Distinctly Catholic

Peretz on Defending Israel From Its Right-Wing Jews


Marty Peretz has been a friend of mine for a long time and I have learned most of what I know about Zionism from him or from books he has recommended to me. Many people dismiss Marty because, as one of the leading controversialists of his time, he has said some things that are, well, provocative. Others have criticized his handling of the New Republic although, I would submit, he has kept that magazine more relevant to serious discussions on the left than any of its competitors and has continued to produce outstanding journalism, and give outstanding journalists their start in the business, since he bought the magazine in the early 1970s.

Today, at TNR, he has an essay that demonstrates something about Marty that many people miss amidst the controversy: He is deeply learned. His essay on the challenges Israel faces from its own rightwingers is so smart, so full of knowledge and insight, and, yes, provocative, I mark it down as one of my top ten favorite essays of the year. You can read it here.

Immigrants & Taxes II


I do not normally respond to comments. It is my belief that once I have said what I have to say, it is best to let the combox take on a life of its own. I am delighted when readers debate each other there. I am even delighted when readers just rant at each other. The exchange of opinions is a good thing per se, even when it is accompanied by the throwing of rhetorical elbows.

But, last week, I wrote a post about immigrants that both examined the results of a new Pew study and suggested that it would be helpful if the Congressional Budget Office could calculate what effects comprehensive immigration reform would have on extending the solvency of both the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. The comments of Professor Carmen Nanko-Fernandez on that post are such that they deserve a response.

Germany, WaPo & Mauriac


Yesterday's Washington Post Outlook section had an article by Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff on the role of Germany in Europe, as it relates politically and economically to the crisis over the Euro-zone and its finances. Yes, the discussion is about Germany's role in the continent's economy, but that discussion has a deep undercurrent of concern about Germany's historical role in Europe.

It brought to mind the famous quip of Francois Mauriac: "I love Germany so dearly, I hope there will always be two of them."

HuffPost on Gingrich's Catholicism


Jaweed Kaleem, writing at the Huffington Post, has an in-depth article on Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism. Of course, it would be nice to see the former speaker come to a better appreciation of the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching, and how it varies greatly from the more libertarian strands within the GOP today. But, as I wrote at the time of his reception into the Church, it is a big church and there is room for everybody.

Kaleem's article also demonstrates that the conversion was not, by all acounts, a matter of political expediency. It grew, as many conversions do, out of his growing familiarity with the religion of his wife. In my involvement with RCIA, we often have several converts who come to the Church for the same reason. Nor is it clear that being Catholic provides any particular benefit politically. Like his opponent Mitt Romney, Gingrich's views should be a matter of debate, not his faith.

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.


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In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017