Distinctly Catholic

Gibson Nails Keller


At Commonweal, David Gibson, who is one of the best religion journalists practicing the craft today, notes the distress, not the irony, in Bill Keller's realization that he and Bill Donohue agree that a smaller, leaner Church is the way to go. Gibson rightly points disconcerted Catholics towards the Common Ground initiative which he exquisitely describes as "deeper, broader, more satisfying — if crowded and complex and maddening."

What most struck me about Keller's article was the complete absence of any sense of the divine at play in his conception of belonging to the Church or in its complicated, frustrating, even bewildering attempts to express its own faith. Like Cardinal Dolan, I am always haunted, happily so, by Henri de Lubac's observation: "What would I know of Him but for her."

Jewish Support on Immigration


The Jewish Council for Public Affairs issued a press release announcing its support for President Obama's immigration decision on Friday.

JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow said: “Finally, reason and decency have come to the table in the immigration debate. The JCPA has advocated for passage of the DREAM Act to reward children who, despite their circumstances, have worked hard and remained in school. But in the face of legislative stagnation, we applaud President Obama and Secretary Napolitano for issuing this policy directive on behalf of young and committed immigrants to permit them to stay and be a part of our nation. This step will assuage their fears that they could be deported at a moment’s notice.” said Gutow.

Rabbi Gutow continued “The biblical mandate to treat the stranger as our own holds particularly true to American Jews. Just as we were strangers in Egypt, many Jews began as strangers in America. In light of many of our own experiences, we have an obligation to see that today’s immigrants, looking for a share in the freedom and prosperity of America, are met with the same opportunities we have had.”

HHS, Immigration & the Estuary


The estuary where politics and religion meet experienced something like an earthquake, actually two of them, on Friday. First came the news that President Obama was instituting a new policy regarding undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Then came the news that the Catholic Health Association had been unable to work out the details regarding the conscience exemptions from the HHS mandate, and its comment on the HHS rule which called upon the administration to scrap the unworkable four-part definition of what is or is not a religious organization, employ exemption language from elsewhere in the federal code, and devise a different vehicle, such as Title X or the exchanges the Affordable Care Act sets up, for delivering the preventive services they seek. In case you missed it, I wrote a rare Saturday post on the HHS issue here.

Sr. Carol Keehan & The HHS Mandate


I can think of no one who brings greater moral authority to the debate over the HHS mandate than Sr. Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Health Association. In the first place, Sr. Carol represents major stakeholders in the debate, the many Catholic hospitals nationwide that care for one sixth of all Americans: If anyone can speak authoritatively about what it means to carry on the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus in America today, it is she and the people she represents.

BREAKING: CHA Calls on HHS To Scrap Narrow Exemption Clause


The Catholic Health Association today released the text of its "comment" to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the HHS mandate and the need for improved consceince exemptions. I will be writing more on this tomorrow. In the meantime, make sure you check out the text of the letter -- signed by Sr. Carol Keehan, CEO of CHA, and Robert Stanek, Board Chair of CHA -- at NCR Today.

Metzger & O'Reilly on Bruskewitz, Lori, Garvey & Muslims


Greg Metzger has a post up in which he looks at Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz's ridiculous, and ridiculously prejudicial, question at the USCCB meeting on Wednesday, in which Bruskewitz asked if Muslims were completely exempt from the Affordable Care Act, which the bishop refered to as "Obamacare." Metzger was disappointed in the lack of an immediate, forceful response from Abp Lori and President Garvey. If you have been to one of these USCCB meetings, you know that they contradict each other in the gentlest of ways, and I am not as put out by Lori's and Garvey's response as Metzger was.

And, at Commonweal, Mollie Wilson O'Reilly looks at the same exchange and also calls attention to one of the finer moments in the discussion in which Cardinal Francis George - bless his heart - pointed out that we should be a bit shy about invoking St. Thomas More as an unambiguous defender of the rights of conscience seeing as More did, in fact, condemn heretics to the flames before his own martyrdom.

Camosy on Infanticide


In an important albeit brief essay published at the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog, Charles Camosy looks at the furor over a recent article that sought to justify infanticide. Robert George called the article "madness," and one can sympathize with the reaction. Certainly those who assume that the forces of modernity and progress are entirely benign, need to reconsider their sunny appraisal when such arguments are made.

Urban Theology?


Michael Peppard has an intriguing essay up at Commonweal, in which he reflects on how his surroundings now, teaching at Fordham in the Bronx, alter or at least shape his worldview from when he was teaching in Colorado.

Context is not everything, and Peppard does not suggest it is. The truth is the truth whether it is in the Bronx or in the foothills of the Rockies, but Peppard is on to something no doubt. His essay reminded me of the old saying that some people's preferences (as opposed to their circumstances) reveal them to be "palace people" and other people are "cottage people," that is some like grand spaces and ornate surroundings and others prefer simplicity. I think most people have palace moments and cottage moments, and suspect that Peppard is one of them seeing as he does not describe himself as theologically infertile in either Colorado or NYC.

Bishops' Battlelines on the Economy


In the 1920s, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the forerunner of today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, threw its support behind efforts to enact child labor laws. But, there was no unanimity. Cardinal William Henry O’Connell, the archbishop of Boston, opposed the NCWC, arguing that the government had no right to interfere in parental rights and if the parents wanted their kids to work long hours in a sweatshop, so be it. O’Connell also resented the role of the NCWC more generally: After the death of Cardinal Gibbons in 1921, O’Connell was the senior churchman and thought he should be the spokesman for the Catholic Church in the U.S. not the NCWC.

I raise this historical anecdote because at this week’s meeting of the USCCB, you could discern further evidence of polarization within the bishops’ conference and the emergence of the next area of struggle: The bishops overwhelmingly decided to draft a statement on the economy and poverty.


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In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017