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Obama Hits a Home Run

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President Obama hit a home run yesterday with his speech on deficit reduction. He articulated clearly the conflict of visions that is at the heart of the battle over the budget numbers – and hopefully, the positive response to the speech will encourage him to keep talking about his values! And, while the speech was better than the policy proposals, the policy was good enough for now.

It is important for Americans to be reminded of the two intertwined ideas that constitute our national character, our rugged individualism and our sense that we are bound to each other, and the President began his speech by reminding us of both ideas. He used language similar to that he employed in his 2004 keynote to the Democratic National Convention, the speech that launched his career. Yesterday, he was actually being a bit kind to some contemporary Republicans who do not celebrate rugged individualism; they celebrate a kind of Ayn Randian “success” that is as positively creepy as it is vacuous, a view of the world that separates human beings into losers and winners, which, I submit are not categories found in Catholic social teaching.

Censorship is Bad - Always

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The Diocese of Scranton and Marywood University recently cancelled a speech planned by Michael Voris, an obnoxious rightwing personality who runs the outfit "RealCatholicTV." Earlier this year, a bishop told me, "Funny thing is that his show is not real and it isn't Catholic."
Now, it is puzzling to me why anyone would invite the spewer of right-wing agitprop to rant on campus in the first place. But, censorship is not the answer. Let people hear Mr. Voris's paranoid fantasies about unorthodox bishops and the USCCB's supposed collusion with the Culture of Death. There is nothing attractive about his rants. The best way to expose a scoundrel is to shine the light of day on him.

Let Them Squirm

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Politico has an article up about how many Republican lawmakers are already squirming at the prospect of voting on Congressman Paul Ryan's budget proposals which would end Medicare as we know it, among other things.
I say: Let them squrim. This is yet another reason the President should be wary of being to conciliatory towards the GOP on the subject of deficit reduction. First, he should see if his opponents have the strength of their convictions. I am betting they don't.

What Should Obama Say Tonight?

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Many of us on the political left, who generally find ourselves in agreement with President Obama, are dreading tonight’s speech on deficit reduction. But, the same emotion can come from different sources in different people, so I want to make crystal clear what I believe the President should, and should not say, tonight.

Let me start my separating myself from some liberal criticisms of the President. There is a headline on the front page of this morning’s Washington Post.that reads, “Obama risks losing liberals,” in which various D.C.-based liberal activists deride the focus on deficits, and insist that the President should be focusing on job creation. Those activists say the Republicans have won the messaging war, requiring this focus on cutting the deficit. Both points are true: The President should be focusing on jobs and the GOP has won the massaging war.

Congrats to Yakima!

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It is not every day that I go to the Vatican's "Bolletino" and see a name I recognize. But, this morning, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Joseph Tyson, heretofore an auxiliary bishop in Seattle, as the bishop of Yakima. Bishop Tyson and I were classmates back in seminary in the mid-1980s and he was a genuinely holy man, deeply committed to social justice and the poor, intelligent in his classroom comments, and an always enjoyable coversationalist at dinner. The people of Yakima have got themselves a fine pastor as their new bishop.

Chaput Cites Disunity Among Bishops on Canon 915

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In a talk at Notre Dame, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput was asked why Catholics were so divided over the issue of whether or not to deny communion to pro-choice politicians. His response:

The reason ... is that there is no unity among the bishops about it...There is unity among the bishops about abortion always being wrong, and that you can't be a Catholic and be in favor of abortion -- the bishops all agree to that -- but there's just an inability among the bishops together to speak clearly on this matter and even to say that if you're Catholic and you're pro-choice, you can't receive holy Communion.

It would be more accurate to say that Chaput and very few other bishops interpret Canon 915 in such a way as to suggest that such denial of communion should be the norm, while the vast majority of bishops disagree.

The reasons for their disagreement is obvious: It is lousy theology. There are many reasons why someone might not support a certain piece of legislation that would restrict or criminalize abortion.

Bishop Tobin, Meet Cardinal Levada

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Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, often makes a hash of things when he enters into public debates. But, in an interview with a local paper, he allows that the Church would not object to conferring some of the benefits we normally associate with marriage to gay couples, provided marriage itself is left out of the equation. This stance merely recapitulates the position articulated more than a decade ago by then-Archbishop, now Cardinal, William Levada when he negotiated the issue of same-sex partner benefits with the San Francisco city government.
More important than any of the details - although details are important - it is encouraging to see Tobin recognize that confrontation is not always the best policy and that the teachings of the Church admit of a certain suppleness in their application. Culture wars are to be avoided whenever possible. It will be curious to see how some of the fire-breathers on the right respond to Tobin.

Gehring Calls on Bishops to Refute Cong. Ryan

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John Gehring has a post up at Faith in Public Life that reminds the bishops of their own history in creating the New Deal and urges the bishops to take on Cong. Paul Ryan's proposals to dismantle the safety net an earlier generation of bishops endorsed. In his post, Gehring calls attention to one of my heroes, Msgr. John A. Ryan, a professor at Catholic University and staffer at what was then known as the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the forerunner of today's USCCB. Ryan was a lion, and his social activism earned him the sobriquet "Rt. Rev. New Dealer." We need voices like his today more than ever.

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March 27-April 9, 2015

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