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McMullen v. Broglio

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Eugene McMullen has written an essay about chaplains in the military and Archbishop Timothy Broglio’s commentary about keeping “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” at Religion Dispatches. Like McMullen, I found Broglio’s comments nonsensical, even foolish, and offensive. But, McMullen’s essay has its own foolishness.

McMullen includes this sentence in his commentary: “Chaplains are engaged primarily in a non-sectarian work of care and counsel.”

It is true that military chaplains deal with those outside their own faith, but it is also true that Catholic chaplains provide something unique to Catholic members of the armed forces, specifically, the sacraments. The word “sectarian” invites images of the Thirty Years War, but if it is sectarian to provide the sacraments to our Catholic soldiers, then three cheers for sectarianism. Care and counsel are all well and good but a nice person or a smart shrink can bring those to the soldiers and sailors. Only a priest can bring the sacraments.

The Theology of Guadalupe

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There were no empty seats at Mass yesterday at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church, and many people stood along the walls. The church was bedecked with the national flags of all the countries of the Americas hanging from the rafters. Hanging from the flags were balloons. To the right of the altar, the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe stood atop a series of risers, of the kind a choir would stand on, only each riser was covered with bouquets of flowers. In the parking lot, there were dozens upon dozens of pickup trucks and family-sized SUVs, all of which had either a Mexican flag, or a medallion of the Virgin, or a Peruvian flag.

Feliz Fiesta

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My liturgical calendar tells me that today is Gaudete Sunday. But the non-stop ringing of bells at the church down the street tells me that it is really the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I am not going to try and compete with the excellent coverage and commentary provided by Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia. Check it out to see the face of the American Church in the decades ahead.
What is most striking about the clips Rocco has is the devotion, the highly personalized identification, with the Virgin that you see in the faces - and in the costumes - of those celebrating the feast. Listen to the words of the Mexican pop star Lucero as she speaks to the Virgin before singing her song, facing the tilma in the basilica in Guadalupe. This is their day because it is her day. I can't think of anything like it, certainly nothing so vibrant, in my church experiences growing up. Latinos do not only pray to the Virgin, they do not only celebrate this day, they LOVE the Virgin.

Pelosi At Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flew to Oslo to be present at the Nobel Prize Ceremony today where an empty chair sat on the stage where the Nobel laureate, Liu Xiaobo, was prevented from attending by the Chinese regime.

Pelosi's presence should be praised by left and right alike: The Communist Chinese regime is a threat, a large threat, to what all Americans value most: our civil liberties.

Indeed, conservatives must be especially threatened by the Chinese regime's so-far success at decoupling economic reforms from political change. Their policies are a direct threat to what has been a staple of GOP foreign policy since the Reagan years, the belief that economic liberalization inevitably results in political liberalization. But, of course, I am not holding my breathe for the encomiums for the Speaker.

Card. Wuerl: Say It Ain't So!

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I am a big fan of my local bishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. When he mounts the pulpit, you know you are going to get a truly fine sermon. He has made some tough, necessary decisions on school closings and the like, but has done so with a minimum of rancor. He is also really smart, and that goes a long way in my book.

But I just learned that the Midnight Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral this year has been scheduled for 10 p.m. We all like a good night's rest, but sticking to the idea that Midnight Mass should be at Midnight is a good way to say that on this one night, we should not be thinking of accomodating our schedules. The Cardinal gets a rare thumbs-down on this one.

Obama Lights National Christmas Tree

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President Obama gave a fine, short speech before lighting the national Christmas tree yesterday. The video is here.
I have only one complaint. Why is the national Christmas tree so garish? The tree on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol is always quite beautiful. Why is the one outside the White House covered in strange looking, illuminated ornaments?
Christmas decorations seem to grow more hideous every year. In my neighborhood, there are several houses that are covered in lights, with santa and reindeer and God knows what else illumined on the lawn, but all the electricity does nothing to illuminate the meaning of the holiday. Another neighbor has a modest creche scene, but the Holy Family looks mighty Aryan to me. If only we could deck our souls as we deck our homes. Listen to Bach's great chorale prelude Schmucke Dich to get into the real, plaintive sensibility of the season. Here is a recording.
And, Mr. President, can you do something about that tree!

Peggy Noonan on Time

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Peggy Noonan must have been reading up on her Augustine when she wrote this essay on time and its uses. It is well worth taking the time to read it.

Noonan combines the darkness of Augustine, which is a commonplace, with the exuberance of Augustine, which is more frequently forgotten. As we all scurry getting ready for the holidays, attending parties, writing cards (actually, no cards from MSW this year - the book is due!), and shopping, always shopping, it is good to remember, as Noonan recalls, that we are called to pray unceasingly.

New Definitions of \"Good Day\" and \"Bad\"

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Yesterday was a "good day." Why? Because Georgetown lost of course.

It is the season to be jolly, but just as important, it is the season for college basketball. And, so, a "good day" is one in which UConn wins and/or georgetown or Syracuse or Pitt loses. A bad day is when UConn loses. A great day is when UConn beats Georgetown or Syracuse or Pitt or, especially, Duke!

If you are not much of a sports fan, I commend college basketball to you precisely because, on any given day, any team in the top 100 can beat any other team. It is not like professional sports where a team owner can buy his way into the final rounds (if not always the title, no matter how the Yankees try!). UConn was not ranked at the beginning of the year, but after knocking off two teams ranked in the Top Ten in its first week, it is proving the experts wrong.

This does not reflect ill on the expertise of the people who make the ratings, it is just an indication of how fluid the sport is.

DADT & Politics

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Yesterday’s vote on the Defense Authorization Act, which included provisions repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, has become Exhibit A in the case against the dysfunctional ways of Washington. Bradford Plumer at the New Republic makes the case well, asking how a policy can be defeated when not does only a majority support it, but 60 Senators support it, and it still goes down in flames due to procedural difficulties.

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July 18-31, 2014

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