Distinctly Catholic

Sad or Not? Beautiful Music


In wrestling with the death of my friend and colleague, Joe Feuerherd, my mind recalled a beautiful piece of music by Mahler: Ich bin der Welt.
Here is a link to a recording of Dame Janet Baker singing it. The lyrics are posted on the same page.
Some people think this is the most sad piece of music ever. I profoundly disagree. Certainly, it is not chipper. It is about detachment from the world and its cares, which is something difficult for our twittered, black-berryed, "American Idol" culture to grasp but which is something worth considering as one walks along a spiritual path.
Sad or not, I think it is the most beautiful piece of music I know.

Pawlenty's Tax Mythology


Tim Pawlenty released his tax plan yesterday.
To be clear: There is no evidence that the health of the economy is directly tied to marginal tax rates. There is evidence that a significant drop in marginal rates serves as a one-time spur to economic investment. But, that's it. In most industrialized countries, the government takes a significantly larger share of GDP than does the U.S. government, with no markedly different levels of economic health. Of course, in today's xenophobic GOP, "European" is a cuss word, so it is hard to make this point.
So, let's return to the GOP's hero extraordinaire, Ronald Reagan. The top marginal income tax rate on the day he left office was 50%. I would be completely satisfied to go back to that rate. Any takers among the Reagan-worshippers?

Three Cheers for Romney


Piers Morgan is a sorry interviewer in every regard but he was especially dense last night when he began questioning GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney about his faith and its relationship to his governance. He kept asking Romney if he thought being gay was a sin and Romney kept replying that he was running for political office, not religious office, and he would leave the category of “sin” to the religious experts.

Morgan continued to press and Romney availed himself of a line from John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Houston Ministerial Association in 1960: I do not speak for my church, and my church does not speak for me. Morgan tried again to see if “personally” Romney though being gay was a sin, and Romney refused to budge. He would not answer.

USCCB Opposes Cuts in Agriculture Programs


Once again, the USCCB is doing the Church proud, this time opposing cuts in the Agriculture Department's budget that will adversely affect programs that help the poor. The letter, dated May 31, 2011 and signed on behalf of the USCCB by Bishops Stephen Blaire and Howard Hubbard, states: "We express our deep concerns that the current proposal calls for significant cuts to both domestic and international food aid, conservation and rural development programs. These proposed cuts will greatly affect programs that serve hungry, poor and vulnerable people in our nation and around the world."

Philly Sweepstakes


A source in Philadelphia tells me that the chancery is all abuzz that tomorrow will see the naming of a new archbishop to replace embattled Cardinal Justin Rigali. Rigali was himself named to the post on June 8, and three of his four auxiliaries had their appointments announced on June 8, so there is something of a tradition. But, if the buzz is right about the timing, there is little consensus about the choice. Here are the leading candidates with my handicapping:

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has a strong track record on child protection, which seems to be the most important qualification for the post given the fallout from the Grand Jury report in February and the just-beginning trial of two priests on charges of child molestation. This morning, those priests declined a plea deal. Chaput is a lightning rod on Church-State issues, but he has some media savvy to be sure. His appointment would be seen as a victory for the conservative wing in the American Church but even his critics, like myself, must admit that he is one of the brightest bishops on the bench today.

Give Palin a Break


This columnist has been known to criticize former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on many occasions. But, she is getting a bum rap now about her comments regarding Paul Revere. Yes, she conflated the facts of Revere's warning with its effects: Revere did not warn the British not to try and take the colonists' guns, he warned the colonists that the British were coming to take their guns, and they warned the British that this would provoke a fight.



I have tried to avoid writing about whether or not those boxers in the famous tweeted photo belonged to Congressman Anthony Weiner. Somehow, I had it in my mind that there were more important issues for the nation to face. With his stunning news conference yesterday, however, Congressman Weiner changed the stakes. This is no longer about boxers. It is about deceit.

New Word: Limitrophe


"Limitrophe" is not a new word. It is an old word. But it was new to me when I encountered it a few days ago. It means "situated on a border or frontier."

I must have encountered it previously but it made no impression on me the first time. It is found in Churchill's war memoirs, the first volume, "The Gathering Storm" and it comes in a memo he gave to the war Cabinet on September 25, 1939. He wrote: "The Russians have mobilized very large forces and have shown themselves able to advance fast and far from their pre-war positions. They are now limitrophe with Germany, and it is quite impossible for Germany to denude the Eastern Front."

This is a very useful word and it is not surprising to discover it in something Churchill wrote. He is the one statesman I can think of who won a Nobel Prize for literature. When I finsihed my book and completed my duties regarding last month's Rerum Novarum conference, I permitted myself an indulgence to celebrate. I took up the memoirs to re-read them for my bedtime reading. Sometimes, I am sleepy and only consume a few pages. Other nights, I can't put them down.


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In This Issue

December 2-15, 2016