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Entitlement Reform & Solidarity

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The past few days, I have been looking at the on-coming debate about entitltement reform through the lens of Catholic social teaching, specifically applying two of that teaching’s fundamental principles, the common good and subsidiarity, to the issue. Today, we look at the third leg of the Catholic social teaching stool, solidarity.

If subsidiarity argues for the resolution of social problems at the lowest level of social organization, that is because at such lower levels, relationships are more human, familial and neighborly, and the solution will be more interpersonal than impersonal. Consequently, the type of human solidarity that one can find at the familial and local levels barely needs to be pointed out, it is almost taken for granted, if your cousin or your neighbor needs a helping hand, you lend it.

Paranoia Hits Nat'l Review

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The National Review is the kind of magazine one assumes follows basic standards of journalism. You know, get informed reporters and commentators to write about topics intelligently. Obviously I do not usually agree with their editorial stance, but neither do I expect them to indulge in the kind of paranoid fantasies we associate with, say, Glenn Beck.

But, Michael New has an analysis of the new conscience protection regulations that offers not a scintilla of evidence for his speculation that the new regulations were released at this time to coincide with the vote to defund Planned Parenthood. If Mr. New had bothered to pick up the phone, he would have learned that the new conscience regulations had been in the works for some time, that a notice they would be issued by the end of February had gone up long before the amendment to defund Planned Parenthood was offered, and that there was, in fact, no political effort on the administration's part to release the regs as any kind of a reply to the vote on Planned Parenthood.

O'Malley in Dublin

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Rocco Palmo has the text of Cardinal Sean O'Malley's sermon at the service of repentence held at St. Mary's pro-cathedral in Dublin this past weekend. The homily is stunning. Just as stunning is the image of Cardinal Sean and Archbishop Martin prostrate before the bare altar at the start of the service.

This is the stance the Church must adopt in the face of the on-going sex abuse scandal: Repentence, pure, simple repentence.

Fear-Mongering on EWTN

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The latest episode of "The World Over" on EWTN featured host Raymond Arroyo and Acton Institute President Fr. Robert Sirico indulging in their usual apologias for GOP economic policies.

It is hard to know which is more offensive, the superficial quality of the analysis or the tendentiousness of the claims.

But at one point Arroyo raised the specter of higher taxes for a father of five children with two jobs, and asked if that was fair.

I have been paying a fair amount of attention to the budget battles, and I have not noticed anyone on either side of the aisle proposing higher taxes on the kind of man who needs a second job to pay the bills. Have you?

This is mere fear-mongering on Arroyo's part. Raising taxes on zillionaires is not going to affect the person in Arroyo's fancied scenario, so why raise it except to beat the anti-tax drum?

Fear-mongering at its worst.

Catholic concerns on healthcare rules carry 'less influence'

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In an effort to understand the legal and intellectual context on the Obama administration's new rules regarding conscience protections for healthcare workers, I reached out to Professor Timothy Lytton of the Albany Law School.

Lytton, who focuses on torts, administrative law, conflict resolution, and jurisprudence is also the author of Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse .

Entitlements & Subsidiarity

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Last week, I wrote about how Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were expressions of the Common Good, enacted with the support of the Catholic Bishops. Indeed, Msgr. John A. Ryan, the head of the Social Action Department of the bishops’ conference, was instrumental in developing both the policies that came to be known as the New Deal and in garnering political support for the Roosevelt program. Politicians and policy makers may present arguments for dismantling these “entitlement” programs, but those arguments will not be rooted in Catholic social teaching.

Presidents' Day

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Historians and others like to rank presidents in terms of their greatness. The exercise has value insofar as it helps to clarify what we can and should expect from our political leaders and, as a parlor game, it is fun to hear why some people advocate for one president over another.

Greatness seems to require two things. First a great president must be a skilled politician, able to harness both public opinion and the intentionally distinct levers of political authority built into our constitutional framework, he must be able to get things done and to get the right things done. Second, the times must require greatness. As written, the Constitution does not vest extraordinary power in the executive and through much of the nation’s history, the key political players were in the Congress not the White House. It is easier to recall Clay and Calhoun and Webster than any of the presidential nonentities who governed in the antebellum era. Great president emerge when there is a systemic, profound crisis that requires greatness.

So, with these criteria, I submit there were four great presidents.

Professor Vischer on New Conscience Regs

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I am delighted to present an incisive look at the new conscience regulations from Professor Robert Vischer, law professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis. Vischer is also the author of Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (Cambridge Univ. Press 2010). (The link brrings you to Amazon and, after reading Rob's essay, you will want to purchase the book!)
Here is Professor Vischer's commentary:

What do the new Obama regulations tell us about the
future prospects for conscience?

USCCB Renders Mixed Verdict on Conscience Regs

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The USCCB today said it was "disappointed" about some aspects of the new conscience regulations issued by the Obama Administration, but also praised other aspects of the new rule. In a press release, Deirdre McQuade, of the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat, said"
"The Administration’s action today is cause for disappointment, but also offers reasons for hope regarding an emerging consensus in Washington on the need for clear conscience protections for health care providers."

“It is very disappointing that the Administration has chosen to eliminate much of the existing regulation on conscience issued in December 2008. Among other things, the final rule issued today eliminates important clarifications that would have helped in interpreting and enforcing longstanding federal statutes protecting the conscience rights of health care providers. It also eliminates a regulatory requirement that recipients of federal funds certify compliance with those statutes.

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April 11-24, 2014

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