Happy President’s Day to one and all. The holiday, which always catches me by surprise for some reason, invites us to think about why we honor some presidents, forget others, over-inflate the greatness of some and under-rate the significance of others. I invite readers to make the case for their favorites and anti-favorites in the comment section. Here are mine:
I know, I know. This may not be the kind of thing that you find interesting, but as one who loves to find a reason to explore parts of Rome I have not visited previously, I take an interest in the title, or deaconry, given to a cardinal at the time they are raised to the purple. (Also, not sure why we say "raised to the purple" seeing as cardinals wear red.) It is because of their status as a titular pastor that cardinals have the right to vote in conclave, preserving the tradition, now symbolic, that the clergy of Rome elect the bishop of Rome.
Charles Camosy has an interesting retort to David Brooks regarding Jeremy Lin, the surprise star of the NBA. (Of course, Lin's surprise stardom is almost, but not quite, as surprising as the fact that Lin, and evangelical Christian, made it through Harvard with his faith in tact!) I tend to agree with Camosy that team sports are a daily demonstration of relational anthropology, but I also have to admit that every time I see an ad for today's gladiators in those horrible cages bludgeoning each other to near-death, I shudder.
“The world of finance, while necessary, no longer represents an instrument that favours our wellbeing or the life of mankind, instead it has become an oppressive power, that almost demands our adoration, mammon, the false divinity that truly dominates the world.”
Those were the words of Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday when he visited the major seminary of the diocese of Rome. He could become a commentator on MSNBC with thoughts like that, although the sentiment he expressed might be a little too anti-capitalist for all but the "Ed Show." That said, I would not expect the Holy Father to show up at an Occupy Wall Street rally anytime soon. Not his style.
I do not suppose the Pope had Bain Capital in mind when he spoke those words. More likely, he was thinking of the negotiations between Greece and its financial creditors. But, it should be clear, even to our friends at the Acton Institute, that unbridled capitalism is held in the lowest regard by Pope Benedict and that he sees such unbridled capitalism not only as bad economics, but as one of the acids of modernity eating away at the faith.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearings yesterday indicated, if any indication was necessary, that the debate over the HHS mandates is shifting in two ways, both of which make it more difficult for those Catholics, including the bishops, to make their case that they should be exempt from any mandate that violates their First Amendment rights.
First, the issue now enters the smog of partisan wrangling. “Smog” is a portmanteau derived from smoke and fog. The smoke, in this case, suggest smoke and mirrors, a lot of political rhetoric which may or may not correspond to any actual legislative objective and, instead, is designed for political effect. The fog is even more dangerous, suggesting the fog of war, in which it is difficult to discern the situation on the ground and the risk of friendly fire is vastly increased. Both smoke and fog becloud one’s vision and therefore one’s judgment.
There is a storm brewing in Washington and, mercifully, it has nothing to do with conscience protections. The design for a monument to President Dwight Eisenhower as come in for criticism, especially from Eisenhower's family who think the architect, Frank Gehry, took one line for a forgettable speech by Ike and made it the basis for a monument design that is oddly discordant with Eisenhower's life. The family is right - the design is deplorable.
This is the second issue surrounding the design of projects in the monumental core of DC. Officials finally agreed to change the words etched into the monument to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The words were not a direct quote and they made King sound like a "twit" according to Maya Angelou.
I am no fan of Gov. Romney, but at a press conference yesterday on Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans at which they announced their continued opposition to teh President's "accommodation" on HHS mandates, a reporter asked about whether or not the congressional Republicans were similarly displeased by Gov. Romney's record in Massachusetts where, it was asserted, he did the same thing.
Actually Romney did something worse, approving a health care law that explicitly provided for taxpayer abortion and, contra those who think Mr. Romney's conversion from pro-choice to pro-life provides him cover on the issue, the Romney health care law was enacted after his conversion.
Have you noticed that the former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, has been all over the airwaves recently? Did you notice how she has consistently said she would vote for the underdog, usually Newt Gingrich, because the primary process needs to keep going and the candidates need to be vetted more thoroughly?
Could it be that Ms. Palin is hoping for a convention in which no one has a majority of the delegates, for the first brokered convention since 1952? And that, in the their frustration with the current crop of candidates, and the personal animosity between them preventing any deal, the convention might, in its wisdom and commitment to conservative principles, turn to her? Is she that delusional?
Yes and yes and yes.
Over the past few weeks, many public commentators, in their zeal to make their case, have grossly mis-characterized the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding contraception, and inadvertantly, pointed to some of the basic problems facing pastors in communicating the teachings of the Church.
Last night, Sean Hannity ranted that the Obama administration was asking Catholic institutions to violate a “core tenet” of their faith. Certainly, the Church’s teaching on contraception is one of the most widely known of its teachings, but is it properly understood as a “core” teaching? We all stand and recite the Creed each Sunday, but I do not see contraception – or any other moral claim – mentioned therein. There is nothing in the Creed about sexual morality and also nothing about social justice. We skip over the life of Jesus in silence, except to note He was born and he died. The “core” teachings of the Catholic Church are doctrinal, then anthropological, and finally ethical and I encourage anyone who attends a lecture of ethics to ask the presenter to start at the beginning, and if they don’t start with the Trinity, ask them what is distinctively Catholic about their views.
Hard to name two people whose minds I respect more than Rick Garnett and Stephen Schneck. They each have articles up about the HHS mandates that are worth reading. Here is the link to Garnett's and here is the link to Schneck's.
Contra Garnett, I do not think we have to see the President's move as cynical, except and only insofar as we see all politicians as drinking at the well of cynicism as part of their daily duties. Certainly, Republican presidential aspirants that fret about religious liberty concerning contraception are strangely silent about the religious liberty issues raised by Alabama's GOP-endorsed anti-immigrant law.