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Catholic Academics Challenge Boehner

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Breaking News.
UPDATE: More names have been added to the list of signatories below.

A group of prominent Catholic academics have signed a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, on the occasion of his forthcoming commencement address at the Catholic University of America. I will provide commentary later today, but the letter really speaks for itself, respectfully, clearly and in a way to challenge the Speaker to consider his policies. The letter will be delivered to Boehner's office personally by some of the signatories tomorrow morning.

The Hermeneutic of Reform & the American Hierarchy

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Pope Benedict XVI employed the phrase “hermeneutic of reform” in his famous 2005 address to the curia, in which he faulted some of the early histories of the Second Vatican Council. Those histories tended to focus almost exclusively on the discontinuities brought on by the Council and Benedict reminded his listeners that a true hermeneutic of reform entails elements of both continuity and discontinuity.

Gerson Takes on Ron Paul

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In this morning's Washington Post, Michael Gerson takes on Ron Paul, specifically his comments about legalizing drugs made during last week's GOP presidential debate. Gerson exposes the principal fault line in today's GOP, between its libertarian instincts and its social conservatism. There is no obvious way to reconcile these two positions. Alas, the Enlightenment freedoms celebrated by Congressman Paul have little in common with the freedom of the children of God celebrated by St. Paul.

RealClearReligion Not So Clear

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The website, RealClearReligion, is a kind of clearinghouse for links, but they display a disturbing bias to mostly highlight articles that lean right and hard right. As Reagan used to joke, the problem with his administration was that the right hand never knew what the far right hand was doing.
Of course, a bit of ideological leaning one way or another is fine, indeed, I am nervous most among those who claim not to lean at all. But, yesterday, RCR put up a link to an article at Catholic Vote, by Brad Birzer, that focused on the multiple ways truth is devalued in our contemporary media culture. The essay had a college paper quality to it, but it made some fine points and even took aim at Rush Limbaugh. But, the headline to the link at RCR was "Obama and a Post-Modern World of Untruth" even though Obama himself played almost no role in the essay.
I have long been skeptical of RealClearReligion. But, it is appalling to find that it is not only unclear, in this instance, it is not even very real.

Political Accountability

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In this morning's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne points to the screams that came from the right when President Obama proposed a bailout of the auto industry. But, those critics have been strangely silent now that the bailout has demonstrably worked, with, for example, GM posting increased revenue and profits when it was facing bankruptcy just two short years ago.
The idea that government can only make things worse is a false idea, but the conservative anti-government idolatry is impervious to a little thing like facts.

Olmsted: Shoot the Messenger

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Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix was upset about the results of a survey, conducted by one of the most respected researchers in the business, former CUA professor Bill D'Antonio, that indicated most Catholics in the diocese of Phoenix thought Olmsted's on-going fight with St. Joseph Hospital was misguided. The local paper reports: "During a news conference Friday afternoon in Scottsdale, Olmsted, who serves on the board of Catholic University of America, dismissed the survey findings, saying the surveyor no longer works for the university.

He also said those who participated in the survey were probably influenced by the secular press' coverage of the matter and don't 'know the situation' of the case."

USCCB To Senators: Protect the Poor

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Writing on behalf of the USCCB, Bishop Stephen Blaire, head of the committee on domestic justice and Bishop Howard Hubbard, chair of the committee on international justice and peace, sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate urging them not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. The forceful letter harkens back to the early day's of the bishops' conference, when Msgr. John A. Ryan boldly articulated the Church's social teaching in defense of the New Deal. Last week, I had the chance to meet both Bishop Blaire and Hubbard at the Rerum Novarum conference and came away very impressed by their commitment on these issues. You can read the text of the letter here.

Pakistan & Augustine

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If you are a generally optimistic person, if you find the glass always half full, and share either an acute belief in divine Providence or an Enlightenment confidence in the human mind’s ability to solve the riddles of the world, think of Pakistan. It will make an Augustinian out of the most cheerful of souls.

Most people deploy the adjective “Augustinian” to suggest a dreary, depressing way of thought, the capacity to miss whatever silver lining exists in a cloud, the knack for expecting the worst, a dark vision of human nature. This is not entirely true, I think. I recall a brilliant theologian once explaining to me that when St. Augustine writes that even the marital act, open to procreation, between a husband and wife who could not be more in love, even that act is not unstained by concupiscence, Augustine is really telling us something very liberating. When I finished laughing, I realized that the scales had fallen from my eyes and I have never used the adjective “Augustinian” since without thinking of that story.

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July 4-17, 2014

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