John Carr of the USCCB is one of the few people on the planet I would jump in front of a train to save. I can think of few individuals in Washington who have done more, over a longer period of time, to defend the poor and the vulnerable and to spread the Church's social teachings than he. At the USCCB media blog, he has a very intelligent essay on John Paul II and the late pontiff's defense of workers.
Leon Wieseltier, at the New Republic, opines on the reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden. The key takeaway, commenting on the scene outside the White House Sunday night: "The scene was boorish, of course. Triumphalism is often not a pretty thing. But still distinctions had to be made. This crowd burned nobody in effigy, nobody’s flag, nobody’s books. It had assembled to celebrate an entirely defensible act, whose justice could be proven on more than merely nationalistic grounds. After all, Osama bin Laden killed even more Muslims than Americans, and represented one of the most poisonous ideas of our time: the restoration, by means of sanctified violence, of a human world without rights. There is no decent man or woman anywhere—and the democratizing Arab street has shown this most starkly—who does not wish to see this armed political theology defeated. If any death justifies rejoicing, the death of Osama bin Laden does."
The full article is here.
My colleague Jerry Filteau will be filing a news story about the Rerum Novarum conference at Catholic University yesterday. I was one of the event’s organizers, so I can’t “cover” news I helped to generate. But, I can give some impressions of yesterday’s conference which, incidentally, continues tonight with a keynote address from Cardinal Peter Turkson at 6 p.m. at the Przybyla Center on campus. If you did not register in advance, just come anyway.
Of course, yesterday morning, the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise dominated conversation over coffee and pastries as the event attendees gathered. As a rule, most people expressed a sense of pride in our brave military and satisfaction in the result. But, soon, the most overheard comment was “Oh my, how are you? It has been too long…” One of the purposes of a conference like this is to provide analysis and perspective, to be sure, but one of the principal aims is to get people in the same room. Many business cards were exchanged yesterday and hopefully, in the days ahead, a series of smaller conversations will flow from the large conversation we all shared yesterday.
I will be attending the Conference on Rerum Novarum at Catholic University all day today. So, unless we get a long break, which I do not anticipate, I will not be posting further today. This break allows you, dear reader, to consider making a contribution to our NCR web-a-thon.
Last week, the law firm King & Spalding decided to remove itself as counsel for the House Republicans challenging the Obama Administration’s decision not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Then, one of the firm’s partners, Paul Clement, resigned from the firm to protest their decision and announced that he would continue to represent the Republicans in their effort to see DOMA enforced.
King & Spalding acted under pressure from gay rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign Fund. They sent out a celebratory email that celebrated their role in calling out King & Spalding’s “hypocrisy” and getting them to withdraw. HRC argued that the law firm’s representation of the House in this matter was hypocritical because their website advertises their outreach to the gay and lesbian community. Huh?
The beatification of Pope John Paul II explains more about us than it does about him. The chants of “Santo subito!” at his funeral came from people who loved him deeply. They may or may not have agreed with any particular decision of his as Pope. They may have supported or opposed the general thrust of his pontificate, reaching out to the world at the same time as he demanded greater conformity within the Church. Still, the shouts came: “Santo subito!” Pope John Paul II was loved, even by those who were ambivalent about his pontificate.
The other day, a young woman with whom I work spoke of being moved to tears when she first saw Pope John Paul II in person. It was his personal magnetism and human approachability that so moved her. “For me, there was something so human about him,” she told me. She disavowed any sense of hero-worship and knew the late Pontiff did not work on water. But, she loved him. This love for Pope John Paul II certainly justifies his being raised to the honor of the altars as far as I am concerned but, then, I am nearly a Universalist who believes we must hold on to the hope that we all will get to heaven.
As soon as CNN announced that the President would be addressing the nation on short notice, on a Sunday night, and that the address had nothing to do with Libya, my mind leapt at the possibility. Either Kim Jong Il or Castro or bin Laden was dead but, of that triumvirate of evil, the first two would not require a speech by the President. It must be bin Laden.
Black Americans experience the vile bigotry directed at President Obama differently from white Americans. I am disgusted by the email sent by a GOP official in California that portrayed President Obama as a baby chimpanzee, but my black friends are not only disgusted, they are wounded, by such evil.
This morning's Post has two columns about the birther bigotry that explain why black Americans experience a righteous indignation that should shame the birther bigots, but won't. Cedric Mobley's article is here and Eugene Robinson's is here.
Yesterday, I called attention to E.J. Dionne's article calling for the canonization of Blessed Pope John XXIII. Of course, the last Pope to be canonized was St. Pope Pius X. He was a saintly man but he was a disaster as Pope, inaugurating a series of witch-hunts against modernism which tagged many devout and perfectly orthodox priests as potential heretics including none other than Angelo Roncalli, who went on to become Blessed Pope John XXIII.
The problem, however, is hardly unique to Pius X. I suspect that the skills that make a Pope effective preclude the kind of personal sanctity we associate with sainthood. To become a cardinal, surely you must learn how to throw an elbow, to play office politics, to develop a skepticism appropriate to one charged with decision-making. Surely, staring down the Communist authorities in Poland demanded the kind of steeliness that we do not normally associate with sanctity.
Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, has suspended Father Michael Pfleger after the long-time pastor of Saint Sabina publicly flirted with the idea of leaving the Catholic Church is he were to be removed as pastor. Cardinal George was right to do so.
Generally, I think it is a mistake to leave one priest as pastor of a parish for too long a time. No priest can be all things to all men, no matter how gifted he is. It is not an insult to Father Pfleger to suggest that however popular he is, however much he brought life and the life of the spirit to his parish, there are some people there who did not warm to his brand of pastoring. Whenever a priest is in one assignment for too long, a cult of personality is sure to develop and the priest will become, in the minds of the people, virtually synonymous with "the Church," a burden no man should want and certainly no man can fulfill.