Distinctly Catholic

Webathon: Please Give


In case you are on a direct RSS feed - and I confess, I do not know exactly what an RSS feed is - to my blog and not to the NCR homepage, you may not know that our annual webathon is going on. Please donate generously. The work we do here is so vital not only to the Church but to the news business. Increasingly, mainstream press outlets don't have religion reporters and those that do often have people who do not understand the often complicated ways the Church works.

Especially this year, when our election campaign is drowning in religious language and ideas, it is vital that the American people receive informed commentary on how religion and politics interact in American history and in America today. That is one of the principal objectives of this blog, to provide informed commentary on the estuary where religion and politics mix and to police that estuary for tendentiousness and stupidity are so commonly found.

The commentators on this blog are always generous with their words of praise and criticism. If you value the opportunity to be provoked, this week we need you to be generous with your cash as well as your comments.

New Series at TNR Looks at Romney's Policies


This morning, The New Republic, launched a new series of articles that will look at the substance of the proposals Mitt Romney has put forth. The first in the series, by Jonathan Cohn, looks at Romney's economic proposals and concludes that by focusing on the long-term, and neglecting the short-term need to juice the economy and put people back to work, Romney has the cart before the horse. Only if economic growth kicks in, can the long-term problems become managable.

You can agree with Cohn or not, although if you do come prepared with strong arguments and lots of data because Cohn knows more about more policies than most essayists. But, TNR is doing us all a service by focusing less on the ups-and-downs of campaign life and more on the substance of the proposals being put forth by the man who claims he can lead America to greatness.



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.


Subscribe to Distinctly Catholic


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

March 24-April 6, 2017