I am not a fan of the “top ten” lists that come around this time of year. Do we really need to recall the top celebrity break-ups? As for looking into the future, if you think that is such a simple task, remember the commentary shortly after the 2008 election about the Republican Party being dead. There is one story from last year, however, that is on-going and which both dominated last year’s political news and will continue to dominate the news this coming year – the Tea Party – that warrants some attention because the way the story plays out is about to change.
I know, I know. I always try to be respectful of bishops, even when I am critical of them, even when I am highly critical of them. Ex opere operato and all that ... they are successors of the apostles. And, of course, in the Gospels, the apostles are often clueless yet they went on to be heroic.
But, the comments of Archbishop Leonard of Brussels before a parliamentary committee are so offensive and so, well, stupid, they leave one speechless.
The Washington Post this morning has a profile of an incoming GOP freshman, Rep.-elect Mike Kelly, who beat Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper in Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District. The owner of a car dealership, Kelly’s public service resume included only part-time service on a town council, so it should not surprise that he is suspicious of Washington’s ways.
Kelly tells the Post that he has not met anyone in Washington who impresses him. Now, I confess, when I look at the GOP House caucus, I can understand the sentiment. (Sadly, the same can be said for many in the Democratic caucus too.) But, I invite the Congressman to come and meet some of my friends who are very impressive. He should go over to the Library of Congress and meet some very impressive scholars and librarians there. He should visit either of the two parishes on Capitol Hill and meet the impressive priests who live and work there.
At his weekly blog, Cardinal Sean O'Malley writes about visiting a women's prison in the days leading up to Christmas. He spent time with each of the women in solitary confinement. I can scarcely think of someone who is in greater need of the Christmas message that God wants to come close to us than a prisoner in solitary confinement. I do not know I would have the emotional strength to make such a visit, but Cardinal Sean surely does.
Fifty-eight years ago, my parents were married at Our Lady of Lourdes church here in Hampton, Connecticut. I can just see the steeple beyond the pine trees as I write this morning.
They were married two days after Christmas because he was home for Christmas from his service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. She had wanted to get married before he went off to basic training, but he refused, worried he would be sent to Korea and she would be a young widow. But, in early December 1952, he found out he was being sent to Puerto Rico to teach English to Puerto Rican recruits. My parents would spend the first two years of their married life on that blessed island.
My review of the new biography of Father Robert Drinan, S.J., by fellow Jesuit Father Raymond Schroth, S. J., has been posted this morning at The New Republic. You can read it here.
Our friend Austen Iveriegh has a great post about the Pope's recording one of BBC's "Thought for the Day" broadcasts and the publicity it has generated.
As well, here in New England, we heard news reports about Cardinal Sean O'Malley's Christmas message on several radio channels and it made two of the three local newspapers here in Northeast Connecticut, which isn't even in the Province of Boston. The cardinal's own blog details some of his preparation for the great feast, such as visiting the state women's penitentiary and spending time with all of the women in solitary confinement. O'Malley is too conservative for some and too permissive for others, but there is no denying that he takes the gospel message to heart and spends his time bringing good news to the poor and liberation to those in captivity.
What was once the weekly radio address is now a weekly video address, delivered every Saturday by the President. This Saturday, of course, is also Christmas and so the First Lady joined the President to send special greetings to the troops and to offer ideas for the rest of us on what we can do to help our troops and their families at this time of year when they are unable to enjoy the thing we most enjoy about the holiday, time with our loved one.
You can watch the video message here.
As mentioned, the new census data shows that Latinos continue to be the fastest growing demographic in the country, even though immigration has slowed with the downturn in the economy. But, Republicans, terrified of the anti-immigrant - and often downright racist - rhetoric of the Tea Party ringing in their ears, seem determined to alienate this fastest growing demographic. First they filibustered the DREAM Act, not letting it even come up for a vote. Now, several GOP hopefuls are dodging an appearance at a Hispanic Leadership Conference forum, a forum run by Latino Republicans!
Conversely, the President got quite emotional yesterday at his press conference when he described his disappointment about the failure to pass the DREAM Act. I heard the comments on the radio this morning driving up here to Connecticut, and you could hear the emotion come through on the radio.
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana has proven himself to be that increasingly rare breed in Washington, a Republican willing to stand up for what he believes in. He was one of the few Republicans to support the DREAM Act, repudiating a deal Republican senators struck at the beginning of the Congress to always support their leadership on procedural votes.
Yesterday, Lugar’s long-term expertise in foreign affairs, and on the issues of nuclear weapons and proliferation specifically, provided sufficient intellectual justification (and political cover) for several Republicans to support the START Treaty which was happily ratified.
In the current political climate, these acts of political courage not only required Lugar to stand up to his party’s leadership, it required that he risk angering the Tea Party movement which has shown its ability to knock of veteran Washington lawmakers in favor of extremist candidates in GOP primaries. (Think Delaware, Alaska and Utah.) As mentioned yesterday, the Tea Party has not spoken out much on foreign affairs, but its candidates have been strongly anti-immigrant, making Lugar’s support for the DREAM Act all the more admirable.