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Atheists Sue Over Ground Zero Cross

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According to Huff Post, a group of Atheists are suing to have the "Ground Zero Cross" removed from the museum being erected at the site or, in the alternative, to have a bunch of other religious and non-religious symbols included in the museum.
I have no objection to this latter course. Indeed, I think the atheists just need a bit of patience. The Ground Zero site will become like the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here in Washington. People will leave all sorts of mementoes and the museum should find a way to display them regularly. A memorial, like a church, grows into its own cultural niche with time. There was a time when Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was pristine, not ancient. Now, the stone has been softened by the years, and by incense, and by the smoke from burning candles, and by prayer.

Schneck on Conscience Rights

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In case you missed it on our NCR homepage, Professor Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at CUA, has a fine essay on the need to include broad conscience protections in the mandated coverage plan forthcoming from the Department of Health and Human Services.
A source close to the negotiations expressed confidence that the final decision by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, due out next Monday, will allow Catholic organizations to continue their missions and ministry, that the conscience protections will be strong enough. Certainly, as Schneck points out, the political prospects for the new rules - and for Obama's re-election - will only be strengthened by including such conscience protections.

What Gov. Perry Meant to Say

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You could see this one coming.
Last week, when asked about New York State's decision to legalize gay marriage, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, "That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me." Perry was giving voice to his states' rights' advocacy.
But, predictably, his comment did not sit well with social conservatives who value the fight against gay marriage more than they value any antiquated ideas about states' rights.
Yesterday, Perry backtracked after a meeting with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins. "I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’ and that it’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed."
Score one for the social conservatives. They remain the bedrock of any GOP primary electorate and potential presidential candidates ignore them at their peril.

De-Bunking the CW on Partisanship

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At least one good thing has emerged from the debt ceiling negotiations. The conventional wisdom that Washington is mired in partisanship has been debunked. Washington doesn’t suffer from too much partisanship, indeed it can’t suffer from too much partisanship because there is no such thing any more as a political party.

Can you imagine Speaker Sam Rayburn having a day like Speaker John Boehner had yesterday? Of course not. This does not reflect poorly on Speaker Boehner’s leadership or intelligence or powers of persuasion. It reflects the fact that today the smoke-filled room is gone, not an entirely bad thing that, but it has not been replaced by any other appropriate venue for forging compromises and cutting deals. That power to cut a deal and make it stick no longer exists within the walls of Congress.

White House on +Sambi

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President Obama sent a personal letter to Pope Benedict XVI expressing his condolences to the Holy Father on the death of Archbishop Sambi. That letter has not been released to the press. However, Vice President Biden, who lived across the street from the apostolic nunciature, released the following statement this afternoon:
Statement by Vice President Biden on the Passing of Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi

It is with great sorrow and sense of loss that I learned of the passing of the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, the Most Reverend Archbishop Pietro Sambi. I greatly appreciated Archbishop Sambi’s friendship and counsel; he brought a deep sense of empathy and comfort to the many lives that he influenced. I also long admired his distinguished diplomatic service for the Roman Catholic Church in this country, as well as in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Europe. Archbishop Sambi was held in great esteem by all Americans who met him as he traveled the length and breadth of this country. Our condolences and prayers are with Archbishop Sambi’s family and friends.

Statements on Abp Sambi

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A variety of Catholic leaders have issued statements on the death of Archbishop Pietro Sambi. These statements give some indication of the high regard in which he was held and how much he will be missed.
From Professor Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at CUA:

The Holy See has lost a diplomat of grace and charm. By combination brilliant and pious, jovial and savvy, Archbishop Sambi was at the heart of the excellent relations between the administration and the Vatican and will be sorely missed.

From Sister Carol Keehan, of the Catholic Health Association:
The death of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., is a great loss to the Church, especially in the United States.
Archbishop Sambi was a wonderful and joyful servant of his Lord. He loved the Church in the United States and was loved in return.

The Tea Party's Alternate Universe

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If you want to know why the country is hurtling towards a self-inflicted economic catastrophe, look no further than the op-ed pages of this morning's Washington Post which features a column from Judson Phillips, founder and chief executive of Tea Party nation.

Phillips writes, "Unfortunately, Boehner is not listening to those who elected him and is now pushing a plan with almost nonexistent budget cuts." Actually, the Boehner plan includes cuts of nearly $1 trillion, and demands more cuts in advance of a second vote to raise the debt ceiling early next year.

Phillips writes, "There is only one way you get a debt crisis - you spend too much money." Huh? We have a debt crisis in large part because of the Bush tax cuts. If we returned tax rates to where they were the day Bill Clinton left office, or even better, where they were the day Ronald Reagan left office, there would be no crisis.

Boehner & The Bishops

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According to Politico, Speaker John Boehner does not yet have the votes to pass his plan to raise the debt ceiling, cut government spending, raise no new taxes, and leave the Pentagon budget almost completely untouched. Good.

Boehner's plan is awful, as the USCCB indicated in its letter to members of Congress. The bishops quite explicitly echoed President Obama's call for a balanced approach to the problem of the government's long-term fiscal health. "A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons," they wrote. "It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly."

The full text of the USCCB letter can be found here.

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