Back in the early 1980s, when I was first studying politics here at the Catholic University of America, I recall the bafflement that attended some of my first encounters with Marxist thought. There was something unreal about the way Marxist analysis and ideas were presented. Marxist ideas were defended in articles and books in purely theoretical terms, as if it was somehow impolite to ask the simple question by which all political ideas should be judged: How do people live in countries where these ideas dominate? By the early 1980s, the verdict was in on Marxism. It was a failure and the people who lived under it lived miserable lives. I had a hard time giving much credence to ideas that yielded such misery in practice.
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has called upon the President and congressional leaders to boycott the National Prayer Breakfast scheduled for tomorrow. In an open letter to the leading politicians, CREW notes that the Prayer Breakfast is sponsored by a "shadowy religious association" known alternately as "The Family" or "The Fellowship." The group, among other things, runs a rooming house for members of Congress, some of whom have found themselves the focus of ethics investigations. As well, a prominent member of "The Family" helped lead the effort in Uganda to pass a law that would make homosexuality a capital crime. In the wake of the recent murder of a gay rights activist in Uganda, the organization's reputation is especially in tatters at the moment, better to say, more in tatters.
Here is a copy of the letter.
Politico has a great article about veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch and how he is trying to navigate the minefield laid down by the Tea Party. You can bet his friendship with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, to say nothing of their co-authorship of legislation to deliver health insurance to children, will be the focus of the Tea Party attack on Hatch. You can also bet that the usually reasonable Hatch will become increasingly unreasonable on issues like immigration. A few years back, he co-sponsored the DREAM Act, but those days are gone.
No, of course, former Speaker, and new Catholic, Newt Gingrich has not been barred from speaking at Catholic colleges or universities, and I am not holding my breathe that he will be. Nor, do I think he should be. But, he spent much of last night debating immigration reform in a way that "wounds the unity" of the Church on this important moral issue. He has "gone behind the back" of the bishops. He has been "disloyal" to the bishops' on this issue, in danger of setting up a "parallel magisterium." Not bad for someone who was a Baptist five minutes ago.
Of course, Mr. Gingrich's way of being a Catholic is different from mine. And, he is completely and thoroughly wrong on immigration. But, he has every right to hold the views he does and no Catholic college wounds its Catholic identity by having this dissenter on its campus.
The release of letters between Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the USCCB, and Sister Carol Keehan, DC, CEO of the Catholic Health Association, shows how these two Church leaders grapple with the issue of Catholic Identity in the setting of a hospital and the issues that Catholic health care entail. The recent speech by Bishop Gerald Kicanas to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities also deals with the subject of Catholic Identity, there in the context of higher education. Last week, at the inauguration of Catholic University’s new president, the conversations all circled around the students’ and faculty’s excitement to see how a layman would extend and further the restructures Catholic identity of the place, achieved by his predecessor Bishop David O’Connell. Everyone it seems is talking about Catholic Identity it seems.
I suppose there must have been rumors swirling, although I had not heard them, about the departure of Father Thomas Euteneur from Human Life International that he felt it necessary to issue this statement explaining that he engaged in some kind of inappropriate behavior with "an adult female." He assures us that he did not engage in the sexual act.
Mercifully, he did not indulge a discussion of what the definition of "is" is, but otherwise his statement sounds suspiciously like the statements Bill Clinton made during Monicagate, the frankness of his admission offset by endless assurances of what he did not do. He might have added that he did not perpatrate the Holocaust nor did he drop an atom bomb on anyone.
Only some crimes can be excused with appeals to youth. The American Papist's post regarding the on-going discussions between Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, and the U.S. bishops betrays his usual lack of nuance and perspective. But, the Papist continues to characterize Sister Carol's stance on health care as "vocal disobedience" to the bishops and claims she "went behind their back" to lobby for the bill.
Except for Manichaens, there is a difference between disagreement and disobedience. And, where is the evidence for the claim that Sister Carol went behind anyone's back. She published her statements on the web - after sending them to Cardinal George in advance. The Papist, of course, is free to dismiss journalistic standards of finding out what really happened. So, too, is he free to make sweeping claims that distort rather than reveal the truth. But, his failure to abide by minimal standards of accuracy and his penchant for distortion are rooted in something less forgivable, a presumption of bad faith regarding Sr. Carol.
It is right and fitting that the courts are looking at the question of whether or not the health care reform bill passed last year is constitutional. That is what courts ask and answer. But, if the issues were not so important, it would be hilarious to see these conservative judges repudiating the kind of judicial restraint they have been urging for years. They have long argued that the courts should defer to the political branches, but evidently now they are having qualms. They will hide behind a restrictive reading of the Commerce Clause, to be sure, but it is difficult to see the intellectual consistency of their stance. If they argue, as for example Justice Scalia argues, that Roe was wrong to remove the issue of abortion from the political branches, why should the Congress and the President not be able to fashion a health care law too?
Ever since Bush v. Gore, it has required more than a little credulity to believe conservative jurists when they decry activist judges. Now, it is becoming impossible.
The women in the Bush family have something like a tradition of letting it be known that they do not share the social conservative agenda the men in the family have had to embrace to win Republican nominations. The wife of President George H. W. Bush, Barbara Bush, and the wife of President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, both let it be known that they were pro-choice, for example. Especially with Bush pere, one had the suspicion that his views on social issues were more consonant with his wife than with the GOP primary electorate. Now, Barbara Bush the younger, daughter of George W. and Laura, and granddaughter of her namesake, has made a video promoting gay marriage in New York.
I know that the bishops have decided they must fight efforts to confer legal rights on same-sex couples tooth and nail, but they have lost the battle, and Barbara Bush’s renunciation is simply the latest evidence of how even conservatives are abandoning the traditional marriage ship.
Leave it to Leon Wieseltier to say what must be said about the proper calculation of America's moral and strategic interests in Egypt. His short essay, well worth a read, can be found here.