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What Should Obama Say Tonight?


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!


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


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


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


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.

9th Circuit Win for Immigrants (& for the rest of us too!)


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a lower court ruling that declared most of Arizona’s punitive and racist anti-immigration law unconstitutional. The law, you will recall, requires policemen to ask for immigration documents from anyone they “suspect” of being here illegally, a more or less open invitation to racial profiling. The fact that the Court of Appeals has now backed the District Court in finding the law unconstitutional is a little bit of good news in the fight over immigration.

The decision of the court, written by Judge Richard Paez, could not have been more blunt: “Arizona has attempted to hijack a discretionary role that Congress designated to the Executive.” Arizona, and other states which are contemplating similar statutes, cannot do an end-run around the federal government and try to enforce immigration laws that state makes up. Immigration is, obviously, a federal issue. And, the idea of states doing end-runs around the federal government died on a field at Appomattox.

Malta Hearts Kmiec


My colleague Joe Feuerhard has given the back story on why some officials in the State Department, while acknowledging the high regard in which U.S. Ambassador to Malta Douglas Kmiec is held, nonetheless saw fit to rap him on the knuckles for giving so many speeches and undertaking so many writings on subjects not strictly dealing with bilateral relations between the two countries. This is not the first time that the good people at Foggy Bottom have missed the forest for the trees. In an overwhelmingly Catholic country like Malta, failing to take cognizance of the people's faith traditions is tantamount to malpractice, no matter how squeamish some apparatchicks at the State Dept. get when God is mentioned.

Obama Plans Deficit Reduction Speech


I confess that the news that President Obama plans to outline a deficit reduction plan fills me with dread. Just as I was getting ready to articulate my reasons for fearing the President may be too willing to compromise with the GOP, Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic provides a post that articulates my concerns better than I could. The President needs to stand up for seniors and frontally assault the myth the lower marginal tax rates for the super-rich are the most essential ingredient in creating a more dynamic economy. Before he gets to the negotiating table, President Obama needs to dig in a little.


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