog of Political Warfare


One of the most frustrating things for me about politics is that the need to reduce every issue to the straightjacket of a 30-second television spot – and now to 140 characters on a Twitter account – tends to eliminate all the things that those of us trained in Clio’s craft most relish: The sense of historical contingency, the interplay of ideas and events, the usually complicated relationship, especially in a democracy, between leaders and the led, the sheer complicatedness of human culture. All this gets lost when issues must be reduced to soundbites.

Another frustrating dynamic in politics is the way a given narrative takes root which may or may not have made sense at an earlier time, in different circumstances, but which fails to take account of new facts and, even more, proves itself barren of new policy approaches. It is easy to arm oneself with statistics to bolster almost any claim, and soon you go on Fox News or MSNBC and the narrative is reinforced instead of questioned, its adherents dig in rather than re-evaluate, and the potential for anything like a new and fecund idea breaking forth seems ever more remote.

Ryan's G'town Lecture: A Report


I attended Congressman Paul Ryan’s lecture at Georgetown this morning. One of the words you often hear about Ryan is that he is very bright, and he was certainly quick on his feet during the Q & A. He mentioned that his copy of the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching is well dog-eared. But, while he may be bright, there was nothing in his speech that suggested much in the way of depth.


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In This Issue

February 10-23, 2017