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Conscience, MSNBC & Commonweal

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If anyone has doubts that the Church has enemies, last night’s appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), chair of the pro-choice caucus on Capitol Hill, should have dispelled them. Congresswoman DeGette thinks it is outrageous that Catholic institutions should seek an exemption from an interim rule requiring all health insurance plans to cover contraception, sterilization and some drugs that are abortifacients. To make her case, she cited polling data that indicates many, if not most, Catholics do not agree with the hierarchy about such matters. Needless to say, Maddow piled on as well: She called such an exemption for Catholic organizations a “scaling back” of the mandated care, failing to recognize that it is the pro-choicers who are trying to change the rules of the game and coerce Catholics hospitals and universities to provide coverage for procedures those institutions find morally objectionable.

+Turkson - 1; American Papist - 0

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Remember last week when certain hard-breathing conservatives, more devoted to the economic Gospel according to von Mises, were thrilled to discover, via Vaticanista Sandro Magister, that Cardinal Bertone, the Holy See's Secretary of State, was so upset with the recent "note" from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace that he ordered a ban on the release of any documents unless they had been cleared by his office? The suggestion was that the Vatican was deeply ambivalent about the "note" drafted by Cardinal Peter Turkson's Council and that +Turkson had erred grievously. Here is the American Papist's rant.

Well, according to John Thavis, it turns out that Bertone's order was in response to an entirely different document, the Pope's annual message on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which had mistakenly been posted on the Vatican website without prior approval. Cardinal Turkson's document had gone through all the complicated channels by which Vatican documents are brought to birth.

Vischer - 1; Goodstein - 0

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I had been intending to comment up Laurie Goodstein's article in the NYTimes about the USCCB meeting this week, but Rob Vischer beat me to it at "Mirror of Justice," making almost all the points I wanted to make and all of which I endorse.

I would only add one point to Rob's excellent commentary. In recent memory, the first time a Catholic prelate voiced his concern about religious liberty, it had nothing to do with contraception or abortion. It was in 2006, when Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles announced on the eve of Lent that if Congress passed a law requiring Catholic social workers, teachers or hospital workers to question the legal status of immigrants, he would order all employees of the archdiocese to disobey the law. Mahony did not frame the issue in terms of religious liberty, but it is the same concern.

Super Committee: Deal Or No Deal

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A front page, above the fold article in this morning’s Washington Post details the looming showdown over a deficit reduction package as the deadline for the “super committee” to strike a deal looms. Some within the ranks of the GOP are looking to strike a deal, and the only deal possible will include some kind of tax increases, while others are intent on standing firm on their “no new taxes” pledge.

“Critics say that giving any ground on taxes would violate party doctrine that has not been challenged since President George H. W. Bush broke his ‘read my lips’ as part of a 1990 budget deal,” the article states. It notes that the conservative, anti-tax group, Americans for Prosperity, has mounted a campaign targeting some forty Republicans who have signified their willingness to raise taxes in order to shrink the deficit.

More Scrutiny for Newt

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In this morning's Washington Post, Dana Milbank thinks that Newt Gingrich's record contains too much in the way of moderation for his to fulfill the desires of conservatives for an alternative to Mitt Romney. I am not sure I buy that, although Milbank assembles a fair amount of evidence to support his argument.

But, the bigger problem for Gingrich was in the news section where it was reported that he was paid some $1.6 million dollars by Freddie Mac, the quasi-private government backer of mortgage loans. Unwilling to blame the lapses of the market for the economic downturn, Republicans have tried to make Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae the whipping boys.

Exit Occupy; Enter Organize

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The future of the Occupy Wall Street protests remains in doubt, after a court upheld Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to evict the 24/7 encampments from lower Manhattan. Similar efforts in other cities to rein in the protests have been undertaken, most notably in Oakland, after someone was shot and killed near the protest site in that city.

The Occupy Wall Street movement should declare victory but they should not go home, if by “go home” we mean abandon the field. Their victory lay in the fact that the protests have changed the national discussion, inserting a new metaphor, the 99%, into our nation’s political discourse. They have reinserted some populist vigor into the left, reminding the country that it is not only government bureaucracy that threatens Americans’ freedom and prosperity, but the decisions and practices of the titans of the financial class. They took the Republican charge that the Democrats were engaged in class warfare and turned it on its head by pointing out that there is already some degree of class warfare going on, but only one side in that war has been fighting and winning for lo, these many years.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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