Governors across the nation have been struggling to balance their budgets, often with unhappy consequences for programs that aid the poor and the vulnerable. Some of the battles, such as the attack on collective bargaining rights by conservative Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio, have exposed the anti-union bias behind the purportedly budget-saving measures. But, perhaps no single measure is so repulsive as the effort in Michigan to close the Catherine Ferguson Charter School in Detroit. And the utter silence in Catholic conservative circles is shocking.
Newt Gingrich's article about his conversion to Catholicism in the National Catholic Register today will not rival St. Augustine's Confessions anytime soon. Nonetheless, while he does not put it this way, it is clear the he understands that his faith found him as much as he found it. Just so, his essay is a fine one and especially appropriate at this Eastertide when the Church welcomes so many new Catholics into the fold.
Many have criticized Gingrich for his conversion, usually with nasty comments about his personal life. I think Mr. Gingrich needs to study the Church's social teachings a bit more seriously, but I for one am delighted anytime anyone becomes a Catholic. As for his past personal foibles, they are in the past and, since he became a Catholic, they are appropriate for discussion in the confessional and nowhere else. Besides, if the Church only welcomes the sinless, it would be empty. It is a big Church and there is plenty of room for Gingrich.
Eugene Robinson, in this morning's Washington Post, reminds the President that most Americans are more concerned about job creation than deficit reduction. The President is well-advised to go on a week-long tour of factories and companies that are hiring people and encourage others to do the same. And, he can use those visits to remind people that one of the best ways to deal with the long-term deficit is to create a vibrant economy in which all those who want work find it, and therefore pay taxes.
UPDATE: The link has been fixed.
I am not much of a fan of Congressman Ron Paul, the libertarian darling whose views are not my own. But, he did a fine job in an appearance on the Sean Hannity show, debunking Hannity's fear-mongering as regards the introduction of sharia law in the United States which is, I would submit, a reasonably unlikely possibility and is invoked by Hannity and others merely to whip up anti-Muslim bigotry.
The relationship of religious law to civil law is not a new concern. In 1765, in his first published work, John Adams penned "A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law" in which Adams vented his own anti-Catholic prejudices. Adams outgrew his anti-Romish bigotry but I wouldn't hold my breathe to anticipate Hannity will outgrow his.
Congress went on recess over the Easter holiday. It was the first time many members had been back in their districts since the House of Representatives passed a budget plan that, among other things, changes Medicare from a guaranteed benefit for seniors into a voucher program. Those who voted for the proposal, including its author, Rep. Paul Ryan, got an earful from voters on the subject.
Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett has an op-ed at USAToday about the upcoming Supreme Court case on the ministerial exception for civil rights laws. This is a dicey subject but I mostly agree with Garnett. Too often secular liberals warn that any public pronouncements by religiously motivated leaders risks dismantling the deparation of Church and State, a position that is mostly nonsense. But, this really is a case of separation of Church and State and, as Garnett rightly argues, the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom should be upheld broadly by the Court.
The blogging Cardinal Archbishop of Boston has posted his Chrism Mass homily. (You have to scroll down a bit to get to it.) It is a delight, with a couple of very good jokes and a happy reference to a book by my colleague at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, Father Eugene Hemrick. Hearing this homily, it is easy to see how Cardinal Sean has turned things around in Boston. We need more bishops like him.
Ben Smith and Byron Tau have a great article up at Politico about the origins of birtherism, the obviously false belief that President Obama was not born in the United States and is, therefore, ineligible to be President. The answer may surprise: This particular fantasy began on the left, not the right. The full expose is worth a read.
Let it be said: Conspiracy theories are not the provenance of any particular political ideology. They cater to a cast of mind that is as often found among liberals as conservatives. The difference - and it is an important one - is that prominent liberal politicians tend not to embrace such foolishness while several prominent conservatives continue to wink at the birthers and their ridiculous claims.
Repeating a lie does not wiggle it into a truth. But that doesn't stop some conservatives from endlessly repeating demonstrable falsehoods in their effort to shape public debate. Jonathan Chait at TNR gives the latest example here.
A new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that Christians in America are more ambivalent about capitalism then is commonly thought. Among other findings, 46% of Christians think capitalism is incompatible with Christian values against only 38% percent who perceive them as compatible. You can find the full report here.
I suspect that these views need some qualification. Modern, spread eagle capitalism, with its biases towards high finance, is rightly viewed as repugnant to Christian values. I do not think most Christians object to a neighborhood man-and-pop store. And, capitalism, like democracy, is probably, to paraphrase Churchill, the worst form of economic governance except every other form. Still, it is good to discern in the results the Christian insight that a selfishness that has become mutual is not the same thing as mutual generosity.
Mark Silk, at Spiritual Politics, offers his always thoughtful take on the findings here.