Usually, my larger morning post focuses on politics or at least the estuary where politics and religion mingle. But, this is no usual week. This is Holy Week. And, so, I shall begin the next few days with religious reflections and make what I would consider more broadly cultural points, rather than strictly political ones.
U.S. Ambassador to Malta, Douglas Kmiec, has resigned. His resignation will take effect on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, allowing him to conclude several projects, including the opening of a new embassy compound this summer.
Kmiec's resignation comes in the wake of a report from the Office of Inspector General that claimed Kmiec was spending too much time on writings and speeches unrelated to bilateral relations. My colleague Joe Feuerhard has already dissected that report. It now appears that the "friendly fire" aimed at Kmiec was not that friendly after all.
As part of the festivities inaugurating Teresa Sullivan as the new President of the University of Virginia, Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship gave a talk at an inter-faith prayer service held at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Charlottesville. Of course, at first blush, we might think that Thomas Jefferson, who founded UVA, must be rolling over in his grave at the prospect of a Catholic leading his university, even more so at the idea of a Vatican Archbishop coming to Charlottesville to participate in the festivities! But, as Archbishop DiNoia demonstrates, the fraternity of scholars crosses the ages and many other, and lesser, boundaries in his remarks "Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Aquinas: An Imagined Encounter."
Here is the text:
Imagine if the great Dominican theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas were to come here to Charlottesville to meet another great thinker whose given name he shared. What if the two Thomases, Aquinas and Jefferson, were, through some suspension of time, to dine together?
At a time when many states are busy enacting laws that seek to punish undocumented workers, the Maryland legislature this week passed a law that grants the reduced tuition rates for state residents to students who are not documented. Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to sign the law as early as today. How refreshing to find political leaders who are not scapegoating undocumented workers but seeking ways to integrate them into American society, allow them to get an education and become more productive, engaged citizens, and to simply do the right thing. The Washington Post has the story.
There is great diversity within diversity and Florida's Hispanic population illustrates that fact: While Anglos tend to lump all those who speak Spanish together as "Latinos" or "Hispanics," there is great diversity within the Latino community and some of that diversity has political consequences.
In an article at Politico this morning, Molly Ball explains that much of the growth in the Latino population in the Sunshine state comes not from GOP-leaning Cubans in Miami but from Democratic-tending Puerto Ricans along the I-4 corridor that runs from Tampa to Daytona. She notes that Puerto Ricans are citizens, so the immigration debate does not directly impact them as it would Mexican immigrants or Salvadorenos, but the often racist language that some of the GOP electorate uses to address the issue of immigration speaks powerfully to Boricuas as well.
The late great senator and public intellectual Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously said in debate, “You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Facts are stubborn things or, at least, once they were. But, now they seem to be continuously used in such a highly selective fashion to make an ideological argument, it is hard to recognize the truth at times.
One of the most controversial church-state issues facing the country is how to apply laws that protect civil rights to religious organizations that have First Amendment rights to be free from government interference. Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett, who is arguably the most thoughtful conservative Catholic scholar in the United States today (and I would make that argument), in an essay at Liberty Magazine, looks at the "ministerial exception" that allows churches to choose whomever they want as their ministers, free from any legal constraints imposed by the government.
Let's be honest: In America today, very few people give a damn about rhose who are incarcerated. So, it was especially heartening to learn that the Department of Justice has filed suit against Berkeley County, South Carolina, which has a "Bibles-only" policy for inmates' access to reading materials. The case involves religious freedom, insofar as non-Christian prisoners should be able to access the holy books of their traditions. The Justice Department brief specifically cited the First Amendment's religious guarantees.
Catholic University's Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies is sponsoring a conference on the 120th anniversary of Rerum Novarum May 2 and 3. The event will feature keynote addresses from Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and John Sweeney, former President of the AFL-CIO. Panelists will include E. J. Dionne, Harold Meyerson, noted historian Rev. Gerry Fogarty, S.J., Father Clete Kiley, the USCCB's John Carr and Kathy Saile, Alexia Kelley from the White House Office on Fath-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and many others. The conference is free and open to the public and you can find out more information and register to attend here.
In anticipation of the conference, Professor Stephen Schneck, the director of the IPRCS has penned a short essay for the "Common Good Forum" published by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Schneck charts some of the history and the issues that will be discussed at the conference and indicates why readers should consider attending.