In Friday's Washington Post, Melinda Hennberger had a great piece on how Romney's European tour was targeted less at foreign heads of state than at U.S. heads of religious organizations.
How should bishops conduct themselves in the public square? The question is as relevant as ever, as the Church finds herself at odds with strong cultural attitudes on a range of issues from the right-to-life, to traditional marriage, to the defense of union rights, to religious liberty. Given our media culture, the loudest and most obnoxious voices are the only ones that get heard. And, so, when a bishop compares President Obama to Hitler and Stalin, that makes news. But, does it persuade anyone?
Culture wars, as the phrase implies, can get especially ugly because the issues run more deeply than mere policy differences, engaging fundamental culture notions, ideas about the nature and extent of human rights, the role of law in society, the relationship between religious values and public policy in a pluralistic country. But, must these issues always be understood in war-like metaphors?
I was planning on taking the day off today. I drove up last night with the three beasts but with traffic leaving DC, what is normally a six hour drive turned into seven and one-half hours, and we did not arrive until a half hour past midnight. Besides, I almost never take a day off.
But, I see that Steve Jalsevac, the managing director of LifeSiteNews, has responded to my post yesterday about their article concerning the Al Smith dinner and while I do not normally respond to comments, an official response from the organization I chastised requires an acknowledgement.
Now, the parallel magisterium at LifeSiteNews has Cardinal Timothy Dolan in their crosshairs. His sin? Going ahead with the annual Al Smith Dinner that has a tradition of inviting both presidential candidates to a fundraising dinner for Catholic Charities.
Of course, the people at LifeSiteNews, and the usual suspects they quote – Deal Hudson, Michael Hichborn – are not concerned about the scandal of inviting a man who signed a health care overhaul that explicitly provided for taxpayer funded abortions. That man would be Mitt Romney. No, this crowd is furious that President Barack Obama will be invited. They cite a line from a USCCB text about not bestowing honors on those who disagree with Church teaching, but as the document in question is entitled “Catholics in Public Life” it is difficult to see how that applies easily to Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama, neither of whom are Catholic.
The controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A is not very delicious. I admit I have never been to a Chick-fil-A. I admit, too, that I had passed signs for their stores for about four years before I realized that their name was a not very clever homonym for chicken fillet. I recall seeing one of their television ads, showing a deep fried piece of unnaturally flat chicken breast, being placed on top of some pickles, lettuce and tomato, all on a hamburger bun, and thinking – “no thank you.” So, I was not disposed to be a patron to begin with.
Consequently, I was not among the throngs of people who lined up to dine at Chick-fil-A yesterday, responding to a call from Mike Huckabee and other leaders of the religious right to show support for the chain. The president of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, has recently been outspoken about both his opposition to same sex marriage and about the fact that his restaurant chain has, since its founding, been employed “biblically-based principles” in managing its stores. So says their website, and they cite the fact that Chick-fil-A closes its stores on Sundays.
Thumbs Up to Melinda Henneberger for her article in this morning's Washington Post about Indiana's Senate race. I confess, of all the many congressional races this fall, there is no candidate I hope wins more than I hope Joe Donnelly wins and there is no candidate I hope loses more than I hope Richard Mourdock loses. Donnelly is a pro-life Democrat, a centrist, someone with a bipartisan track record. Mourdock unseated Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary, charging Lugar with being a RINO. Fortunately, the good sense of many people who would have easily backed Lugar is causing them to give Donnelly a second look.
A new, non-partisan study of Romney's tax plan, a study that is quite generous in its expectations that Romney's plans will achieve the economic result he claims they will, nonetheless concludes that his ideas would result in the rich getting irch and the rest of us having to shoulder more of the burden of taxation. I am guessing this does not make it more likely we will be seeing those tax returns. It does make it more likely that Romney will have an even tougher time getting his polling numbers up on the question of "whether or not a candidate understands the situation of people like me."
At a time when income disparity continues to grow, the Romney plan would shift $86 billion of tax burden from those making over $200,000 to those making less than $200,000. Talk about a hard sell.
The Quinnipiac polls are among the best in the biz. And, three new polls from three key swing states show Romney in trouble. People remain skeptical about Obama on the issue that matters the most to them, the economy, but as Aaron Blake notes in this post, they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and they are not giving Romney the benefit of the doubt.
This means Romney faces a choice. He must find a way to connect to voters better or begin running really harsh, negative ads against the president, the kinds of ads John McCain refused to run in 2008. My guess is that we can look for the campaign to get a whole lot uglier in the weeks ahead.
One of the problems journalists face in reporting on religion is that they lack the experience of the group being examined. Consequently, certain turns of phrase or practices that are very important to a given religion are opaque to the rest of us and we misunderstand their significance.
So, this article at the New Republic by Amy Sullivan is especially helpful in explaining who the practice among some evangelical youth groups of "pretend kidnapping" the youngsters to see if they will deny Christ leads to the birth of other, persistent myths, like the one surrounding one of the victims of the Columbine shooting, the myth that one of the shooters asked if she was a Christian, she said "yes," and he shot her. That probably did not happen, but it fit an existing narrative amogn evangelical youth that Sullivan knows from her own experience.
Of course, Catholics should not snicker too easily at this "pretend kidnapping." Anyone familiar with the case of Edgardo Mortara knows that the Catholic Church has not always been a paragon of virtue when it comes to kidnapping children.
Today, the HHS mandate that insurance policies cover various preventive services for women without cost to the insured takes effect. Religious institutions that did not previously cover controversial items like sterilization and contraception have one more year before compliance is mandatory, during which time it is expected more negotiations will take place and, in any event, the lawsuits challenging the mandate will be heard. In this sense, the one-year “grace period” actually is helpful.