Distinctly Catholic

Obama's Choice


President Obama has returned from his trip to Asia and he faces a major decision, actually two of them. The first decision is the more easily grasped: He must decide whether or not to enlarge the conscience exemption for religiously based organizations regarding mandated coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients under the Affordable Care Act.

An article in yesterday’s New York Times reported that a group of congressional Democrats had two conference calls last week with highly placed White House staffers. The congressional Democrats urged the White House not to enlarge the exemption. According to the Times,

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, said: “It just doesn’t make sense to take this benefit away from millions of women. Americans of all religious faiths overwhelmingly support broad access to birth control.”

Silk Looks at Religious Voting Patterns in Iowa


The GOP contest continues to be characterized by flux, but over at Spiritual Politics, Mark Silk looks at the crosstabs of a recent poll that breaks down the Iowa GOP electorate by religion. The numbers that jumps out at me: Romney continues to struggle with born-agains, who make up a whopping 47% of the GOP electorate in Iowa, while doing slightly better among Catholics than the general population, Ron Paul has a lock on self-described secularists, and Michele Bachmann seems unable to garner any Catholic support. Has she not been going to eastern Iowa?

Moses Replies to MSW


Paul Moses of Commonweal has replied to my post this morning about conscience.
He writes, "You neglect to mention here that my Commonweal post starts by saying that I support the point the bishops are making. But if you need a straw man to make your argument, go right ahead."

I did neglect to mention that fact. I also neglected to mention the fact that Mr. Moses teaches journalism at Brooklyn College and SUNY Graduate School of Journalism. This "neglect" occured because neither fact had anything to do with the point I was making, a point that Mr. Moses fails to engage. And, why would he? After all, it is not me with whom he would have to wrestle, but John Henry Newman.

Consequently, I deny making Mr. Moses into a strawman. Instead, I stick by my assertion that there is a type of liberal Catholic, of which he has made himself an example, that confuses conscience rights in the public sphere with the role of conscience within the Church.

\"Without Sunday, we cannot live.\"


Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap, the Archbishop of Boston, has issued a pastoral letter on attending Sunday Mass. Apart from his slur against Irish cooking, which is funny but no longer precise, at least not in this Irishman's kitchen as the cardinal has reason to remember, the letter should be read in its entirety. This is the passage that most jumped out at me:

The Eucharist is Jesus’ great gift to us, and the fulfillment of His promise to be with us always until the end of time. It is a central part of God’s saving plan of infinite love for us.

Many Catholics today seem to take the gift of the Sunday Mass for granted. It is a great sadness to me as spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Boston to note that, on any given Sunday, so many Catholics choose to be absent from Mass. It was not that long ago that almost all Catholics went to Sunday Mass unless they were sick or incapacitated.

New PRRI Survey


The Public Religion Research Institute has released results of its latest survey. You can read the full results here.

For me the most interesting finding was this:

When considering measures that would help reduce the nation’s budget deficit, Americans favor increasing taxes on Americans making at least $1 million dollars per year (69%) and eliminating tax breaks for large corporations (57%).

•There are large partisan divides on each of these questions, with Democrats and Independents strongly favoring these proposals and Republicans nearly evenly divided.
•Strong majorities of every major religious group favor both of these proposals.

If there was any doubt that Democrats are well served by using religious language and values to defend their economic proposals, this finding cinches it.

Conscience, MSNBC & Commonweal


If anyone has doubts that the Church has enemies, last night’s appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), chair of the pro-choice caucus on Capitol Hill, should have dispelled them. Congresswoman DeGette thinks it is outrageous that Catholic institutions should seek an exemption from an interim rule requiring all health insurance plans to cover contraception, sterilization and some drugs that are abortifacients. To make her case, she cited polling data that indicates many, if not most, Catholics do not agree with the hierarchy about such matters. Needless to say, Maddow piled on as well: She called such an exemption for Catholic organizations a “scaling back” of the mandated care, failing to recognize that it is the pro-choicers who are trying to change the rules of the game and coerce Catholics hospitals and universities to provide coverage for procedures those institutions find morally objectionable.

+Turkson - 1; American Papist - 0


Remember last week when certain hard-breathing conservatives, more devoted to the economic Gospel according to von Mises, were thrilled to discover, via Vaticanista Sandro Magister, that Cardinal Bertone, the Holy See's Secretary of State, was so upset with the recent "note" from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace that he ordered a ban on the release of any documents unless they had been cleared by his office? The suggestion was that the Vatican was deeply ambivalent about the "note" drafted by Cardinal Peter Turkson's Council and that +Turkson had erred grievously. Here is the American Papist's rant.

Well, according to John Thavis, it turns out that Bertone's order was in response to an entirely different document, the Pope's annual message on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which had mistakenly been posted on the Vatican website without prior approval. Cardinal Turkson's document had gone through all the complicated channels by which Vatican documents are brought to birth.

Vischer - 1; Goodstein - 0


I had been intending to comment up Laurie Goodstein's article in the NYTimes about the USCCB meeting this week, but Rob Vischer beat me to it at "Mirror of Justice," making almost all the points I wanted to make and all of which I endorse.

I would only add one point to Rob's excellent commentary. In recent memory, the first time a Catholic prelate voiced his concern about religious liberty, it had nothing to do with contraception or abortion. It was in 2006, when Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles announced on the eve of Lent that if Congress passed a law requiring Catholic social workers, teachers or hospital workers to question the legal status of immigrants, he would order all employees of the archdiocese to disobey the law. Mahony did not frame the issue in terms of religious liberty, but it is the same concern.


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In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017