District Court Judge Richard Stearns ruled last Friday against the Department of Health and Human Services, siding with the Massachusetts’ American Civil Liberties Union that HHS’s contracts with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for services to the victims of human trafficking violated the Establishment Clause. Those contracts included an “accommodation” sought by the USCCB that the services would not include contraceptive or abortion services.
My colleague John Allen reports on an exchange the Holy Father had with reporters in which Benedict denounced the facile distinction often drawn by politicians between their private beliefs and morality and their public responsibilities. But, while this charge has rightly been delivered against pro-choice Catholic politicians, Benedict directed the charge at those who fail to embrace the Church's social teachings on issues like poverty.
In short, Benedict XVI recognizes there is a variety of cafeteria Catholicism on the right as well as the left, something I have been arguing since I started arguing about such matter years ago. I can't imagine what people like George Weigel and Fr. Robert Sirico will make of the Pope's comments.
I confess that I think Larry Summers is just very, very smart. His op-ed in this morning's Washington Post reminds us that the WORST thing to do, both for encouraging the recovery and, therefore, dealing with our nation's long-term fiscal issues, would be to prematurely take steps that would contract the economy. You have seen this in the unemployment figures for the past several months - the impressive job gains in the private sector are somewhat offset by the downsizing of government jobs. Certainly, the draconian cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan would have a similar effect. The most important thing is to get the economy going by keeping demand increasing. Then, and only then, are solutions to the long-term debt issues even possible.
It is kind of funny to hear Mitt Romney talk about President Obama's otherness, his supposed penchant for European ways over American ways. I suppose it is better than attributing the difference to Kenyan post-colonial ideology, but still, it is hard to paint Obama's major policies as somehow un-American. Democrats - and some Republicans - have been pushing for universal health insurance for decades.
But, Romney deploys this language to try and connect with average Americans. Sadly for him, his efforts are continually frustrated by his own cosmopolitan self, e.g., the video of him speaking in very fine French, inviting the citizens of La Republique to attend the Salt Lake City Winter Olymics. Or, his confession that he likes firing people who work for him. Or, his mention of the fact that his wife drives two Cadillacs.
The U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) today and no one is precisely sure how they will decide the various cases and issues before them. But, reading the articles and listening to the arguments today (which will be on C-Span), two things jump out at me. First, the issues are extraordinarily complex, and that is a good thing. Second, at issue is not only the ACA but the role of the Supreme Court in our political process.
Complexity is a good thing. Few of us can, in any time, see all the different angles of a given issue. All of us have a temptation to dismiss arguments that do not reinforce our prior ideological leanings. And, in an age of propaganda – and, really, what else can we call it? – complexity is a bump in the road for those who see easy sloganeering as an appropriate response to politics. The justices on the Court will not be asking if the ACA is “socialized medicine.” They will not concern themselves with the benefits the ACA’s advocates insist the law will provide. They will decide if it is constitutional.
From some of the comments I see lately, I find it worthwhile to recall the words of Father Gillis: Whom the gods would make bigots, they first deprive of humor.
E.g., no, I am not really going to pay people a dollar to read something other than Abp Chaput's new book. That is a joke, not a lie nor a mean-spirited remark, albeit I confess it is a little snarky. Abp Chaput's views on church-state matters are well known and my disagreement with those views is also well known. I am told that the Abp himself has a good sense of humor and I hope that his acolytes will try to develop one too.
At the New York Times, Gary Gutting, a philosophy professor at Notre Dame, has an essay asking if it matters whether or not God exists. This reminds me of the old joke in which a commissar in the late 1920s asks a Russian Orthodox priest why he is rushing. "To go to church," says the priest. "Come with me." The commissar explains that he cannot go because he does not believe in God. The priest asks him why he does not believe in God. The commissar replies, "Because Lenin did not believe in God." The priest drily replies, "He does now."
We have seen Mr. Gutting before. Back in February he penned an article for the same series in the NYTimes in which he mangled the entire idea of ecclesial authority with an ignorance of religion that I found shocking - even for the NYTimes.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a press release announcing the release of a new e-book by Archbiship Charles Chaput. I am not sure if the press release has a typo but it indicates the the e-book is available for only 99 cents.
I will pay you a dollar to read anything else.
Two news items, both of them good news, lead me to conclude that it is time to offer some friendly advice to our friends at the USCCB. First, yesterday the USCCB released the text of a letter from Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Gomez to Speaker John Boehner on the need for immigration reform. Second, a small item in this morning’s Washington Post notes that in many states, although not all, the “anti-sharia law” movement is dead or drying.
I remain when Pope John Paul II went to Cuba vividly - and so do you, although it might have slipped your mind. I had been at work all day and not seen any television. I listened to nice music on the drive home, hoping to catch "Nightline" - the night before Ted Koppel had announced he would be traveling to Havana the next morning to cover the trip. So, I got home, let the dog out, turned on the TV and Koppel was back in his NYC studio. There were no palm trees in the back. Unbeknownst to me, that very day, the world was introduced to Ms. Monica Lewinsky and any interest in John Paul meeting Castro took a back seat.
Let's all hope there is no repeat!