Distinctly Catholic



I wondered when someone was finally going to go after Mitt Romney over two provisions of his health care reform in Massachusetts, namely, the fact that the reforms mandate taxpayer funding of abortions and permit Planned Parenthood to designate one of the members of the health care advisory board set up by the law.

Now, according to Katherine Seelye of the New York Times, Newt Gingrich is prepared to raise the issue. Indeed, Gingrich mentioned it last night in an interview with Sean Hannity. Seelye mentions the issue was raised at a Dec. 21 media avail with Gingrich. Hmmmmm. I wonder who that could have been?

The most important aspect of this story is that the health care reforms came AFTER Romney's conversion on the abortion issue, not before.

Payroll Tax Cuts & Third Rails


The recent showdown over extending the payroll tax cut may have worked out alright for President Obama: He forced congressional Republicans into the awkward position of appearing willing to fight to the death to preserve tax cuts for millionaires but indifferent to the extension of tax cuts for the middle class. This is not a good place to be at the start of an election year and the GOP leadership caved. It was acclaimed as a big political win for the White House. In the event, the Congress could only agree to a two month extension so the debate will be back in February.

The entire debate sent shivers down my spine. Not because I feared the President would blink. But, because the payroll tax cut is the kind of idea an economist devises – it is efficient, it pumps money into the economy, etc. – but also an idea that may have ugly political consequences down the road. It will be very, very hard to end that tax cut in the years ahead and it is the payroll tax that funds Social Security.

Eric Cantor Crashes on 60 Minutes


In case you missed last night's "60 Minutes" profile of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, it is worthwhile takeing a moment to watch it. It was a disaster for Cantor. Leslie Stahl tried to get him to at least acknowledge that either he and his fellow Republicans must learn how to compromise or admit that they are willing to be intransigent on what they believe are issues upon which compromise is impossible. He couldn't do it.

The worst moment, however, came at the end when Stahl pointed out that Ronald Reagan compromised and raised taxes. Off-camera, you heard a voice that was identified as Cantor's press secretary. The press secretary was taking issue with Stahl's premise but that is emphatically not his job. She posed the question to Cantor and it was his job to answer it or dodge it. Having a handler intervene made Cantor look like a martinet.

The other day I heard GOP pollster Frank Luntz note that Congress' approval rating is at 9 percent, which is lower than Qadaffi's approval rating was among Libyans when he was killed by those same Libyans.

An Iowa Op-ed Worth Reading


An op-ed in today's Quad City Times, in Davenport, Iowa, was co-authored by a Protestant minister and the head of the diocese of Davenport's Catholic Charities. Their conclusion is worth the price of admission: "Perhaps in this season of hope and compassion, religious leaders and those who seek the presidency can help rekindle faith in the deeply American proposition that we are all in this together."

The whole op-ed can be found here.

The Santorum Boomlet


A month ago, even two weeks ago, you could get a laugh at a cocktail party suggesting that there was still time for former Sen. Rick Santorum to become the “flavor of the month” in the GOP primary. Not anymore.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann stumbled over the HPV vaccine. Gov. Rick Perry stumbled over the English language. Herman Cain stumbled over everything. Each rose in the polls, garnered a great deal of media attention, and withered from the harsh light. But, Santorum? The guy lost to Sen. Robert Casey by 18 points, the largest margin of defeat for any incumbent senator in 2006.

Not Every Day


The other day, on the radio, I heard an NPR report on the funeral of the "dear leader" Kim Jong Il and the report started with masses of Koreans singing "The Internationale." Wow. Not every day you hear that! The NPR reporter did not call attention to the music, which I hope every good leftie still remembers.

I could not find a video of that part of the ceremony but here is a recording of what is really a splendid piece of music in Korean:

PRRI's Top 11 Findings


Robert P. Jones, of the Public Religion Research Institute, lists his top eleven findings of 2011.

Of special note are the decoupling of views on abortion and same-sex marriage, the continued high rate of support for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, and, very sadly, continued ambivalence about Islam.

The decoupling of views on abortion and same-sex marriage shows that young people remain responsive to pro-life concerns even while their familiarity with gay men and women makes them less likely to oppose their right to marry. Of course, for RCs, marriage is not a right but a sacrament, but I wonder if the Church should not find a better way to navigate the issue than they have done so far. As I have noted before, the fight for traditional marriage took its strongest body blow with the advent of no-fault divorce laws, not the movement for gay marriage rights.

The continued high rate of support for immigration reform shows one thing: The issue only needs some leadership.

+Hubbard's Report from Rome


Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany has three commentaries about his recent ad limina visit to Rome. They are long but read quickly and give one of the best eyewitness accounts of these visits I have ever seen in print. And, great to see Msgr. Steve Rossetti get such a prominent shout out from Cardinal Ouellet for his book on the presbyterate?
Here are the links to Bp Hubbard's essays:

Part I:
Part II:
Part III:

Heading for the Hawkeye State


Five days and counting. The Iowa caucus will finally get the voters, or at least some of them, a chance to weigh in on the GOP presidential nomination. Of course, the Iowa caucuses will only test the views of those brave souls willing to come out on a cold January night and sit through an hour-long caucus. And Iowa, which is 91 percent white, largely rural, and large numbers of motivated evangelicals, is hardly a microcosm of the country. But, better the decision rest with some voters than with only pundits.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney appears to have the wind at his back. His opponents are scrambling to become the un-Romney and, consequently, have been taking shots at each other rather than at Romney. Additionally, Romney threw plenty of negative ads against Newt Gingrich, the only opponent who could appeal to both the conservative base and establishment Republicans. Just as the non-stop negative ads that Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt threw at each other in 2004 paved the way for a surprise victory by John Kerry in the Hawkeye State, Romney is benefiting from being above the fray.


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In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017