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Obama's Forebearance & the Photos

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In defending his decision not to release photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, President Obama noted that there was no need to display that corpse like a trophy, that America had no need to spike the football.

The President’s forebearance is exceedingly counter-cultural. We live to spike the football in the end zone. Part of this stems from our firm conviction that we are at the center of history. We claim credit for bringing down communism, with a nod to Pope John Paul II, forgetting that it was a labor union in Poland that was the actual instrument that began kicking the final leg out from under communism, already hollow to the core because of its own internal contradictions and lies. We recall the heroism of U.S. troops who brought down Hitler, and heroic they were, but so too were the British troops and the Soviet troops heroic. And, it is always charming to read how Anglos resent the influx of Mexican immigrants and adopt an attitude of hostility to the newcomers….in places named San Antonio, Los Angeles and Santa Fe. Who are the newcomers?

What About Montini?

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This past week, understandably, the entire Catholic world has been focused on Pope Blessed John Paul II and his beatification. In the days leading up to it, E.J. Dionne called for speeding up the process of canonizing Pope Blessed John XXIII. The effort to beatify Pope Pius XII is stalled, given controversies surrounding his tenure, specifically how he responded to the Nazi threat.

Lost in all of this has been any atttention to someone whom I think will go down in history as one of the truly great pontiffs, Pope Paul VI.

Paul, of course, lacked the personal charm of his predecessor John XXIII and his once removed successor Pope John Paul II. Still, he shares credit with John for shaping the Second Vatican Council and credit with John Paul II for implementing it. Indeed, there is scarcely a more difficult job in the world than being Pope in the years immediately following a Council in which the reception of the conciliar texts must begin.

Budget Showdown (Again!)

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With the fast-approaching deadline for raising the debt ceiling, House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House are busy negotiating some budget cuts that will ensure sufficient numbers of GOP votes in the House to get the debt ceiling raised.
To be clear, the responsibility for passing this vote falls to the majority. It always has. With power comes such responsibilities. Evidently the House republicans are already backing away from their plan to kill Medicare as we know it. This is no surprise: politicians tackle seniors at their peril. But, I remain deeply worried that the GOP will look for further cuts in programs that aid the poor.
In a powerful speech at the Rerum Novarum conference this week, Bishop Stephen Blaire urged that Congress not balance the budget on the bakcs of the poor and he noted that the poor, unlike other powerful groups, have no one to advocate for them. That is our job as Catholics. Call your congressmen now.

Please Give

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At last weekend's White House Correspondent's Dinner, President Obama made a funny joke about NPR, asking if they were still there. As you recall, the House Republicans tried to cut off funding for that important news source.

NCR, unlike its secular equivalent, does not receive government funding, so we are enturely reliant on the support of our readers.

I am hoping that regular readers of Distinctly Catholic enjoy this feature, which was added since the webathon last year. I hope you will also consider giving generously so that this column, and all of NCR's many features, can continue. Thank you very much.

Torture: Intrinsically Evil

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The role of torture in procuring information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden has become one of the principal sources of debate this week. That debate highlights some of the intractable differences among foreign policy experts and it also indicates the distorted way some Catholics view politics.

Of course, it will be many years before historians sift through the mostly classified evidence surrounding the interrogation of terrorists in the past decade. And, historians by training learn that they must let the evidence tell the story, not try and cram that evidence into an existing narrative fashioned out of other, non-historical, ambitions. Now, and for the foreseeable future, the two sides in the debate will use whatever evidence supports their case and neglect the evidence that undermines it.

Weigel on Catholic Social Teaching

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Inside Catholic has a column up today by George Weigel on Catholic Social Thought and the 2012 election. The factual premise for his article is the widespread canard that this great and rich country is essentially bankrupt.

This great and rich country needs to take in more revenue to afford the government programs that express the solidarity called for by Catholic Social Teaching, and, as I have suggested previously, I would be content to return to the tax rates that existed on the day Ronald Reagan left office.

Weigel's analysis is just as shaky as premise. But, what really caught my eye was his assertion at the end of the article that the health care reform law violated the principle of subsidiarity. It did no such thing.

Subsidiarity is a two way street, something conservatives forget.

Yes, it seeks solutions for social problems at the smallest and most personal level of society. But, it also demands that when these lower levels fail to protect society, the government must step in.

Myopia Abounds

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I chastised the Human Rights Campaign Earlier this week, I chastised the Human Rights Campaign for its myopia when it put pressure on a law firm to disassociate itself from a client, the U.S. House of Representatives, in its case seeking to require the Justice Department to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Liberals should understand that whatever their views on gay marriage, the right to legal counsel is also a rockbed of a civilized society and there is no shame in defending a client whose views the lawyer does not share.
Now, we learn that some are challenging a California judge's right to rule on gay marriage because he is gay. They argue that he could benefit from his ruling and therefore should be disqualified. So, women judges cannot rule on sexual discrimination suits? Maybe Hispanic judges cannot rule on an immigration case? And, why should a conservative, heterosexual jurist who sees the maintenance of traditional marriage as a definite societal good be allowed to rule on the mattter of gay marriage? There is a solution here: Only eunuchs should be allowed to rule on gay marriage cases.

Newt Too Political? Who Knew

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"Morning BriefingThere is an interesting item in the "Morning Briefing" about an Iowa church deciding to cancel an appearance by Newt Gingrich at an event where a screening of his documentary about Pope John Paul II is being shown. The event organizers said they were worried the event would become "too political."
I wonder why anyone would think such a thing? Just because Newt was not screening his movie in Alabama or Oregon, but Iowa? Maybe starting a series of screenings there, then onto New Hampshire and thence to South Carolina? What's political about that?
There is also the matter of Mr. Gingrich's qualifications as a church historian - or any other kind of historian for that matter. This man of ideas, which he undoubtedly is, has some very wrong-headed ideas about history, American and otherwise.

The Consequences of the Killing

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As the details, many of them grim, about last Sunday’s raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound are produced, corrected, and magnified I begin to lose interest. There is a morbid fascination with death at work here that is profoundly unhealthy. What matters now is not the manner of his death but the consequences of his death.

It is very unclear what effect the killing of bin Laden will have on the jihadists. There may well be a struggle for control of the organization between rival factions as no one enjoys bin Laden’s long-standing relationships with each constituent group and many of his leading assistants have reputations for pugnacity within the organization. Needless to say, if jihadists must be fighting, it is best if they be fighting each other.

John Carr on Pope John Paul II & Workers

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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.

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March 27-April 9, 2015

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