I do not expect much from the editors at the New York Times in the way of giving the Catholic Church a fair shake. They seem to be that variety of liberal for whom the Church is the Easter Bunny with real estate, the vestige of an earlier age or of childhood desires, certainly not the progenitor of Western civilization, possessing a coherent worldview.
This weekend, the Vatican website posted the first of several anticipated discourses by Pope Benedict XVI to the U.S. bishops during their ad limina visits. The hext can be found here.
I especially liked the fact that the Holy Father called attention to the USCCB's "Faithful Citizenship" document and to the recent symposium on the Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization that was covered more thoroughly here at NCR than anywhere else.
Rick Garnett, law prof at Notre Dame, has a great op-ed at USAToday on the subject of religious liberty. His conclusion highlights one of the reasons Catholics seem most exorcised by the issue today: "Given our deep-rooted commitment to religious freedom, our goal should be to resolve this conflict in a way that does not make the radical privatization of faith the price of acting consistently with that faith." For Catholics, faith can never be "privatized." Garnett's analysis is balanced and nuanced, something too infrequently found when the issue of the role of religion in the public square is engaged and his essay should be widely read.
Advent is here. It is one of my favorite liturgical seasons not least because it is so completely counter-cultural. The Christmas ornaments have been on display at my neighborhood grocery store since Halloween. The world has already begun celebrating Christmas, if you can call the orgy of materialism a celebration, but the Church gives us this season of four weeks, recognizing that preparing the heart for the coming of Christ takes longer than preparing the house for a holiday party.
Due to the holiday, I am not posting today, but I wanted to call attention to an article in yesterday's Washington Post by E.J. Dionne about the conscience exemptions for religious institutions.
E.J. is right that failure to expand the exemption will play into the hands of those conservative Catholics who would not be satisfied with President Obama if he had been at Mount Tabor for the Transfiguration. But, just as importantly, failure to expand the conscience exemptions plays into a GOP talking-point about Democrats being hostile to religion.
Either way, the President should do the right thing on this and expand the conscience exemption to include the employees of religious institutions and students at religious colleges and universities.
In disucssing the battle over whether or not to expand the conscience exemptions regarding the new mandated coverage by HHS, a very msart political scientist and I came to the conclusion that if we had non-partisan re-districting, we would not even be having this conversation.
Every ten years, after the census, state legislators re-draw the maps of congressional districts. Because computers give highly detailed information about voting behavior, those who are carving the districts draw the lines to create "safe" districts in which incumbents are unlikely to be challenged. One side of a street that votes Republican may find itself in a different district from their neighbors across the street who tend to vote for Democrats. Maybe, one day, they will divide individual homes, putting Dem grandma's bedroom in one district and her GOP-leaning son's bedroom in a different district.
Over at Sussidiario, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete notes the breakdown between faith and reason. The key quote: "The Obama administration is packed with such Catholic advisors who share [MSNBC host Rachel] Maddow's failure to see the mystery of Christ as the thread that binds together all the elements of Catholic social doctrine."
The fact that the President is surrounded by Catholics - chief-of-staff, national security advisor, vice president, etc. - who do not grasp "the thread that binds" is a big problem, and it is not a problem unique to the Democrats. (See my post below about the GOP response to Newt Gingrich's agreement, or at least partial agreement, with the Church's stance on immigration.) This is a big issue that warrants serious, thoughtful attention. How can we, as Catholics, bring the fullness of our teaching into a political sphere that is divided along lines that do not make sense to the Catholic mind?
Much about last night's GOP debate on foreign policy and national security was downright scary. Unless, that is, you think breaking of relations with Pakistan (Perry), or deporting 11 million immigrants (Bachmann), or using torture (all but Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman), or profiling Muslims (Santorum), or knowing next to nothing about the facts on the ground in any number of countries (Cain), are just fine thoughts to have in the mind of a future President.
Thanksgiving is the first American holiday. The Pilgrims banned the celebration of Christmas and the 4th of July was not yet a significant date. The revelry of New Year’s was not a part of the Puritan regimen and they had not invented football yet. But, for all the nasty consequences the Puritans imparted to our culture, they deserve a nod of, well, thanks, for providing a nice story that has become iconic in America’s self-narrative.
Growing up, Thanksgiving meant going to my grandmother’s house for dinner. It was her day to host the family and the meal, especially the gravy, was always perfect. I was not yet a cook myself, so I did not know then what I have come to learn, that Thanksgiving dinner is an enormously complicated meal to cook and that only a person who has had a child pass through her loins has the innate managerial capacity to make eight dishes, all of them hot, come to the table at the same time.
The Catholic bishops of New Jersey have issued a statement on poverty that highlights, very concisely, both Catholic teaching on poverty and their immediate plans to combat it.
They are establishing four task forces to look at what practical steps can be taken to alleviate poverty. These kinds of practical steps can only be taken, of course, because the Church, through its various ministries, knows a great deal about poverty. It is heartwarming to see that the bishops are not merely issuing pious words but are taking practical steps to follow the Master's call to serve the poor. Hats off to the high hats in the Garden State.
(h/t to Rocco.)