National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Distinctly Catholic

New Word: Limitrophe

 | 

"Limitrophe" is not a new word. It is an old word. But it was new to me when I encountered it a few days ago. It means "situated on a border or frontier."

I must have encountered it previously but it made no impression on me the first time. It is found in Churchill's war memoirs, the first volume, "The Gathering Storm" and it comes in a memo he gave to the war Cabinet on September 25, 1939. He wrote: "The Russians have mobilized very large forces and have shown themselves able to advance fast and far from their pre-war positions. They are now limitrophe with Germany, and it is quite impossible for Germany to denude the Eastern Front."

This is a very useful word and it is not surprising to discover it in something Churchill wrote. He is the one statesman I can think of who won a Nobel Prize for literature. When I finsihed my book and completed my duties regarding last month's Rerum Novarum conference, I permitted myself an indulgence to celebrate. I took up the memoirs to re-read them for my bedtime reading. Sometimes, I am sleepy and only consume a few pages. Other nights, I can't put them down.

Pushback from the Religious Left

 | 

This past weekend, Ralph Reed, of Christian Coalition and Jack Abramoff fame, hosted a conference of conservative religious leaders here in Washington. They hope to energize conservative Christian voters to turn out at the polls en masse next year, although one wonders whether some GOP leaders will look up from their copies of "Atlas Shrugged" long enough to recognize the deep intellectual schizophrenia within the conservative political ranks today.

The progressive religious group Faith in Public Life organized an event at a nearby hotel to push back against the religious right's agenda. Among others, Father Clete Kiley of the Archdiocese of Chicago addressed the group. Here is the text of his speech as prepared for delivery:

Today we are gathered here to sound an alarm. The proposed federal budget developed by Chairman Paul Ryan, and being pushed by folks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition across the street, reflects a profound crisis for American working families and American values.

The Veep at the Vatican

 | 

The visit of Vice President Joseph Biden to the Vatican sent tongues wagging. Why was the visit "private?" Would there be a statement from the Vatican similar to that issued after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a statement that noted the Pope had essentially scolded Pelosi for her stance on abortion? Would tehre be any pictures of Biden's visit? What does it all mean?

Biden, of course, is not a head of state nor a head of government, so it should not surprise that there are differences in protocol between his visit and that of President Obama. And, the Vatican is pretty strict when it comes to protocol.

Maureen Dowd's Morality Play

 | 

Maureen Dowd has found her hierarchic knight in shining armor, having paid a visit to Archbishop Dairmuid Martin of Dublin. If Dowd intended to hold Martin up as the prelate who faces one of the most difficult tasks in the universal Church, governing the archbishopric of Dublin at a time when the hierarchy and clergy of Ireland are beset by a sex abuse crisis, and to praise him for his candor in dealing with that crisis, or to acknowledge his resolve to do something about it, that would be fine.

Dowd being Dowd, however, she uses her praise of Archbishop Martin to heap coals upon the heads of the rest of the Church and especially the Vatican. And, Dowd being Dowd, she is more than a little careless with her sweeping claims and her recounting of recent history.

Sirico Against the Bishops

 | 

In his article at Crisis magazine, Father Sirico does not mention the fact that the position he takes in support of cutting government programs that assist the poor is opposed by the USCCB. He is entitled to think that government anti-poverty programs do not work, but he should at least acknowledge that the bishops who oversee so much of the Church's work on behalf of the poor have concluded that those programs do help. And, there are many reasons - social, economic and cultural - to explain why the Great Society programs have not been as effective as we might have hoped. That said, I fail to see Sirico and his allies proposing alternative efforts to help the poor and the vulnerable, or are we to just throw everyone into this budding "Opportunity Society" and hope they flourish? Alas, no matter what the government does or does not do, there will be some people who do not succeed, people who do not flourish, people whose skills are limited and, consequently, are unable to explit the opportunities Sirirco's laissez-faire vision holds out to them.

Re-Claiming Subsidiarity

 | 

Professor Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University, has a post up at the Institute's website explaining the ways the venerable idea of subsidiarity in Catholic social thought is being hijacked by conservatives, what the concept really means and how it relates to other key concepts such as solidarity and the common good.
Schneck knows Catholic social thought as deeply as virtually anyone writing in America today. It will be fun to see if any of those worshipping the false idol of the market - and you know who you are Fr. Sirico, Mr. Weigel and Professor George - will care to engage Schneck in debate. And, poor Congressman Ryan looked up from his copy of "The Fouontainhead" long enough to conclude that subsidiarity and federalism are really the same thing: They aren't. Federalism has to do with the allocation of power in a political system. Subsidiarity, as Schneck demonstrates, is rooted not in concerns about power but concerns about humanity in all its fullness and relationships.

Bad News for Obama

 | 

The unemployment rate went up one-tenth of a percentage point last month and, worse, the economy only added 54,000 new jobs.
This is very bad news for the White House. Obama remains vulnerable as long as the economy fails to start generating jobs. Indeed, it is striking that so many GOP heavyweights are ducking the fight for the presidency given the President's vulnerability as long as the economy is sluggish. But, seasoned pols like Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels recognize that after stroking the GOP base into a frenzy of foolishness, anyone able to capture the GOP nod will be so far outside the mainstream, they will be unable to win the White House, even against an incumbent nursing a bad economy. In any other year, a 9.1 percent unemployment rate would trigger a flurry of political obituaries for an incumbent.

Will Paul Ryan Run for President?

 | 

That is the question asked by Jonathan Chait over at the New Republic, and Chait thinks Ryan must be contemplating it, or is at least positioning himself to jump into the race if the field does not get stronger. Chait's backstory on Ryan and the Weekly Standard is especially interesting.
One thing Chait does not mention is this: Ryan is a Catholic and social conservatives view conservative Catholics as kindred spirits, and have ever since the Rev. Jerry Falwell used to boast that a third of the membership of his Moral Majority consisted of Catholics.

Mitt Romney Gets Into the Race

 | 

I was in the car driving as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney prepared to make his formal announcement that he is running for the presidency of the United States. As is typical with such events, the candidate was running a bit behind schedule and so C-Span Radio replayed phone calls from listeners, broadcast earlier in the day. This being C-Span, of course, some of those callers were a little, how do we say, eccentric.

Then, C-Span returned to New Hampshire as Romney took the stage and addressed the crowd. Instantly, I recognized the promise – and the problem - of his candidacy. If it can be said that some of the other presidential aspirants such as Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann, sound more than a little like one of the crazier callers into C-Span, Romney clearly does not sound like that. He is all sobriety and his lack of pith is remarkable in a politician. But, then the problem became manifest too: Romney may not sound like a C-Span caller, but he does sound like a C-Span host. He is dull: “Macaroni without any salt,” as the Italians say.

Pages

Subscribe to Distinctly Catholic

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

October 10-23, 2014

10-10-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.