Distinctly Catholic

Sirico Against the Bishops


In his article at Crisis magazine, Father Sirico does not mention the fact that the position he takes in support of cutting government programs that assist the poor is opposed by the USCCB. He is entitled to think that government anti-poverty programs do not work, but he should at least acknowledge that the bishops who oversee so much of the Church's work on behalf of the poor have concluded that those programs do help. And, there are many reasons - social, economic and cultural - to explain why the Great Society programs have not been as effective as we might have hoped. That said, I fail to see Sirico and his allies proposing alternative efforts to help the poor and the vulnerable, or are we to just throw everyone into this budding "Opportunity Society" and hope they flourish? Alas, no matter what the government does or does not do, there will be some people who do not succeed, people who do not flourish, people whose skills are limited and, consequently, are unable to explit the opportunities Sirirco's laissez-faire vision holds out to them.

Re-Claiming Subsidiarity


Professor Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University, has a post up at the Institute's website explaining the ways the venerable idea of subsidiarity in Catholic social thought is being hijacked by conservatives, what the concept really means and how it relates to other key concepts such as solidarity and the common good.
Schneck knows Catholic social thought as deeply as virtually anyone writing in America today. It will be fun to see if any of those worshipping the false idol of the market - and you know who you are Fr. Sirico, Mr. Weigel and Professor George - will care to engage Schneck in debate. And, poor Congressman Ryan looked up from his copy of "The Fouontainhead" long enough to conclude that subsidiarity and federalism are really the same thing: They aren't. Federalism has to do with the allocation of power in a political system. Subsidiarity, as Schneck demonstrates, is rooted not in concerns about power but concerns about humanity in all its fullness and relationships.

Bad News for Obama


The unemployment rate went up one-tenth of a percentage point last month and, worse, the economy only added 54,000 new jobs.
This is very bad news for the White House. Obama remains vulnerable as long as the economy fails to start generating jobs. Indeed, it is striking that so many GOP heavyweights are ducking the fight for the presidency given the President's vulnerability as long as the economy is sluggish. But, seasoned pols like Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels recognize that after stroking the GOP base into a frenzy of foolishness, anyone able to capture the GOP nod will be so far outside the mainstream, they will be unable to win the White House, even against an incumbent nursing a bad economy. In any other year, a 9.1 percent unemployment rate would trigger a flurry of political obituaries for an incumbent.

Will Paul Ryan Run for President?


That is the question asked by Jonathan Chait over at the New Republic, and Chait thinks Ryan must be contemplating it, or is at least positioning himself to jump into the race if the field does not get stronger. Chait's backstory on Ryan and the Weekly Standard is especially interesting.
One thing Chait does not mention is this: Ryan is a Catholic and social conservatives view conservative Catholics as kindred spirits, and have ever since the Rev. Jerry Falwell used to boast that a third of the membership of his Moral Majority consisted of Catholics.

Mitt Romney Gets Into the Race


I was in the car driving as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney prepared to make his formal announcement that he is running for the presidency of the United States. As is typical with such events, the candidate was running a bit behind schedule and so C-Span Radio replayed phone calls from listeners, broadcast earlier in the day. This being C-Span, of course, some of those callers were a little, how do we say, eccentric.

Then, C-Span returned to New Hampshire as Romney took the stage and addressed the crowd. Instantly, I recognized the promise – and the problem - of his candidacy. If it can be said that some of the other presidential aspirants such as Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann, sound more than a little like one of the crazier callers into C-Span, Romney clearly does not sound like that. He is all sobriety and his lack of pith is remarkable in a politician. But, then the problem became manifest too: Romney may not sound like a C-Span caller, but he does sound like a C-Span host. He is dull: “Macaroni without any salt,” as the Italians say.

The Dallas Charter Is On Life-Support


First came the revelations in Philadelphia, then Kansas City-St. Joseph. Now, the diocese of Gallup, New Mexico is in the spotlight with a series of articles in the local paper about how Bishop James Wall has failed to fulfill the promises he made to the people and clergy of Gallup to live up to the Dallas norms.
Later this month, the bishops of the United States will gather outside Seattle for their summer meeting. At the top of the agenda is an examination of the Dallas norms, adopted in 2002 to put an end to the scandal of clergy sex abuse. This was a solemn pledge made to the Church of the United States by her bishops. In effect, the bishops promised: We can't undo what has happened already, but we promise we will not let it happen ever again.

The Church at Her Best


Many years ago, a priest said to me, “The Church is her best at a funeral.” I thought at the time that this was not only right but wise, and my experience since then has confirmed it. Wednesday, many of us in the NCR family celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial for our friend Joe Feuerherd and, indeed, the Church was at her best. Why is this?

Preserving an Architectural Icon


Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is attempting to negotiate a solution to the fight that has broken out over the extension of the DC-area Metro to Dulles Airport. The airport authority wants an underground station that links directly to the terminal, but the additional cost strikes tax payers as exorbitant. They favor an above-ground terminus for the Metrorail.
If you have never been to Dulles, you may not be able to appreciate the concern the airport authority has to preserve the views of the main terminal building. It was designed by Eero Saarinen, who also designed the only other American airport terminal that is truly beautiful, the TWA terminal at JFK airport in New York City. I was at Dulles yesterday, and was reminded of just how striking a building it is.


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In This Issue

December 2-15, 2016