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Paranoia Watch

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This article in LifeSiteNews warns darkly that the latest Defense Authorization Act would allow President Obama to detain pro-lifers indefinitely. Huh?

I know my colleague John Allen has devised the useful, and sadly appropriate moniker "Taliban Catholics" for groups like those who follow LifeSiteNews regularly, but this is ridiculous. I especially like the breezy way they dismiss President Obama's signing statement in which the President said he would not use the authority granted him to detain U.S. citizens. These people are crazy.

Vatican Insider on RCs & the Death Penalty

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A good article at Vatican Insider highlights some of Pope Benedict's recent remarks on the death penalty which seem to definitively close the door on those Catholics who continue to support it. Of course, the two Catholicsw seeking the presidency have publicly supported the use of torture so should we be surprised that they ignore the Holy Father on the death penalty?

Bishop Zavala & Celibacy

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The surprise resignation of Los Angeles auxiliary bishop Gabino Zavala, and the even more surprising reason for that resignation, has already ignited a renewed conversation about celibacy. That is an interesting conversation, and an important one, but it is not the first thing that occurred to me when I heard the news.

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln has failed to participate in the audits of anti-sex abuse procedures set up by the USCCB in 2002 at Dallas, yet no one at the Vatican has seen fit to demand his resignation. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph has been indicted in civil court and, whatever the outcome of those proceedings, clearly also failed to abide by the 2002 Dallas norms governing the reporting of clergy sex abuse. Has anyone thought to demand his resignation?

Apologies

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I am still fighting this darned flu and have not had the energy to sit up, let alone concentrate. All of which is very strange because I don't think i have had so much as a cold in three years, a fact I attribute to clean living. (Cue the laugh track!)
I apologize for being out of the picture on such a big news day but there it is. I hope to have comments tomorrow on Bp Zavala, Cardinal O'Malley's letter on the 10th anniversary of the sex abuse crisis, and the campaigns. But, for now, back to bed.

The Iowa Muddle

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Muddle. That is what the Iowa caucuses produced last night. Indeed, the only thing that is really clear is that a majority of Republican voters really, really do not want to back Mitt Romney.

A plurality of the anti-Romney vote went to Rick Santorum, even though the typical Iowa voter knew next to nothing about him. On one of the channels, they had a Google executive who noted the steep increase in hits for Santorum in the past week, which only means that the voters learned about Santorum what Santorum wanted them to know. (They also learned about a very vulgar trick played on Santorum some years ago – do not google the man’s name with children in the room.) There were next to no anti-Santorum ads from the other candidates. And, it is still hard to imagine Santorum gaining traction because, among other things, he is kinda boring.

Ron Paul is sui generis and Iowa will likely prove to be his best showing. He has nowhere to go but it will be curious to see if any of the other candidates risk alienating his supporters by going after him. And, you can bet Team Obama will be looking to see if Paul’s supporters intend to sit on their hands come November.

Friendship v. Bigotry

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Jerzy Kluger, the childhood Jewish friend of Karol Wojtyla, has died. The friendship between two men, which ripened with adulthood, is often credited with influencing Wojtyla's outreach to Jews and Israel when he became Pope John Paul II.

The Kluger-Wojtyla friendship is really the second famous friendship that paved the way for better relations between Jews and Christians. Edward Jacobson was a close friend of President Harry S. Truman and helped convince Truman, over the objections of the State Department, to recognize the State of Israel as soon as it declared its independence in 1948.

There is a lesson in these twin friendships for all of us: Friendship is the great enemy of bigotry. A great affection will trump a bigoted argument everytime, or almost everytime. This is no bleeding heart sentiment. It is the heart of the Gospel: The human trumps the abstract. Only by being open, truly open, to the other (and the Other) can we imitate and follow Jesus, the Deity who became human.

BBC on Saving US Pipe Organs

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BBC America had a great segment on the good work of the people at Organ Clearinghouse. When churches purchase a new organ, they salvage the old one, refurbish it, and try to find a home for the instrument. This work not only preserves historic instruments, it provides less wealthy congregations with fine instruments that will sound better and last much, much longer than any electric organ will.

You can visit the website of Organ Clearinghouse here.

Finally

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I wondered when someone was finally going to go after Mitt Romney over two provisions of his health care reform in Massachusetts, namely, the fact that the reforms mandate taxpayer funding of abortions and permit Planned Parenthood to designate one of the members of the health care advisory board set up by the law.

Now, according to Katherine Seelye of the New York Times, Newt Gingrich is prepared to raise the issue. Indeed, Gingrich mentioned it last night in an interview with Sean Hannity. Seelye mentions the issue was raised at a Dec. 21 media avail with Gingrich. Hmmmmm. I wonder who that could have been?

The most important aspect of this story is that the health care reforms came AFTER Romney's conversion on the abortion issue, not before.

Payroll Tax Cuts & Third Rails

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The recent showdown over extending the payroll tax cut may have worked out alright for President Obama: He forced congressional Republicans into the awkward position of appearing willing to fight to the death to preserve tax cuts for millionaires but indifferent to the extension of tax cuts for the middle class. This is not a good place to be at the start of an election year and the GOP leadership caved. It was acclaimed as a big political win for the White House. In the event, the Congress could only agree to a two month extension so the debate will be back in February.

The entire debate sent shivers down my spine. Not because I feared the President would blink. But, because the payroll tax cut is the kind of idea an economist devises – it is efficient, it pumps money into the economy, etc. – but also an idea that may have ugly political consequences down the road. It will be very, very hard to end that tax cut in the years ahead and it is the payroll tax that funds Social Security.

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In This Issue

August 15-28, 2014

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