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Obama's Ash Wednesday Statement

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It never occured to me that the President of the United States would issue a statement marking Ash Wednesday, although there are surely people who work in the West Wing that would better be able to check their pride if they recalled on a daily basis that they are dust and unto dust they shall return.
But, just back from my orning walk, this was in my inbox:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 9, 2011

Statement by the President on Ash Wednesday

Michelle and I join with millions of Christians here and across the world to mark Ash Wednesday. As we observe the season of Lent, we receive with thanksgiving this opportunity for grace and repentance, recommit ourselves to our faith, and remember our obligations to one another.

Rocco on the Philly Scandal

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Over at Whispers, Rocco has a comment from a bishop, who chose to remain anonymous, that explains just how angry the other bishops are at Cardinal Rigali. Why, oh why, can bishops not speak up, on the record, and say such things that are so obvious to the rest of the planet? I am delighted that this bishop thinks what he does, but until we crack through the culture that says a bishop cannot speak the truth plainly just because the truth might cause a brother bishop, and an influential cardinal, to take offense, we will be strengthening a sick culture that cannot bear the truth.
The truth does not offend. Cardinal Rigali offends.

Bill Donohue's Latest Offensive Screed

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So, Mark Silk, a professor at Trinity College and blogger at "Spiritual Politics" wrote a column in which he actually agreed with Bill Donohue and, ever the gentleman, Donohue responds by blasting Silk. You can find the latest post, with embedded links to prior ones, here.
What to say? I guess Donohue did not get the memo about Nostra Aetate, or Pope Benedict's recent comments about the Jews, because his suggestion that Silk lacks moral standing to discuss theology because he is a Jew not a Catholic is so offensive, it is shocking, even to me, and I had thought I was past the point where anything Donohue could say would shock me.
There is a place for the Catholic League. But, might we not get someone at the helm who is at least a little bit smart?

The crisis of episcopal governance in Philadelphia

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The announcement yesterday that 21 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were being placed on administrative leave demonstrates conclusively that the U.S. bishops' Dallas norms for the protection of children have failed. Last Sunday, those 21 priests presided at Mass in their parishes. Last Sunday, those 21 priests were in active ministry. The charges against them had been examined before and...what? They were either wrongly exonerated or diocesan officials decided to look the other way.

Keep An Eye on This Story

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Harold Pollack at the New Republic looks at ways Republican governors are trying to change Medicaid, courting disaster for a program that has helped the poor receive adequate medical care for almost fifty years. Keep an eye on this issue: It will show just how ridiculous is the GOP belief in the market's ability to solve all problems. And, Catholics should begin making noise: We defend the poor when no one else will. Hands off Medicaid!

Re-Districting Update

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One of the things state legislatures must do this spring is draw new congressional districts. According to a report at Politico this morning, Tea Party activists have engaged the fight in several states although not always in the same way. In New Jersey, they appear to oppose gerrymandering that has created an essentially safe district for long-time Congressman Frank Pallone, while in Louisiana, the Tea Partyers are engaged in some gerrymandering of their own on behalf of their favorite Rep. Jeff Landry. In the event, to the extent the Tea Partyers oppose gerrymandering, that is a good thing: In more balanced, evenly divided districts, their influence diminishes. Their power resides in their ability to win a GOP primary, putting forward a more extreme candidate in an essentially safe GOP district. As we saw in the Senate races in Delaware, Colorado, Alaska and Nevada last November, where there is no gerrymandering, the kind of Tea Party candidate that can win a GOP primary can't win a general election in November.

Against Compromise

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I am all for political compromise in normal circumstances. Indeed, our system was designed to require compromise, moderating ideologies, forcing diverse, changing interests to work together to achieve anything. The competition of interests is, in fact, now understood to be one of the greatest guarantees of liberty in our great democracy, and if that competition does not end in compromise, it can all too easily end in disaster.

That said, the effort of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” to address the problem of the nation’s long-term debt is deeply troubling. “Everything is on the table” is the mantra of these Senators who include such stalwart conservatives as Tom Coburn and such stalwart liberals as Dick Durbin. But, should everything be on the table or, better to ask, how are these issues being put on the table?

Sarah Palin, Westboro Church & the 1st Amendment

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Alaska's leading constitutional scholar, Sarah Palin, sent out a tweet about last week's Supreme Court decision in the Westboro Church case. She clearly was not in tune with the eight members of the Court who sided with Westboro's free speech rights. Now, she is walking back her tweet. Justin Elliott at Salon.com has the story.
The episode raises a strategic question for any future campaign by Palin - who is going to tell her to stop tweeting? And, the episode again shows the GOP's problem going into 2012. Anybody read any tweets from Romney, Pawlenty or Barbour this weekend? Of course not. Palin can affect the debate in a cost-free way that none of her potential rivals have achieved. She may not understand the difference between the Establishment Clause and the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment, but she understands, and has mastered, the art of modern communications in ways that leave her rivals in the dust.

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