One of the more interesting developments in the debate about whether or not to expand the conscience exemptions regarding mandated insurance coverage for procedures the Catholic Church finds morally objectionable, such as contraception, sterilization and some drugs the Church considers abortifacients, is the fact that so many Catholics who do not share those moral objections are nonetheless vociferous in urging a broader exemption. Friends who denounce the bishops as naïve or willing tools of the GOP, who think that contraception is fine, or who otherwise seldom miss the opportunity to trash the hierarchy, nonetheless find themselves disturbed by the idea that the federal government would force Catholic institutions to abide by rules that conflict with the dictates of the Church.
Over at Politico, Carrie Budoff Brown has a great article about President Obama's challenge with white, working class voters in Pennsylvania, a state that he needs to win if he is to retain the White House and a state that has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
Note to White House political operatives: Lost of those white, working class voters are Roman Catholics. They, like everybody, is mostly concerned about the economy and they frankly do not trust either party to look out for their interests. So, the last thing the President should want to do is give them another reason to think that he does not respect them or their values by getting into a fight with Catholics about mandated coverage for contracpetion.
According to a news item at Catholic News Service, Pope Benedict XVI recently expressed his warning against any "unconditional surrender to the law of the market or that of finance."
Looks like the Holy Father will not be giving the keynote at any event sponsored by the Acton Institute anytime soon.
At yesterday’s conference on tuition tax credits, John Carr, who leads the Justice, Peace and Human Development office at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said he felt a bit like an “outsider.” Marie Powell, who heads the USCCB’s Education Office recalled going to a social justice gathering and having a similar feeling. In part, no doubt, this “outsider” sensation comes simply from the division of labor at the USCCB: Different parts of the organization handle different issues. People like to bemoan bureaucracy, but in a complex society, there is no alternative. Expertise matters and no one can be expected to be an expert in everything.
Mark Silk, at Spiritual Politics, gives an update on the issue of the Vatican's stance towards capitalism. It should surprise no one who does not occupy a corner office at the Ethics and Public Policy Center or the American Enterprise Institute that Catholic social thought has always registered deep reservations about capitalism. Some tried to denounce or demean the recent "Note" from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace because it failed to offer incense at the Altar of the Market. They mistakenly jumped on a directive from the Vatican's Secretary of State which they thought was intended to further question that "Note," but turned out to be directed at an entirely different document. ("Oops," as Gov. Perry likes to say.) But, as Silk points out, suspicion of market idolatry of the kind that animates today's Republican Party is deeply rooted and widely held within the precincts of the Holy See, including the man in white.
George Weigel, indulges in wholesome praise for the late John Courtney Murray, S.J. before throwing cheap shots at E.J. Dionne, in an article published at the National Review Online. You would not know it from Weigel's article that Murray actually did not want to reduce the Christian Gospel to a prop for Americanism, which seems to be Weigel's faux-intellectual calling card. You would also not know that the column by Dionne that Weigel attacks clearly and unambiguously aimed at defending the need for more expansive conscience exemptions which is at the center of the debate on religious liberty. You would also not know that, in his inaugural presidential address to the USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Dolan did not, in fact, stress the issue of religious liberty, indeed, he failed to mention the issue. And, it is beyond imagining that someone who fancies himself an astute observer of the Church would be shocked, shocked, to find divisions within the episcopal conference not so much on any given issue as on the relative stress of some issues over others, and the manner in which those issues should be confronted.
Stewart Lansley has an excellent article about income inequality in the UK in this week's Tablet. Turns out America is not all that exceptional in this regard.
Lansley's article also makes a point that cannot be made too often: We have been down this road before. The dynamics of laissez-faire rules the 1920s, and look what it brought us then?
Could his conversion have really taken hold? This was the question I asked myself during last week’s GOP debate when presidential aspirant for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich argued for a more humane immigration policy. Specifically, Gingrich said that it was important to draw distinctions between those undocumented workers (he called them illegals) who have newly arrived, have no roots or significant community ties, and should be deported and those undocumented workers who have been here for twenty-five years, belong to a church, have children and even grandchildren here, and who should be given a path to legalize their status.
I am missing Barney Frank already. It was not only his success as a legislator. It was not only that he was the smartest member of Congress and the funniest. It was his candor, especially his willingness to remind people that they got the government they chose. When people would bemoan the corruption of politicians he would famously quip, "You know, the public is no bargain either."
But, nothing tops his response to a woman who came to a town hall meeting during the debate over health care reform, carried a picture of the President defaced to look like Hitler, and called the reform effort a "Nazi policy." Congressman Frank's reply, caught on camera, is among the most memorable political events of my lifetime:
I take second place to no one in my championing of the cause of religious liberty, both in the context of the HHS mandates and in denouncing attacks on Gov. Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. But, there are circumstances in which the issue of religious liberty can be invoked in ways that cloud the issue or, worse from my point of view, misunderstand what religion calls us to do. The facts of a case matter.
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a group of nurses at a public hospital in New Jersey who are suing the hospital because it has decided they must participate in caring for women who are going to have an abortion and women who have just undergone one. Federal and state law guarantees the right of hospital workers not to participate in an abortion. President Obama’s administration re-wrote the conscience rules it inherited from President Bush, but the new rules drew a bright red line on the issue of abortion: No one can be forced to participate in one against their conscience.