Yesterday, EJ Dionne at the Washington Post, published a truly magnificent essay on workers and how they are viewed, or not, in our broader culture. It makes for incisive, if sad, reading.
In August 1941, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met in Placentia Bay off the coast of Newfoundland and produced the Atlantic Charter. It could be called a statement of war aims except for the fact that the U.S. was not yet at war. The Charter stated that its authors "deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world."
Among the principles listed was this: "Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, with the object of securing for all improved labor standards, economic advancement, and social security."
Would any of the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls have signed this document? Or would they cravenly bow down to Tea Party orthodoxy? "Improved labor standards?" Not a chance. "Economic advancement?" Only for the rich. "Social Security?" Nah, let's turn Medicare into a voucher program instead and kill unemployment benefits while we are at it.
Father John Coleman S.J. has a beautiful tribute to the late, great labor priest, Msgr. George Higgins over at America.
The GOP candidate forum sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint in South Carolina yesterday was not your average debate. Instead of “gotcha” questions directed from media analysts to the candidates, and instead of the one or two minute replies, the candidates had twenty minutes on stage, standing before the questioners, looking a bit like students auditioning for a role. (Think “A Chorus Line” without the tights.) This format encouraged longer, more thoughtful answers, and, to a degree, it provoked them. All to the good.
One of the more common talking points employed by Catholic neo-cons is that on issues of social justice, there is room for prudential judgment and so good Catholics can disagree, while on abortion, there is no room for prudential judgment. This is how they avoid the charge of being cafeteria Catholics.
But, it doesn't fly, as an article today at the New Republic shows. The article looks at the growing divide within the pro-life community as to how they should pursue their goals. Since Casey v. Planned Parenthood, most pro-life groups have focused on restricting abortion, but there is now a renewed effort to pass a "personhood" amendment, mounting a full, frontal attack on Roe. There are some who think that simply overturning Roe would actually benefit the pro-choice movement, filling the coffers at NARAL and electing a host of aggressively pro-choice legislators nationwide. All but a handful of states would likely enact some form of legal access to abortion if Roe were overturned. But, whether you agree with that strategy or not is a matter of prudential judgment.
Also at Faith in Public Life, Nick Sementelli calls out Catholic neo-con activist Robbie George for his role as a board member of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation which has gotten into the ugly, and unChristian, business of funding anti-Muslim groups.
Now, all of us belong to groups that do things that make us hold our noses some times. And, I will never fault anyone for playing the inside game in politics, secular or ecclesiastical: For all we know, Professor George has been a moderating voice on that board and, if this is the case, more power to him for staying in the game and trying to bring the voice of reason to bear.
John Gehring, writing at Faith in Public Life, points out the glaring failure of the Ohio Catholic Conference to take a forthright stance in defense of workers' rights by remaining neutral on that state's upcoming referendum on "Issue 2" - a vote on whether or not to repeal a GOP-backed law that strips unions of much of their collective bargaining rights.
As Gehring points out, the bishops in Wisconsin were much more forceful in defending workers' rights when that state's governor attacked them. And, Bishop Stephen Blaire, writing on behalf of the USCCB, gave a ringing endorsement of workers' rights in his Labor Day Statement. And, Popes since Leo XIII have put workers' right at the center of Catholic social teaching.
The front page of this morning’s Washington Post makes for some sober reading. An article by Philip Rucker and Amy Gardner details the way immigration keeps coming up at GOP presidential candidate forums, even though the candidates will have been more likely to have begun the forums discussing jobs and the economy. Yet, polls show the issue way down on the list of priorities for most voters, including most GOP primary voters.
Over at Catholic Advocate, Deal Hudson has an article up attacking some of those Catholics who recently signed a letter to Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius regarding the need to expand the conscience protection clauses of the new health care mandates. Hudson charges the group with, among other things, "incoherence" because they lambasted Speaker John Boehner for backing a budget that eviscerates programs that help the poor and vulnerable but they supported the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius.
It should be recalled that then-Sen. Sam Brownback, whose ideological leanings are right up Hudson's alley, also supported the nomination of Sebelius, but never mind.
The head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, penned an essay in L'Osservatore Romano that seems to support their less-government-is-good mantra. And conservatives in this country have finally found a vatican text to support their claims. Writing at the blog International Liberty, Dan Mitchell suggests sending President Obama to the Vatican for an economics lesson.
Mitchell is correct, but not for the reasons he thinks. I, too, wish President Obama would go to the Vatican for an economics lesson, but he would be unlikely to meet with Mr. Tedeschi. I suspect he would meet with Pope Benedict XVI said just last week that we must put people before profits. What does Mitchell think of that? Just so we are clear, the head of the Vatican bank has no teaching authority, last time I checked. He is a banker. He may or may not know much about economics. But, he does not speak for "the Vatican" on the morality of various economic policies. I am sticking with Benedict on this one.