Distinctly Catholic

Debating Faithful Citizenship


What happened to the debate on “Faithful Citizenship” at the USCCB meeting in Seattle? Perhaps, dealing with the Dallas Charter was enough contentiousness for one meeting. But, the debate on Faithful Citizenship will happen and it is vital that the bishops get it right.

Faithful Citizenship is the statement the bishops issue every four years before a national election. It examines the principal moral issues facing the nation. It speaks to the need for Catholics to form their consciences, not just invoke them. The document continues to articulate the Church’s on-going concern for human life, dignity, justice and peace. Taken in toto, it is a fine document and the USCCB has developed a bunch of catechetical aids for pastors, teachers and parents, all available at a very well done website.

How We Are Viewed: Press Edition


It is always a good thing for a culture to consider how it is viewed by others. What do Europeans, or the Chinese, or the Canadians, really think of us Americans? This is true for the press too.

I have now come across a French website that looks at the press, including the American press, written by Antoine de Tarle, long-time editor of L'Ouest France and former president of French Catholic Television. Let me confess a bias. I met Antoine in the early 1990s and whenever he is in Washington, we go to Mass and break bread. He is a lovely man but, more importantly for blog readers, he is an endlessly perceptive man. Check out his site.

Forgiveness & Sex Abuse


Over at USAToday, Cathy Grossman has a post asking whether or not priests who abuse children should be forgiven and what that forgiveness implies for their return to ministry. She notes that retired Archbishop of Anchorage Frank Hurley asked this very question of his brother bishops. In his remarks, he suggested that returning priests to ministry should be a goal of the reconciliation process.

Archbishop Hurley is, to be sure, one of the most delightful people to ever wear a miter, but he could scracely be more wrong on this. Of course, all Christians are called to forgive those who trespass against them, and I suspect that a victim of child sex abuse will only be able to find healing in his or her own life when they can forgive those who abused them. But, such forgiveness has nothing to do with the sad fact that there is no cure for the abusers. They must be removed from ministry forever. Period.

APP Wants Gold Standard Back


The American Principles Project, founded by conservative Catholic scholar Robbie George, has a new pet project. Politico reports that the organization is pushing a return to the Gold Standard.

On the organization's website, we read: "The United States of America does not need new principles. It needs renewed fidelity to the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These are timeless principles: truths that we hold, in Jefferson's immortal words, to be, 'self-evident.' They are, moreover, universal principles, not the historically contingent beliefs or customs of a particular sect or clan or tribe."

Libya & the War Powers Act


The NATO intervention in Libya has brought on a new episode of an old series: Debate about the War Powers Act and the constitutional authority to make war. The debate is interesting in several regards because it tends to cut across the usual lines of partisan, and even ideological, divides.

The most valuable aspect of the debate is that it demonstrates clearly the limits of constitutional originalism of the kind advocated by Justice Antonin Scalia and others. For most of American history, there was no question about where the authority to make war lay in our polity: Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states that Congress has the power to declare war and no one else. The founders were very concerned that lodging such an enormous power in a solitary executive officer would grant that individual too much power. And, because the chief magistrate is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, such a concentration of power in his hand might invite tyranny of a kind that has long been a scourge upon humanity, a ruling junta.

A \"socialist\" Archbishop?


In Minnesota, like many states, the Catholic Church has asked state governments not to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor. The scriptural source for this stance is, well the whole message of the Gospels speaks of compassion for the poor, but most specifically, the 25th Chapter of teh Gospel of St. Matthew: Whatever you do for these the least of your brethren, you do for me."

But, David Hann, a Republican State Senator who is the assistant majority leader of the Minnesota State Senate has discerned a socialist agenda at work in the Church's position. In a letter to Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, Hann accused the archbishop of endorsing a "socialist fiction."

I am guessing that Archbishop Nienstedt does not, in fact, have a well-thumbed copy of Das Kapital on his bookshelves.

Just when you think you've seen crazy, you discover something even crazier.

Romney's Problem with Conservatives


Sahil Kapur at the New Republic has a post about conservative attempts to derail Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. It is curious that it is not only social conservatives who are suspicious of Romney's conversion to a pro-life stance, but the laissez-faire dogmatists who are attacking Romney. This is the essential problem he faces: A GOP primary electorate that is all wigged up will have a hard time getting enthusiastic about a man whose entire demeanor, to say nothing of his record, bespeaks a more moderate, centrist approach to governance.

Beauty Inside the Beltway


Many people deride Washington but it has its perks for those of us who live within the Beltway.
One of those perks is getting to use the Library of Congress. A few days ago, I needed to find a citation and went to the Adams building. This is far less famous than the Jefferson building with its fantastic Beaux Arts architecture, its low copper dome, the magnificent Main Reading Room and marbled grand foyer. The Adams building opened in 1939 and it is all Art Deco. In the fifth floor reading room, there is magnificent iron and brass work above the doors. The portals are lined in marble. There are stainless steel bookshelves with carefully crafted owls at either end. Mosaics adorn the walls.

Good News From GOP


Yesterday, 34 of 47 Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted to end tax subsidies for ethanol. Totally apart from the merits of the issue, the vote represented a welcome willingness to stand up to Grover Norquist, founder of the group Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist has demanded Republicans sign his pledge never to raise taxes, including the ending of tax subsidies and he has been largely successful in his effort. But, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma not only demurred from Norquist's position, he convinced a majority of his fellow Republicans to do the same.
Solving the nation's fiscal challenges will take compromise, a word that is not in Mr. Norquist's vocabulary. Kudos to Coburn for challenging this faux-orthodoxy on taxes.


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In This Issue

January 13-26, 2017