Distinctly Catholic

17th Century French Catholicism


Last month, I finally finished Joseph Bergin’s Church, Society and Religious Change in France, 1580-1730. It is a long book and it is not light reading, and I had to set it aside several times to read other books that I needed to review. But, I can scarcely recommend this book too highly because it shows how many of our preconceived notions about earlier times are astonishingly vapid, and also how some of the issues we face today can be more honestly addressed by considering how those issues manifested themselves in different cultural circumstances. The book is magisterial and I shall use my morning posts today and tomorrow to reflect on some of its major themes.

GOP Down Ticket Problems


Politico has a good story about how national Republicans are worried that key Senate and House races will be adversely affected either because some super-blue states like California and New York have become "orphans" within the GOP, other state parties, like those in Nevada and Iowa are deeply in debt, and in Ohio, the state party is engaged in an internicene war. Elections are not only about ideas, but about how each party can effectively communicate those ideas, turn out their voters, etc. With control of both houses in play this autumn, especially the Senate, the party that does the best job allocating its resources may come out on top.

MSW Responds to Bowman & Garnett on HHS Mandates


My previous arguments against the idea that any individual or business should be able to exempt themselves from the HHS contraception mandates by citing religious liberty concerns has come under criticism, some of it thoughtless, some of it not.

The thoughtless criticism comes from Matt Bowman at the blog CatholicVote.org. He writes that a recent text from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace decries the “split between faith and daily business practice” and that the HHS mandate requires precisely such a split. And, he says that I have no regard for the conscience rights of individuals. He also lumps me together with CUA’s Professor Stephen Schneck and the writers at Commonweal, and I am delighted to be lumped together with such thoughtful Catholics.



What do you really want? This is the question of the age, albeit in reduced, therapeutic form. But, it is the question of all ages, the question of human existence. What do we want?

A couple of weeks ago, millions of Americans engaged this question when they pondered what they would do if they hit the Megamillions Jackpot. Would they buy a new house? Give to charity? Travel around the world? $600 million goes a long way and can purchase a lot of stuff, much of it fun stuff. But, no matter how much money one has, the question returns: What do I want?

Wuerl's Cross


If one is a bishop today, many are the crosses you must carry. But, here in Washington, our Archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, seems to have a new cross to bear this year: George Neumayr. He was orginally upset with how the archdiocese dealt with Father Guarnizo, the priest who denied communion to a woman at her mother's funeral because she is a lesbian. But, Neumayr launched his attack with a degree of personal venom that was, frankly, shocking.

He is still at it, this time including conservative canonist Ed Peters in his diatribe.

As with some other conservative Catholics, Neumayr seems to become unhinged, scatenato, at the prospect of anyone, including a bishop, disagreeing with his particular brand of Taliban Catholicism.

Good Friday


I have been forced by circumstances to know more about death than I would like to know. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, I managed a café in Dupont Circle, which is to DC what the Castro is to San Francisco, the center of the gay and lesbian cultural life of the city. Within the span of a few short years, we lost our head bartender, our chef, several waiters and countless customers to the dread disease.

HIV/AIDS was the Calvary of the gay community. I know some will be shocked by the comparison, but I stand by it. For these men, and it was mostly men, were struck down at a horribly early age and so their deaths lacked the naturalness by which Sister Death usually accomplishes her work, coming to those who have lived long and fruitful lives to be buried by their children. Here, the parents buried their children. At dozens of hospice visits, I saw living “pietas” as mothers comforted their dying sons. At dozens of funerals, the bewilderment and the fear that gripped the apostles was evident on the faces of the friends and families who gathered to bury their dead. And, the suffering was, as you can imagine, unimaginable.

Galston to Obama: Lay Off the Court


One of the reasons I especially admire Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution is that he is as willing to challenge those with whom he usually agrees as he is to challenge those with whom he usually does not agree.

At TNR today, Galston urges President Obama not to attack the Supreme Court even if it overturns the Affordable Care Act. As tempting as it would be to use such a decision to rile up the base, it would damage the constitutional fabric of the nation in unforeseeable ways.

As in the case of Mr. O'Donnell yesterday, it behooves liberals to counsel liberals not to descend to the level of Karl Rove, turning every issue into something for political gain. We are better than that, or should be.


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In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017