Our friends at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have a post at their "Common Good Forum" this week from Melissa Boteach and Katie Wright on the key anti-poverty issues facing the 112th Congress. It makes for depressing reading largely, but important reading nonetheless.
Over at Politico Shibley Telhami has a really smart article that argues the unfolding of events in Egypt represents bin Laden's nightmare. He has argued that the violence and the murder of innocents is the path to political change. The peaceful protests have achieved what radicals like bin Laden have failed to achieve, the overthrown of an entrenched dictator, and it achieved it without recourse to violence.
In Anmerica, where the ranters on the right warn of the introduction of Sharia into the courtrooms of South Carolina, they tend to lump all Muslims together. Yesterday, at the CPAC Conference, Rick Santorum chided President Obama for his failure to embrace the protests in Iran last year, evidently unaware that the best propaganda weapon anyone could give the hateful regime there would be to paint the protesters as tools of America. The quality of analysis about the Muslim world on the right is shockingly unsophisticated. It is also dangerous. And it is completely wrong, as Telhami shows, about the overthrown of Mubarak.
The news from Egypt is thrilling. In 18 days of peaceful protest, the people of Egypt have forced Hosni Mubarak from office and it appears that Egypt is prepared to transition to democracy. But, before we pop the champagne too quickly, remember that removing a dictator is a first, not a last, step towards achieving democracy. I seem to recall a certain President of the United States on board an aircraft carrier with the sign "Mission Accomplished" behind him. In Iraq, removing Saddam was the easy part. Helping to build a democracy is the tough part.
A few weeks ago, I cautioned everyone to think Augustinian thoughts. We can, we must, celebrate the resignation of Mubarak, and especially the fact that it was accomplished without bloodshed. But the tough work begins now.
Phil Lawler has penned an attack on Sister Carol Keehan, DC, arguing that she is "equivocating" on the topic of episcopal authority because, even while she acknowledges that authority, she has disagreed with some of its applications.
The key part of his argument is this: "In the Catholic Church, on the other hand, the faithful believe that because of his grace of state, because of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the bishop is better suited to make a decision on matters of faith and morals—and in this case, on the interpretation of the ERDs. So when a bishop makes a judgment about the application of the ERDs—and especially when the bishop takes formal action on the basis of his judgment, as Bishop Olmsted did—he is not merely issuing one opinion among many. He is settling the question."
Will it never end? The announcement that a Philadelphia grand jury has returned indictments against three priests and a lay man for raping two juveniles, as well as against Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the archdiocese’s Secretary for Clergy, makes one think that we are a long way away from seeing the story of clergy sex abuse in the rear view mirror. How much longer will bishops look like so many tobacco company executives: The men from RJ Reynolds et al., denied that there was any link between their product and cancer. The U.S. bishops assert that ever since the 2002 Dallas norms were established, no one has any cause for concern. Alas, this Philadelphia story points to the need for increased accountability and transparency on the part of bishops.
A friend in Warsaw has just emailed me the very sad news that Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin, Poland died today in Rome.
Zycinski was a stunning human being in every regard. He is most known, of course, for his many books. He was at home in a philosophy classroom as he was in a nuclear physics lab as he was in his cathedral. His mind was penetrating and it was fitting when Pope John Paul II named his compatriot to the see of Lublin, home of Poland's leading Catholic university in 1997.
The House Appropriations Committee is already taking heat from the right over the budget cuts it announced. There is a problem with the cuts, but it is not the problem the right has identified. They object that the cuts are insufficient. The real problem is that they are indiscriminate.
Cutting aid to states and municipalities, at a time when they are facing their own budget shortfalls, makes no sense. States, unlike the federal government, must balance their budgets every year. Now, if the GOP wants to make the case that funding sources for government programs are better determined at the state and local level, that is a fine argument to make. The small town in which I grew up never minded raising our own taxes when the fire department needed a new truck, for example, and we could see the benefit of our tax increases very readily. But, governors need to get a heads-up, in advance, and the GOP should have the decency to argue that state and local taxes might need to go up to meet the shortfall. I doubt many Republican governors will see it that way.
Deal Hudson, the force behind InsideCatholic.com, has attacked my colleague and friend John Allen for his use of the term "Taliban Catholics" to describe certain conservative Catholics. And, he also attacks Chris Matthews, whom I also consider a friend, for drawing an analogy between the Tea Party and the Muslim Brotherhood. Both Allen and Matthews are employing strong terms to be sure, but a bit of history would help Hudson understand better why the designations fit.
The Republican landslide last November resulted from two distinct political waves. The GOP base was riled up and turned out. And, independent voters fled the Democrats. These two waves can easily crash into each other, not least because the base cares more about taking principled stances no matter what the outcome and independent voters tend to eschew ideological arguments and advance a kind of pragmatism. (Alas, that pragmatism often contains a boatload of ideological assumptions, but that is another story for another time.) The first principle of that pragmatism is competence: Independent voters expect people to be competent at their jobs.
But, twice in as many days, the new House GOP leadership has brought a bill to the floor for passage and then, surprise, they have not had the votes to pass it. Neither of the bills was especially controversial either.
Combined with the somewhat bizarre controversy and resignation of Cong. Christopher Lee, apparently for flirting, the GOP is not off to a good start.
It will be curious to see how long it takes for their standing among Independent voters to sink.