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Conscience Regs Are Totally Inadequate

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The Department of Health and Human Services released it new rule regarding mandated coverage, with no co-pays, for women’s health insurance policies. As a part of that rule, HHS included conscience protections for religious institutions, or at least HHS claimed to be doing so. In fact, the new rule is totally inadequate and the best that can be said about it is that it is provisional. HHS explicitly invited comment for sixty days before the rule is finalized.

Here is the key language governing the exemption for religious organizations: “a religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose;

Shakespeare & The New Roman Missal

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Unlike many of my colleagues here at NCR, I am not filled with dread by the new Roman Missal translation we shall all be using come Advent. Yes, we can pull out a few clunky turns of phrase but you can find plenty of clunky turns of phrase in the current Missal. And, thank God we are nixing the first, and by far most commonly used, Memorial Acclamation: "Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again." Everywhere else in the Mass, the people of God pray to the Son in the second person: "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world..." for example. (The Lord's Prayer is an obvious and understandable exception.)

Nor am I worried about the return of some archaic language. It may be true, but very sad, that the average person in the pew is unfamiliar with the meaning of the word "ineffable" but I would submit that it is well nigh to impossible to find a better adjective to describe the Godhead - and our limited intellectual capability to exhaust the meaning of God. And, besides, if we need to avoid archaicness in the liturgy, why is the priest still dressed in what was once a toga?

Take the Deal

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By definition, no compromise is perfect. Given the circumstances, the question facing members of Congress is not even whether or not the compromise struck by negotiators is so bad that they cannot support it. The question is whether or not the agreement would be worse than a government default. That is an easy question to answer.

The worst part of the deal is obvious: It requires no new taxes and it closes no existing tax loopholes. It is a scandal that the wealthiest pay less of a percentage of their income than the middle class. It is a scandal that the right-wing mantra about “job-killing tax increases” has been accepted as Gospel when, in fact, budget cuts will have a worse immediate effect on the economy and jobs than would a tax cut. Money that goes to the poor through government social programs is guaranteed to be spent. A tax cut may be spent, but it might not: As we know, corporations are currently sitting on huge mountains of cash. As I have argued before, if tax cuts resulted in job growth, the last ten years would have seen full employment. They did not.

Bernie Sanders Telling It Like It Is

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the only self-identified socialist in Congress, tells it like it is. Congress is set to do exactly what the American people do not want it to do. Instead of focusing on addressing the obscene anomalies of a tax code that has billionaires paying a lower rate than the average Joe, Congress is about to further deflate the economy by cutting spending. How did Obama and the Democrats lose the debate so thoroughly? And, if you, dear reader, are one of those people who sat out the midterm election, shame on you too.

Atheists Sue Over Ground Zero Cross

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According to Huff Post, a group of Atheists are suing to have the "Ground Zero Cross" removed from the museum being erected at the site or, in the alternative, to have a bunch of other religious and non-religious symbols included in the museum.
I have no objection to this latter course. Indeed, I think the atheists just need a bit of patience. The Ground Zero site will become like the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here in Washington. People will leave all sorts of mementoes and the museum should find a way to display them regularly. A memorial, like a church, grows into its own cultural niche with time. There was a time when Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was pristine, not ancient. Now, the stone has been softened by the years, and by incense, and by the smoke from burning candles, and by prayer.

Schneck on Conscience Rights

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In case you missed it on our NCR homepage, Professor Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at CUA, has a fine essay on the need to include broad conscience protections in the mandated coverage plan forthcoming from the Department of Health and Human Services.
A source close to the negotiations expressed confidence that the final decision by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, due out next Monday, will allow Catholic organizations to continue their missions and ministry, that the conscience protections will be strong enough. Certainly, as Schneck points out, the political prospects for the new rules - and for Obama's re-election - will only be strengthened by including such conscience protections.

What Gov. Perry Meant to Say

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You could see this one coming.
Last week, when asked about New York State's decision to legalize gay marriage, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, "That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me." Perry was giving voice to his states' rights' advocacy.
But, predictably, his comment did not sit well with social conservatives who value the fight against gay marriage more than they value any antiquated ideas about states' rights.
Yesterday, Perry backtracked after a meeting with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins. "I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’ and that it’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed."
Score one for the social conservatives. They remain the bedrock of any GOP primary electorate and potential presidential candidates ignore them at their peril.

De-Bunking the CW on Partisanship

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At least one good thing has emerged from the debt ceiling negotiations. The conventional wisdom that Washington is mired in partisanship has been debunked. Washington doesn’t suffer from too much partisanship, indeed it can’t suffer from too much partisanship because there is no such thing any more as a political party.

Can you imagine Speaker Sam Rayburn having a day like Speaker John Boehner had yesterday? Of course not. This does not reflect poorly on Speaker Boehner’s leadership or intelligence or powers of persuasion. It reflects the fact that today the smoke-filled room is gone, not an entirely bad thing that, but it has not been replaced by any other appropriate venue for forging compromises and cutting deals. That power to cut a deal and make it stick no longer exists within the walls of Congress.

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April 11-24, 2014

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