It is not every day that I go to the Vatican's "Bolletino" and see a name I recognize. But, this morning, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Joseph Tyson, heretofore an auxiliary bishop in Seattle, as the bishop of Yakima. Bishop Tyson and I were classmates back in seminary in the mid-1980s and he was a genuinely holy man, deeply committed to social justice and the poor, intelligent in his classroom comments, and an always enjoyable coversationalist at dinner. The people of Yakima have got themselves a fine pastor as their new bishop.
Amy Sullivan has a great, brief history lesson in the roots of evangelical anti-elitism and how every time Sarah Palin complains about how the elites persecute her, she is tapping into a well-worn trope of evangelical history. Sullivan draws a striaght line from H.L. Mencken's coverage of the Scopes trial to Palin's rants today. It is a must-read.
In a talk at Notre Dame, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput was asked why Catholics were so divided over the issue of whether or not to deny communion to pro-choice politicians. His response:
It would be more accurate to say that Chaput and very few other bishops interpret Canon 915 in such a way as to suggest that such denial of communion should be the norm, while the vast majority of bishops disagree.
The reasons for their disagreement is obvious: It is lousy theology. There are many reasons why someone might not support a certain piece of legislation that would restrict or criminalize abortion.
Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, often makes a hash of things when he enters into public debates. But, in an interview with a local paper, he allows that the Church would not object to conferring some of the benefits we normally associate with marriage to gay couples, provided marriage itself is left out of the equation. This stance merely recapitulates the position articulated more than a decade ago by then-Archbishop, now Cardinal, William Levada when he negotiated the issue of same-sex partner benefits with the San Francisco city government.
More important than any of the details - although details are important - it is encouraging to see Tobin recognize that confrontation is not always the best policy and that the teachings of the Church admit of a certain suppleness in their application. Culture wars are to be avoided whenever possible. It will be curious to see how some of the fire-breathers on the right respond to Tobin.
John Gehring has a post up at Faith in Public Life that reminds the bishops of their own history in creating the New Deal and urges the bishops to take on Cong. Paul Ryan's proposals to dismantle the safety net an earlier generation of bishops endorsed. In his post, Gehring calls attention to one of my heroes, Msgr. John A. Ryan, a professor at Catholic University and staffer at what was then known as the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the forerunner of today's USCCB. Ryan was a lion, and his social activism earned him the sobriquet "Rt. Rev. New Dealer." We need voices like his today more than ever.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a lower court ruling that declared most of Arizona’s punitive and racist anti-immigration law unconstitutional. The law, you will recall, requires policemen to ask for immigration documents from anyone they “suspect” of being here illegally, a more or less open invitation to racial profiling. The fact that the Court of Appeals has now backed the District Court in finding the law unconstitutional is a little bit of good news in the fight over immigration.
The decision of the court, written by Judge Richard Paez, could not have been more blunt: “Arizona has attempted to hijack a discretionary role that Congress designated to the Executive.” Arizona, and other states which are contemplating similar statutes, cannot do an end-run around the federal government and try to enforce immigration laws that state makes up. Immigration is, obviously, a federal issue. And, the idea of states doing end-runs around the federal government died on a field at Appomattox.
Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics takes a look at how the fight over Planned Parenthood funding melded seamlessly with traditional evangelical concerns about big government. Yes, the religious right failed to get what it wanted from its GOP allies on Planned Parenthood, but the anti-government mantra of Boehner et al. is also a prominent meme in evangelical politics.
My colleague Joe Feuerhard has given the back story on why some officials in the State Department, while acknowledging the high regard in which U.S. Ambassador to Malta Douglas Kmiec is held, nonetheless saw fit to rap him on the knuckles for giving so many speeches and undertaking so many writings on subjects not strictly dealing with bilateral relations between the two countries. This is not the first time that the good people at Foggy Bottom have missed the forest for the trees. In an overwhelmingly Catholic country like Malta, failing to take cognizance of the people's faith traditions is tantamount to malpractice, no matter how squeamish some apparatchicks at the State Dept. get when God is mentioned.
I confess that the news that President Obama plans to outline a deficit reduction plan fills me with dread. Just as I was getting ready to articulate my reasons for fearing the President may be too willing to compromise with the GOP, Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic provides a post that articulates my concerns better than I could. The President needs to stand up for seniors and frontally assault the myth the lower marginal tax rates for the super-rich are the most essential ingredient in creating a more dynamic economy. Before he gets to the negotiating table, President Obama needs to dig in a little.
In the post-mortems for the narrowly averted government shutdown, and the negotiations that enacted a compromise on the rest of the fiscal year’s budget, another piece of evidence has emerged that Republican politicians are willing to be disingenuous when it comes to abortion legislation.
In Sunday’s Washington Post, Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican Congressman from New Jersey who is a leader in the pro-life movement. Cong. Smith was one of those who led the effort to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, a proposal that did not survive the negotiations after Democrats insisted that the funding not be removed. “You would think this is about women’s health care,” Smith told the Post. “It’s about abortion.” As evidence, he noted that Planned Parenthood provides nearly one-quarter of all abortions performed in America and, according to the article, Planned Parenthood’s “services for women were minimal compared with community health centers that focus on helping the poor.”