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Austerity: Does It Work?

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This weekend, an economist with whom I speak regularly so he can enlighten me on a subject I find confounding opaque, said that he thought the U.S. economy would continue to improve provided the European economy did not tank. "It's a mess over there," he said ominously. Then, he said something prescient: "Austerity programs never work."

I say prescient because yesterday morning, on the front page of the Washington Post, I found an article entitled, "In Greece, austerity path cast into doubt."

Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in the case Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC is a resounding defeat for those who seek to deny religious groups their free exercise rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The mere fact that the decision was unanimous should give pause, great pause, to those who argued here – and who argue in other contexts - that religious groups should be treated like any other social group. In a word, the court’s decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, proclaims to those who have forgotten it that the First Amendment means what it says.

RCs Applaud White House Appointment

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Progressive Catholics are praising President Obama for naming Cecilia Munoz as the new Director of the Domestic Policy Council. This is a high-powered, albeit out-of-the-spotlight job. Munoz previously worked at the White House on inter-governmental affairs and on immgration policy. Before joining the administration she worked at the National Council for La Raza and for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"Catholics and people of faith have a true ally with the appointment of Cecilia Muñoz to head the administration's Domestic Policy Council,” said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United in a press release. “Cecilia has a long track record of working effectively with the faith community and comes to the work with a deep set of personal convictions. By selecting someone of Cecilia's character and background, the Obama administration has signaled how important the faith community is to their governing agenda.”

Our Neighbor to the North

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My friend Rocco Palmo has been singing the praises of Toronto's Archbishiop Thomas Collins for years. And, he just put up a link to a press conference now Cardinal-designate Collins held after news that he would be made a cardinal at next month's consistory. The man certainly comes across as the kind of unassuming, affable prelate we need more of. Me thinks Rocco has not been over-estimating this man's gifts. Here is the video:

A View From the UK

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Not all conservatives are like all other conservatives. In an article in the UK's Catholic Herald, William Oddie sees much to like about Sen. Rick Santorum, whom he aptly describes (borrowing from another Brit commentator) as a "turbo-Catholic." But, Oddie, who is no liberal, insists that Santorum is "deranged" about the National Health Service and the neo-liberal attack on such government-run social programs more generally.

Six Take-Aways from New Hampshire

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A few things jump out at me from the New Hampshire results and the state of the GOP nominating race. In no particular order, these are the main take-aways:

1) Is Romney 2012 the McCain of 2008? John McCain used his win in New Hampshire to propel himself to victory in South Carolina and on to the nomination, but he never won the love of the GOP base. Indeed, the whole rationale for the GOP keeping New Hampshire at the front of the pack is that its voters pull the party back towards the center. But, in 2012, the base is more assertive – ask Mike Castle! And McCain could channel the patriotic meme better than almost any candidate in living memory. On the other hand, Republicans are united by, and worked up about, their venom for President Obama in a way they weren’t in 2008. Will the GOP base jump on the Romney bandwagon or will a third party challenge emerge?

& GOP Catholics Back Santorum

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Just as in the case of the group Catholic Democrats whaling on Sen. Santorum, it is not really very surprising to find our friends at CatholicVote.org endorsing Santorum's candidacy.

"Republicans hoping to win back the White House in November must unite behind the candidate most dedicated to the foundational issues of faith, family and freedom," the group's statment concludes. "If the GOP hopes to defeat President Obama, it takes a Rick Santorum to get it done." The rest of their statement of support is equally fulsome in its praise of Santorum.

Maryland Catholic Conference on Poverty

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The Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the Archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore as well as the Diocese of Wilmington, has issued an "action alert" via email calling on all Catholics to contact their state legislators during January, which is Poverty in America Awareness Month.

A few months back, I had a conversation with a state senator here in Maryland who said that the lobbyists for the Maryland Catholic Conference were among the best in Annapolis, that they were always well-informed, knew the policy issues inside and out, and most importantly, that they were virtually the only people in the state capital consistently and fervently arguing on behalf of the poor.

This latest action alert shows that the Maryland Catholic Conference is not, as some have charged, only interested in opposing gay marriage. It also shows that in addition to having competent lobbyists working the halls of the legislature, they are serious about getting Catholics in the pews pushing the Church's social justice agenda. Kudos to our friends at the MCC.

Cath Dems Whale on Santorum

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I suppose it is not really "news" that the group Catholic Democrats has decided to come out swinging against former Sen. Rick Santorum. In a press release yesterday, the group said Santorum "had among the worst voting records in the US Congress on issues related to the Catholic social justice tradition and the family, despite his efforts to portray himself as a 'pro-family' Catholic who is concerned about poverty."

Catholic Democrats looked at Santorum's ratings from both the Catholic social justice group NETWORK and the Children's Defense Fund, and found his rankings were lower than even most other Republicans. Graphs of the rankings can be found here.

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In This Issue

April 10-23, 2015

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