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The Blinders of Another Culture War Bishop

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Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, has endorsed his state's version of, and association with, Texas Governor Rick Perry's "The Response USA" which, according to the website, aims to pray for an "historic breakthrough for our country and a renewed sense of moral purpose."

I wonder if the good bishop looked around that Web site a bit more thoroughly. This event is being co-sponsored by the Family Research Council, the rightwing evangelical outfit based in Colorado Springs that is led currently by Tony Perkins, an alumnus of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and the most effective advocate of religious-political fusion since Falwell.

Another one the "endorsers" listed on the Web site is the Rev. John Hagee, whose bitter anti-Catholic sentiments forced that notorious leftie John McCain to refuse Hagee's endorsement in 2008. And, there, too, is retired Bishop Rene Gracida, who has made a habit of attacking Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley for presiding at the funeral of Sen. Edward Kennedy and, most recently, for permitting a Mass designed to reach out to gay and lesbian Catholics.

Nuncio \"Gravely Ill\"

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Rocco is reporting that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican Nuncio to the United States, is gravely ill having undergone surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His family has been called from Italy to his bedside.

Sambi has been a great nuncio as reflected in the many appointments of sane, pastoral bishops during his tenure. His influence lessens with the prominence of the diocese to be filled, as is the case with all nuncios, so it is important to look at some of the appointments to smaller dioceses. I am partial to the appointments of Bishop John Barres to Allentown and Bishop Joe Tyson to Yakima, not least because they were classmates. Sambi helped ease Bishop Joseph Martino out of Scranton, a difficult and painful, but necessary, decision.

Tea Party Frauds

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If there was any doubt that the Tea Party was fraudulent or so terribly addled as to appear fraudulent, this week put such doubts to rest. And, not just standard-fare political fraudulence of the kind that exists casually, as when a politician who hates your guts says how happy he is to see you. No, the Tea Party’s fraud is deeper, going to the heart of their own claims about what ails America and what it will take to restore her to greatness.

Of course, if you have been to a Tea Party rally, you will know that they talk a lot about the Constitution and the founders and their fidelity thereto. They often get things terribly wrong about that history, to be sure. In her book “The Whites of Their Eyes,” Jill Lepore examined the many ways to Tea Party distorts history. In one of her most searing observations, she writes, “There were very few black people in the Tea Party, but there were no black people at all in the Tea Party’s eighteenth century. Nor, for that matter, were there any women, aside from Abigail Adams, and no slavery, poverty, ignorance, insanity, sickness, or misery.” Ouch. (And three cheers for Abigail!)

Give Bachmann a Break

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There is plenty about Michele Bachmann to give one pause. But, the fact that she gets migraines is not one of them. And, as some commetators have noted, it is difficult to imagine a similar concern being voiced about a man: There is some sexism at work in this, playing to a stereotype that is palpably false. It works against Bachmann only because she is so little known. Can you imagine anyone being disturbed to find out that Hillary Clinton had migraines? Of course not.

Historically, some of our greatest presidents have suffered from serious medical conditions. FDR was a great president, and he was also confined to a wheelchair. JFK was on so many pain-killers it is remarkable he was able to get through the day, but he did alright in the Oval Office.
The fact that Bachmann suffers from migraines is not an issue.

New Polls in GOP Race

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Mitt Romney is still leading in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, but it is somewhat shocking that the former Massachusetts Governor, who really would be a formidable candidate against President Obama, only garners 26% of all Republicans and only 18% among Tea Party supporters. He is hardly a well known quantity and with Mitch Daniels sitting out, Romney should have a lock on moderate Republicans. Alas, that is a dying breed.

As the article notes, there remains a big opening for Sarah Palin. If she is included in the list, she comes in second, with 18% of the vote. But, if Palin gets in, she runs the risk of dividing the Tea Party voters between herself and Michele Bachmann. That may be the salvation of Romney's campaign: 30% might win a multi-candidate primary, and as the Tea Party favorites drop out, he might have already sufficiently garnered enough momentum to become the default second choice of voters who originally supported other candidates.

Addressing Health Care Disparities

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Great minds think alike...and fools seldom disagree.
No sooner has I written earlier about the lack of attention paid to the delivery of health care to the poor and the immigrants, than a colleague sent me this news about a new initiative to address disparities in health care. The initiative is co-sponsored by the wonderful people at the Catholic Health Association.

Conscience & Mandates

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Yesterday, the Institute of Medicine released its suggestions for what procedures should be mandated for inclusion in private insurance plans under the health care reform law. Some of the proposals seem non-controversial enough: They recommend, for example, that a more sophisticated, and expensive, test for the virus HPV, which is linked to cervical cancer, be part of the mandated services. That is all to the good. But, the recommendations also tread on some highly contentious areas regarding contraception and, worse, abortifacients. Those suggestions go to the Department of Health and Human Services which will formulate the final rules governing mandated coverage. To be clear, the recommendations released yesterday are just that, recommendations.

I am no scientist nor a moral theologian, so I will focus on what is, to me, one of the most pressing aspects of these regulations, the need to protect conscience.

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July 18-31, 2014

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