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Wisconsin Bishops Step Up

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Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, in his capacity as chairman of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, has issued a statement defending the right to organize, a right that is currently being challenged by Wisconson's new governor, about which I wrote yesterday.

The statement says, in part, "The Church is well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices and financial responsibility to further the common good. Our own dioceses and parishes have not been immune to the effects of the current economic difficulties. But hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers."

Moral obligation. As clear as day. It will be fun to see how our friends on the Catholic right do or do not respond to this call from the Wisconsin Catholic bishops. Can you spell dissent?

Defending Workers

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The Board of Directors at Interfaith Worker Justice have issued a clarion call for all churches to defend workers against the onslaught against their rights being perpetrated in Wisconsin and elsewhere. "Our religious traditions insist that workers, as human beings with inherent dignity, have the right to form associations to improve their conditions at work. Statements issued by a wide array of Catholic and Protestant denominations, the Union of Reform Judaism, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement of Judaism, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Freedom Foundation, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and other faith bodies support the right of workers to organize and bargain with their employers over wages, benefits, and a voice on the job," the staement says.

Medicare and the Real Trap the President Has Set

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Congressman Paul Ryan has charged, with some accuracy, that the President "abdicated" his responsibility to lead the nation towards confronting its long-term fiscal mess by presenting a budget that does not address entitlement reform. Ryan has promised that the GOP will tackle Medicare and Medicaid in its budget proposals.

Ryan gets high marks for courage and the White House is counting on the fact that Americans will recoil from the kinds of proposals likely to emanate from the GOP. Americans like Medicare a lot and they are wary of the kinds of privatizaion schemes like to be forthcoming from Ryan. The Democrats are hoping that by touching the third rail, Ryan will get burned, but the posture of the White House is hardly a profile in courage. The long-term debt problem will not go away.

Cardinal Rigali Must Go

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One of the central themes of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI has been the Holy Father’s repeated invitation to the secular West, not only that it recall the place of God in human life and in the development of the culture of the West, but that in so doing, our culture turn away from the skepticism about human reason that has infected Western thought, that we, as a culture, rededicate ourselves to the idea that Truth – with a capital “T” – is accessible and not merely the sum total of subjective whims, but true at all times and in all places.

If It Walks Like a Duck (or a Racist)

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Kansas State Representative Connie O'Brien, evidently unwittingly - which is the most damning part of this - gave yet more evidence that racism has infected the GOP's views of immigrants. During a committee meeting she said that she knew a young woman was an immigrant because of her olive complexion. "But we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country," O'Brien said.
If she talks like a racist, she's a racist. I will wait for some Republican - any Republican - to call O'Brien. Why do I suspect I will be waiting unto eternity?

Ixnay on Cappa Magna

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The Paulus Institute will hold its annual Traditional Latin Mass at the National Shrine in Washington this April. Last year, there was some controversy surrounding the event: the intended presider, Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, had to beg out at the last minute for fear that his publicly leaked letter urging a bishop not to cooperate with civil authorities regarding a priest accused of sexual molestation of minors threatened to distract attention from the event. Bishop Slattery of Tulsa filled in at the last moment.

One of the things that warms the Tridentine Mass's devotees is the appearance of a prelate in the full cappa magna. My colleague Tom Fox wrote an article about the reappearance of the cappa of late. As he noted, the garment evokes memories of a time - a bad time in the event - when bishops were surrounded by the equivalent of a court atmosphere. Think the Tudors in long robes.

Great Minds Think Alike Dept.

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Roger Hodge has an essay at Politico this morning urging liberals to reclaim the Founding Fathers. He points to the arguments between Madison and Hamilton during the early years of the newly constituted federal government as providing plenty of material for liberals to launch the kind of principled populism that is entirely consistent with some of the concerns Madison and Jefferson voiced about the concentration of moneyed interests and their ability to affect the government.

Wisconsin Gov. Threatens Workers' Rights

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Harold Meyerson has an article today about the attempts by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to deny unions to the right to collectively bargain on behalf of their workers. This is a direct, frontal assault on one of the mainstays of Catholic social teaching, dating back to Rerum Novarum in 1891 and reaffirmed by Pope Benedict in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate and, as recently as Monday, by Cardinal Peter Turkson in his address to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.
This conservative attack on unions in America calls to mind Ronald Reagan's attack on unions in the 1980s. Reagan liked unions in Poland but not in Peoria.

Planned Parenthood Funding

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The assault of federal funding of Planned Parenthood by, among others, Congressman Mike Pence, is doomed to fail this year. Even if Pence gets the measure through the House, attaches it to an important, must-pass piece of legislation and therefore gets it through the Senate, I suspect Obama would use his veto pen to send the measure back to Congress. But, Pence is still right to bring his proposals up because Planned Parenthood funding seems to run counter to what is emerging as the “consensus of ambivalence” about abortion and its relationship to the federal government.

Planned Parenthood is both the largest recipient of federal monies awarded under Title X and the nation’s largest abortion provider. As Pence says, if Planned Parenthood wants to receive government monies for its other activities, it should get out of the abortion business. I agree entirely.

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