Advent is here. It is one of my favorite liturgical seasons not least because it is so completely counter-cultural. The Christmas ornaments have been on display at my neighborhood grocery store since Halloween. The world has already begun celebrating Christmas, if you can call the orgy of materialism a celebration, but the Church gives us this season of four weeks, recognizing that preparing the heart for the coming of Christ takes longer than preparing the house for a holiday party.
Due to the holiday, I am not posting today, but I wanted to call attention to an article in yesterday's Washington Post by E.J. Dionne about the conscience exemptions for religious institutions.
E.J. is right that failure to expand the exemption will play into the hands of those conservative Catholics who would not be satisfied with President Obama if he had been at Mount Tabor for the Transfiguration. But, just as importantly, failure to expand the conscience exemptions plays into a GOP talking-point about Democrats being hostile to religion.
Either way, the President should do the right thing on this and expand the conscience exemption to include the employees of religious institutions and students at religious colleges and universities.
In disucssing the battle over whether or not to expand the conscience exemptions regarding the new mandated coverage by HHS, a very msart political scientist and I came to the conclusion that if we had non-partisan re-districting, we would not even be having this conversation.
Every ten years, after the census, state legislators re-draw the maps of congressional districts. Because computers give highly detailed information about voting behavior, those who are carving the districts draw the lines to create "safe" districts in which incumbents are unlikely to be challenged. One side of a street that votes Republican may find itself in a different district from their neighbors across the street who tend to vote for Democrats. Maybe, one day, they will divide individual homes, putting Dem grandma's bedroom in one district and her GOP-leaning son's bedroom in a different district.
Over at Sussidiario, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete notes the breakdown between faith and reason. The key quote: "The Obama administration is packed with such Catholic advisors who share [MSNBC host Rachel] Maddow's failure to see the mystery of Christ as the thread that binds together all the elements of Catholic social doctrine."
The fact that the President is surrounded by Catholics - chief-of-staff, national security advisor, vice president, etc. - who do not grasp "the thread that binds" is a big problem, and it is not a problem unique to the Democrats. (See my post below about the GOP response to Newt Gingrich's agreement, or at least partial agreement, with the Church's stance on immigration.) This is a big issue that warrants serious, thoughtful attention. How can we, as Catholics, bring the fullness of our teaching into a political sphere that is divided along lines that do not make sense to the Catholic mind?
Much about last night's GOP debate on foreign policy and national security was downright scary. Unless, that is, you think breaking of relations with Pakistan (Perry), or deporting 11 million immigrants (Bachmann), or using torture (all but Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman), or profiling Muslims (Santorum), or knowing next to nothing about the facts on the ground in any number of countries (Cain), are just fine thoughts to have in the mind of a future President.
Thanksgiving is the first American holiday. The Pilgrims banned the celebration of Christmas and the 4th of July was not yet a significant date. The revelry of New Year’s was not a part of the Puritan regimen and they had not invented football yet. But, for all the nasty consequences the Puritans imparted to our culture, they deserve a nod of, well, thanks, for providing a nice story that has become iconic in America’s self-narrative.
Growing up, Thanksgiving meant going to my grandmother’s house for dinner. It was her day to host the family and the meal, especially the gravy, was always perfect. I was not yet a cook myself, so I did not know then what I have come to learn, that Thanksgiving dinner is an enormously complicated meal to cook and that only a person who has had a child pass through her loins has the innate managerial capacity to make eight dishes, all of them hot, come to the table at the same time.
The Catholic bishops of New Jersey have issued a statement on poverty that highlights, very concisely, both Catholic teaching on poverty and their immediate plans to combat it.
They are establishing four task forces to look at what practical steps can be taken to alleviate poverty. These kinds of practical steps can only be taken, of course, because the Church, through its various ministries, knows a great deal about poverty. It is heartwarming to see that the bishops are not merely issuing pious words but are taking practical steps to follow the Master's call to serve the poor. Hats off to the high hats in the Garden State.
(h/t to Rocco.)
Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, attended a rally yesterday in support of higher wages. Sullivan read a letter from Archbishop Timothy Dolan that said, in part, "The church supports fair wages with decent benefits and jobs in sufficient numbers, so that all might find work." The archdiocese has not come out in support of any specific legislative proposal, but as the article linked to above indicates, non-Catholics from the unions and from the NAACP grasped the significance of the Church's support for their goals.
Let's hope the White House is as astute as the unions and the NAACP.
2012 came early this year. With the collapse of the negotiations in the Not-So-Super Committee, the outline of the 2012 election is now set. The voter’s will focus on three, and possibly four, things next year. First, President Obama’s record. Second, the suitability of whomever ends up as the GOP nominee. Third, and most importantly, voters will face a choice about how to deal with the nation’s finances.
Mark Silk, at Spiritual Politics, asks why Bill Donohue is so intent on defending the indefensible behavior of Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn. I can't answer that question and, in the event and as is to be expected from Silk, he meticulously lays out the case why Donohue's confidence appears misplaced.
But, I wonder if even Donohue will be able to stomach this report from the Kansas City Star's court reporter, Mark Morris, that indicates the diocese has filed notice that it may present an affirmative defense in the case, namely, that the pornographic photos on Father Ratigan's computer were constitutionall protected. Huh? Bishop Finn, you may recall, issued his first pastoral letter on the subject of pornography. He is opposed to it. But, the lawyers for the diocese have now stated, in a formal court filing, that they may avail themselves of the argument that pronography is constitutionally protected? Yeesh.