Will it never end? The announcement that a Philadelphia grand jury has returned indictments against three priests and a lay man for raping two juveniles, as well as against Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the archdiocese’s Secretary for Clergy, makes one think that we are a long way away from seeing the story of clergy sex abuse in the rear view mirror. How much longer will bishops look like so many tobacco company executives: The men from RJ Reynolds et al., denied that there was any link between their product and cancer. The U.S. bishops assert that ever since the 2002 Dallas norms were established, no one has any cause for concern. Alas, this Philadelphia story points to the need for increased accountability and transparency on the part of bishops.
A friend in Warsaw has just emailed me the very sad news that Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin, Poland died today in Rome.
Zycinski was a stunning human being in every regard. He is most known, of course, for his many books. He was at home in a philosophy classroom as he was in a nuclear physics lab as he was in his cathedral. His mind was penetrating and it was fitting when Pope John Paul II named his compatriot to the see of Lublin, home of Poland's leading Catholic university in 1997.
The House Appropriations Committee is already taking heat from the right over the budget cuts it announced. There is a problem with the cuts, but it is not the problem the right has identified. They object that the cuts are insufficient. The real problem is that they are indiscriminate.
Cutting aid to states and municipalities, at a time when they are facing their own budget shortfalls, makes no sense. States, unlike the federal government, must balance their budgets every year. Now, if the GOP wants to make the case that funding sources for government programs are better determined at the state and local level, that is a fine argument to make. The small town in which I grew up never minded raising our own taxes when the fire department needed a new truck, for example, and we could see the benefit of our tax increases very readily. But, governors need to get a heads-up, in advance, and the GOP should have the decency to argue that state and local taxes might need to go up to meet the shortfall. I doubt many Republican governors will see it that way.
Deal Hudson, the force behind InsideCatholic.com, has attacked my colleague and friend John Allen for his use of the term "Taliban Catholics" to describe certain conservative Catholics. And, he also attacks Chris Matthews, whom I also consider a friend, for drawing an analogy between the Tea Party and the Muslim Brotherhood. Both Allen and Matthews are employing strong terms to be sure, but a bit of history would help Hudson understand better why the designations fit.
The Republican landslide last November resulted from two distinct political waves. The GOP base was riled up and turned out. And, independent voters fled the Democrats. These two waves can easily crash into each other, not least because the base cares more about taking principled stances no matter what the outcome and independent voters tend to eschew ideological arguments and advance a kind of pragmatism. (Alas, that pragmatism often contains a boatload of ideological assumptions, but that is another story for another time.) The first principle of that pragmatism is competence: Independent voters expect people to be competent at their jobs.
But, twice in as many days, the new House GOP leadership has brought a bill to the floor for passage and then, surprise, they have not had the votes to pass it. Neither of the bills was especially controversial either.
Combined with the somewhat bizarre controversy and resignation of Cong. Christopher Lee, apparently for flirting, the GOP is not off to a good start.
It will be curious to see how long it takes for their standing among Independent voters to sink.
The Conservative Political Action Conference opens in Washington today and the meeting is not only a stage for controversy this year, the meeting is itself controversial, largely because of a decision to allow the pro-gay rights Republican group, GOProud, to attend and have a booth.
When CPAC first convened 38 years ago, conservatism in America was adrift. Nixon was not their man. Hardcore conservatives had no stomach for the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, or détente with the Soviet Union. And, lest anyone forgot, Nixon proposed universal health insurance reforms too! But, there is a difference between being adrift and being at war, and today there is a brewing, three-sided war within the GOP between social conservatives and libertarians and old-style Chamber of Commerce Republicans.
For my light reading these days, I am working my way through Richard Jenkyns book about Westminster Abbey. Among the more interesting architectural features in the Abbey is the Cosmati floor in the sanctuary. The intricate pattern of stones puts one in mind of San Clemente in Rome. The reason shows one of the ancient links between the Abbey and Rome. In 1222, the abbey was put under the direct authority of the Pope, freeing it from any interference by either the Bishop of London or the Archbishop of Canterbury. Even then, people prefered a boss who was far away. Upon his election as abbot in 1258, Richard Ware went to Rome to receive his official commission and he brought back with him both the stones and the Italian masons who performed the work, the only Cosmati floor of its kind in Britain.
The American Principles Project, founded by Princeton Professor Robert george, has launched a new initiative called "Get Conservative." The goal seems to be to keep the GOP steadfast on social issues, specifically opposition to gay marriage. Of course, the APP does not have much influence to begin with, and it is difficult to see how this new "initiative" will garner them much more. In the counsels of the GOP, the first principles that matter remain the principles of profit and the market, and the market looks at gays and it sees high levels of disposable income.
In fact, I suspect that this new initiative is not aimed at garnering influence. It is a fundraising device. Ever since Anita Bryant, it has been a truism of conservative fundraising that nothing gets those checkbooks out faster than a little gay-bashing. Maybe someone on the staff at the APP wants a new pool.
Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia has announced he will not be running for re-election in 2012. The GOP candidate is likely to be former Governor and Senator George Allen, whom Webb defeated in 2006. We don't know who the Democratic candidate will be, but I suspect we know his religion. Either former Governor Tim Kaine or former Congressman Tom Perriello are the two obvious choices to contest Allen and both are Roman Catholics.
Webb's announcement also permits us a window into the way washington political operatives think. The National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a statement begging for the Democrats to nominate Tim Kaine, whom it identifies as "President Obama's number one cheerleader in Washington." Funny, that is not how most Virginians think of the popular former Governor.
My friends at The New Republic ran an unfortunate review of a recent book about the Vatican's dealings with the Third Reich. I do not come to praise Pius XII and there is no need to bury him, as he already lies interred in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica. But, the review suffers from some claims that show a woeful lack of historical accuracy.
For example, when the reviewer, John Connelly, a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley, writes that, "Pius XI watched as storm troopers arrested priests and nuns for offenses to “morality,” and wondered whether to condemn Nazism—but neither he nor Pacelli found the right words, and a pattern of reticent neutrality set in," he is evidently unaware of Pope Pius XI's encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, written in 1937 and smuggled into Germany, with the help of the future Cardinal Spellman, which clearly denounced Nazism.