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Father Jim Martin, S.J., on Midnight Mass

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Over at America's "In All Things" blog, Father Jim Martin, S.J., has a great post about Midnight Mass and Vigil Masses of Christmas and whether or not they encourage a "let's get it out of the way" attitude to church attendance on Christmas.

I admit that if there is one 20th century reform I positively detest, it is the introduction of vigil Masses. They have robbed Sunday of its unique status as the day on which Christians worship, a "little Easter," and all the rest.

I understand that the toothpaste is out of the tube. At my home parish in Connecticut, they did away with the vigil Mass and a lot of families started attending nearby parishes, revenue plummeted, and they had to bring back the vigil. The Great Vigil of Easter is, of course, a different thing, and its revival happens to be my favorite reform of the past century.

Good Riddance Dept.

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Lt. Col Terrence Lakin has pled guilty to the charge of failing to report for duty. Lakin is a birther who denies President Obama was born in the United States and, so, argued he was not bound by his commands because President Obama is not really the commander-in-chief.

To be clear, there is a word for birthers: Dumb. But, being dumb is no crime. Being insubordinate in the military, however, is a crime. The idea that an officer thinks he can arrogate to himself the right to determine the political legitimacy of the government is among the more frightening ideas I have ever encountered in my researches of U.S. history. General Douglas MacArthur, filled with ambitions of Caesarian proportions, held similar views and Harry Truman never served the nation so well as when he fired MacArthur.

Lt. Col. Lakin should go to jail. And he should be dismissed from the Army. He is a disgrace.

Condomania Continues

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Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics has an update on the fallout over the Pope's remarks about condoms.

I suspect Silk is right that the Holy Father will, at some point, issue a more thorough clarification but maybe not. The other day a priest friend said that the Vatican simply does not understand modern communications and it needs to. I think he is right they don't understand modern communications, but I also suspect the Pope wonders how vital the 24/7 news cycle is in the long term and perfers to ignore it.

RC Night at the Veep's

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The Christmas Party at the Vice Presidential residence last night was not labeled as a "Catholic night" but it sure had that feel. We walked through the metal detectors with Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio who lives right across the street. We stood in line to greet the Vice President and his wife with columnist E. J. Dionne.

(N.B. When you have to go to one of these affairs, make sure you get in line with someone interesting like E.J.! Otherwise, the wait could be painful.)

We shared a glass of wine with DNC chair Tim Kaine, the former governor of Virginia. And, of course, there was the Vice-President himself, the highest ranking Catholic in the land. There were non-Catholics of course among the staffers, newswriters, and politicos, but it was nice to see how thoroughly prominent we RCs are.

All in all, it was a great night to be inside from the cold and a great night to hang out with fellow RCs.

The Public's Mood

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Americans like winners, and so I thought that in the weeks since the midterm elections, we would see a rise in the approval ratings of the Republicans in Congress and a dip in the President’s job approval. I anticipated that GOP talking points would cause shifts, not seismic shifts but demonstrable ones, in public opinion. This morning, a Washington Post poll shows that in the year ahead the Republicans must tread as carefully as President Obama in navigating a treacherous political landscape that is suspicious of everyone and impatient for results.

Remembering Camelot

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Rick Hertzberg is the most elegant writer. Here are his reflections on Ted Sorenson, who was, as Hertzberg writes, much more than John F. Kennedy's speechwriter.
It causes great melancholy to read of the spirit that drove Kennedy and Sorenson, especially their commitment to avoid war. Both men helped make America more exceptional than it was, which is one reason they did not have to go to extremes when invoking American exceptionalism.

Gringos Wake Up!

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The Feast of Our Lady of Gaudalupe is now, as I observed yesterday and over the weekend, the biggest celebration day for U.S. Catholics. 60 percent of Catholics under the age of 30 are Latinos, so the vibrancy of the devotion to the Virgin is only going to grow. This is the future of the Catholic Church, as surely as John Hughes' ascent to the bishopric of New York in 1842 announced the fact that the Irish were taking over from the French within the American hierarchy.

But, the great Feast went unmentioned at InsideCatholic. The American Papist had not a word. Father Z made a passing reference in a post, from someone else, about the coronas of the sun. Nor was the absence of a mention unique to the rightwing blogosphere - our good friends at America had no coverage of the Feast either.

Pro-Life Politics

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Politico.com has an article about how the state legislative gains made by pro-life candidates may affect various laws regarding abortion in the coming years. For example, there are now fifteen states, up from ten, in which the legislatures and the governor's mansions are in pro-life hands. Various state laws are being introduced to restrict the procedure, or to require that a woman be shown an ultrasound of her child in utero before making the decision to have an abortion. All these laws will be resisted by pro-choice groups, but their resistance is not just to the laws, it is to the facts.

There was long been an unwillingness among pro-choice groups to actually face the grim reality of what an abortion is. The word "fetus" is just odd enough from quotidian consideration to serve as a euphemsism, obstructing the reality of what abortion does and to whom it does it.

RIP: Richard Holbrooke

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One of the great things about living in Washington, D.C. is that you have these occasional Forrest Gump moments where you find yourself in the company of important people at an important moment and not exactly sure if God is sending you a signal or not. My best Forrest Gump moment happened with Dick Holbrooke, who died last night after the most storied career in diplomacy in American history.

It was 1995. I was going to Rome to attend a speech Cardinal John O’Connor was set to give on Thanksgiving Day, which necessitated traveling on the day before Thanksgiving, something I had avoided up until that time and have avoided ever since. Sitting on the plane at Washington’s National Airport, there was only one empty seat, which happened to be next to me. We had all been seated for ten minutes, and still the stewards had not closed the door and the car remained parked at the terminal. Another five minutes passed. I began to get nervous about my connection in Newark to the flight that would bring me to Rome.

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August 15-28, 2014

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