National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Distinctly Catholic

Cardinals Who Tweet


I admit I am something of a Luddite when it comes to computer technology. I do not have a blackberry or smartphone or any of those other thumb-things as I like to call them. And, I certainly don't tweet. Tweets seem to get people into trouble more than anything else. Besides, our culture does not suffer from too little immediacy.

So, I was a little surprised to read an article over at Vatican Insider about cardinals who tweet. Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil, has 7,566 followers. That seems like a lot to me. Our own Cardinal Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap, has 1993 followers on Twitter.

I suppose the Twitter universe is the new Areopagus.

Cain Out, Gingrich Up


Herman Cain’s implausible bid for the White House has come to an end, provoking the best joke of the campaign season so far. Usually, when someone retires from politics, they claim they wish to spend more time with their families. The joke in DC: Cain plans to spend more time with his female subordinates.

Cain’s candidacy never quite seemed like the real thing, from his quoting the lyrics of a Pokemon song to his inability to grasp the implications of Roe v. Wade to his meltdown when asked about Libya. Cain rose in the polls on the strength of his pithy debate performances, which showed nothing more than a well developed ability to deliver platitudes about leadership and decision-making, and his introducing a genuinely new and bold idea, his 9-9-9 plan. The fact that it was a bad idea did not matter so much to GOP primary voters. They did not pay attention to the details. To an electorate tired of politics and gridlock, new ideas are gold.

Acton Institute on Moral Suspicion


The other day, I noted that given his recent comments on the economy, Pope Benedict XVI is unlikely to be invited anytime soon to give a talk at the Acton Institute, the libertarian think tank run by Father Robert Sirico.

I went to their website and found something very, well, curious. Jordan Ballor has a post up that considers the effectiveness of the social safety net in this country. He does not argue with the fact that the net caught six of seven people and kept them from falling into poverty. Instead, somewhat bizarrely, he notes that by providing a disincentive to work, which would also keep people above the poverty line, the safety net is "morally suspect and economically questionable." I can not think of a better example of someone's commitment to ideological purity getting in the way of anything resembling sound moral analysis: Real people, not talking points, are helped by the safety net. It is not morally suspect. The rantings (should they be called "Randings"?) from the Acton Institute are.

Berkowitz on Wood on America


Peter Bekowitz of the Hoover Institution has a thoughtful review of Gordon Wood's new book, The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States.

Many politicians play fast and loose with the Founding Fathers and Wood's lifetime of careful scholarship is, as Berkowitz notes, a tonic both to the excesses of some historians and of some politicians. Wood has a distinctly Catholic approach, although he might not choose to descibe his contribution that way. Nonetheless, if one of the principal characteristics of Catholic intellectual thought is a preference for "both/and" solutions to human conundrums, as opposed to "either/or" solutions, Wood looks at the extant historiography of the Revolutionary era and culls what is good from all the different schools of thought, brings them together, allows them to self-correct each other, and produces just about as balanced and thorough an understand of those momentous events as can be found in the pages of any book.

Can Immigrants Save Medicare?


Undocumented immigrants have played a big part in the GOP presidential debates. There, of course, these immigrants are known as “illegals” which has morphed from an adjective to a noun, as if there was something constitutive and indelible in their nature that had a whiff of illegality about it, not that they are human beings or anything like that, still less children of God, who understood that they might find a better life for themselves and their families by crossing the border without proper documents. But, immigrants may be key to shoring up America's most treasured entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare.

Catholic Pride & Conscience Exemptions


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.

Obama & White, Working Class Voters


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.

Catholic Identity or School \"Choice\"?


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.


Subscribe to Distinctly Catholic


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

October 21-November 3, 2016

  • Reformation's anniversary brings commemorations, reconsiderations
  • Picks further diversify College of Cardinals
  • Editorial: One-issue obsession imperils credibility
  • Special Section [Print Only]: SAINTS