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Toleration & Respect

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I had intended to write about the need for Americans – our government, our diplomats and the rest of us – to be quite unequivocal in both championing our right to free speech and in condemning the abuse of that right by those who denigrate the religion of others. I had intended to specifically frame this as an American issue, not just a Catholic issue. But, then I grabbed the morning paper and Melinda Henneberger beat me to the punch. She makes the case I wanted to make and made it better than I could have done.

Does Romney Think Before Speaking?

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If this goes on much longer, I am going to start feeling sorry for Mitt Romney.

Romney’s campaign issued a blistering attack on President Obama for responding to the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya by condemning the internet video that mocked the Prophet. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” said a statement released by the Romney campaign. The statement was embargoed until midnight, to keep the campaign’s already stated commitment not to go negative on 9/11.

WaPo Grand Slam

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If you go to this morning's op-ed page of the Washington Post, you will find that they hit a grand slam today with four pieces that are worth the read.

Harold Meyerson looks at the teachers' strike in Chicago and, unlike so much commentary on the strike, explains that not all the fault lay on one side or the other.

Ruth Marcus wonders what a real debate would like if the moderators were willing to ask tough questions and wait for a real answer.

Dana Milbank notes that the House GOP has a problem remembering Mr. Romney's name and Mr. Romney appears not to have understood that by choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, he had aligned himself with the highly unpopular GOP Congress.

And, Kathleen Parker asks why it is so important to us to like our political leaders.

On The Other Hand

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Regular readers will know that I have been somewhat despairing about the West ever since reading Brad Gregory's magisterial "The Unintended Reformation." I do worry about secularization and the dictatorship of relativism. I do worry that switching from a substantive ethic of the good to a formal ethics of rights has robbed Western civilization of the intellectual framework to cope with a range of issues from abortion to global climate change.

BUT - the horrific news from Libya reminds us that the West has her achievements as well. In Libya, when someone speaks disrespectfully of the Prophet or of religious leaders, a murderous mob takes over. In the U.S., when someone disrespects religion, they get a press release from Bill Donohue. Two cheers for Western tolerance and the First Amendment.

Int'l Religious Liberty

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Today, the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University will be co-hosting a conference on International Religious Liberty with the USCCB and CRS. NCR’s own Jerry Filteau will be covering the event and will have a full report for our readers. As a visiting fellow at the Institute, charged with helping to organize these gatherings, I will be out in the parking lot directing traffic, and inside the hall making sure the microphones are working.

Here in the U.S., much of the Catholic community has been focused on the issue of religious liberty in ways we have not before. Certainly, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith (authored by that flaming anti-Catholic Antonin Scalia!) there was some interest in the topic, but that interest was hardly controversial as the law designed to legislatively overturn that decision, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed both houses of Congress by wide margins. In the House, it was passed without objection on a voice vote. The law was signed by President Bill Clinton.

Bp Finn Must Go

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NCR is based in Kansas City, so I have been content to let me colleagues cover the story of Bishop Robert Finn, who was convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse last week. I was genuinely surprised when I got up Saturday morning, went to the Vatican website, clicked on "Rinunce e Nomine" and did not see Finn's name. After all, Finn not only violated civil law, he violated canon law, which requires bishops to comply with all civil laws in cases regarding child sex abuse.

I wish to associate myself entirely with the editorial NCR published yesterday afternoon. What credibility the U.S. bishops have left on the issue of child sex abuse is diminished every day Finn stays on the job.

Religious Leaders Back Medicaid

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A diverse group of religious leaders have issued a public letter calling on governors to set their partisan instincts aside, and embrace the expansion of Medicaid offered under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid is the joint state-federal program that provides health care to the poor.

The Supreme Court struck down the provision that would have allowed the federal government to essentially coerce the states to expand Medicaid. Coercion or not, the states should engage in this expansion of Medicaid which will create access to health care for millions of working poor people who may technically live just above the poverty line, but whose health care choices are currently severely limited if they exist at all.

Remembering 9/11

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This morning brings a crisp, slightly cool breeze and a cloudless sky to Washington, D.C., just as it did eleven years ago today. FDR said of December 7th, that it was a day that would live in infamy, and it has to a degree, although I wonder how many Americans still associate that date with its historic significance. But, “9/11” no longer refers to a date, but to an event, a searing event, and the nation’s reaction to that searing shows how different we are from the days of 1941.

In both instances, America was attacked and caught off-guard. In both instances, thousands of Americans died, 2,400 at Pearl Harbor, almost all of them military men, and some 3,000 in New York, Washington and Shanksville, almost all of them civilians and first-responders. In both instances, America went to war as a consequence of, and response to, the attack. There the similarities cease.

Franciscans Call for More Focus on Climate Change

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The Franciscan Action Network has called for both President Obama and Governor Romney to focus more on the need to confront global climate change in their on-going campaign. “This presidential election has critical implications not just for our generation but for generations to come," said Sister Marie Lucey, OSF, Director of Advocacy for the Franciscan Action Network. "What kind of Earth are we going to leave our children and future generations? Do we love them enough to put care for God’s creation ahead of our individual and corporate interests?”

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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