Distinctly Catholic

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.

Ryan's G'town Lecture: A Report


I attended Congressman Paul Ryan’s lecture at Georgetown this morning. One of the words you often hear about Ryan is that he is very bright, and he was certainly quick on his feet during the Q & A. He mentioned that his copy of the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching is well dog-eared. But, while he may be bright, there was nothing in his speech that suggested much in the way of depth.

Gallup: God Gap Persists


New numbers from the Gallup poll show that Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama by 17 points among those who identify themselves as "very religious." Curiously, his lead among "very religious" Catholics is only 4 percent and among all Catholics, Romney trails Obama by 6 points. In 2008, Obama won the catholic vote over John McCain by 8 points.

The numbers show that both campaigns have their work cut out for them - Obama will need to hold his lead among all Catholics, or even increase it slightly, if he hopes to hang on to states that were close four years ago. And, Romney needs to work on attracting those who describe themselves as "moderately religious."

A final point. The numbers indicate to me that by "very religious," many Americans mean "very concerned about sexual morality." Having watched Mr. Romney essentially deny the essential humanity of immigrants, pay homage at the pagan altar of libertarian economics, and beat the drums of war in the Mideast, I would have a hard time characterizing those positions as the kinds of positions one would associate with such "very religious" figures as Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, etc.

Marc Thiessen v. USCCB


You may remember Marc Thiessen for his ham-handed effort to justify torture, despite the fact that it is an intrinsic evil. Now, at the Washington Post, Thiessen comes to the defense of Cong. Paul Ryan whose budget the USCCB recently stated failed to meet the moral criteria they had stipulated.

Thiessen of course does not attack all the bishops. He aims his fire at Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, who is the chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestice Justice and Human Development. Blaire signed the letters to members of Congress urging that they not cut vital social programs but instead consider alternative means of addressing the nation's growing debt. But, Blaire's letter was not the result of whim. He answers to a committee and is known for his highly consultative method of drafting such letters. He was speaking for the bishops, all the bishops, no matter how much Ryan and Thiessen try to paint him as some kind of quasi-socialist ideologue.


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In This Issue

May 19-June 1, 2017