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The Signatura is Not the Supreme Court


Over the next few days and weeks, the media will take to describing the Apostolic Signatura as the Vatican's "Supreme Court" but the analogy is not a strong one. The Prefect of the Signatura, Archbishop Raymond Burke, was named a cardinal this morning as expected.
If by "Supreme Court" one means that the Signatura is the highest tribunal in the Vatican, that is true. But, the Signatura is quite different from the U.S. Supreme Court. In the U.S. system, the Supreme Court is an independent branch of government and its members are appointed for life. In the Vatican, the Pope himself holds all legislative, executive and judicial authority. The Pope is the final tribunal at the Vatican, not the Signatura, and its prefect serves at the pleasure of the Pope.

Gibbons Cried


It is said that when, in 1911, James Cardinal Gibbons learned that Archbishop William Henry O'Connell was named a cardinal, Gibbons cried. O'Connell was refered to at the time, by a woman who worked at the Vatican, Ella Edes, as "Monsignor Pomposity." He was most known for his efforts to have the U.S. Bishops Conference disbanded and his opposition to laws against child labor.

Today, Archbishop Raymond Burke of the Apostolic Signatura, was named a cardinal. In heaven, I am sure that Gibbons is weeping anew.

Burke is the most controversial prelate in recent American history. He told Sen. John Kerry he would be refused communion in St. Louis. He attacked Archbishop Donald Wuerl, also named a cardinal this morning, in an interview with Randall Terry and, then, was forced to apologize for it. He suggested that Cardinal Sean O'Malley was acting at the behest of the "Father of Lies" for allowing a Catholic funeral for Sen. Ted Kennedy and presiding at it.

CACG Returns


Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good sent an email to its board members yesterday, announcing that this week they will launch a new website, the first step in a planned rejuvenation of the organization. The new website will feature a “Common Good Forum” with articles from a host of prominent Catholics.

CACG has been relatively quiet since it played a vital role in the passage of health care reform, one of a number of religiously motivated groups that joined the effort to garner the final votes to secure passage of the landmark legislation. In the email to the Board and Advisory Council members, Fred Rotondaro, Board Chair, recalled the work CACG had undertaken on behalf of environmental issues, immigration reform, anti-poverty efforts and its signature efforts for health care reform. “We also all surely agree that our country remains at a critical juncture where the voice of the Alliance should be clear and loud,” Rotondaro wrote in the email.

Yahoo Watch: Christine O'Donnell


Okay, this is a little unfair. Ms. O'Donnell is something of a walking, non-stop, yahoo watch unto herself. But, even I was flabbergasted when, during a debate, she asked: "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" Correct Answer: The First Amendment.

It is more than a little ironic that the Tea Party that launched Ms. O'Donnell into the spotlight, and which makes a great deal over their commitment to the Constitution, should have one of their darlings mess up on something so basic. Of course, her opponent did not distinguish himself when he could not name the other freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. I guess that's why we have a Supreme Court.

Q & A: Matthew Green on Nev-Senate


As mentioned yesterday, this week at Q & A we are featuring participants in last week's panel on Catholics and the midterm elections, sponsored by Catholic University's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.

The video of that panel can be seen here.

Today, CUA politics professor Matthew Green looks at the Nevada Senate race.

Professor Green: The race I find the most compelling is the Nevada Senate race between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle. This election campaign has it all: a "Tea Party" challenger, tons of spending, amusingly gaffe-prone candidates, and the strong possibility that the most powerful Democrat in the Senate could be sent home packing.

What really surprises me is how close the race is -- especially given the many weaknesses of Angle, the Tea Party Republican challenging Reid. She has repeatedly made statements that are, shall we say, outside the mainstream: that Social Security should be eliminated (or at least privatized); that Obama and Reid want government to replace God; and that the city of Dearborn, Michigan is ruled by Islamic religious law.

WaPo Fact-Checkers, Where Art Thou?


The Washington Post's Arts & Style section this weekend had an article about a new exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library dealing with Henry VIII. The theater that adjoins the library is producing Shakespeare's play about Henry.

In discussing the dissolution of the monasteries, the author penned this sentence: "And as the exhibition demonstrates, while Henry's motives were amply mixed, he was also intellectually engaged in the formation of a new, more modern Christianity, a faith built upon actual knowledge of scripture rather than obedience to a distant, dogmatic and pedieval church." Huh?

Bill Donohue is Wrong Again


Conservative Catholic Bloviator-in-Chief Bill Donohue has taken issue with my articles yesterday - here and here - about Father Robert Sirico performing gay marriage ceremonies in the 1970s.

Donohue has issued a press release that says, in part: "The point is that Winters, a Catholic dissident, is unhappy that Sirico is not in rebellion against the teachings of the Catholic Church. That's true, and that is why he doesn't write for the National Catholic Reporter."

In fact, as my commentary suggests, I believe that Father Sirico is entirely entitled to change his views on gay marriage. My issue is not that he fails to become a "dissident." My issue is that Sirico should be less sanctimonious given his own wrestlings with his faith. But, of course, Donohue is not the type to recognize sanctimony as a problem, is he?

Tea Party Problems


Yesterday, at Q & A, we heard from Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox who discussed the role of social conservatives in the Tea Party. They pointed out that there is a great deal of actual overlap between the two groups, despite the obvious conceptual differences between them. The Tea Party presents itself as an anti-government, libertarian movement and social conservatives are far from libertarian. I do not think that essential tension can survive the long, thorough scrutiny of a presidential nominating process, when candidates can’t avoid debates and when individual candidates must develop a coherent, reasonably consistent public philosophy. But, in a midterm, when voters only focus at the end of a campaign and are unlikely to notice any inconsistencies except those on the surface, the tension between the “Don’t Tread on Me” ethos and the comprehensive moral compass of the social conservative movement may not prevent some Tea Party candidates from keeping them united through November 2.

Yahoo Watch: Raymond Arroyo


Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts, as the late, great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said.

This past weekend, on his show "The World Over" on EWTN, host Raymond Arroyo spoke of the Pope's speech at the Synod in Rome.

There was much he could have focused on in that speech, but Arroyo chose to focus on the thing that jumped out at me too. The Pope said, "Let us remember all the great powers of today’s history, let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man, which is no longer in man’s possession, but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power, that threatens the world."

In explaining this, Arroyo said the Pope was refering to foreign capitals.

No he wasn't. I will grant that the Pope's reference was a bit opaque, especially for someone as clearly spoken as Pope Benedict. But, he was clearly not refering to capital in the plural, to cities that house governments, he was refering to the capital in capitalism.


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