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Blast From the Past: Early Ratzinger

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I thought I would close out our week of looking at Pope Benedict's contributions to the Church by recalling one of his very early contributions, his 1968 book Introduction to Christianity.

In the very first chapter, Raztinger recalls Kiekegaard's story of the circus tent that catches fire. A clown, already madeup in his costume, runs to the nearby village to warn them that the fire will spread and engulf their homes, but because of his outfit, they only laugh at him and, the more he pleads, the more they laugh. At the time Raztinger was writing, Harvey Cox had invoked this image in his then-recently published book, The Secular City. Both Kierkegaard and Cox were trying to show the situation of theology in the modern world. Here is what Ratzinger does with the story:

CUA Alum Donilon to NSC

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Politico is reporting that Gen. James Jones is resigning as National Security Advisor and that he will be replaced by his current deputy, Tom Donilon.

Donilon is a 1977 graduate of the Catholic University of America and has served in a variety of government positions before coming to the NSC. His brother Michael is a Counselor to Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife, Cathy Russell, is chief-of-staff to Dr. Jill Biden. Tom's brother Terry is the communications director for the Archdiocese of Boston.

In 1981, when I was a freshman, Tom taught a class at CUA on presidential election politics. It was a great class and it really taught us the nuts and bolts of how campaigns are waged and won (or lost). I still remember the trepidation I felt when writing my term paper on NCPAC, the National Conservative Political Action Committee, and its increasing influence. Professor Donilon was so smart, I really did not want to have him read my paper and think it was dumb. If memory serves, however, I got an "A."

Q & A: Father Carron

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This week at Q & A, we have been examining the different ways Pope Benedict has contibuted to the life of the Church as a way of calling attention to a truly wonderful new book, published by the USCCB, Pope Benedict XVI, Essays and reflections on His Papacy.

One of the most distinctive contributions of Pope Benedict XVI to the life of the Church has been his embrace of the new ecclesial movements.

In March 2007, the pope held a special prayer service at St. Peter's for these movements. Reflecting on that experience, Fr. Julian Carron, the head of Communione e Liberazione, sent a letter to the members of CL that shows how this one event with Pope Benedict gave CL members a new appreciation for their own charism. I can think of no better way to close out this week of reflections on Pope Benedict's papacy then by reprinting Father Carron's letter.

Father Carron:

Milan, March 28, 2007

Dear Friends,

How to Understand Polls 101

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Huff Post has a great article that explains how pollsters use different models to distinguish "likely voters." The models are key - all polls show that among regisitered voters, the Dems are running about even, but that given GOP enthusiasm, when you consider only those who are "likely" to vote, the GOP opens a wide lead. This article helps explain how pollsters draw up their models which are key to understand their findings.

On this, Nienstedt is Right

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Archbishop John Nienstedt is not my favorite bishop. In 2006, he wrote an article in the diocesan newspaper in New Ulm where he was the bishop at the time about the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” which he described thusly: “The story is about two lonely cowboys herding sheep up on a mountain range. One night after a drinking binge, one man makes a pass at the other and within seconds the latter mounts the former in an act of wanton anal sex.” Funny, I never expected to find the words “wanton anal sex” in my diocesan newspaper. And, when he retires, Nienstedt should not try his hand at penning movie reviews.

Election Time: WA-Senate

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UPDATE (10/25): In most close Senate races this year, as election day nears, the races have tightened, a trend that has helped the Democrats who were lagging in the polls. But, in Washington state, this trend has helped Republican candidate Dino Rossi in his effort to unseat Democratic incumbent Patty Murray. The RCP polling average has Murray up by only 2.2 percentage points, well within the margin of error of all the polls that go into that average. Fivethirtyeight.com awards Sen. Murray an 85% chance of retaining her seat, largely because although the margins are small, she holds a consistent lead in all polls.
President Obama made a campaign appearance for Sen. Murray, as the Pacific Coast states are among the few places where the President is convincingly popular. And, GOP independent groups have poured money into the race reaizing that they need to win Washington state or California is they want to take the Senate. I still rate this rate too close to call.

Yahoo Watch: Family Research Council

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The folks at the Family Research Council aren't stupid, just borderline evil. They have a new ad out against Cong. Tom Perriello, a progressive Democrats from Virginia. (Shameless plug: I have an article about Perriello's race coming out in the new print edition of NCR.) The FRC ad is clever, but what the hell does any of it have to do with "the family"? The FRC is one of the groups that gained a lot of traction when the Moral Majority closed its doors in the late 1980s - the Christian Coalition was the other. Indeed, Falwell said he thought FRC founder Dr. James Dobson would be his most likely successor as the face of the religious right. Falwell would always make a moral argument to defend his positions - you could agree or disagree, but he understood he was not an expert on government or arms control but a pastor.

Q & A: Bishop Jaime Soto

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This week at Q & A we are looking at the contributions of Pope Benedict to the life of the Church. This examination is prompted by the release of a new book about the Pontiff from the USCCB, Pope Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy. It is natural that Americans tend to look at the Pope's contributions through the lens of our national experience, but I wanted to also see how the Pope is contributing to the life of the Church beyond our borders. So, today, we have comments from Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, who attended the meeting of the Latin American bishops' conference (CELAM) at Aparecida, where the Pope gave a memorable address. Bishop Soto's comments amplify the earlier observations of some of our contributors this week.
The question: How has Pope Benedict contributed to the life of the Church?
Bishop Soto:

Foreign Money in US Campaigns

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The Chamber of Commerce is catching hell for allowing foreign companies to put their cash into U.S. political campaigns. The Chamber has targeted several prominent Democrats, including Rep. Tom Perriello from Virginia, Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, and others. They have said they will spend $75 million, an amount that dwarfs the resources of even the best fundraisers in Congress.

The Chamber denies that it is using foreign money for its campaign ads, that it keeps foreign dollars segregated from domestic, political accounts. But money is fungible, which leads to an irony. Last summer, when the Capps Amendment was introduced to allow insurance companies to segregate funds used for abortion services from funds they got from the federal government, conservatives objected, noting that money is fungible. Now, it is the Democrats who point to the fungible quality of cash to blast the Chamber of Commerce.

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