Distinctly Catholic

Blast From the Past: Third Plenary Council of Baltimore


Reading Tom Roberts’ post about Canon 515, and the accompanying news article, I am reminded that in the nineteenth century, it was Rome that was pushing for limitations on the authority of bishops within their own diocese, calling for cathedral chapters whose consent was required for many diocesan decisions. Back then, the U.S. Church was considered mission territory which explains the mention of Propaganda Fide in the text below. This excerpt from Gerald Fogarty’s “The Vatican and the American Hierarchy from 1870 to 1965” highlights the way the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884 dealt with issues of episcopal control:

Q & A: Professor Matthew Green


All this week, we are looking at the controversy that surrounded Shirley Sherrod last week. Today, we heard from Professor Matthew Green of Catholic University's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.
The question: What does the Shirley Sherrod congtroversy tell us about race and politics in the age of Obama?
Matthew Green:
Two things come to mind. First, not only is there still a lot of suspicion (if not prejudice) towards African-Americans, but arguments about race haven't changed much since the end of the civil rights movement. Before the 1960's, those who opposed civil rights for blacks argued that blacks were either incapable (e.g. biologically "inferior") or ideologically suspect (i.e. communists). Afterwards, the rhetoric shifted to complaints about "special" benefits (e.g. affirmative action) and reverse racism. In this case, the Obama administration seemed worried about the second issue (Sherrod wouldn't help a white farmer) but also about the first (failure to fire Sherrod would mean Obama "protects his own").

Tax Cuts = \"Quack Medicine\"


If anyone at the Post’s op-ed page can be counted on to be fair, it is Ruth Marcus. So, her article today on the ridiculous way Republicans support lower taxes no matter what the economic circumstances is a must-read. The takeaway line: “The economic and fiscal circumstances may change, but the prescription remains the same. And the patient is too ill to tolerate another dose of this quack medicine.” I will be opining on the topic tomorrow.

More Leftie Foolishness on Afghanistan


Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post is not usually wrong, but when he is wrong, he is fabulously wrong. Writing about the release of documents related to the Afghan War, Robinson wrote, “We are wading deeper into a long-running conflict that has virtually no chance of ending well.” The problem with this sentence is that it is factually correct while being morally insane.

I agree that ours is a “long-running conflict” but it did not begin when the 101st Airborne landed in northern Afghanistan to oust the Taliban. It began on an otherwise beautiful September morning when terrorists based in Afghanistan attacked lower Manhattan. We are not wading into this conflict; it was brought to us.

In Defense of Sister Mary Ann Walsh


Yesterday, I published a response from Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations at the USCCB, as part of my Q & A series. Sister Mary Ann referred to an earlier incident in which the Catholic News Agency published an article that attributed quotes to Cardinal Francis George, the president of the USCCB, but which both Walsh, and Cardinal George for that matter, deny he ever made.

Sister Mary Ann’s comments have predictably caught the attention of some rightwing critics. The Catholic Key blog, the official blog of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, was disappointed that Sister Mary Ann did not use the occasion to question the orthodoxy of some of the writers here at NCR. This criticism was echoed by Father Z, whose blog “What Does the Prayer Really Say” is to crazy conservative Catholic thought what a honey comb is to bees.

Blast From the Past: Arius & The Blogosphere


There is a seemingly natural tendency to yearn for an earlier, simpler Golden Age in the life of the Church. But, this passage from Eamon Duffy’s history of the papacy shows how perennial are some of the methods in intra-ecclesiastical controversies. They did not have the blogosphere in the early 4th Century, but that didn’t stop them. And, the tale is a caution to those who blithely equate polling results and popularity with the sensum fidelum.

Q & A: Sister Mary Ann Walsh


This week, Q & A is looking at the Shirley Sherrod episode. Yesterday, NPR's Michel Martin had some very smart observations and today, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of Media Relations at the USCCB offers some more smart commentary.

The question: What does the Shirley Sherrod episode tell us about race and politics and the media in the age of Obama?

Sister Mary Ann Walsh:

The tale of Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department leader dumped when a fringe group cooked up a story backed by an out-of-context video clip to accuse her of racism is a cautionary tale for the church. For sure, pseudo-journalistic efforts that set out to destroy reputations are not limited to politics, and damning words include more than the epithet “racist.”

Yahoo Watch: Congressman James McGovern


Congressman James McGovern (D-Mass) is opposed to the Afghan War as he made clear in an interview last night on “Hardball.” But, in making his case, he offered an argument that is not only wrong-headed, it is pernicious. He said that we should not be concentrating on nation-building in Afghanistan because we need to be concentrating on nation-building here at home.

Why the Curia Remains Italian


John Hopper at the Guardian laments the fact that the Vatican remains such a decidedly Italian, even Roman, institution. Of course, seeing as all the claims to papal authority are constructed on the fact that the Pope is the Bishop of Rome, it is hard to see how this can ever entirely change. Nor is it an entirely bad thing that the Vatican is so Roman. Cultures in countries that have vineyards seem decidedly less puritanical than those that lack them.

But, what was very funny in Hopper’s article was this observation: “This in turn is a reflection of how little the Vatican has been internationalised even though it is now 32 years since the last Italian pope.” I was reminded of an episode suring the American Revolution, when Benjamin Franklin, serving as an unofficial ambassador to the French Court, received the news that British General William Howe had taken Philadelphia.
“I beg your pardon, Sir,” Franklin rejoined, “but Philadelphia has taken Howe.”


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In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017