Category Archives: Faith

I think maybe the pope’s thinking the way I do on Kulturkampf

At first, I was sort of confused.

When I saw this headline on the NYT app Thursday night: “Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion.”

… I thought, What focus? Where’s he been going to Mass?

Because in my experience, there is no particular focus on those things, in actual Catholic churches. And the Church I know is certainly not “obsessed” with those things, as the pontiff said.

All of you who are not Catholic are now asking where I’ve been, that I don’t know the Church is “obsessed” with those things.

Here’s where I’ve been — I’ve actually been in the Church, rather than experiencing it as it is written about by secular media. And I cannot recall when I’ve heard a single homily concentrating on any of those topics. Occasionally, during the petitions, I’ve heard an affirmation of life mentioned among all the other things we’re praying for. But “obsession”? “Focus,” even? No. Not part of my experience.

Now I do hear that there are some parishes that do have more of such a “focus.” But I don’t know that from personal experience.

It’s the rest of the world that thinks about those things, constantly, and only interacts with the Church in terms of its positions on those subjects. That’s pretty much all most Catholics seem to know about us. Well, that, and pedophilia. A topic that also fails to intersect with my experience of the Church.

The only intersection I can recall in this diocese between these separate perceptions is when then-Bishop Robert Baker was one of the bishops who said politicians who favor abortion on demand should not receive Communion. But I mostly read about that in the paper. I don’t recall it intruding into my parish life. And I don’t recall of hearing of anyone actually being denied communion in this diocese, although maybe it happened.

I want to say there was another bishop’s letter regarding a political issue sometime since then, but I don’t remember what it was about. It just didn’t have much impact on my experience of church life.

Oh, wait — I remember now that our current bishop, Robert Guglielmone, wrote a letter advocating for Medicaid expansion in SC. Does that count? Probably not.

So I was wondering what the pope was on about.

But when I read some other versions of the story, with different headlines (such as the WSJ’s “Pope Warns Church Focusing Too Much on Divisive Issues”), I got it.

Pope Francis was, in a way, doing what I did as editorial page editor at The State. Not to elevate myself to the level of the Holy Father or anything.

Y’all know I have an aversion to seeing Culture War issues intrude upon our politics. It’s because of the habit of thought I developed as EPE. My view was that there were all sorts of things we needed to talk about in South Carolina — economic development, education, our dysfunctional form of government, the need for comprehensive tax reform. It was tough enough to try to have constructive conversations about those things, untainted by partisan, ideological foolishness, without wasting any capital we had on issues that were hopelessly divisive.

There was nothing, absolutely nothing, we could accomplish in terms of changing minds on abortion, or same-sex marriage, or any of those kinds of things. Both sides in the partisan battles in this country used those issues for one purpose — to divide. As a sort of password to identify “their” people — to identify the good, right-thinking people — and to delegitimize those who disagreed.

All we could have accomplished by writing about such things would have been to make close to half our readers furious, thereby closing their minds to anything we had to say about pragmatic solutions to the issues we could actually do something about here in South Carolina.

I still don’t like to see such issues take a front-and-center position in our politics, because they drive us apart, and make it even harder to have constructive conversations on anything else.

Anyway, what does that have to do with what the Pope said?

Well, to begin with, this pontifex maximus is a very humble guy. He doesn’t care about winning argument points. And he understands that in terms of the way the world interacts with the church, perception is reality. So never mind that the church isn’t really obsessed with these things. It’s perceived as being so, and that erects walls between the church and lots of people who would otherwise be open to its central reasons for being.

So, he very publicly lets the world know that while he is Pope, the church will not be “obsessed” with such things. He’s not for a moment backing away from church teachings on those matters, but he assures us that he and the church he heads aren’t going to be going on and on about them. From E.J. Dionne’s column on the subject:

Francis responded plainly in the interview. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. “I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

As the WSJ described them, his remarks “appeared intended to nudge the church away from politically charged issues by setting out a vision of a church that is more welcoming and less preoccupied with emphasizing doctrine.”

Doctrine. That’s the key word, I think.

This pope’s predecessor was an enforcer of doctrine. That’s how he made his bones in the church. Under John Paul II, he was the bad cop, the modern-day version of a Grand Inquisitor. He was Mr. Rules and Regulations.

This pope is more about the central issues that our faith is about. Love, mercy, open arms and healing hearts. And he doesn’t want to be going on and on about things that distract from that, or to have the world think the church is going on and on about those things.

I like this Pope.

Have a blessed Yom Kippur

Stan Dubinsky shared this today, saying:

For those observing Yom Kippur, may you have an easy fast and a meaningful day of prayer …

… along with links to this Leonard Cohen song.

I knew the song, but did not realize it was, according to Wikipedia, based on the Unetaneh Tokef, an 11th-century liturgical poem recited on… Yom Kippur.”

I thought that was a cool new thing to know, so I pass it on.

Pope Francis is right: Read all the Dostoevsky you can

You may have heard by now what the Pope had to say on the plane flight back from Brazil, and he’s absolutely right: He told the reporters they should “read and reread” Dostoevsky.

Or maybe you missed it. Most of the news stories about his informal papal bull session have been about what he said about gay priests. That didn’t seem as newsworthy to me, but then unlike much of the world, I didn’t think that the church hated gay people. What those remarks told us is that this pope is personally very different from the last pope, which is a good thing. In terms of style and orientation and emphasis, we’ve gone from a Grand Inquisitor to a parish priest, with all the best things such a pastoral role suggests — loving, welcoming, kindly, caring deeply about the “least of these.”

As we go along, I expect a lot of people who think the church is hateful will be pleasantly surprised. For me, it will be pleasant, but less of a surprise.

Here’s another prediction — this pope is going to get good press, so he’s going to seem like a nicer, friendlier guy, whatever he says. Why do I say that? Because he’ll walk to the back of the plane or bus or whatever and bat the breeze with the media types, no holds barred. John Paul II did that, and you know what good press “John Paul the Great” got. Whereas Herr Benedict only took prepared, screened questions. Reporters love a guy who’s generous with access, and spontaneous. It has always puzzled some people why the press was historically so kind to John McCain. He did the same thing, long before there was such a thing as the “Straight Talk Express.” And the press loved him for it.

The WSJ story was headlined, “Pope Signals Openness to Gay Priests.” It probably would have captured him in a nutshell if it had just said, “Pope Signals Openness,” period.

But while I was sort of kidding about the Dostoevsky thing as big news, I’d like to know more of what he said about that. This pope has made news mentioning Dostoevsky previously, in a recent encyclical. But since that document was put together on the previous pope’s watch, no one knew for sure whether it signaled a particular interest in the Russian master on the part of Francis.

The Holy Father says, read more of this guy.

The Holy Father says, read more of this guy.

Anyway, his comment — however sketchily reported — about reading Dostoevsky does what the previous pope was so good at. It’s made me feel guilty. I read Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov when I was in college (the first as a class assignment, the second on my own), but haven’t reread either since then, and have never gotten around to such other masterpieces as The Idiot (which was specifically mentioned in the encyclical).

I suspect the pope recommended such reading because Dostoevsky is way, way deep on moral issues. Which is why I should have read him more by now. Yet I haven’t, while reading O’Brian’s novels about the Napoleonic Wars over and over and over and over (on my fifth time through the earlier novels now). Ditto with John le Carre.

What’s really awful is that I go around citing Crime and Punishment all the time, thereby giving an artificial impression that I’m way, way deep, too. Or maybe not. People can probably see through that…

But I hereby resolve to do better. I downloaded The Idiot to my iPad this morning. That counts for something, right? I feel more serious already, almost profound.

Isn’t it cool how, in ebook form at least, all the greatest literature is free now?

What Charles Ramsey did — now THAT’S redemptive (as opposed to what Mark Sanford did the next day)

My initial purpose in writing this is to second what Joan Walsh says on Slate — that despite very bad things in Charles Ramsey’s past, including domestic violence, what he did the other day still makes him a hero:

In hindsight, maybe Charles Ramsey was trying to tell us something when he insisted to Anderson Cooper Tuesday night that he’s not a hero. “No, no, no. Bro, I’m a Christian, an American. I’m just like you,” he told the news anchor.

Maybe he knew the whole hero story line would come with an unhappy ending: Now we’ve learned, via the Smoking Gun, that Ramsey was charged with and served time for multiple domestic violence counts. He was also convicted and imprisoned on drug charges and receiving stolen property.

All of that is awful, particularly for his ex-wife and daughter. But it doesn’t change the fact that Ramsey was a hero when he helped Amanda Berry escape Monday night. It may make him even more admirable, if he had an inkling that his sudden fame might expose his troubled past…

Of course he’s a hero — one with deep flaws. But all heroes are flawed. That Mr. Ramsey’s are what they are makes what he did this week, if anything, more laudatory.

I’m not dismissing his past offenses as some sort of colorful details. To me, there is no crime more contemptible than domestic violence, except the abuse of children — which is its close relative. Wife-beaters are right down there among the lowest of the low.

But what he did Monday was a redemptive act. One more excerpt from the piece:

To dismiss the character Ramsey showed in rescuing Berry is to suggest that nobody who’s ever done something bad should try to do something good, because the bad will always matter more. It would be a shame if Ramsey’s exposure, and the cackling about his past from some quarters, served to discourage other ex-convicts from helping others for fear that their pasts will come back to haunt them.

What Mr. Ramsey did on Monday didn’t erase his past offenses. Those are still on his ledger. But it was still heroic, and it has redemptive value.

This brings us to Mark Sanford.

I was pretty upset with the news headlines I saw in a couple of SC newspapers saying that Sanford had achieved “redemption” through his victory. Note again, these were news stories about the election, not opinion pieces, expressing a highly debatable opinion about the meaning of his win. More offensively, they were using the language of faith, of theology, making an assertion about the salvation of a man’s soul. Unless they were talking about trading in pop bottles for the deposit — the only other common use of the word “redeem” I can think of — and we don’t do that in South Carolina.

They had no business doing that. Especially since Mr. Sanford presumes to speak for the Almighty a lot, with his line about the God of… what’s he up to now, by his own count… eighth chances? (As I said in a comment yesterday, I think God should get a good lawyer and seek an injunction to stop Sanford from going around blaming the election result on Him.)

Managing to con a Republican district into voting for you with a campaign that consists of frightening them with a big picture of Nancy Pelosi — a cheap, generic, off-the-shelf, appeal to visceral partisanship — does not constitute “redemption.” Showing Nancy Pelosi and saying “Boo!” is like striking Republicans on the patellar ligament with a rubber hammer — you get a reflexive response. Earlier, when he was talking about himself, he was losing.

So don’t talk to me about redemption.

“Oh, but that’s just your opinion, Brad,” you say. Absolutely. It’s a carefully considered, supportable opinion that I think a lot of people would share. Which is why that word shouldn’t have appeared in those headlines.

I’m about to get back to Charles Ramsey, in just a moment…

For close to four years now, Mark Sanford has been going around asking us to forgive him, being careful to mention that God has forgiven him — the heavy implication being, so what are you people, better than God? He does this in that casual, unconcerned way that he has of expressing himself. Within the context of his other actions — such as his repeated violations of the terms of his divorce decree — it all comes across as just another element in his powerful sense of self-entitlement. Mark Sanford does whatever he wants — ditch the job to run off to Argentina, abandon his boys on Father’s Day weekend, lie to his staff about where he’s going, veto the entire state budget, block stimulus money that his state needs so he can posture on FoxNews about it 46 times, carry defecating piglets into the State House to make a cheap political point and leave others to clean up the mess, use state funds to visit his mistress in the Southern Hemisphere when he’s making state employees on state business double up in hotel rooms (because he’s such a fiscal conservative), enter his ex-wife’s house without permission repeatedly, because he feels like it. Because he’s Mark Sanford, and he’s entitled. And if any of it gets him into trouble, then we’re supposed to forgive him.

Meanwhile, Charles Ramsey is a sinner who’s done jail time for his crimes. He doesn’t ask us to forgive him, much less expect us to forgive him. He doesn’t ask anything of us. He exhibits no sense of entitlement. He’s just this dude who, when a woman cried for help while he was eating his McDonald’s, went out of his way to help her. A guy with a low-enough opinion of himself that when a pretty young white girl comes and hugs him, he knows something is wrong.

What he did doesn’t erase what he’s done in the past, and he doesn’t go around telling us that it should. But it was a redemptive act, and it was heroic.

Bishop Guglielmone on Medicaid expansion in SC

Cindi Scoppe had a column, way back on the St. Patrick’s Day, in which she cited a letter by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, the head of the Roman Catholic in South Carolina, advocating for Medicaid expansion in SC.

I meant to say something on the subject then, but didn’t get to it. Which is ironic. Cindi’s not even Catholic (OK, she’s a kind of Catholic; she’s Anglican — but not Roman Catholic).

Anyway, something came up to remind me of it this week — a story in the Anderson paper about religious leaders in SC pushing for Medicaid expansion — so I thought I’d go ahead now and share the bishop’s letter.

It is a letter that, unlike the pronouncements of our governor and the House leadership, makes all the sense in the world:

February 20, 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
To be Christian means that we are concerned about the wellbeing and health of all people. God took on flesh to restore the integrity of broken and wounded humanity. Indeed, Jesus made healing of the sick central to his ministry. “He came to the world to make us fully human, to help us to realize our human dignity as creatures made in the image of God. He came to bring the fullness of life” (USCCB Pastoral Letter: Health and Health Care, Nov. 19, 1981).
Throughout the centuries, the Church has carried on the ministry of Jesus by establishing
hospitals and nurturing the apostolate to the sick in response to the needs of suffering people. Pope John XXIII included medical care as a basic right founded on the sanctity of human life in his encyclical, Pacem in Terris. Reaffirming this traditional concern for today, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “Health is a precious good for the person and society to promote, conserve and protect, dedicating the means, resources and energies necessary so that more persons can enjoy it. Unfortunately, the problem still remains today of many populations of the world that do not have access to the necessary resources to satisfy fundamental needs, particularly in regard to health. It is necessary to work with greater commitment at all levels so that the right to health is rendered effective, favoring access to primary health care” (Benedict XVI: Message to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, Nov. 18, 2010).
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have consistently called for access to health care forall our citizens: “Our approach to health care is shaped by a simple but fundamental principle: ‘Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God.’ Health care is more than a commodity; it is a basic human right, an essential safeguard of human life and dignity” (USCCB Resolution: A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, June 18, 1993). While the Church’s call for access to health care reflects an application of the Gospel to a contemporary need and therefore reflects the urgency of the Gospel, determining how to implement such access is open to prudential judgments of how to make it happen most effectively. We must continually discern wise solutions to the challenges we face, solutions that are both economically and politically viable. In that task of discernment, however, we as Catholics bring time-honored principles of Catholic social teaching to inform our reflection.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) now being legally enacted in our
country is an attempt to bring health care access to a broader range of citizenry in the United States. It is not perfect. In fact, the U.S. Catholic Church is deeply concerned about mandates associated with aspects of the law that would require religious institutions to provide contraception coverage, asking us to violate a consistent position by the Church on this. There are also many concerns about how to rein in the costs of health care so that its expansion is affordable to our country. However, providing access to health care is consonant with Catholic social teaching. Indeed, it is more than consonant — it is called for by Catholic social teaching.
This spring, our South Carolina state legislature will consider whether to opt into the expansion of Medicaid as provided for by the Affordable Care Act. Persons eligible for Medicaid would be expanded by about three hundred thirty thousand more South Carolinians who live near the poverty line but previously have not been eligible. Key state-wide elected leaders and many in the General Assembly have voiced their opposition to this expansion. Leaders of our state’s hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, on the other hand, have endorsed this legislation. It will expand their ability not only to serve the poor of our state but to pay for those services. The State of South Carolina would be required to pay for ten percent of the total cost of this expansion after three years of full funding by the Federal Government. This will require us as a state to find the revenue to pay for this expansion. It will cost us.
Bearing a cost for the sake of something greater is the heart of our faith; it brought us salvation. At the same time, we can and must make this expansion and our whole healthcare system more effective and economically viable. If health care funding as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, we nevertheless are not powerless as a society to refine and make it more effective even as we implement it.
I write as your Bishop in noting the call of Catholic social teaching, and I appeal as a fellow
citizen in making a case for acceptance of Medicaid expansion by our state. I urge my fellow Catholics to study this issue and form your own prudential judgment on its wisdom. However, I ask that you start that evaluation with a presumption in favor of what the Church says is a good to be pursued in society, namely, the flourishing of all people through access to health care. Hold as well our faith conviction that shared sacrifice for a greater good and concern for the poor make us more like Christ. Make your views known to your legislators. For my part, I believe Medicaid expansion offers a step forward for South Carolina.

In the Lord’s Peace,
Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop of Charleston

The greatest commandments, reduced to a bumper sticker


Saw this bumper sticker on the road, and was intrigued by the degree to which its creator reduced the two greatest commandments to the briefest possible expression. Here’s the previous record-holder for brevity:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I’ve gotta say, I prefer Matthew. But I give the maker of the bumper sticker points for effort.

New Pope hugs trees, atheists — and some hug back

I’ve finally found something online backing up what I heard on the radio yesterday afternoon. It was Pope Francis embracing people of all faiths, and atheists as well, as allies in practicing good stewardship of the Earth:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis extended a hand to those who don’t belong to any religion, urging them on Wednesday to work with believers to build peace and protect the environment.Francis

In his first ecumenical meeting, the new pope greeted representatives from Christian churches and other religions, including Jewish and Muslim leaders, who had come to Rome to attend his inaugural Mass on Tuesday.

Francis said that he intends to follow “on the path of ecumenical dialogue” set for the Roman Catholic Church by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

But he also reached out to those who don’t belong “to any religious tradition” but feel the “need to search for the truth, the goodness and the beauty of God.”

Francis echoed his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, saying that the “attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity” has often led to catastrophic violence.

But Francis, who has set a humbler tone to the papacy since his election on March 13, added that atheists and believers can be “precious allies” in their efforts “to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.”…

In looking for that, I also discovered that some atheists, or at least near-atheists, have given the new pontiff some props as well:

Why even atheists love Pope Francis

Never mind all the guff: it is a rare thing indeed for atheists and agnostics to be genuinely impressed and inspired by religious leaders. Speaking personally – as a man who is but two drinks short of atheism – although I try to view such leaders with respect, the reasons informing my lack of faith temper the depth of my admiration.

… But on the whole, in a short period of time [Francis] has become unusually well regarded, especially given the general unpopularity of the Catholic Church.

The reason is simple. This is a man who pays his own hotel bills, travels by bus and jeep, wades out into the crowds unguarded, and makes his own telephone calls. (Yesterday, he telephoned the main number of a Jesuit residence in Rome. The receptionist, upon hearing the identity of the caller, responded “yeah, and I’m Napoleon”.) This might seem like no great shakes, but given the luxury normally showered upon his office, it takes guts.

In other words, whatever one may think of his views, the Pope has genuine humility…

False humility can be spotted a mile off, of course, and we are all used to doing that. But Pope Francis has proved that authentic humility can be just as immediately visible. This most straightforward of qualities has been absent from public life for so long that we have almost forgotten it were possible. If our politicians had a bit of this to offer, the world would be a very different place.

OK, so that’s really just one, sort of semi-atheist. I was misled by his headline. But I thought it was nice, anyway. I like it when people get along.

The first pope, babbling incoherently

My post about E.J. Dionne’s take on how the Chair of Saint Peter should be filled brings to mind yesterday’s Gospel reading in Catholic churches. It’s one of my favorites — Luke’s account of the Transfiguration:

Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.

Why is it a favorite? Because in the middle of this description of a mystical event that transcends everyday experience, we have a very human reaction that brings things down to Earth and makes the story real: Simon Peter babbling about tents or booths (depending upon the version of the story). Just as you’re wondering what in the world he’s on about, the narrator tells you not to mind him, because “he did not know what he was saying.”ALG169046

Instead of the event being accompanied by humming choirs of angels, you have a soundtrack in which Jesus’ most impetuous disciple is heard clearly freaking out. It’s another example of the reason why Peter is one of my favorite, if not my very favorite, figures in the Bible. No matter how holy or somber the occasion, Peter could always be relied upon to do something that drew attention to his very human attributes: His bluster that nobody was going to lay hands on Jesus while he was around, followed by his clumsy denials, leading to his bitter self-reproach. The way he fell behind the younger and apparently fitter John running toward the tomb, then impatiently pushed past him at the entrance, so he could get in and see whether what the Magdalene had said was true.

These details in these stories have a naturalism about them that says, to me anyway, that no matter how fantastic these events being related are, you can tell a real person actually witnessed them.

It’s like… recently I was rewatching “All the President’s Men” (I have it on DVD), and being impressed all over again. One of the best parts of the movie is that so much of the dialogue seems off. Particularly in the awkward scenes in which Redford and Hoffman are trying to get information from sources who don’t want to talk, the dialogue often doesn’t follow. Someone says something, and the response doesn’t quite make sense in that context, or it’s awkwardly worded. Which is the way real conversations go — nervous people in particular babble in non sequiturs. They don’t speak as though a skilled writer had composed their lines. This makes the story real.

And so does Peter’s nonsensical response to the Transfiguration…

E. J. Dionne: ‘The best choice for pope? A nun.’

Over the weekend, E.J. Dionne — who does this sort of thing every week with David Brooks — was kind enough to write me and say he’d caught my bit on Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR, and “I wanted to tell you that you were excellent.”

Which, along with similarly kind plaudits I got from other friends and family, made my day.

While he had me, as a fellow RC he brought up Pope Benedict’s retirement, and asked whether I had read his “make a nun Pope” column.

I had not, but I went and read it immediately, and really enjoyed it. Excerpts:

In giving up the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI was brave and bold. He did the unexpected for the good of the Catholic Church. And when it selects a new pope next month, the College of Cardinals should be equally brave and bold. It is time to elect a nun as the next pontiff.

Now, I know this hope of mine is the longest of long shots. I have great faith in the Holy Spirit to move papal conclaves, but I would concede that I may be running ahead of the Spirit on this one…

Nonetheless, handing leadership to a woman — and in particular, to a nun — would vastly strengthen Catholicism, help the church solve some of its immediate problems and inspire many who have left the church to look at it with new eyes…

More than any other group in the church, the sisters have been at the heart of its work on behalf of compassion and justice. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times made this point as powerfully as anyone in a 2010 column. “In my travels around the world, I encounter two Catholic Churches,” he wrote. “One is the rigid all-male Vatican hierarchy that seems out of touch. . . . Yet there’s another Catholic Church as well, one I admire intensely. This is the grass-roots Catholic Church that does far more good in the world than it ever gets credit for. This is the church that supports extraordinary aid organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Caritas, saving lives every day, and that operates superb schools that provide needy children an escalator out of poverty.”…

Throughout history, it’s not uncommon for women to be brought in to put right what men have put wrong. A female pope would automatically be distanced from this past and could have a degree of credibility that a male member of the hierarchy simply could not…

And a church that has made opposition to abortion a central part of its public mission should consider that older men are hardly the best messengers for this cause. Perhaps a female pope could transform the discussion about abortion from one that is too often rooted in harsh judgments (and at times, anger with modernity) into a compassionate dialogue aimed at changing hearts and minds rather than changing laws.

Unborn children are vulnerable. So are pregnant women. In my experience, nuns are especially alive to these twin vulnerabilities…

There was a lot of other good stuff, about how consistent this would be with the church’s devotion to Mary, and other points. But I fear I may have exceeded the bounds of fair use already.

You might wonder, “Is Dionne kidding? He knows this can’t happen, right?” Yes, he knows it won’t happen, and no, he’s not kidding. At the least, he hopes “they at least consider electing the kind of man who has the characteristics of my ideal female pontiff.

I urge you to go read the whole, well-reasoned piece.

Mark Sanford’s math doesn’t add up, either

Mark Sanford’s new ad begins, “Washington’s math doesn’t add up.”

Well, neither does his. It goes like this: He spent six years representing the 1st District before. And his accomplishments added up to zero. And yet he blithely tells people that they should send him to Washington because he’s “fought to do something about it.” Yeah, I guess so, if ineffectual posturing counts. Which it doesn’t, in my book.

Change Washington? Really? You? You never made the slightest dent on Washington.

Then, he gets to talking about mistakes.

Really? You sure that’s the work you want to use? Mistakes? So… you accidentally slipped away from your SLED detail and went to Argentina, only admitting what you had done after you were caught dead to rights?

I truly don’t want to be the guy who casts the first stone. But I will note the line that everyone seems to forget in recounting that great story of forgiveness: Go, and sin no more.

In this ad, with regard to mistakes, Sanford piously intones, “In their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”

Here’s the thing: When did our former governor repent of anything, so that he might clear the way for second chances? After the sins that we are all prone to, we only become “better for it” when we sincerely believe what we did was wrong, and repent.

After his rambling confession that day in June 2009, what was his penance? How did he live his life differently going forward? I’m not at all clear on that. Of course, that’s between him and God — unless, of course, he spends money buying ads that pull us into the equation.

I’ve heard a lot from this guy about how we are supposed to forgive him. He places that burden on us. Well, what’s his part of the deal?

I’ve got a great idea for a penance that would demonstrate that he’s truly sorry: If he would stop inflicting himself on the electorate. That would be better, in his case, than a thousand Hail Marys.

But no. There he is again, saying the same stuff. And we’re supposed to take him back. That’s the way he sees it, anyway.

Pope Benedict the Quitter?

As the world received the surprising news that Pope Benedict will be the first pope in just under 600 years to retire rather than die in office, the commentariat struggled to produce instant analysis. A typical facile effort (particularly typical for Slate), was this Tweet linking to a piece by the late Christopher Hitchens asserting that this pope’s “whole career has the stench of evil.” Not that they wanted to be critical or hostile or dismissive or anything. (Of course, as always, the Hitchens piece is powerfully written. If atheists had a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Hitchens would have been the perfect guy to head it up. Whatever he had to say, I almost always admired how well he said it.)

By contrast, I was impressed by the quick-draw thoughtfulness of this piece from The New Yorker. An excerpt:

One thing is clear: Benedict has made a conscious choice not to be John Paul II, who turned his own wrenching, illness-filled last days into something like a parable. It could be hard to watch John Paul wave at a crowd with a hand that trembled, and he knew it, and sought consciously to use that time to emphasize his community with anyone who hurt, and with his God. Say what one will about John Paul II, but one couldn’t honestly read his biography without being moved—he worked in a limestone quarry during the German occupation of Poland, studying at a secret seminary—and one can’t quite blame Benedict for not matching that, or for lacking John Paul’s Popemobile charisma or the manner that made his faith seem so manifest. But then it was John Paul II’s conservatism, particularly in the selection of cardinals, that assured Ratzinger’s succession. And which way is really better? Should pain—not only of the ill, but of the poor—simply be borne? One can argue that Benedict is far more honest—and by providing a valuable example of his own about knowing when one is done, perhaps he is doing the Church a six-century-overdue favor. But it is inescapable that Joseph Ratzinger has not lived, and will not die, as Karol Wojtyla did.

That’s an interesting thing to contemplate. There is an object lesson, and particularly a spiritual one, for the world in how a man perceived as so powerful deals with the powerlessness of age and sickness. Like John Paul II, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (Columbia’s homeboy) did what he could to be an exemplar of how to face a terminal illness, showing solidarity with the weak and suffering of the world. In other words, they imitated Christ.268e5db8bcfc76f99fe9b324a4fbc86f

On the other hand, does not the head of any major organization, including the church, have a stewardship responsibility to make sure there’s someone in the job who’s up to it?

I thought it an intriguing question to raise, particularly since I’m not entirely sure how to answer it. The Pope’s made his decision, though, and as is his habit, he didn’t check to see what I thought first…

No, actually, ‘Islamist’ has a pretty clear meaning

Just got a release from CAIR on this subject:

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/3/13) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today distributed a commentary urging media outlets to drop the term “Islamist” because it is “currently used in an almost exclusively pejorative context.”…

In this connection, the group offered an op-ed from Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director. Here are the first few grafs:

As many people make promises to themselves to improve their lives or their societies in the coming year, here is a suggested New Year’s resolution for media outlets in America and worldwide: Drop the term “Islamist.”



The Associated Press (AP) added the term to its influential Stylebook in 2012. That entry reads: “Islamist — Supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.

The AP says it sought input from Arabic-speaking experts and hoped to provide a neutral perspective by emphasizing the “wide range” of religious views encompassed in the term.

Many Muslims who wish to serve the public good are influenced by the principles of their faith. Islam teaches Muslims to work for the welfare of humanity and to be honest and just. If this inspiration came from the Bible, such a person might well be called a Good Samaritan. But when the source is the Quran, the person is an “Islamist.”

Unfortunately, the term “Islamist” has become shorthand for “Muslims we don’t like.” It is currently used in an almost exclusively pejorative context and is often coupled with the term “extremist,” giving it an even more negative slant…

Look, I sympathize with people who feel like their group is marginalized or misunderstood. But I’m sorry, “Islamist” has a clear meaning in newswriting, one that the AP set out quite well. It most assuredly does not mean “Muslims we don’t like.”

What it does mean, and what professional journalists are careful to use it to refer to, is someone or something based in a worldview that holds “the Quran as a political model.” It’s about theistic government (which is not the same as being influenced by the principles of one’s faith in seeking to serve the public good, although of course the two things can coincide). If that comes across as pejorative, that’s because in the West, we believe in pluralistic government that neither dominates, nor is dominated by, a particular faith. So yeah, even when we’re not talking about an Islamist extremist (another very useful word, which by its employment lets anyone who understands English know that not all Islamists are extremists), we’re talking about someone whose political views are fairly inimical to values we hold as fundamental.

“Islamist” is also useful from an American context (since we do distinguish between the political and the religious) because it allows us to separate the political viewpoint from Islam itself. It’s important to most of us to respect the faith, even as we disagree with the idea of its being used as a basis for government.

Distinctions are important. “Islamist” allows us to make distinctions. I’d be surprised, and disappointed, if any news organizations respond as CAIR asks here.

At the nexus of religion and politics

Here we have a more 19th-century understanding of the relationship between faith and politics...

A column in The Wall Street Journal this morning notes:

A hypothetical Martian with a deep interest in America’s political and cultural history would be surprised and perhaps amused at the religious composition of those running in the current presidential campaign.

The incumbent president is an adult convert to Christianity after being raised by a mother he has described as agnostic but interested in many faiths. His opponent is a Mormon, a faith tradition entirely indigenous to America and less than two centuries old. As for the two vice-presidential candidates, both are Catholic. This is the first presidential election in American history in which neither of the two presidential candidates or vice-presidential candidates was brought up as a Protestant…

I sort of knew all that, of course, but hadn’t put it together that way. And so it is that Protestant hegemony in American politics passes away, almost unnoticed.

After a review of times, especially the 19th century, when such would have been unthinkable, and some discussion of our growing secularism, the author concludes:

The eyes of all are still upon America, but it is a markedly different place. As the secularization of that city upon a hill continues, it is not hard to imagine a presidential race one day that involves candidates who practice no religion at all.

I’m not sure how to put this in a morally defensible way, since there is no way I can truly know the content or quality of another man’s soul, but… I’m wondering just how big a departure from the past that would be.

Let me just put it in generalities… Generally, I seldom believe that national politicians are as interested in religion as they let on to be. They are after all men, and occasionally, women of the world, not given to extended periods of contemplation. The world is so much with them that their pieties have a sort of formalism about them. Not that they’re lying or being hypocritical, just that… they’re more like, “Going to church is something you do, so I go to church.”

There are exceptions. Jimmy Carter was serious about his faith. I think Paul Ryan is, even though I think he’s really confused as to what “subsidiarity” means (which isn’t something most Catholics sit up nights thinking about, frankly). Rick Santorum is. I suppose, just on the basis of the time he’s put in, that Mitt Romney is, although I confess to such a lack of understanding of Mormonism that I’m not qualified to tell.

I think Joe Biden is sincerely Catholic, in the way of cultural, cradle Catholicism. It goes well with his hail-fellow-well-met manner, reminding me for some reason of the Belloc quote, “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine.” It sets him apart from gray-faced Calvinists, I think. And I think he truly cares, in a Catholic way, about the common folk from which he keeps telling us he springs, which speaks to the warm, human side of theology.

Barack Obama? I don’t know what to think, except to take him at his word about his faith. His adoption of Christianity as an adult is so tied in with his deliberate self-invention from being an unrooted child of uncertain identity that it’s hard to grab hold of (in one way — in another, I sort of identify with his journey). But I’ll put it this way, meaning no judgment of anything I have no right to judge: If asked to describe him, “religious” would not be one of the first words I mentioned — whereas with Jimmy Carter, and maybe Rick Santorum, it would be.

The president’s relationship with religion is of a sort that the more aggressively secular legions of his party can be more comfortable with, whereas one gathers that Jimmy Carter’s piety sort of gave them the willies.

Don’t know where I’m going with this; I just thought I’d toss those thoughts out there…

Details emerging about that stupid video

The AP is getting credit for achieving what so many others have been striving to do the last couple of days — which is to sorta, kinda get some details on who seems to be responsible for the anti-Islam video that has sparked multiple anti-American protests:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities have identified a Coptic Christian in southern California who is on probation after his conviction for financial crimes as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film that ignited mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Mideast, a U.S. law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The official said authorities had concluded that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was behind “Innocence of Muslims,” a film that denigrated Islam and the prophet Muhammad and sparked protests earlier this week in Egypt, Libya and most recently in Yemen. It was not immediately clear whether Nakoula was the target of a criminal investigation or part of the broader investigation into the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya during a terrorist attack…

Now a reasonable person would assume that at this point, some of those rioters would go, Ummm… It took America two days to even begin to get a clue about who produced this video, and it turns out he says he’s from Egypt. Maybe it’s just a TAD illogical for us to be blaming anyone who happens to be an American for this.

But no such luck, because logic has nothing to do with this.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Dolan spanked the Democrats on their home field

My favorite moment in either convention came late last night, when one of the commentators on PBS used the word “exegesis” in describing what he’d just heard.

He was referring to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s benediction right after President Obama’s speech. I had not heard it, whether because PBS didn’t show it or I was out of the room, I can’t recall. But C-SPAN had it, as you see above.

The commenter — I think it was Ray Suarez — was saying that the Cardinal had delivered “a riff” on something. Then he corrected himself, saying perhaps the word “exegesis” was more appropriate. His colleagues were impressed.

I very much appreciate that the Democrats gave the cardinal this forum, only about an hour after ostensible Catholic Joe Biden had roared out his approval of the party’s embrace of abortion. The cardinal said, among other things:

Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us to defend it. Life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected…

At the end of his prayer, the assembled Democrats responded with a strong “amen,” which was a settler for all those Republicans who think they’re just a bunch of heathens. To what extent all had been listening carefully, I don’t know. But the fact is that as with most public prayers, most of the words were ones they would most likely have agreed with.

The coverage came later, after the assembled media caught their breath.

The cardinal was the one person who spoke at both conventions, by the way.

Oh, what did I mean by my headline above? Well, this morning I saw a Tweet from the Charleston paper that said, “Bishop England beats Porter-Gaud. Story: .” So I couldn’t resist responding, “… And Cardinal Dolan thrashes the Democrats. Big night for the Catholics…”

Mackerel-snappers had a big one the night before, too. Among the non-headliners, I thought the speech by Sister Simone of “Nuns on the Bus” probably the most uplifting, least off-putting of the two weeks. Her delivery was beatific, but pulled no punches: After taking apart the budget of another dubious Catholic, Paul Ryan, she said to fervent cheers, “This is part of my pro-life stance, and the right thing to do.”

Both of them expressed what I believe. Which is a big reason why I’m so uncomfortable with both parties.

God is all very well and good, as long as he makes himself useful to the cause?

So I noticed on Facebook that a blogger with the Christian Broadcasting Network is making a bit of an issue of the fact that a plank in the proposed Democratic platform that mentioned God four years ago no longer does:

Guess what? God’s name has been removed from the Democratic National Committee platform.

This is the paragraph that was in the 2008 platform:

“We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”

Now the words “God-given” have been removed. The paragraph has been restructured to say this:

“We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth – the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”

Yes, that could have been the work of an overzealous secularizer, but it could also have been inadvertent. After all, “God-given” (something a Deist could well have said, by the way, not exactly a Bible-thumping sort of mention) wasn’t just deleted, as such; the whole sentence was recast.

I was more interested in what the blogger went on to cite as the platform’s only remaining mention of “faith:”

“Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires. Faith-based organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world – from domestic and global poverty, to climate change and human trafficking. People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, and we believe in lifting up and valuing that good work, and finding ways to support it where possible. We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country.”

Anything strike you about that? Here’s what struck me: that the value of faith is set entirely in terms of how it furthers the political and social agenda of those writing the words. “a driving force of progress and justice… critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world… We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships…” In other words, there is no particular inherent value; religion is only useful insofar as it is, well, useful.

Which isn’t exactly the way most people of faith would look at it. In fact, they’d be more apt to evaluate a party in terms of the degree to which it further’s God’s, or Allah’s, will. This seems the other way around, more like, God is good, but only when he votes our way.

I in no way malign the Democrats by interpreting the paragraph this way, though. Does anyone doubt that Republicans try to use the Almighty in the same manner? The Dems are just being franker about it. The main difference is that Democrats feel that they have to go through all kinds of explanations as to why it is, too, constitutional for them to be talking about faith.

Nyah, nyah! Your Catholics are as bad as ours!

A columnist in The Wall Street Journal (“Social Justice and Ryan the Heretic“) this morning took on liberal Catholics’ criticisms of Paul Ryan. For a moment, my heart leapt at the prospect of a discussion of the meaning of “subsidiarity” (hey, some people get excited that football season is coming; go figure) but it was not to be. This piece existed on a more modest intellectual plane. It was more in the line of, “Oh, yeah! Well, so’s yer mother!”

That is to say, the writer was accusing the left of adopting such a position.

Here’s how the piece concluded:

Unfortunately, suggesting that Mr. Ryan is a bad Catholic is the entire case. Stuck with the fact of Mr. Biden, who has long since made his peace with the party’s absolutism on abortion, progressive Catholics know that it would be laughable to try to present Mr. Biden as faithful to church teaching. They know too that clarity about church teaching does not work to their advantage. The only way to take on Mr. Ryan is to tear him down.

In the past, the liberal Catholic vision sought to inspire. Today, in the pages of the venerable lay Catholic magazine Commonweal, a blogger tries to diminish Paul Ryan by saying, “like the rest of us, he is a Cafeteria Catholic.” Surely it says something about a movement when its most powerful argument against an opponent is this: You are just as lousy as we are.

Think about that. In another age, Catholic progressives would have laughed at the suggestion that people were corrupted by reading certain works; now they believe Paul Ryan’s soul is in peril for his having read Ayn Rand. Before, they would not have feared science; now they insist that a program such as food stamps ought to continue ad infinitum without consideration of its effects. And while they believe that the pope and bishops have nothing of value to offer about the sanctity of marriage or the duty of protecting unborn life, when it comes to federal spending, suddenly a miter means infallibility.

But while columnist McGurn accurately pegs the liberals, he comes up with little substantive defense of Mr. Ryan’s rather odd interpretation of Catholic social teaching, beyond quoting a column by Ryan’s own bishop saying that unlike on abortion, Catholics might legitimately disagree “on issues such as how best to create jobs or help the poor.” I think the bishop has a point. But I’d still like to see a serious discussion of how well Mr. Ryan applies Catholic principles.

Lacking such a ringing endorsement, we are left to conclude, if this is all the evidence we go by, that there is no “good Catholic” to be found on either ticket.

But let’s be optimistic. Let’s say that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Biden reflect different sides of the faith. Put them together, and pare away their objectionable positions, and you have one pretty good Catholic.

Quickly, now: What do veep hopeful Paul Ryan and ‘Paulie Walnuts’ have in common?

Well, nothing, strictly speaking. There’s no direct connection, anyway. But bear with me…

Some time ago, as you’ll recall, I expressed my pleasure when Rep. Ryan used the word “subsidiarity,” a favorite concept of mine arising from Catholic social teaching, coupled with my dismay at the odd way he used it. The word (to me) refers to the principle that in any system — governmental, economic, what have you — functions should be left to the smallest, most local unit that can competently perform them, with larger entities only performing the functions that can’t be carried out by the smaller units. Applied to government, that means the federal government should only perform those functions that can’t be effectively carried out at the state or local level, and so forth. It’s sort of related to what was for a time popularly called “devolution,” but with differences.

But fellow Catholic Ryan startled me by interpreting the principle as meaning functions should be performed by private entities other than public ones — which is convenient for him politically, but not the way I’ve understood it.

I’m not the only one who sees Ryan’s use of the term as misleading, if not outright wrong. I ran across this a couple of days back. Carrying it further, here’s a piece further explaining the problems with “small-government” libertarians trying to claim subsidiarity as their own. For one thing, it points out, “Subsidiarity is a communitarian philosophy.” Well, yeah.

Furthermore, Ryan has been taken to task for his misapplication of Catholic teaching to the federal budget by 90 faculty members from Georgetown University (a Jesuit institution), and more to the point, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized his 2012 budget plan for failing to protect the poor and vulnerable.

But there there are those, including some Catholic clergy, who would defend the Ryan interpretation of subsidiarity. I was led to this knowledge by Paulie Walnuts.

I’m a big fan of the Internet Movie Database. I have the app on my iPhone, and can’t watch a movie on television without constantly turning to it to answer such questions as “Who’s that actress?” or “What else has she been in?” or “Was this directed by…?” Sometimes I go from there to Wikipedia for elaboration.

Anyway… and I forget what led me to this… I found myself recently reading the Wikipedia entry about Tony Sirico, the actor who played Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on “The Sopranos.” Mr. Sirico, I learned, has also played gangsters in “GoodfellasMob Queen,Gangsters, Love and MoneyFingersThe One Man JuryDefiance, The Last Fight, Innocent BloodBullets Over BroadwayThe Pick-up ArtistGottiCop Land, Turn of Faith, and Mickey Blue Eyes.”

I read on, and was told that there’s a very interesting reason why he is so convincing as this sort of character:

Before turning to acting, Sirico was reportedly a fast-rising mob associate of the Colombo crime family, serving under Carmine “Junior” Persico, and had been arrested 28 times. There is a Sopranos reference to this fact when Paulie says, “I lived through the seventies by the skin of my nuts when the Colombos were goin’ at it.”[3] In 1967, he was sent to prison for robbing a Brooklyn after-hours club, but was released after serving thirteen months. In 1971, he pled guilty to felony weapons possession and was sentenced to an “indeterminate” prison term of up to four years, of which Sirico ended up serving 20 months. In an interview in Cigar Aficionado magazine, Sirico said that during his imprisonment, he was visited by an acting troupe composed of ex-cons, which inspired him to give acting a try.[4] According to a court transcript, at the time of his sentencing, he also had pending charges for drug possession.[5] Sirico appeared in a 1989 documentary about life, The Big Bang by James Toback, in which he discussed his earlier life.

Father Sirico

Interesting, but what does it have to do with the definition of “subsidiarity?” Well, continuing to read the “Background and Career” section, we see that “His brother, Robert Sirico, is a Catholic priest and co-founder of the free-market Acton Institute.”

Really? This was, to me, at least as interesting is Mr. Sirico’s alleged past as a wiseguy. So I checked out the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, where I found commentary with such headlines as “The Rich Don’t Make Us Poor,” “Challenging Liberals on Economic Immobility,” “Moral Formation and the School Choice Movement,” “It Takes a Village to Raise a Business” (that’s my personal favorite) and “Black Scholars Give Obama an ‘F’.”

This is from The Acton Institute Core Principles:

Rule of Law and the Subsidiary Role of Government – The government’s primary responsibility is to promote the common good, that is, to maintain the rule of law, and to preserve basic duties and rights. The government’s role is not to usurp free actions, but to minimize those conflicts that may arise when the free actions of persons and social institutions result in competing interests. The state should exercise this responsibility according to the principle of subsidiarity. This principle has two components. First, jurisdictionally broader institutions must refrain from usurping the proper functions that should be performed by the person and institutions more immediate to him. Second, jurisdictionally broader institutions should assist individual persons and institutions more immediate to the person only when the latter cannot fulfill their proper functions.

On their face, I wouldn’t argue with those assertions, although it’s odd that subsidiarity is being described in terms of an individual’s relationship to the state, rather than between larger and smaller governmental entities. Quite Ryanesque. Here’s how subsidiarity is further interpreted by a writer on that site:

One of the key principles of Catholic social thought is known as the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.

This is why Pope John Paul II took the “social assistance state” to task in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

In spite of this clear warning, the United States Catholic Bishops remain staunch defenders of a statist approach to social problems. They have publicly criticized recent congressional efforts to reform the welfare system by decentralizing it and removing its perverse incentives. Their opposition to the Clinton Administration’s health care plan was based solely upon its inclusion of abortion funding. They had no fundamental objection to a takeover of the health care industry by the federal government…

So I read that, and I thought, “Where have I seen subsidiarity used that way?” Which brought me to the man of the hour. Paul Ryan would no doubt feel very comfortable with the ideas espoused by “Paulie’s” brother, or at least by the organization he heads. But that’s the only thing they have in common, that I know of. If you were hoping for something more, I’m sorry.

Conviction speaks to core issue in sex abuse cases

Every national MSM site is currently leading with this story:

PHILADELPHIA — Msgr. William J. Lynn, a former archbishop’s aide, was found guilty Friday of endangering children, becoming the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to be convicted of covering up child sexual abuses by priests under his supervision.

The 12-member jury acquitted Monsignor Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, on a conspiracy charge and a second count of endangerment after a three-month trial that prosecutors and victims rights groups called a milestone in the sexual abuse scandals that have shaken the Catholic church….

There’s a good reason for that, and it’s not that the MSM is picking on the Church.

A lot of people think the problem is that Catholic priests tend to sexually abuse kids. That’s not the case. They are, if anything, less likely to do so than men in the aggregate.

The problem is that, in the rare (but not nearly rare enough) cases when it does happen, the Church on the whole has not — or at least, did not for far too long — respond effectively to prevent abusers from committing their horrific crimes again.

And that’s what this case addresses. That’s what makes it a “milestone,” as the NYT put it.