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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.”

\"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.

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In This Issue

March 27-April 9, 2015

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