For a sense of how the letter exchange between Cong. Ryan and Archbishop Dolan is playing out in a non-Catholic world, Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic has an interesting take. Cohn has written admirably about how devoted Cong. Ryan is to Ayn Rand. My favorite video is this one in which he defends Rand's vision of the "morality of capitalism." And, in case you think, as Newt Gingrich does, that quoting someone's own words, taken in context, is somehow unfair, I will point out that Cong. Ryan not only made there remarks, he posted them on his own Facebook page.
A priest whom I admire greatly chastised me for my post about the why’s and wherefore’s of the letters exchanged between Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the USCCB, and Congressman Paul Ryan. My interlocutor was concerned that I had focused on the “politics” of the situation and had not sufficiently dealt with the ideas that animated the exchange.
Last night, conservative talking heads lambasted President Obama for pointing out publicly what everyone has acknowledged privately for years: The final border between israel and a future Palestinian state will take the 1967 borders as their starting point with, as the President said, adjustments and land swaps. This is because many of the lands closest to the '67 line have become large Israeli settlements and they are not going anywhere. Along other stretches of the '67 line, the land on the Israeli side is largely unpopulated and can be given to a future Palestinian state in a swap.
But, many Christian conservatives do not see the West Bank as part of a future Palestinian state. They see it as Judea and Samaria, part of the land promised by God to Israel and, therefore, not on the table for negotiations. For them, the lens through which negotiations should be viewed is the lens of the end times. This is madness and it has nothing to do with the security of Israel.
Our friends at America magazine have an article about church architecture today, written by Roberto Chiotti and Richard Vasko. In addition the the many fine points they make about the need for church architecture to be environmentally friendly, they hihglight the wonderful renovation at the Cathedral of San Fernando in San Antonio, Texas. I had the pleasure of visiting that cathedral a couple of years ago and agree that the renovation was done masterfully and the result is one of the most beautiful churches in America.
Paul Moses, writing at Commonweal, makes the salient point about the exchange of letters between Cong. Paul Ryan and Archbishop Timothy Dolan: Despite the headlines, Dolan did not, in fact, endorse the Ryan budget but only commended Ryan's letter for its stated intent of considering Catholic social teaching in his work.
This further proves the point that Dolan was ill-served in the whole episode. Either Ryan used him for political cover, or someone in Dolan's circle ill-served by failing to point out how the story would play.
News broke yesterday that New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. Bishops' conference, had exchanged letters with Congressman Paul Ryan, the author of the controversial House budget plan that has been criticized for its cuts to social programs for the nation's poorest. Dolan has been very ill-served by whomever suggested he write such a letter. Providing political cover for politicians should not be part of the USCCB President’s brief, especially when it means cutting off USCCB Committee chairs at the knees.
President Obama did not break much in the way of new ground in his speech, delivered just now, on the Mideast. But, foreign policy is not a good place to exhibit novelty. He touched all the necessary notes, linking our values and our interests in ways he has before but also in ways that we can't do often enough, especially after two months of Donald Trump running around saying we should have made the Iraqis pay for our invasion of their country. Obama spoke about the need to guarantee religious freedom in the region, specifically mentioning the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt and, a bit more surprisingly, the rights of Shia in Bahrain. In fact, if there was anything a bit surprising in the speech it was the fact that he mentioned Bahrain explicitly and did not let that country's leaders off the hook for their repressions. That was a pleasant surprise.
There is a fun, short interview with former Congressman Bart Stupak, a longtime pro-life Democratic champion over at Politico here.
Best question and answer:
Q: What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail?
A: Play for the Detroit Tigers.
Interfaith Worker Justice is one of the most active social justice organizations in the country and lives out on a daily basis the call of Rerum Novarum and subsequent papal encyclicals for the Church to stand by workers. Now, they have joined hands with a group of workers going on a hunger strike to protest conditions for retail cleaning workers at Cub Foods.
“Workers across the country are concerned about the extreme deterioration of working conditions in the retail cleaning industry nationwide and want to ensure justice not only for retail cleaning workers in the Twin Cities but to ensure that retail cleaning workers across the country don't continue to see their wages drop and their workloads increase,” said Veronica Mendez of the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), which is affiliated with Interfaith Worker Justice.
When was the last time you received good news about your insurance rates? Well Aetna customers in Connecticut just got a bit of good news: Their rates are going down as much as 19.5% and, on average, 10%. Why? In part because of the “developing effects and regulations associated with Federal Healthcare Reform.”
Here is the pertinent quote from the rate adjustment statement the company filed with the State of Connecticut:
“We are proposing an overall average premium rate reduction of approximately 10% for all existing plans. Our assumption of medical claim trend in Connecticut has been held consistent with our previously filed assumption of approximately 8.5%. Given consideration to our Connecticut-specific experience, market conditions, and the developing effects and regulations associated with Federal Healthcare Reform, we are proposing a base premium rate decrease which varies by plan ranging from a 19.5% decrease to a 5% decrease, and results in the aggregate rate decrease of approximately 10.0%, as noted above.”