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The Happy Return of Nuance

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Two statements on the upcoming midterm elections, one from the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, and one from Communion and Liberation, exhibit a welcome nuance in their estimation of the good achievable by participation in the electoral process.

I defy anyone to read either statement and conclude, "Aha! I must vote for this party!"

Instead, both statements do something really wonderful and essential: they invite voters to serious reflection of the choices they face, unlike so many political ads that merely try and excite the basest of human emotions.

The statements focus the Church's social and moral teachings on the issues of the day, and remind Catholics of the fact that our tradition is far different from the rampant individualism that characterizes so much of contemporary political wrangling.

The statements inform the consciences of Catholics, they do not dictate the consciences of Catholics. Finally, neither statement has any foolishness about Canon 915, denying communion to politicians.

WaPo & Benedict on Immigration

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Serendipity. I am sure that the editors of the Washington Post had no idea that their publication of a news story about the rise of anti-immigrant political parties in Europe would coincide with the release of Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for the World Day of Migrants. The Post’s article did not mention the Pope’s statement. But, I hope the voters of Europe who support these anti-immigrant parties, as well as their American counterparts, consult the Pope’s text. His vision is humane and hopeful. It is the perfect anecdote to the fear-mongering that characterizes so much of the anti-immigrant fervor.

Breaking News: U.S. District Court Rules Against Susan B. Anthony List

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We are waiting for the newswire to pick up this story, but a source tells me that a U.S. District Court has denied the request of the Susan B. Anthony list to place a restraining order on the decision of the Ohio Elections Board that cited the SBA List for running false ads. The ads maintained that Congressman Steve Driehaus had voted for federal funding of abortion when he voted in favor of the health care bill.
I have written about this story previously, and if I were a judge (we can all thank God I am not!), I would have ruled differently. But, it is telling that a court found the ads sufficiently misleading to allow the Ohio Elections Board case to proceed.

Deal Hudson is Right (Not Just Ideologically!)

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It is not every day that I find myself in agreement with Deal Hudson, but he has an essay up at InsideCatholic.com that makes some fine points.

Yes, too often, the sharge of "incivility" is used to quash debate and avoid underlying, and important issues. Yes, most social movements, be they good or bad, stem from a certain anger in the population.

Where Hudson is wrong is when he thinks that those who warn against incivility are mostly concerned about not hurting their own cause, that the extremists damage the reputation of more thoughtful social critics. I think there is a genuine, and somewhat misplaced, concern for "tone" in the blogosphere.

Sharp elbows have their place. There are limits of course, but generally, a democracy functions better when debates are sharp.

Any student of history will know that for all the rantings from the Tea Party, our own times have nothing on, say, the election of 1800 in terms of incivility. Ditto the election of 1860. Ditto the election of 1932. The Republic survived those contentious times and even flourished.

Yahoo Watch: Taliban Catholics

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My colleague John Allen coined the phrase "Taliban Catholics" to describe a certain type of paleo-conservative Catholic whose understanding of the faith is fundamentalist, and not in a good way. John was quoted in this article about certain right-wing Catholic groups that ran on AP.
I am keeping an eye on the "RealCatholicTV" crowd and wondering where they get their funding. Father Coughlin was from Detroit too so maybe there is something in the water in those parts. Then again, so was Cardinal Dearden.

Q & A: Ken Hackett

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All this week at Q & A, we will be looking at the distinctive nature and contributions of Catholic charitable activities.

Ken Hackett is the President of Catholic Relief Services, an organization that has been much in the news because of their leading work in Haiti.

With news reports indicating that there has now been a cholera outbreak on the island, readers may wish to click on the link above and make a further donation.

The question: Based on your work, what is distinctive about Catholic charitable activities?

Ken Hackett: Catholic charitable activities are truly catholic, that is to say, universal. In answering this question, perhaps Archbishop Timothy Dolan, chairman of the CRS Board, best expresses our approach: “At Catholic Relief Services, we don’t just help people who are Catholic; we help people because we are Catholic.”

Early Voting Results Start To Come In

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The indomitable Nate Silver at fivethiryeight.com analyzes some of the early voting patterns. There is a lot of good news for Republicans and a little good news for the Democrats.

The most significant thing that jumps out at me, however, is the wide divergence from state to state. The GOP number in Pennsylvania and Florida are really strong, and the Democratic numbers in West Virginia are almost unbelievable. So much of the attention in political commentary is focused on the national level, but there are 435 distinct congressional races this year and 37 distinct senatorial contests.

Early voting is in indication of an effective Get-Out-the-Vote effort, and GOTV decides close elections.

It will be interesting to see if these early voting numbers change in the course of the week. We may have a pretty good idea of what the final results will look like in some contests before election day.

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February 27- March 12, 2015

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