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Ryan & Dolan: The Letters

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News broke yesterday that New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. Bishops' conference, had exchanged letters with Congressman Paul Ryan, the author of the controversial House budget plan that has been criticized for its cuts to social programs for the nation's poorest. Dolan has been very ill-served by whomever suggested he write such a letter. Providing political cover for politicians should not be part of the USCCB President’s brief, especially when it means cutting off USCCB Committee chairs at the knees.

Obama's Mideast Speech

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President Obama did not break much in the way of new ground in his speech, delivered just now, on the Mideast. But, foreign policy is not a good place to exhibit novelty. He touched all the necessary notes, linking our values and our interests in ways he has before but also in ways that we can't do often enough, especially after two months of Donald Trump running around saying we should have made the Iraqis pay for our invasion of their country. Obama spoke about the need to guarantee religious freedom in the region, specifically mentioning the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt and, a bit more surprisingly, the rights of Shia in Bahrain. In fact, if there was anything a bit surprising in the speech it was the fact that he mentioned Bahrain explicitly and did not let that country's leaders off the hook for their repressions. That was a pleasant surprise.

Interfaith Worker Justice At Work

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Interfaith Worker Justice is one of the most active social justice organizations in the country and lives out on a daily basis the call of Rerum Novarum and subsequent papal encyclicals for the Church to stand by workers. Now, they have joined hands with a group of workers going on a hunger strike to protest conditions for retail cleaning workers at Cub Foods.

“Workers across the country are concerned about the extreme deterioration of working conditions in the retail cleaning industry nationwide and want to ensure justice not only for retail cleaning workers in the Twin Cities but to ensure that retail cleaning workers across the country don't continue to see their wages drop and their workloads increase,” said Veronica Mendez of the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), which is affiliated with Interfaith Worker Justice.

Health Insurance Rates Coming Down

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When was the last time you received good news about your insurance rates? Well Aetna customers in Connecticut just got a bit of good news: Their rates are going down as much as 19.5% and, on average, 10%. Why? In part because of the “developing effects and regulations associated with Federal Healthcare Reform.”

Here is the pertinent quote from the rate adjustment statement the company filed with the State of Connecticut:
“We are proposing an overall average premium rate reduction of approximately 10% for all existing plans. Our assumption of medical claim trend in Connecticut has been held consistent with our previously filed assumption of approximately 8.5%. Given consideration to our Connecticut-specific experience, market conditions, and the developing effects and regulations associated with Federal Healthcare Reform, we are proposing a base premium rate decrease which varies by plan ranging from a 19.5% decrease to a 5% decrease, and results in the aggregate rate decrease of approximately 10.0%, as noted above.”

Cornell West: Idiot-in-Chief

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Sometimes a man, especially a public figure, is known by his friends. Other times, by his enemies. President Barack Obama has, evidently, earned the enmity of Princeton professor Cornell West. The President should wear this enmity as a badge of honor.

West has been criticizing the President for failing to live up to West’s ideas about what a liberal President should accomplishment, not least as those ideas apply to African-Americans. Actually, what I just wrote is mistaken. No one should confuse West’s drivel for anything so substantial as an idea.

West has called Obama the “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs” which is a fancy, post-modern way of calling Obama an Uncle Tom. Not content to traffic in the ugliest of racial stereotypes, West goes on to dabble in psychology, a subject on which he does not, alas, give lectures. “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men….It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white.”

New Blog Discovery: Shirt of Flame

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A dear friend just sent me a link to a blog I had not seen before, Shirt of Flame, which is written by Heather King. I am biased toward her, seeing as the entry I read was about one of my heroes, Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, and one of the most intriguing religious issues of every age: desire.
This blog goes on to my favorites list and I recommend it go on yours.

A Quibble with Father McBrien

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While I am scratching my conservative itch today, I found a sentence in Father Richard McBrien's essay on the teaching authority of the bishops somewhat troubling. He writes: "In the past, the term Ecclesia docens was limited to the hierarchy, while the rest of the faithful, including theologians, were considered the Ecclesia discens -- 'the learning Church.' With Vatican II, that distinction disappeared."
I am not sure "disappeared" is the right word. Certainly, Vatican II, in its sustained focus on baptism, brought the specifically ecclesial role of the laity into sharper focus. But, the distinctions between bishops, theologians and lay folk did not disappear.

Good Questions From Kevin Clarke

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Over at America, Kevin Clarke asks why the John Jay Report draws a line in the sand at age ten in defining pedophilia, when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for the American Psychiatric Association draws the distinction as "pre-pubescent" or "generally age 13 or younger."
I hope the John Jay Report authors can explain their choice of where to draw the line.
It is easier to answer Clarke's second question. For reasons known to him alone, Bill Donohue and a few others have made a lot over the fact that mostr of the sexual abuse cases are not, they contend, strictly speaking pedophilia but ephebophilia, that is, abusing a teenager rather than a child. I have never seen the value of drawing such a distinction. 11 years old and 14 years old are both too young to be having sex and the idea of a priest, who is at least going to be 26 or older, engaging in sex with anyone under the age of consent strikes me as engaging in pedophilia. And, no matter what you call it, it was wrong. Donohue's attempt to draw his distinction just muddies the waters.

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April 11-24, 2014

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