Lent has become the most counter-cultural liturgical season. Prayer, almsgiving, and fasting each, in different ways, challenge our self-assertive, hyper-consumerist culture. America celebrates the successful entrepreneur, the self-made man, the “power couple,” the indie artist whose work may be dreadful but is commended for “pushing the envelope,” the demagogue who, without anything resembling learning, pontificates on issues with more fervor than facts. We wallow in a plethora of consumer choices, each designed to help us sketch in, and alert others, to our lifestyle and its wonderfulness.
Mark Silk puts Bishop Bill Lori's parable of the kosher deli under the kashrut lens and finds it wanting: There is no prohibition in Jewish law against selling pork to others. But, just because the analogy didn't work, doesn't mean that Catholics cannot entertain and hold ideas, such as material cooperation with evil, that prohibit us from doing facilitating the actions of non-Catholics who, in the event, have chosen to work at or attend a Catholic institution and know they are signing up for no meat on Friday, some measure of episcopal and, ultimately papal, oversight, and no contraception coverage included in your health care package.
Newsweek asked me to do this week's "Person of Interest" column on Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Here it is.
Alec MacGillis at TNR notes that within minutes of the Santorum campaign voicing a complaint that the mainstream media is pidgeon-holing their candidate as a social issues extremist, the candidate goes on a tear that confirms he is a social issues extremist. MacGillis narrates the most recent examples, in one of which, Santorum compares the situation of the United States today to that of the rise of fascism. The comparison is not only offensive, Santorum needs a history lesson. He said, "But remember, the Greatest Generation, for a year and a half, sat on the sidelines while Europe was under darkness, where our closest ally, Britain, was being bombed and leveled, while Japan was spreading its cancer all throughout Southeast Asia. America sat from 1940, when France fell, to December of ’41, and did almost nothing." Perhaps, Mr. Santorum is unaware of Lend-Lease or the other efforts FDR took to aid the British and the Soviet Union before Pearl Harbor.
My colleague Tom Gallagher has already called attention to Stephen Schneck’s article at CNN about the “Catholic vote.” It is a must-read, examining the distinctions within the category “Catholic” between Latino Catholics, intentional Catholics and cultural Catholics. Schneck is right to insist that the "Catholic vote" be put into the plural if it is to remain a meaningful category within political discourse.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum seems to think he is running for theologian-in-chief rather than commander-in-chief. Only a day after a recording of a 2008 speech made headlines - in the speech Santorum said that mainstream Protestantism "fell out" of the world of Christianity, he attacked President Obama's theology for being at odds with the Bible. Of course, anyone of us can think of a dozen or so biblical teachings with which Santorum has some difficulty, from the admonition to care for the immigrant, to the need feed the hungry and clothe the naked, etc.
White House press secretary Jay Carney issued the following statement this weekend on the occasion of the consistory that elevated Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the cardinalate:
“We congratulate Cardinal Dolan on his historic achievement. The Obama Administration has worked closely with the Cardinal Dolan and the Catholic Church on a wide range of initiatives to promote strong communities and serve the common good. We appreciate Cardinal Dolan’s leadership and look forward to continuing to work with him and church leaders to strengthen our nation and promote justice and peace throughout the world.”
Happy President’s Day to one and all. The holiday, which always catches me by surprise for some reason, invites us to think about why we honor some presidents, forget others, over-inflate the greatness of some and under-rate the significance of others. I invite readers to make the case for their favorites and anti-favorites in the comment section. Here are mine:
I know, I know. This may not be the kind of thing that you find interesting, but as one who loves to find a reason to explore parts of Rome I have not visited previously, I take an interest in the title, or deaconry, given to a cardinal at the time they are raised to the purple. (Also, not sure why we say "raised to the purple" seeing as cardinals wear red.) It is because of their status as a titular pastor that cardinals have the right to vote in conclave, preserving the tradition, now symbolic, that the clergy of Rome elect the bishop of Rome.
Charles Camosy has an interesting retort to David Brooks regarding Jeremy Lin, the surprise star of the NBA. (Of course, Lin's surprise stardom is almost, but not quite, as surprising as the fact that Lin, and evangelical Christian, made it through Harvard with his faith in tact!) I tend to agree with Camosy that team sports are a daily demonstration of relational anthropology, but I also have to admit that every time I see an ad for today's gladiators in those horrible cages bludgeoning each other to near-death, I shudder.