This morning, Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post points to the principle conundrum facing the Republican Party in its effort to reduce federal spending. People like federal dollars when those dollars come their way. Think of the poster at the Tea Party rally the day of the final vote on health care that read: “No Govt Health Care: Hands Off My Medicare!”
Welcome to Distinctly Catholic, a blog by Michael Sean Winters that examines politics, religion and the estuary where the two meet, all from a distinctively Catholic point of view. The blog is small "c" catholic as well as big "C" Catholic, examining a wide range of issues but always from the perspective of Catholic history and theology.
Carindal DiNardo, call your office.
Like many states, Texas is facing a budget crunch. Because we all know that "raising taxes in the middle of a recession" is a violation of the Ten Commandments, state Republican leglislators are considering a novel way to cut expenses: Withdrawing from Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health services to the poor.
Rick Garnett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and the driving force behind the always-thoughtful blog Mirror of Justice.
We continue to look at the midterms this week at Q & A with commentary from a variety of voices, and Professor Garnett is up first.
Rick Garnett: What do the midterm elections mean? More, I suspect, than is appreciated by those who want to chalk up (and move on from) the results as reflecting merely anger, fear, or ignorance about unemployment, deficits, and "bailouts"; less, I suspect, than is hoped (or feared) by those who suspect a thoroughgoing transformation of American politics is afoot.
Two things jump out at me from the reports of the Holy Father's trip to Spain. The first is that he chose the extraordinarily modern Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona to be the first church he has consecrated as Pope and the rites themselves seemed to be perfectly emblematic of the dominant theme of his pontificate: The Church must re-evangelize Western culture and beauty is one of its principal means of doing so. Gaudi's masterpiece is both specifically religious and distinctly avant-garde. It is rooted in both its Christian significance as a church and in the architectural sensibilities of the twentieth century. The church with its soaring arches harkens back to gothic times, but transforms the gothic idiom even while it embraces it.
Keith Olberman, one of the most popular cable television hosts on left-leaning MSNBC, may have done nothing more than what the owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch did. Both men donated cash to candidates despite being a member of the press.
Indeed, in terms of monetary influence, Murdoch did a whole lot more. It can be argued that Murdoch is a businessman, not a reporter, and so his donations did not violate any journalistic ethics. It can also be argued that Olberman is an advocate, not a journalist, and should be allowed to donate to whomever he wishes.
Of course, Olberman did violate company policy, which is why he was suspended.
It is not often that I find myself in agreement with Eric Cantor, the incoming Republican Majority Leader. But Mr. Cantor was spot-on when he said of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to seek the post of minority leader in the upcoming Congress: “I don’t think there is any question that this says to the voters, ‘We’re not listening to you.’” Pelosi should turn the leadership over to someone else.
The principle reason for Pelosi to go is because all analysts agree that the midterms sent a clear signal: We want change. This has been the third change election in a row in fact. It will be difficult enough for President Obama who is the face of the Democratic Party, to convey that kind of change, but it will be even harder with absolutely no changes in the House Democratic leadership. Not since Neil Kinnock led Labor to multiple defeats in the 80s and early 90s has a party leader stayed on after an election defeat in the UK. We should follow their model not least because resigning after an election defeat shows that you honor the voters’ intentions.
Damian Thompson at the Telegraph asks if Senator-Elect Marco Rubio is still a Catholic or if he has become, in Thompson's word, "an apostate."
The right wing is always quick to condemn "bad Catholics" like Nancy Pelosi, and I share some of their misgivings at the way the now-former Speaker has expressed her understanding of the Church's teachings. But, at least she has not turned her back on the sacraments. It is unclear to me why abandoning the Church entirely is less horrible in the eyes of conservative Catholics than abandoning some, not all, of the Church's moral teachings.
Rubio is not the only former Catholic on the right. Sarah Palin left the Church too. So did Tim Pawlenty. The right may continue to decry the "abortionists" among the Democrats, but will they also be decrying the "apostates"?
Instead of the usual Q & A, this week and next, I am running a series of commentaries on the election results. Today's comes from Chris Korzen, head of the progressive Catholic group, Catholics United.
Chris Korzen: Americans know who they voted against on Election Day. Do they know who they voted for?
The GOP owes its Election Day victories to several factors: gobs of corporate cash, the Democratic Party's failure to communicate its many positive accomplishments, and poor turnout from African Americans, Latinos, and young people. But it was the electorate's frustration with slow progress on the economic front that ultimately drove many to pull the Republican lever. It remains to be seen whether these voters will come to wish they'd put more thought into their decisions.
I am in Hartford, Connecticut today and had some extra time on my hand, so I walked over to St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church, which is located just behind the Civic Center. Back in 2004, when I was living in Connecticut, I would drive in the 40 minutes to worship here. The liturgies were splendid, lost of participation, fine music, good sermons. The church itself is very beautiful with brilliant stained glass windows, exquisitely carved Stations of the Cross, etc. My only criticism is that the church, like almost every church in Hartford, has an organ from the local organ building firm, Austin Organs. These are noisy, unsophisticated instruments that do not do justice to the many acoustically rich spaces in the city, including the nearby Cathedral of St. Joseph and the otherwise impeccable chapel at Trinity College.
They move a lot of lumber at St. Patrick-St. Anthony, with many parishioners involved in various social justice ministries that aid the many poor and homeless of Hartford. There is a soup kitchen that serves breakfast and lunch nearby. There is an Urban Center where various community groups and twelve-step programs meet. There is a shelter.
Regular readers will be familiar with the very smart commentaries I have been able to post from Robert P. Jones, head of the Public Religion Research Institute. He has a post up at the Huffington Post that is, unsurprisingly, very smart.