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Schindler on Religious Liberty

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I confess my bias, but Professor David Schindler, of the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family, is the best, most incisive, smartest theologian in the United States. There are not many books that have literally changed my life, but his book "Heart of the World; Center of the Church," changed my life, opening avenues of reflection i did not know existed.

In the current issue of Communio, Schindler has an essay that looks at the religious liberty debate. With his typical grasp of the theological implications that tend to remain opaque to the rest of us, Schindler exposes a principal difficulty with the USCCB's embrace of the religious liberty issue: Our nation's negative conception of freedom possesses a hidden metaphysics that simply does not square with Catholic anthropology.

Ryan Seeks To Divide USCCB

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Cong. Paul Ryan is a politician, not a theologian, and complaining that politicians are not theologically sound is a little like complaining that carrots are not purple. Seek joy where joy may be found.

In this instance, however, Cong. Ryan chose to justify his budget proposals as consistent with Catholic moral teaching. He could have said, as Churchill did, “The Sermon on the Mount is the last word in Christian ethics. Everyone respects the Quakers. Still, it is not on these terms that Ministers assume their responsibilities of guiding states.” Instead, Ryan asserted that, mindful of the principle of subsidiarity and his strange understanding of the “preferential option for the poor,” his economic proposals amounted to the Catholic baptism of Hayek and von Mises. The lion had lain down with the lamb.

Garnett Replies to Commonweal

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Over at Mirror of Justice, Rick Garnett responds to the Commonweal editorial on religious freedom. I would differ from Garnett's fine essay in only one regard: He refers often to "the bishops" and how they do not want to be partisan and how their statement should not beunderstood in partisan terms. This is mostly true. Sadly, there are some bishops who really are Obama-haters, their hatred clouds their judgment, and too often they can hijack the entire debate in ways that are unhelpful. Additionally, there are other bishops who are too quick to listen to people like Mary Ann Glendon or Robbie George, neither of whom are unclean when it comes to partisan politics. Overall, "the bishops" are not engaged in a partisan enterprise, but some are only too delighted if their legitimate concerns about religious liberty were to make it more likely Obama was defeated in November.

New Survey on Millenials

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The Public Religion Research Institute released a new study today based on their extensive surveys of Millenials, those aged 18-24. You can find the survey info here.

Politically, what jumps out at me is not only that Obama leads by a healthy margin 7 point margin over a generic GOP candidate (and in many polls, a generic Republican does better than a specific one). The bigger fact is that the Millenials themselves are changing demographically in ways that bode well for the long term future of the Democrats: 57% of Millenials self-identify as white compared to 72% of the overall population.

The other fascinating thing is that a slim majority (51%) of Millenials believe abortion is morally wrong, compared to only 37% who think it is morally acceptable. But, a larger majority, 54%, think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The Millenials, then, are not afraid of making moral judgments for themselves but are much more wary of making such judgments for others. This trend is even more pronounced on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Allen West Meets Joe McCarthy

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In the early 1950s, as my mother was completing her degree at what was then known as the Willimantic State Teachers College, now Eastern Connecticut State University, as part of her training she was a student teacher at the Horace Porter Elementary School in the nearby Columbia, Connecticut. She was leading the fifth grade class in a survey of world affairs and did a presentation on the Soviet Union. One of her students unhelpfully went home and told her parents that my Mom was teaching communism. This was during the McCarthy era and the Red Scare it spawned, so this child’s comments landed my mother in front of the president of her college. She was almost expelled. Fortunately, a World War II veteran was in the classroom as a student teacher with her, and was able to assure the college’s administrators that my mother was teaching about communism not advocating for it, and she was given her degree. But, you can imagine her fear at the time.

Welcome Back Lefebvrists

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My colleague John Allen reports on the possibility that the Society of St. Pius X may have agreed to sign the doctrinal preamble the Vatican demanded as a precondition to their reunification with the Catholic Church.

This news, if all the i's get dotted and the t's crossed, will be greeted by some of my liberal friends with much gnashing of teeth. They should relax. It is entirely a good thing when someone, anyone, returns to the fold. Rome has not budged to make this happen. No doctrine has been compromised to affect the reunion. As I mentioned the other day in quite a different context, diversity is a good thing and bringing the Lefebvrists, with all their lace and other quirkiness, can only add to the rich tapestry of Catholicism in the twenty-first century. It is time for liberals to stand with James Joyce who famously said that being Catholic means "here comes everybody." And so it does.

Happy 150 Saint-Sulpice Organ!

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Here is something we can all celebrate: the 150th anniversary of the Cavaille-Coll organ at the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. This organ has had among its titulaires, two of the greatest French composers of all time, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupre. So, if you have heard the justly famous Widor Toccata from his Fifth Symphony played at a particular festive liturgy, this was the organ that piece of music was composed on.

This week, Pipedreams from American Public Radio commemorated the anniversary of this magnificent organ with an entire show dedicated to it. You can listen to the audio here.

And here is a recording of the Widor Toccata on the Saint-Suplice organ:

USCCB Tackles Paul Ryan

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Yesterday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the texts of four letters to various House committee chairs in which the bishops assess the moral ramifications of the federal budget. In each of the letters (links to the texts can be found here), the bishops reiterate the key criteria for such moral evaluations, the protection of human dignity, how proposals affect “the least of these,” and whether or not a given proposal advances the common good. The bishops could not be more clear in rendering their verdict: “The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.”

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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