Distinctly Catholic

Contra George Weigel


Writers often do not get to pen their own headlines, so I cannot fault George Weigel for referring to Catholic progressives as “Churchmice” in an article posted at the National Review. Whoever did come up with that title should reflect upon the often ugly things that happen when fellow human beings are compared to vermin. But, this Churchmouse must respond to Mr. Weigel’s article not least because he mentions me by name.

It is difficult to know what to make of Weigel’s arguments, such as they are. At one point he condemns the “hoary ‘liberal/conservative’ hermeneutic of the Council’s history” but this is a strange condemnation coming, as it does, in an article that explicitly and repeatedly indulged in a “hoary liberal/conservative hermeneutic.”

HHS & Religious Liberty


The issue of religious liberty is fast becoming a central concern among the nation’s bishops. The proposed interim rule from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding mandated coverage for contraception and sterilization in insurance plans struck many as a direct assault on religious, especially Catholic, institutions. The Department of Justice’s brief in the Supreme Court case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC is viewed by the bishops as an even more dangerous attack on religious liberty. Last week, Bishop William Lori, chairman of a new ad hoc committee on the religious liberty, testified on the subject before Congress. (I wrote about Lori’s testimony here.)

John O'Malley on a Lesson from Trent


Over at America, Father John W. O'Malley, S.J., has an instructive article on the different ways theologians were employed in the deliberations of the Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council. O'Malley argues that Trent may be a better example for improving the relationship between bishops and theologians than that methods followed at Vatican II.

I know that Trent has become a dirty word in certain circles and a panacea in other circles. But, as a genuinely reforming council, it is second to none and is always worth examination. Kudos to O'Malley for bringing this aspect of its procedures to light.

Galston Predicts Ugly Election


Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution is one of the most keen-eyed observers of politics in America. He has an article up today at The New Republic in which he notes the foul mood of the electorate which has grown distrustful of both parties, convinced the GOP will only stand up for the rich and not sure what President Obama is willing to fight for. He predicts this will yeild an especially ugly election campaign, and I dare say he is right. Out with Hope. In with Venom.

Contra Professor Zunes


NCR recently published a “viewpoint” by Professor Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco in which Mr. Zunes criticizes the Obama administration for its policy towards Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I confess myself somewhat shocked that a professor at a major university could combine so many truly outrageous claims in one small article, so outrageous that it is impossible to attribute them to mere carelessness.

Noah on Cong. Ryan's Blunder


Timothy Noah, at the New Republic, acknowledges that Cong. Paul Ryan has a fine, even bracing, set of talking points on the relative difference between America and Europe, with Americans supporting a less egalitarian society but one with greater upward mobility, compared to hidebound Europe, with its oppressive welfare state, stifling upward mobility in its efforts to preserve equality. Only problem? It ain't true. There is now less upward mobility in the US than in Europe.

Time's Amy Sullivan on RC Conservatives & GOP Primary


Time magazine's Amy Sullivan has a very smart piece up at Swampland about how the different GOP presidential aspirants look through the lens of conservative Catholics. (Smart not least because she gives me a shout out for my post earlier this week about Romneycare funding abortion with taxpayer dollars!) As she notes, although a lot of ink has been slipt about the role of evangelicals, Catholics are a key constituency within the ranks of the GOP primary electorate as well.

Sullivan notes that all of the candidates have problems with Catholic voters, as indeed they do, but that they may end up with Perry. I agree.

Assisi III


In an otherwise balanced article in this morning’s Washington Post, Michelle Boorstein writes, “and Pope Benedict XVI has stressed the sole truth of Catholicism over other faiths, even declining this month to pray with Hindus, Jews and others at an interreligious [sic] event.” That’s not quite right.

It is true that when Pope John Paul II held the first inter-religious encounter at Assisi 25 years ago, part of the program included a “common prayer” to which many conservatives took umbrage. I did not. John Paul II, always aware of the drama of events, was willing to set aside any theological concerns about “communicatio in sacris” in order to send a powerful visual message: Whatever our differences, we religious leaders seek peace and brotherhood. John Paul II had a second inter-religious meeting in 2002 at Assisi which, in the wake of 9/11, was especially poignant.


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In This Issue

December 2-15, 2016