Distinctly Catholic

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.

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.


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In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017