Distinctly Catholic

Judicial Murder in Texas


Humberto Leal Garcia was killed in Texas last night. He was put to death by the state of Texas. The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote refused to issue a stay and Gov. Rick Perry, thinking of running for the presidency, took no action to prevent the killing either.

Let us stipulate that Mr. Leal as guilty and a thoroughly horrible human being. Let us stipulate that the death penalty is a just form of punishment, even though I do not agree and the Church sets very, narrow restrictions on the procedure, restrictions that certainly were not met in this or the countless other incidences of judicial murder in Texas.

But, in addition to killing Mr. Leal, Texas killed America's word last night. The nation has pledged itself by solemn treaty to grant foreigners accused of crimes in the U.S. to receive the assistance of their embassy. Mr. Leal was not given this opportunity.

So, in addition to Mr. Leal, Texas last night killed your chance, dear reader, should you find yourself in a foreign prison, of invoking that treaty and not being laughed at.

What a world.

Referendum on DREAM Act in MD


This morning's Washington Post reports that opponents of the Maryland DREAM ACT, which allows the children of undocumented workers to attend state schools at in-state tuition rates (seeing as they do, in fact, live here), have secured enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot as a referendum.

I read this news just after posting about Bishop Tobin and civil unions in Rhode Island so the relationship of the Church with the culture is already on my mind.

Here is a test for the Catholic hierarchy in Maryland. Can they - and will they - fight as strongly for the DREAM Act as other hierarchs have fought gay marriage proposals?

The Problem With Bishop Tobin


Many people expressed their disappointment, and others their disgust, with the recent statement by Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, after that most Catholic state in the Union adopted civil unions for same-sex couples. Critics charge that Tobin was insensitive in his remarks, but I think there are times when a religious leader must risk others’ sensitivities when proclaiming difficult truths. Some thought the bishop’s injunctions severe, but there are times in the Scriptures when Jesus is severe, albeit usually with those rendering judgment not with those receiving it.

My difficulty with Tobin’s statement is of a different character. I find it impoverished.

Tobin wrote: “Can there be any doubt that Almighty God will, in his own time and way, pass judgment upon our state, its leaders and citizens, for abandoning his commands and embracing public immorality?”

Adios Elliot Spitzer


Yesterday, CNN cancelled Elliot Spitzer's show and he gave his last performance. I say performance because while the show started out as a fun and engaging hour of banter, with the hard-driving Spitzer facing off against the mild-mannered and supremely composed Kathleen Parker, once Spitzer forced her out, the show became too much Spitzer all the time. Too relentless. Too up tempo. Too aggressive. In the end, too predictable.
Spitzer is bright, very bright. And he used his vast, and interesting, network of friends to make his show better than it might have been. Who doesn't want to hear from Simon Schama? And, when the Libya crisis first broke, Spitzer turned to his friend Fouad Ajami, and other CNN shows began using this first-rate scholar whose opinions are always deeply informed. But, I found myself unable to watch the show unless I was myself feeling exceedingly pugnacious and, at 8 p.m., I am generally not thinking smackdown.

Marvin Olasky Takes on Ayn Rand


Marvin Olasky is not exactly a screaming leftie. But, he has a post up today in which he calls on conservatives to disassociate themselves from one of their heroes, Ayn Rand. Interestingly, Olasky says that there is still room for libertarians in the conservative ranks, something I think is not tenable in the long term, but he says there is no room for anti-Christians like Rand. Importantly, he calls on those who invoke Rand, from Congressman Paul Ryan to Rush Limbaugh, to explain what they do, and do not, like about Rand. Not sure how that will play out as there is nothing, repeat nothing, about rand that is worth salvaging. Some defenders say you can set aside Rand's anti-Christian views but embrace her economic and socio-cultural views, but those views are just as anti-Christian in their essence as her more explicitly anti-religious statements.
Nonetheless, you can forgive me for smiling at the prospect of conservatives warring with each other over Rand's significance. It is like the Iran-Iraq war.

A New Voice at NCR


In case you missed it on our homepage, NCR has an article up today by Robert Christian on the hyper-individualism that informs many of the talking points coming from the GOP in DC these days, and why that hyper-individualism does not cohere with Catholic social thought. Be sure to read it.
Robert is a graduate fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University where I am a visiting fellow. One of the pleasures of working at the Institute has been working with him and the other bright, young graduate fellows. They are bright and engaged and, most importantly, they really love the Church, a fact that shines through in our conversations and is evident in Robert's article.

The Church in Cuba Defending Human Rights


Here is an interesting article about the role of the Catholic Church in Cuba, specifically, the way it serves as the principal publishing house for articles that would not pass muster with the party censors.
The press, like unions, like the Church, is one of the principal instruments of civil society capable of expressing popular will in the face of government oppression. And, to be clear, in Cuba the government is still oppressive and Americans who throw that adjective at our government demean the word. Conservatives, of course, tend to only like unions and the press when they are in communist countries, but they serve a similar function in our own society: They allow divergent voices to manifest themselves and without such divergence, democracy has no vibrancy and human rights are more easily threatened.

What the Casey Anthony Case Says About Our Culture


I refused to watch a single moment of the Casey Anthony trial. I refused to watch a single news story about the trial. This took some doing and I had to replace the battery in my television clicker sooner than anticipated. The story was ubiquitous.
I refused to engage it for the same reason I would have refused to attend a gladiator fight had I lived two thousand years ago. In America today, the courtroom has replaced the ampitheater, but the lust for gruesomeness is the same. Shame on us.
The only good thing about the trial is that it is over.


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In This Issue

February 10-23, 2017