Distinctly Catholic

Yahoo Watch: MSW

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Okay, I admit it. I was cheering for Spain in the World Cup final for the simple reason that Spain is a Catholic country and the Netherlands is a Calvinist country. I exchanged emails about this with a Unitarian friend who was cheering for Holland on the grounds that their victory would be a victory for free-thinking over medievalism - his words. I was delighted that Spain and medievalism won. Of course, I also wish that the winds had been favorable for the Armada!

Yahoo Watch: University of Illinois

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The University of Illinois has evidently fired a professor who, in teaching the class “Introduction to Catholicism” explained in an email what the Catholic Church teaches on the difference between a homosexual inclination and homosexual activity. One of the students was evidently offended by the professor’s statement of the Church’s teaching.

The news reports are a bit sketchy, and this is the kind of story that often has more than meets the eye at first glance. Still, it is difficult to imagine that anything the professor wrote warranted his termination. Liberals who support academic freedom must be as incensed by this as conservatives who worry about political correctness. Academic freedom does not cut both ways, it cuts all ways.

Midterm Watch: Tom Perriello

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Of all the House races I am watching in November, none is more compelling than Virginia-5. Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello won the conservative, rural district two years ago by a few hundred votes. I profiled Perriello for NCR last year. Despite the conservative leaning in his district, he has remained a champion of climate change legislation, and he voted for both the economic stimulus and the health care reform bill, all positions that will be used against him by the GOP this fall. There is no member of Congress more courageous than he.

This morning, Politico reports that Perriello had a great fund-raising haul in the second-quarter, raising $660,000. He now has $1.7 million cash-on-hand. His opponent, Robert Hurt, has not released his second quarter numbers but it is doubtful he can match Perriello’s cash-on-hand figure, seeing as Hurt just won a hard-fought primary and, as of May 19, had only $119,000 cash-on-hand.

Q & A: Ben Wittes

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This week in Q & A, we will address the upcoming confirmation vote for Elena Kagan. Our first interviewee is Benjamin Wittes, Senior Fellow and Research Director in Public Law at The Brookings Institution.

The question: What is the best reason to vote to confirm, or to vote not to confirm, Elena Kagan?

Ben Wittes: Elena Kagan should be confirmed both on her own very considerable merits and out of deference to the President's qualified choice. The two issues are related but importantly distinct. Let me take them in turn.

McCain & Brewer Are Liars

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In their efforts to defend their racist law, Arizona officials have cited increasing violence along the border, Sen. John McCain claimed that Phoenix has become the “No. 2 kidnapping capital in the world,” (after Mexico City, of course) and Gov. Jan Brewer asserted that “Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying there that have been beheaded.” The problem is that none of this is true.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post on Sunday demonstrated the falsity of each of these claims, but his article appeared on the “Sunday Opinion” page. If the Governor and senior Senator of a state make claims that are demonstrably false, shouldn’t that be on the front page, in the news section? Be that as it may, this is what we are up against in the struggle for immigration reform. Out-and-out lies.

The Vatican & The Media

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The Vatican is probably thinking that it doesn’t matter what it does, it can’t get a break from bad press coverage. There is something to this: As I have argued earlier, the coverage of Pope Benedict’s role in the sex abuse crisis, especially that in the New York Times, has been tendentious, with alarming lede paragraphs and subsequent quotes and documents that are markedly less conclusive and evidentiary than anything that would warrant such an inflammatory lede.

That said, the Vatican seems to be quite capable of shooting itself in the foot with no help from the Times. News reports indicate that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is set to issue new guidelines for the handling of clergy sex abuse cases and that, those same guidelines will also deal with other matters, such as the canonical penalties visited upon those who attempt to ordain women. This is a trainwreck.

Moynihan on Global Warming 40 Years Ago

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The late Senator Daniel Patrick Monyihan was prescient about many things, and his prescience often cost him many barbs from entrenched interests all around the ideological spectrum. But, the Huffington Post has an item up at their website which shows Moynihan was discussing global warming while serving in the Nixon administration almost forty years ago. Today’s fire-breathing conservatives, including Robert George’s American Principles Project which cited Sen. Inhofe as an expert on global warming, will not be satisfied with this new piece of evidence that global warming is not part of a socialist plot. And, the rest of us do not need further proof. Still, it is interesting to note how far today’s GOP has come from the Nixon years when universal health insurance, environmental protection and, now, global warming were considered on the policy merits and not as items in conservative ideological foolishness.

Blast from the Past: A Rabbi's Tale

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“An adherent of the Enlightenment, a very learned man, who had heard of the Rabbi of Berditchev, paid a visit to him, too, and to shatter his old-fashioned proofs of the truth of his faith. When he entered the Rabbi’s room, he found him walking up and down with a book in his hand, rapt in thought. The Rabbi paid no attention to the new arrival. Suddenly, he stopped, looked at him fleetingly, and said, ‘But perhaps it is true after all.’ The scholar tried in vain to collect himself – his knees trembled, so terrible was the Rabbi to behold and so terrible his simple utterance to hear. But Rabbi Levi Yitschak now turned to face him and spoke quite calmly: ‘My son, the great scholars of the Torah with whom you have argued wasted their words on you; as you departed, you laughed at them. They were unable to lay God and His Kingdom on the table before you, and neither can I. But, think, my son, perhaps it is true.’ The exponent of the Enlightenment opposed him with all his strength; but this terrible ‘perhaps’ that echoed back at him time after time broke his resistance.”

Yahoo Watch: Jonathan Capehart

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Jonathan Capehart, writing in this morning’s Washington Post, argues that the Hawaii state legislature should override Gov. Linda Lingle’s veto of a civil unions bill recently passed, by a large margin, in both chambers of the Hawaii legislature. You can agree or not with his argument. But then he writes this: “And then Lingle did the unthinkable. She advocated putting the rights of a minority up for a popular vote.”
Unthinkable? Is a referendum any more unthinkable than putting those rights before a court or a legislature?
Capehart's phrasing rigs the argument, of course. Those who are opposed to same-sex civil unions would argue that what is being put up to a vote is the definition of an institution that predates the existence of the Hawaii legislature by at least a couple of millennia. But, why this distaste for a democratic solution? Capehart essentially argues that the issue should not go before the voters because it doesn’t win before the voters. That is an argument about strategy, not merits.

Q & A: Michelle Boorstein

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This feature poses one question to a group of newsmakers, analysts, and experts. On the subject of the Church and the media, we have already heard from a variety of voices: Sr. Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB, ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Whispers in the Loggia's Rocco Palmo, NPR's Michel Martin, and, yesterday, from the Archdiocese of Boston's Communications Director, Terry Donilon. Today we hear from the Washington Post's religious correspondent, Michelle Boorstein.
This week's question: "What is the principle impediment to good media coverage of Catholicism/religion?"
Michelle Boorstein:
The premise of the question is flawed. What's "the Church"? The pope?
Anyone who calls themselves Catholic? Catholics can't even agree on whether
one can even be called a "Catholic" if they support reproductive freedom or
same-sex unions -- how can you agree on what is fair press coverage?

And is there such a thing as "press coverage" anymore? Today there are
newspapers, sophisticated blogs, extensive aggregators, essay sites, news
mags from around the world translated into English. While useful for

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In This Issue

March 10-23, 2017

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