Distinctly Catholic

In Defense of Boehner


I rise to defend John Boehner, the leader of the Republican minority in U.S. House of Representatives. Not for his ridiculous comment about the financial reform legislation being akin to using a nuclear weapon on an ant. That was stupid. And not for his defensive and petty attacks on President Obama. And, not for his politics of obstruction. I rise to defend him against the charge that he does not work hard enough and has been known to frequent bars.

Cong. Barney Frank, who is the smartest and one of the hardest working members of Congress, declined to comment on Boehner’s work habits, but he did suggest that Boehner did not know what he is talking about regarding the financial reforms. Fair enough. But, to be a good leader of one’s party in the House, it is emotional intelligence that matters most. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has not been as successful as she has been because of her intellectual wattage, but because she listens, she takes the time to learn about the needs of her caucus, and she can get everyone, or enough of everyone, on board to pass legislation. Whether she herself understands the legislation is a different question.

Contra the NYTimes


This morning’s New York Times “expose” regarding then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s role in the Vatican’s response to the clergy sex abuse crisis exposes more than it intended. It exposes the fact that the authors, Laurie Goodstein and David Halbfinger, and their editors, do not understand what they are talking about and, at times, put forward such an unrelentingly tendentious report, it is difficult to attribute it to anything less than animus.

The article put me in mind of Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” One or two mistakes are to be expected. The friend I consult on environmental matters tells me that when she reads the Times on the subject, she assumes they will get it wrong. But a slew of such mistakes raises doubts. Ignorance is a scarcely less heinous crime for a reporter than bias. You be the judge.

Q & A: George Stephanopoulos


Each week, this feature will pose one question to five different newsmakers and analysts.
Yesterday, we heard from Sister Mary Ann Walsh, Director of Media Relations for the USCCB. Today we here from ABC's "Good Morning America" host George Stephanopoulos.
This week’s question: What is the principal impediment to good media coverage of Catholicism/religion?

Don't expect good coverage. Don't demand it. Don't be disappointed when you don't get it.

Consider any nice clips that come a sign of grace.

I'm only half kidding. The Church does good work. I know that. The Church has also failed -- sinned -- in profound ways. We all know that.

A skeptical -- and secular -- press, by instinct and conviction, will always lead with the sin and leave spreading the Good News to the Church.

Take care of that, the coverage will take care of itself.

Next Tuesday, our interviewee will be Blogger Extraordinaire Rocco Palmo.

The Politics of Immigration Reform


The politics of immigration cause fissures in both political parties which is why, as President Obama said yesterday, comprehensive immigration reform can only be enacted with bipartisan support. But, as President Bush found out when he tried to advance the issue, his own party is deeply resistant to anything that provides a path to citizenship for those immigrants who are currently undocumented. And, after leaning on moderate Democrats from marginal districts to vote for health care and for climate change, asking them to support immigration reform makes them think they can pull the guillotine chord now.

Blast from the Past: Dunkirk & the Gulf


Blast From the Past (a daily feature where some bedtime history reading sheds light on a contemporary concern):
“To and fro between the shore and the ships plied the little boats, gathering the men from the beaches as they waded out or picking them from the water, with total indifference to the air bombardment, which often claimed its victims. Their numbers alone defied air attack. The Mosquito Armada as a whole was unsinkable.”
- Winston Churchill, describing the work of the thousands of small boats that aided in the evacuation of Dunkirk. You have to wonder why the fishing fleet of Louisiana has not been similarly employed, armed with whatever vacuums they can get, to help siphon off as much of the spilt oil as possible. Every night, I watch Anderson Cooper chat up Billy Nungasser, the President of Plaquemines Parish outside New Orleans, and in the Gulf waters behind them, there is no evidence of the kind of enormous effort for which the situation called. The President used martial metaphor in his speech from the Oval Office about the Gulf Oil spill, but if this is a war, why have we not done as the Brits did in 1940? Are we to slink off to some modern day Vichy?

Quick Verdict on Obama's Speech: B+


You can’t do better than quoting Emma Lazarus’ powerful words inscribed on Statue of Liberty. Actually, you can. The President’s speech on immigration reform was comprehensive, like the policy he is promoting, but he did not convey any particular reason why the broken system must be fixed now. I do not see how this speech will move any votes in either the House or the Senate. Nothing he said is going to get Anderson Cooper to abandon the Gulf of Mexico, nor convince an unemployed worker in Ohio that immigration reform is the thing to do now. Still, the mere fact of the speech may be enough to change the debate, and debates take on a life of their own. The President gets a B for the speech and an A for the effort.

Yahoo Watch: Boston


This article in the Boston Herald, like one in the Wall Street Journal last week, identifies C. J. Doyle as a “Catholic activist.” I have no quibble with such a designation but that is because I am a “big tent” kind of guy. Mr. Doyle has made his reputation questioning the orthodoxy of his own bishop, so he evidently does not share my “big tent” sensibility. And, if you are going to shrink the tent, I imagine that one of the places to start is by expelling those who consistently and falsely attack their bishop.

The situation reminds me of an earlier one from the 1940s and 50s, also in Boston. Father Leonard Feeney, S.J. was so strident in his belief that extra ecclesia nullus salus, that he was excommunicated. So, for distorting the true teaching of the Church in order to magnify his belief that there was no salvation outside the Church, Feeney found himself outside the Church.

On Immigration, Obama Needs His Moral Voice


This morning, President Obama will give a major speech on immigration reform. Most political analysts are surprised that the White House is willing to pursue the issue, seeing as Congress has not yet quite finished financial reform, climate change legislation is riding rough waters, and any time the White House is not focused on the economy, people ask why. On top of that, there is the march of time and the onslaught of unanticipated crises. From the Gulf of Mexico to the mountains of Afghanistan, these crises continue to bedevil a White House that is at once capable of historic achievement like health care reform and yet also, simultaneously, gives off an air of being not quite ready for prime time.


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In This Issue

March 24-April 6, 2017