Distinctly Catholic

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.

D'ya Think Bp Bruskewitz Watches Fox?


As if more evidence was needed that Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz is the worst bishop in America, and that it is a cause for scandal that he is still gloriously reigning in Lincoln, at yesterday's USCCB meeting Bishop Bruskewitz took to the microphone. He said he had not fully read "Obamacare" which is a derogatory way of refering to the Affordable Care Act. But, he then said "somebody told me" that the Affordable Care Act included an exemption for all Muslims, because Mulims believe insurance is akin to gambling. What?

Even among the deranged rantings one frequently encounters at Fox News, I had not heard this particular line of questioning, although it nicely fits in with the ugliest, most akin to 19th century Nativism, line of attack on President Obama. Lump "Muslim" and "Obama" in the same sentence whenever possible. Suggest Muslims get preferential treatment denied to "real" Americans. Perhaps at today's session, Bishop Bruskewitz can ask the bishop of Honolulu if he has really seen Obama's birth certificate.

Lough Derg


Cardinal Marc Ouellet went to Lough Derg the other night, a traditional site for pilgrimages of penance in Ireland with associations going back to the days of St. Patrick and, this being Ireland, where the natural and the supernatural intertwine, perhaps even before the time of St. Patrick. He met with the victims of clergy sex abuse, as Pope Benedict has done on several occasions.

The Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops is serving as Pope Benedict’s Legate to the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. He was appropriately blunt about why he had gone to Lough Derg for a night of prayer and penance:

DC Parishioners Push Back on Fortnight


The following letter from a group of long-time parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Washington, D.C. indicates some of the worries felt in the pews about the upcoming "Fortnight for Freedom." The statement highlights the danger of partisanship within the Church, a danger that one must hope the bishops will consider, and address, this week at their meeting in Atlanta.

Here is the text:
We are a group of thirty parishioners at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, DC. Our group, formed into a small faith community in the 1960s, has been active in and deeply committed to our parish for all the intervening years. Blessed Sacrament is our parish community, and we have loved and served it to the best of our abilities. We have helped to build and strengthen its institutions, participated in every aspect of its spiritual and social life, seen our children educated in our parish school, and received the sacraments in our church. Our views and actions on issues of social and economic justice, war and peace, and the dignity of all peoples have been in great measure determined by our life in this faith community

George Weigel Almost Had Me


I saw the headline of George Weigel's latest column at National Review Online - "Don't Know Much about Theology..." and, for a split second, entertained the idea that he might finally be copping to the fact that he does not, actually, know much theology. As I say, it was a split second, not a lingering one. Of course, Weigel hurls his usual invective scattershot at anyone who does not look on the 1950s as the Golden Age.

Mind you, I agree that the current state of academic theology is often silly, beset by the worst, most faddish, trends in the Academy. I suspect that being the first generations to enter the modern academy as an intellectual discipline standing alongside other intellectual disciplines, a certain amount of putting one's foot wrong was to be expected. I also recognize that the pre-conciliar theology approved by the Church's authorities was often so out-of-touch with currents in modern thought, that these same generations were unprepared for the encounter.

NCR Readers in New England


Two items for New England NCR readers. First, I will be on the "Colin McEnroe Show" today on WNPR. The show airs live at 1.m. and is replayed in the evening at different times. In Connecticut, WNPR is found at a few different locations on the radio dial, depending on where you are.

Saturday, June 16, at 2 p.m. I will be discussing my biography of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, "God's Right Hand," at the Fletcher Memorial Library in Hampton, Connecticut. All are welcome.

Obama on The Defensive


Democrats have a genetic predisposition to hand-wringing. The memo from James Carville and Stan Greenberg criticizing President Obama’s re-election effort, and the commentary thereon, is par for the course: In 1992, there were plenty of criticisms of Carville, Greenberg and their man Bill Clinton as he entered the Democratic Convention in New York trailing both President George H.W. Bush and Third Party, First-Tier Crazy Ross Perot. Events, some of them unforeseeable, intervene, upsetting established narratives. Message discipline is important in a candidate and among his or her surrogates, but it is not always enough.

Gov. Rick Scott: Worst Governor in US


Maybe the man just doesn't understand the root of the word "democracy," but Florida Gov. Rick Scott has announced he does not intend to abide by a cease and desist order from the Department of Justice regarding Scott's efforts to purge the voter rolls in his state. He says he is intent on making sure non-citizens do not vote, although as I pointed out last week, his "purge list" included many citizens, including a 91-year old veteran of World War II.

Gov. Scott, you may recall, has long had trouble with legal issues. Before he became governor, he ran a company that was accused of one of the largest Medicare frauds in history and they had to pay a $600 million fine for the fraudulent activities! Why would he let a little thing like the Voting Rights Act get in his way.

Gov. Scott earns my nomination as the worst governor in America, and that is an increasingly high hurdle.


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In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017