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To Be or Not to Be Exceptional

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Every now and again, the notion that America is "exceptional" comes back to haunt us. This is one of those times when it's popping up in the crazy quilt flurry of jabber about this country's role in the world.

At its worst, it's an appeal to blind arrogance, built on the pride that might makes right and that God underwrites our adventures as the Koch brothers back the crusade to crush unions.

It is a term so easily prone to misuse by a multitude of greedy, self-righteous causes that it deserves to be banished.

But since it won't likely go away, it's worth remembering that the basis for the pompous word has a kinder, gentler side.

The derivation is religious, of course, and drawn from the naive but innocent hope by those 17th century migrants to New England that they might establish a society that escaped the evils of Europe. They held the illusion that they could give birth to a Christian community as it was meant to be. Soon their own forms of intolerance and waywardness would testify against that idealism but somehow it never left our collective system. The belief that we are the light of the world lives on.

Big win for the Vatican in European crucifix case

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In a big win for the Vatican in terms of church/state relations in Europe, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has reversed an earlier ruling and upheld the right of Italy to display crucifixes in its public school classrooms.

Though the Vatican was not formally a party to the case, it strongly supported the position taken by Italy and a coalition of other European states, mostly drawn from the majority Orthodox regions of Eastern Europe, in defense of Italy’s right to have crucifixes in the classrooms.

Kudos to NCR Contributor for Drawing Catholic League Criticism

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Congratulations to NCR contributor Mary Gail Frawley ODea, whose recent online op-ed has drawn the wrath of Catholic League president William Donohue.

Rather than deal with the substance of Frawley’s O’Dea’s article, Donohue argues ad hominen that she is more interested in getting the Church to “adopt the liberal agenda on sexuality” than confronting the real reasons for “what’s going on.”

So what exactly is going on? Donohue lets us in on the secret: It is the “detour from orthodoxy” that caused more than 4,300 priests over five decades to rape and molest thousands of boys and girls in their parishes and other Church settings. Case closed.

Once again, Donohue supports his ill-founded contentions with not a whit of evidence. It is a badge of honor to join the number that have been subject to Bill Donohue’s bromides.

Celebs tweeting their prayers for Japan

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From CNN:

The devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan and subsequent tsunami has not only media organizations but the Twitter-verse buzzing.

Celebrities like Alyssa Milano, P. Diddy and stars from "Glee" are tracking the news and tweeting prayers, hope and ideas on how we can help.

Katy Perry: "My prayers go out to anyone that is being effected by the disaster in Japan..."

Ryan Seacrest: “Glued to TV watching this unreal earthquake footage out of Japan. Sending prayers to everyone affected. Unbelievable.”

P. Diddy: “GOD BLESS everyone in Japan and anyone affected by this disaster- you are in every thought and prayer!!”

Justin Bieber: "Japan is one of my favorite places on earth...it's an incredible culture with amazing people. My prayers go out to them. We all need to help."

Ron Paul: Today's Anti-War Stalwart Balked at Key Moment

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Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) spoke today in favor of a House resolution that would have required the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. “A message needs to be sent,” said the Texas Republican of the legislation, which was offered by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

Paul, a libertarian, has a certain cache in liberal and left circles because of his seemingly staunch opposition to US military adventurism abroad. Five years ago, a Republican in the White House, Paul had an opportunity to really “send a message.” Instead, he blinked.

Facing intense pressure from the Republican leadership at the time, Paul voted “present” on a resolution in the House Foreign Relations Committee that would have forced a full scale debate on the war. Paul’s vote doomed the resolution, which never reached the House Floor. (NCR’s coverage of the 2005 committee action can be found here.)

Legislator: 'The Catholic bishops are often laughed at'

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Recently, I was part of a discussion group with progressive Catholics who care a lot about their church. One of them was a member of the Maryland State Legislature.

After we adjourned our general discussion and began milling around before departure, I went up to him, inquiring about the recent votes in the Maryland legislature on a bill that would have legalized same sex marriage.

Unfortunately, the bill is dead for this year. It passed the Senate, but was tabled in the House -- even though we have solid Democratic majorities in both chambers and Governor Martin O’Malley was ready to sign it.

I thanked the legislator for his vote in favor of this bill, and then sought to confirm my analysis as to why the bill failed to pass. I asked if he shared my view that the defeat of the bill was largely due to the lobbying of African-American ministers in Prince Georges County in the suburbs of Washington, DC, rather than the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Both were opposed to the legislation, and both lobbied hard.

Santorum Urges Boycott on Gifts to Catholic Schools that 'Abandon the Church's Teaching'

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Rick Santorum took some heat, here at the NCR Today blog and elsewhere, for his contention that Thomas Jefferson is “rolling over in his grave” at modern interpretations of church-state separation. But the former Pennsylvania senator’s comments on Catholic schools are equally irksome.

“The heresy that goes on in Catholic schools in America is amazing,” he told Boston Catholics at an event earlier this week. “He urged the crowd not to donate money to Catholic schools that abandon the church’s teachings,” reported the Boston Globe.

Said Santorum of those who contribute to Catholic schools, “You’re feeding the beast.” One wonders what criteria Santorum, whose children are home-schooled, uses to determine which schools “abandon the church’s teachings.”

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