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+Nichols Criticized over Civil Unions' Comments

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Archbishop Vincent Nichols is being attacked by some conservative catholics for remarks he made regarding civil unions for same-sex partners, according to a report at vatican Insider.

This is silly. The Archbishop did not endorse civil unions, which are already the law of the land, but he insisted that they allow some of the objectives sought by those seeking same-sex marriage in the UK and are, in his estimation, a preferable alternative to changing the legal definition of marriage. More importantly, how is what Abp Nichols said different from what then-Abp, now Cardinal, William Levada endorsed when, as Abp of San Francisco, he worked out a compromise with the city government regarding the extension of health care and other benefits to same sex partners? Levada and the city agreed that those who work at agencies that receive government funds can name anyone they want to receive benefits, provided that person lives with them legally. It can be an unemployed cousin, a retired aunt, or a same sex partner.

War on Religion?

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Rick Perry has launched a new ad that claims he will end what he calls "Obama's war on religion." Given Perry's sometimes tenuous grasp on the facts, I suppose we should all be grateful that he did not accuse Obama of renewing the Hundred Years war. But, as I have warned previously, again and again, the narrative that Democrats are hostile to religion is alive and well and the administration should not feed that narrative by doing something really stupid on conscience exemptions.
Here is the video of Perry's ad.

American Life League's High Priestess

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The American Life League recently sent out a fundraising appeal that renews its attack on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the anti-poverty program administered by the United States. Of course, no one should write a check to the American Life League unless they begin to abide by the best-practices recommended for non-profits, as I wrote about here.

Most of the multi-page appeal merely repeats the charges against CCHD that the American Life League has leveled in the past. But something in the third to the last paragraph jumped off the page at me. Judie Brown, the high priestess of the American Life League, writes, “Please know this, at the time of my writing this letter to you, the CCHD has publicly responded to criticism by defunding only two of the groups in our report – both of which were confirmed to still be doing months later exactly what we found seven months ago! What other evidence do we need?”

That tagline – "What other evidence do we need?” sounded eerily familiar. In the 14th Chapter of the Gospel of St. Mark, we read of the trial of Jesus:

Obama at Osawatomie

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There was a lot to like, but also something missing, in the President’s much-touted speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, a location chosen because of the President’s desire to echo the sentiments expressed by President Theodore Roosevelt in his “New Nationalism” speech in the same small town more than a century ago. Indeed, the choice of location demonstrated more than any quotes ever could, two key facts that the President needs to emphasize as he begins his re-election big. First, Obama is no radical and, second, today’s Republican Party is a far cry from Teddy Roosevelt’s Republican Party.

Peretz on Defending Israel From Its Right-Wing Jews

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Marty Peretz has been a friend of mine for a long time and I have learned most of what I know about Zionism from him or from books he has recommended to me. Many people dismiss Marty because, as one of the leading controversialists of his time, he has said some things that are, well, provocative. Others have criticized his handling of the New Republic although, I would submit, he has kept that magazine more relevant to serious discussions on the left than any of its competitors and has continued to produce outstanding journalism, and give outstanding journalists their start in the business, since he bought the magazine in the early 1970s.

Today, at TNR, he has an essay that demonstrates something about Marty that many people miss amidst the controversy: He is deeply learned. His essay on the challenges Israel faces from its own rightwingers is so smart, so full of knowledge and insight, and, yes, provocative, I mark it down as one of my top ten favorite essays of the year. You can read it here.

Immigrants & Taxes II

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I do not normally respond to comments. It is my belief that once I have said what I have to say, it is best to let the combox take on a life of its own. I am delighted when readers debate each other there. I am even delighted when readers just rant at each other. The exchange of opinions is a good thing per se, even when it is accompanied by the throwing of rhetorical elbows.

But, last week, I wrote a post about immigrants that both examined the results of a new Pew study and suggested that it would be helpful if the Congressional Budget Office could calculate what effects comprehensive immigration reform would have on extending the solvency of both the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. The comments of Professor Carmen Nanko-Fernandez on that post are such that they deserve a response.

Germany, WaPo & Mauriac

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Yesterday's Washington Post Outlook section had an article by Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff on the role of Germany in Europe, as it relates politically and economically to the crisis over the Euro-zone and its finances. Yes, the discussion is about Germany's role in the continent's economy, but that discussion has a deep undercurrent of concern about Germany's historical role in Europe.

It brought to mind the famous quip of Francois Mauriac: "I love Germany so dearly, I hope there will always be two of them."

HuffPost on Gingrich's Catholicism

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Jaweed Kaleem, writing at the Huffington Post, has an in-depth article on Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism. Of course, it would be nice to see the former speaker come to a better appreciation of the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching, and how it varies greatly from the more libertarian strands within the GOP today. But, as I wrote at the time of his reception into the Church, it is a big church and there is room for everybody.

Kaleem's article also demonstrates that the conversion was not, by all acounts, a matter of political expediency. It grew, as many conversions do, out of his growing familiarity with the religion of his wife. In my involvement with RCIA, we often have several converts who come to the Church for the same reason. Nor is it clear that being Catholic provides any particular benefit politically. Like his opponent Mitt Romney, Gingrich's views should be a matter of debate, not his faith.

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October 10-23, 2014

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