Distinctly Catholic

Paris, 1200


John Baldwin’s “Paris, 1200” is a completely different type of history from that contained in the book I last reviewed, Brad Gregory’s “The Unintended Reformation.” Where Gregory engaged a broad sweep of history, tracking the interface of ideas and events over several centuries, Baldwin focuses on one city in one year. Nonetheless, this is an important work not only because the precise focus never leads to a narrative bogged down in minutia, but because so many of the issues considered are as perennial as the New England irises I weeded around this weekend.

Latinos Still Back Obama


A new poll shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney among Latino voters by a whopping margin of 66% to 23%. Romney's woeful numbers are little changed over the past few months, indicating that Latinos are willing to overlook Obama's inability to pass immigration reform if the alternative is a man who has endorsed "self-deportation" and voiced support for anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama.

To put the new poll in perspective, in 2008, according to exit polls, Obama won Latinos by 67% to John McCain's 31%. So, if all those Latino voters who told pollsters in this most recent poll that they are undecided, if all of them break to Romney, Obama will still come close to his margins in 2008.

Words of Hope in Cleveland


Tom Allio, who worked for the diocese of Cleveland for over 31 years and who retired as head of their Social Action Office in 2010, has a very moving article posted about the situation in Cleveland. He commends Bishop Richard Lennon for his recent comments about his own failures as a bishop and hopes that those comments reflect a genuine change of heart, a conversion if you will. Allio's words are words of hope, faint hope to be sure at this point, but hope nonetheless.

It is good for all Catholics, as we engage each other on contentious and important issues, when we are about to give up on those with whom we disagree or dismiss their concerns, when we are convinced, absolutely convinced that we are right and they are wrong, just then it is important to remember the virtue of hope. Allio's comments are not Suzy Sunshine, but they breath Christian hope. For me, as for Peguy, the four words with the greatest power to bring a human to tears are: "A man had two sons...."

Commonweal Symposium Part II


Today, let’s continue looking at the Commonweal symposium on religious liberty.

M. Cathleen Kaveny puts her finger on one of the central difficulties in the USCCB’s document on religious liberty, namely, do the bishops want to preserve their own rights to run their organizations as they see fit or do they want to demand that everyone in the country abide by our Catholic rules. Of course, the two concerns are not mutually exclusive. Obviously as Catholics, we believe in the common good, and that all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic, should participate in articulating and achieving the common good. We also believe, at least in America we have long believed, that part of the common good of the nation is a government that does not interfere excessively in the rights of religious and other social groups.



NCR has learned that John Carr, the executive director of the USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development will be leaving his job after more than twenty years. Carr's resignation letter gave two reasons for leaving:

"First, I have been offered a Fellowship this fall at the Kennedy School at Harvard University, focusing on the important links between faith and public life. Second, I want to focus my remaining energies on efforts to help form, support and encourage Catholic lay men and women to be more effective leaders in bringing Catholic principles to public life and all of society. This has long been a priority for me and now is the right time to act on my conviction that new efforts are needed to help Catholic laity act on Catholic principles on human life and dignity, economic and social justice, religious freedom and solidarity, care for creation and peace."

Weigel & the Cristeros


So, George Weigel went to the movies to see "For Greater Glory" and it gave him the warm fuzzies. Still, the title of his latest example of agitprop "The Cristeros & us" is a little too precious in the use of that pronoun. I am reminded of a book of poems about the Holocaust: a publicity blurb written by Maya Angelou stated (I do not recal the exact quote), "This book reminds everyone that none of us survived the Holocaust without scars" to which Leon Wielseltier replied "Us?"

Remembering D-Day


Yesterday was the anniversary of D-Day. I had a flurry of meetings and then was unable to find the citation I wanted to recall that dread and fateful day. I could not find the story in any of the three biographies of Churchill I have in my library, nor in his war memoirs. But, this morning I was rewarded when I consulted Jon Meacham’s “Franklin and Winston.”

Churchill plunged himself into the planning of “Overlord,” the code name for the Normandy invasion. Meacham relates the story of an after-midnight meeting held at Downing Street to discuss the precise timing of the invasion. Generals Eisenhower and Ismay were present among others. According to Admiral Alan Kirk, “They were arguing back and forth, back and forth, what should be done. Finally Mr. Churchill lost patience, and he smote the table and said, ‘Well, what I would like to know is, when did William cross?’ The accused stood mute. No one could remember. He was obviously talking about William the Conqueror. Finally Pug Ismay, standing behind Mr. Churchill, coughed into his hand and said, ‘Sir, I think it was 1066.’”


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In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017