Everyone likes to denounce the increasingly bitter tone of our nation's political life. But, voters in New York's 16th Assembly district are in for a unqiuely ugly fight. The incumbent, State Rep. Michelle Schimel, is being challenged by her husband. The couple separated last year but are not yet divorced. Forget the pay-per-view wrestling: The debates in this election contest are going to be soimething to watch in the annals of human conflict!
Today is the feast of St. Dymphna, patron saint of mental illness and nervous disorders. As you can well imagine, I have long been intrigued by her cult and once made a pilgrimage to her shrine in Geel, Belgium. Obviously, it did not do much good!
Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan Irish king and a Christian woman. When her mother died, her father said he would only marry a woman as beautiful as his deceased wife and the only woman who fit the bill was his daughter. Horrified, she fled with her priest, Father Gereburnus, to the mainland. Her father tracked them down and beheaded her in the town where her shrine is today. In the Middle Ages, a hospital was built to care for the mentally infirm in the town and her cult became associated with the humane treatment of the mentally ill ever since.
I first became acquainted with the writings of Tracey Rowland in the pages of the Tablet, where she is a fairly regular contributor. I am not sure why I did not see her book “Ratzinger’s Faith” when it was published by Oxford Press in 2008. But, I saw it at a local bookstore this past winter, bought it, and put it on my list of books to read. I completed it last weekend and highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the theological pedigree and distinctive theological perspectives of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
The Washington Post ran an interesting story today about Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R - N.Y.) appearing before constituents and being asked about Paul Ryan's budget, which Buerkle voted for. Buerkle was speaking to a mostly older crowd and they were especially concerned about the proposed changes to Medicare. As the article details, Buerkle was clear that the changes would not affect those currently on Medicare, although presumably, if the elders in the audience really like the program, they would want their children and grandchildren to benefit from it also.
The New Republic has published an elegant and important essay by Philip Kitcher defending the importance of the Humanities and History as forms of human knowledge without which our world would be impoverished and less than humane. I came across it this weekend, before reading Pope Benedict's homily at Arezzo, but it is not difficult to see how Kitcher and Benedict would have something to talk about.
The Holy Father was at Arezzo yesterday and delivered himself of an extraordinary sermon, even by his high standards. I especially liked the way he linked the Church's long history of humanism with the need for solidarity with the poor and with human life at all its stages of development and in all its multifarious experiences of human need.
For me, the central section in the homily, and indeed a central question for our time - and for all times - was this: "Within the context of the Church in Italy, committed to the theme of education, we must ask – especially in this Region where the Renaissance was born – what vision of man are we proposing to the new generations. The Word of God we have heard is a powerful invitation to live God’s love towards all, and, among its distinctive values, the culture of this land includes solidarity, attention to the weak, respect for the dignity of all. Your capacity to welcome those who have come here recently in search of freedom and work, is well known."
The full text is here. (h/t to Rocco.)
The myopia of some in the commentariat, including key politicians, was on full display over the weekend as President Obama’s decision to announce his support for same sex marriage was analyzed on all the talk shows and in the press.
I really don't like Laurence O'Donnell whose "Last Word" show closes out MSNBC's lineup. But in this segment last night, he quotes Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council who, quite wrongly, says that marriage has "always" been one man and one woman. This is demonstrably false as a quick read of the Old Testament would point out. But, then O'Donnell goes on to champion our modern idea that marriage should be about love, he neglects to mention that the idea of one man and one woman might also be part of the "progress" he otherwise sees in modernity.
In the days and weeks ahead, I am afraid that the debate over same sex marriage will bring out the dumbest, ugliest, most bigoted commentaries, and these will be found on the left as well as the right. Here is the episode. As much as Perkins is not to my taste, O'Donnell is even worse.
While searching for something else this morning, I came across this succinct but pointed article at the Distributist Review by James Baresel, in which the author explains why subsidiarity does not imply adoption of the "small government" libertarianism being proffered by the GOP these days. Very well done, a must-read for those commenting on the Ryan budget, and we'll be looking for more from Mr. Baresel.
Mitt Romney heads to Lynchburg tomorrow to deliver the commencement address at Liberty University. The school is set, geographically, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains but in terms of political geography, Liberty is Ground Zero for Romney’s election bid. Liberty University, begun in 1971 as Liberty Baptist College by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, is the largest evangelical university in the country. According to Liberty, they will confer some 14,000 degrees this spring, 60 percent of which will go to online students.
Throughout the primaries, the higher the percentage of white evangelical voters in a given state, the worse Romney did. Until all the other candidates dropped out of the race, Romney failed to win a single state in which white evangelicals were a majority of voters. In October 2011, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, Romney managed only a 40 percent favorability rating from white evangelical Protestants.