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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.”

\"Highest Order Hypocrites\"

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That is the verdict of Morning's Minion at Vox Nova on the decision by the National Right to Life Committee to endorse the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney. They cite their opposition to the Affordable Care Act as one of the principal reasons for their endorsement.

The NRLC was once something other than an arm of the Republican Party. Most famously, in 1996, they opposed welfare reform on the principles grounds that the legislation might result in a higher abortion rate. I think they were wrong to oppose the law on the merits, but I admired their consistency in doing so.

As Morning's Minion points out, however, one of the essential differences between Romney's health care reform and Obama's is that Romney's explicitly provided for taxpayer funded abortions and Obama's did not. Additionally, Romney's support for the Ryan budget, which would drastically introduce market forces into health care decisions for the elderly by voucherizing Medicare, should make the NRLC wary. At least the old NRLC would have been wary. The new one has drink the GOP Kool-Aid. Shame on them.

How the Mighty Fall

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The mighty fall like freshly cut hair. The metaphor suggests itself with the news that former Sen. John Edwards no longer goes to a Beverly Hills salon to shell out hundreds for a haircut but now heads over to "Supercuts" in Raleigh where a mere $12.95 will do the job.

Watching the mighty fall risks the sin of schadenfreude, but it is, nonetheless, a healthy instinct in a democracy. And, besides, in this case, it gives us the chance to recall an all-time YouTube favorite.

Imperiled Centrists

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Yeats wasn't talking about Blue Dog Democrats when he wrote "The Second Coming," but one line of that masterpiece seems appropriate to the political situation today: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."

Political looks at the difficult elections prospects of a host of moderate-to-conservative Democrats in the 2012 election, a development on the left that is as troubling as the retirement of moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe is for the right. Moderation is not a value per se, but it is necessary in a democracy to have politicians within each political party that are willing to challenge the orthodoxies of their own. Only a pro-life Democrat can ever hope to bring the rest of that party to a reconsideration of their views, just as only a pro-immigration reform Republican can get her party to reconsider their views on that issue.

Unfortunately, the increasing dependence of members of Congress on the mopre extreme elements within their parties is a problem for which no solution seems plausible. As long as redistricting is done along partisan lines, all the political juice will come from the extremes.

Rights - Not the Whole Enchilada

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Mark Silk raises a good point regarding the on-going debate over religious liberty in a post at his blog “Spiritual Politics” over at RNS. “[C]hanging civil norms always pose new challenges for weighing free exercise rights against others that are also constitutionally guaranteed.” There is always a balancing act when adjudicating rights within a constitutional framework and no rights, including our First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression, are absolute.

Ad Multos Annos Pope Benedict

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Today is the Holy Father's 85th birthday. I wish him not only many happy returns of the day but many happy years. He is an outstanding pontiff whose writings and talks have inspired millions and invited those with ears to hear to consider their faith more deeply. He has not shied away from diaolgue with the world - his conversation with Jurgen Habermas, published in book form - displays a critical mind at work in ways few of us could keep up, but he has never forgotten that for a Christian, as we discern the signs of the times, Christ remains the measure.

Remembering Bishop Roman

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Bishop Augustin Roman, the Cuban-born auxiliary bishop of Miami, was buried on Saturday. In addition to the prelates from the United States who came for his funeral, bishops from Cuba and Haiti also attended and, in a rarity, the Apostolic Nuncio also flew down from Washington.

It was not only the hierarchy who engaged in this unprecedented outpouring of affection. The U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, who is a Cuban-American, issued a statement recalling Bishop Roman's special place in the life of the Church and the Cuban-American people:

On behalf of myself and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, I wish to express my deepest condolences on the passing away of His Excellency Auxiliary Bishop Agustin Román, the human rights leader who became the first Cuban-American to be consecrated a bishop in the United States.

Schneck v. Ryan at NPR

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From this morning's "Morning Edition," at NPR, Professor Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University (where I am a visiting fellow) takes on Cong. Paul Ryan's claims that his budgetary proposals are in line with traditional Catholic social teaching.

It goes without saying that Schneck's views - and maybe even Ryan's - are more sophisticated than those offered in the NPR piece by David Barton and Rick Warren.

Kaveny v. Garnett on Employment Division v. Smith

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My two favorite Notre Dame law professors - okay, they are also the only two Notre Dame law professors I know, but I do like both of them and can scarcely contain my admiration for each - are engaged in debate over the religious liberty jurisprudence as embodied in the important Supreme Court decision Employment Division v. Smith.

Here is Kaveny's first post.

Here is Garnett's post.

And here is a subsequent post by Kaveny.

I am not a lawyer, so I especially appreciate the ability of both Kaveny and Garnett to explain complicated legal issues in terms the rest of us can understand.

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