I know that some readers come only to certain parts of the NCR website, but all readers should consult John Allen's report on the sex abuse conference going on in Rome. John, whose rolodex is the envy of all Vatican reporters, brings us behind the scenes, and past the stereotypes, to show how the culture of the Vatican itself is changing, slowly to be sure, but changing nonetheless.
Over at the New Republic, Randall Balmer argues that Romney should more openly discuss his Mormon faith. I am not sure Balmer is right and I am betting the Romney campaign has done a bunch of focus groups on the issue. Of course, before we hand anyone as much power as we hand a president, we are entitled to know a great deal about that person. And, I would relish shifting the national political conversation from "values" to how we arrive at values, what philosophic anthropology and what religious doctrines inspire those values, although there is precious little in American history to suggest the country is even ready to have that discussion.
One thing is clear: Romney's Mormonism, like his wealth, is not going away as an issue.
Weekend before last, I was determined to undertake no writing and no heavy reading. What better way to kill time than an old and wonderful movie. I watched “Gandhi.” Of course, I had been writing a great deal about the issue of religious liberty, and the movie reminded me that we should avoid histrionics, to be sure, but that religious liberty is something that must be defended – and not just liberty but a culture of religious tolerance to support that liberty.
The highpoint of the movie “Gandhi” is not when the Union Jack is lowered over New Delhi. It is not the end of British rule that really provides the drama: It is the question of keeping India united. Gandhi succeeded in ending British rule but he was unable to keep India from breaking apart into two countries, one Muslim and one Hindu, and violence between members of the two creeds forced mass displacement of people on both sides of the border. Pakistan and India have fought several undeclared wars since and the paranoia of Pakistan’s military remains a hurdle in U.S.-Pakistani relations, especially as we improve relations with India which is the world’s largest democracy.
It wasn't much news that Mitt Romney won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday - we won them in 2008 also, in fact, he got a higher percentage of the vote in 2008 than he did this year. Nor was it big news that Ron Paul and Newt gingrich attained a virtual tie for second, leaving Rick Santorum in the dust.
If you watched the cable news stations or the Sunday morning talks shows on the networks, you know that the controversy over the Obama administration's decision to force Catholic institutions to pay for insurance that covers abortifacients, sterilization and contraception has landed squarely in the mainstream media and that most commentators understand that this was a really stupid move by the White House. This morning in the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker, who is not a ranter by any stretch, looks at the HHS decision and the controversy surrounding the Komen Foundation.
Having posted about Cardinal Egan below, I am now jumping into the car and heading to Connecticut so no postings until this afternoon.
Tomorrow, I will be on the Colin McEnroe show on WNPR at 1 p.m. to discuss the role of religion in the 2012 race. Then, Tuesday night I will be speaking about my new biography of Jerry Falwell at the UConn Co-op at 6 p.m. and signing copies of the book as well.
I had thought that by now, 2012, it was impossible to be shocked by an example of episcopal moral idiocy regarding the sexual abuse of minors. For every bishop like Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who has self-evidently tried to do the right thing by the victims of this horror, there is a grand jury report, actually two, in Philadelphia cataloguing indifference or worse. For every archdiocese like Washington, where three consecutive archbishops – Hickey, McCarrick and Wuerl – have handled accusations of abuse with swiftness and justice, there is a diocese like Kansas City-St. Joseph, which is under criminal indictment for failing to follow civil law, let alone moral law. And for every brave and decisive bishop like Wilton Gregory, who as chairman of the USCCB in 2002 refused to ignore the gravity of the crisis or accept half-measures to face it, there is a bishop like Fabian Bruskewitz who still refuses to even permit an audit of his diocese’s compliance with child protection procedures. As I say, I thought I was beyond shock.
The new unemployment numbers again out-performed expectations, and drove the unemployment rate down to 8.3%. Overall, 243,000 jobs were added in January and, importantly, the number of private sector jobs grew by 257,000. The number of government employees again dragged down the total, but by less than in previous months.
As I have mentioned before, throughout 2011, each month, the total jobless rate was affected by the fact that the much maligned Stimulus funding was evaporating and federal, state and local governments were shedding jobs. The government sector lost 276,000 jobs in the last year. If the government employment number is at or near bottoming out, that the growth in private sector jobs will be even more obvious.
On Wednesday, the state Senate in the Commonwealth of Virginia passed a bill requiring women who wish to procure an abortion to first have an ultrasound. They can decline to view the ultrasound images, but must sign a statement that they so declined. The bill has passed the Virginia House of Delegates on previous occasions, but had always been stalled in the Senate. It is expected to be signed into law.
In this morning's Washington Post, Melinda Henneberger looks at the HHS conscience exemption decision. I was delighted to see that Henneberger was as appalled as I was at the way the President treated Sr. Carol Keehan in this matter, and that he could not bring himself to point out to his pro-choice allies that failure to expand the conscience exemption turns the entire Affordable Care Act into a more ripe target for judicial or political overturning.
But, Henneberger's key point comes with these sentences. Citing a blog post at the White House blog, and after picking apart its logic point-by-point, she writes: "Oh, and it says that 'contraception is used by most women,' including most Catholics. Again, true but not remotely the issue, which is the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment." Brava!