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More on ... Obama, the bishops, and the politics of 'usurpation'

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I can’t do any better in analyzing the self-serving argument presented by George Weigel than my confrere Joe Feuerhard did. But, I do want to add a note of personal horror at his dismissive remarks towards the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and to defend the president against the charge that he was inserting himself into an intra-Catholic debate.

The president did not say that Cardinal Bernardin was a good guy and that today’s bishops are bad guys. He did not even address -- how could he -- the debate about the Catholic identity of our universities. He did emphatically, and properly, defend democracy which, in a pluralistic country like our own, means you are always standing next to someone who is not like you and recommend that we engage in sympathetic and hopefully fruitful dialogue about important national issues. Weigel prefers a culture war and he is entitled to stay at his barricade but it is an increasingly lonely post.

Prayer requests for Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste

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Just received an alert from Pax Christi USA concerning Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste. The Haitian priest is seriously ill in a Miami hospital. The leukemia that Fr. Jean-Juste has battled for years is in remission. He is now suffering with bronchiectasis, an obstructive lung disease.

Pax Christi is sent a Prayer alert for Fr. Jean-Juste.

Followers of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton's homilies will remember the bishop talking about visiting Fr. Gerry in prison in Port-au-Prince in 2004, in 2005 and in 2006

If you have a few minutes, peruse those links. It will give much to reflect on the rest of the day.

Some background on Fr. Jean-Juste is here.

The Middle

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There was a day many years ago, when an unlikely group of "media-elite-types" found a middle ground on the abortion issue. Unlikely because we were young, living in Manhattan -- and very sure of ourselves and our stance.

President Obama's speech at Notre Dame has sparked a discussion about "the middle." What is it exactly, and what does it mean to stand there? And how does one get there from somewhere else? For Obama, the middle means understanding each side, and approaching the discussion with respect.

Thanks to a young woman in Upstate New York, I think I know what he's driving at.

It was 1980. I was just out of college and a junior editor at a national publication headquartered in Manhattan. Part of my job was to seek out other young, unheard voices and bring them wider exposure. So when a short manuscript by a young woman from upstate New York landed on my desk, I didn't toss it aside. I opened it.

Vatican seems to really like Obama

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John Allen, NCR senior correspondent and Vatican watcher, has pointed out repeatedly that while some U.S. Catholic bishops -- roughly one-fifth of the bishops in this country -- are harshly critical President Obama for his policies on abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, the Vatican has been more receptive to the president. (See John's Vatican's moderate line on Obama has deep roots).

The Vatican was at it again yesterday.

"The search for common ground: this seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to face the delicate question of abortion," said an unsigned article in the May 18 edition of L'Osservatore Romano.

This was official church newspaper's first mention of the roiling debate about Obama's presence at the University Notre Dame (which, by the way, the paper called "the most prestigious Catholic university in the United States.")

Another article later in the paper details the U.S. bishops campaign against Obama's stem cell research policies.

Another Notre Dame take

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I found this essay, dealing with the role of Catholicism and higher education, especially on the mark.

Among the points the author, Patricia McGuire, makes is the following:

She writes: "The real scandal at Notre Dame today is not that the president of the United States spoke at commencement, albeit causing some controversy among Catholics. The real scandal is the misappropriation of sacred teachings for political ends."

Teacher Fired for Staying at Girlfriend's Home

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Several weeks ago I wrote a column on the "Justice in Employment" policy in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, a ground-breaking policy that actually gives its at-will employees several due process rights.

Now we have a story where a male Appelton, Wisc., teacher got fired for staying overnight at his girlfriend's home in contradiction to his Catholic school employment contract, which prohibits "unmarried cohabitation." The teacher claims the overnight was due to his desire to avoid drinking and driving, which is prudent.

Obama, the Bishops, and the Politics of 'Usurpation'

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George Weigel, favored intellectual of the Catholic right, has a short memory but some powerful insights in a post-Obama-at-Notre Dame column posted yesterday at National Review Online.

“What was surprising, and ought to be disturbing to anyone who cares about religious freedom in these United States, was the president’s decision to insert himself into the ongoing Catholic debate over the boundaries of Catholic identity and the applicability of settled Catholic conviction in the public square,” writes Weigel.

“…never in our history has a president of the United States, in the exercise of his public office, intervened in such disputes in order to secure a political advantage,” says Weigel. He concludes: “What the bishops of the United States have to say about this usurpation [emphasis added] of their authority will be very interesting to see.”

Weigel’s political point, if not his analysis of causes, is spot on.

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May 19-June 1, 2017

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