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Cafeteria Catholics: A Longish Response to Rick Garnett

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Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett has responded to David Gibson, John Allen and myself, regarding comments we made about Pope Benedict XVI’s comments regarding the “certain schizophrenia between private and public morality.” I called attention to the comments here, in which I include a link to John Allen’s article. Here is a link to Gibson’s comments.

It is, perhaps, ironic, that on a different post yesterday, I noted that I sleep better when I find myself in agreement with Professor Garnett. So, I guess I shall be sleeping less soundly tonight.

Garnett writes:

More on ACA at SCOTUS

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Jonathan Cohn, at TNR, argues that even raising the issue of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and giving it such a central role in the nation's political discourse - as opposed to an argument about the ACA on policy grounds - represents a win for the far right. But, as is their wont, the far right may have over-played their hand. By focusing almost exclusively on the constitutional issue, and not the many policy difficulties the ACA raises, the far right will have little to say if the Supreme Court rules that the ACA is, in fact, constitutional. As well, the far right will not have much time to craft a response and shift the debate to the policy merits of the ACA before the November election.

Gerson Nails It

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In this morning's Washington Post, Michael gerson looks at the recent Pew survey on Americans' attitudes towards the role of religion in politics. Gerson even-handedly deconstructs the problems in both parties regarding the role of religion in our public and political discourse. But, his opening graph hits precisely on some of the weirdness surrounding the issue in the current campaign:

Religion in the 2012 presidential election is the topic that will launch a thousand PhD theses. The pre-Vatican II Catholic candidate, Rick Santorum, has risen largely on the support of evangelicals, who, before the Second Vatican Council, often regarded the pope as the Antichrist. The former Mormon bishop, Mitt Romney, won Ohio and Michigan (and thus probably the nomination) arguably because of Catholic support. Meanwhile, a significant portion of the Republican electorate regards a president who has affirmed “the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ” as a closet Muslim.

A Horrible Court Decision in Mass.

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District Court Judge Richard Stearns ruled last Friday against the Department of Health and Human Services, siding with the Massachusetts’ American Civil Liberties Union that HHS’s contracts with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for services to the victims of human trafficking violated the Establishment Clause. Those contracts included an “accommodation” sought by the USCCB that the services would not include contraceptive or abortion services.

B16: Provocateur

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My colleague John Allen reports on an exchange the Holy Father had with reporters in which Benedict denounced the facile distinction often drawn by politicians between their private beliefs and morality and their public responsibilities. But, while this charge has rightly been delivered against pro-choice Catholic politicians, Benedict directed the charge at those who fail to embrace the Church's social teachings on issues like poverty.

In short, Benedict XVI recognizes there is a variety of cafeteria Catholicism on the right as well as the left, something I have been arguing since I started arguing about such matter years ago. I can't imagine what people like George Weigel and Fr. Robert Sirico will make of the Pope's comments.

Summers on the Recovery

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I confess that I think Larry Summers is just very, very smart. His op-ed in this morning's Washington Post reminds us that the WORST thing to do, both for encouraging the recovery and, therefore, dealing with our nation's long-term fiscal issues, would be to prematurely take steps that would contract the economy. You have seen this in the unemployment figures for the past several months - the impressive job gains in the private sector are somewhat offset by the downsizing of government jobs. Certainly, the draconian cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan would have a similar effect. The most important thing is to get the economy going by keeping demand increasing. Then, and only then, are solutions to the long-term debt issues even possible.

The Romney's Common Touch

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It is kind of funny to hear Mitt Romney talk about President Obama's otherness, his supposed penchant for European ways over American ways. I suppose it is better than attributing the difference to Kenyan post-colonial ideology, but still, it is hard to paint Obama's major policies as somehow un-American. Democrats - and some Republicans - have been pushing for universal health insurance for decades.

But, Romney deploys this language to try and connect with average Americans. Sadly for him, his efforts are continually frustrated by his own cosmopolitan self, e.g., the video of him speaking in very fine French, inviting the citizens of La Republique to attend the Salt Lake City Winter Olymics. Or, his confession that he likes firing people who work for him. Or, his mention of the fact that his wife drives two Cadillacs.

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