National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Distinctly Catholic

Truth and Dare


The closing days of a session of Congress resemble a game of partisan chicken. And, it is up to the President and the leaders of Congress to decide what proposals they most want to pass before Christmas.
It is a moment of truth for the White House. For all the talk about Obama's moving to the center, which is an undoubtedly smart political move, it is just as important that he move towards the 2012 electorate. If push comes to shove, will the White House push harder for the repeal of Don't Ask; Don't Tell, or for the enactment of the DREAM Act?

The mess in Phoenix


What is going on in Phoenix?

Bishop Thomas Olmsted earlier this year pronounced the excommunication of Mercy Sr. Margaret McBride because she concurred in the decision, made by a pregnant woman whose life was threatened if her pregnancy continued and her doctors and authorized by administrators, to...Ah, there it is. What did the patient and doctors decide?

Gehring on the Phoenix Situation


John Gehring, of the group Faith in Public Life, has a thoughtful commentary on the situation in Phoenix where, according to reports in the Arizona Republic, Bishop Thomas Olmstead is threatening to remove the Catholic designation from the hospital where the now famous abortion took place to save the life of a mother.

I have less of a problem with "dogmatic certitude" than I do with an "imperial style." But, as Gehring points out, the issue is not dogmatic certitude but the application of the moral law to a concrete situation which is complicated to say the least.

Complications, of course, do not require us to set aside our moral teaching. On the contrary, it is precisely in the difficult situations where the moral law is itself most pastoral, providing clear guidance when emotions and values are in conflict.

White House & Clergy Urge Passage of DREAM Act


The White House hosted a press call this morning about the DREAM Act. Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, noted that the bill would assist some 65,000 students who, upon graduating from high school, are unable to go to college or join the military because they lack proper documentation. Their parents brought them to the U.S. when they were children without proper visas. The DREAM Act was drafted a decade ago by both Democrats and Republicans.

Higginbottom noted that the DREAM Act has been supported by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, originally appointed by George W. Bush, who wrote members of the Senate arguing that the law would help with recruitment efforts, a pressing concern while the war in Afghanistan drags on. Joshua Dubois, head of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives, called this a “critical moment for the government…and for the young people” the law is aimed at helping.

The Problem with Moderation


E. J. Dionne this morning has a hilarious -- and thoughtful -- takedown of the "No Labels" group which has pledges itself to moderation.

I agree with everything he writes but another article by Ed Kilgore shows how endangered certain (relatively) moderate GOP Senators are in 2012: Snowe, Ensign, Lugar, Hatch and Hutchison. I say "relatively" because Orrin Hatch has never struck me as a moderate, eh?

Let's hope the "No Labels" crowd is able to extend a hand to genuine moderates like Snowe and call out the extremists who will challenge some of these senators from the right. It is scary to think that there is anyone to the right of Orrin Hatch, but for the extremists, working with Democrats is cause for excommunication in some circles these days.

Can't Stop Laughing Dept.


Yesterday, at the General Audience, a team of four beefy male acrobats stepped onto the stage at the Paul VI Audience Hall, stripped of their shirts while New Age music played in the back and proceeded to undertake some acrobatic stunts.

The look on the Holy Father's face when the men take of their shirts is priceless. The only thing missing was a strobe light. (H/T to Rocco.)

Sacrilege & Hypocrisy on Capitol Hill


Senator Jim DeMint, Tea Party favorite and just re-elected Senator from South Carolina, says it would be "sacrilegious" to keep the Senate in session until Christmas Eve. Sen. Jon Jyl of Arizona accused the Democrats of "disrespecting Christmas," by threatening to keep the body in session.

DeMint, of course, had just threatened to force the Senate to listen to a reading of the entire START Treaty, a delaying tactic that other Republicans do intend to use with regard to the omnibus spending bill. So, which is it, Sen. DeMint: It is okay to delay proceedings so you can then complain about the delay interfering with Christmas? And, Sen. Kyl has been delaying a vote on the START Treaty for weeks now, so his concerns about Christmas are equally rich. What is sacrilegious is using a religious holiday as cover for your stalling agenda.

Father Jim Martin, S.J., on Midnight Mass


Over at America's "In All Things" blog, Father Jim Martin, S.J., has a great post about Midnight Mass and Vigil Masses of Christmas and whether or not they encourage a "let's get it out of the way" attitude to church attendance on Christmas.

I admit that if there is one 20th century reform I positively detest, it is the introduction of vigil Masses. They have robbed Sunday of its unique status as the day on which Christians worship, a "little Easter," and all the rest.

I understand that the toothpaste is out of the tube. At my home parish in Connecticut, they did away with the vigil Mass and a lot of families started attending nearby parishes, revenue plummeted, and they had to bring back the vigil. The Great Vigil of Easter is, of course, a different thing, and its revival happens to be my favorite reform of the past century.

Good Riddance Dept.


Lt. Col Terrence Lakin has pled guilty to the charge of failing to report for duty. Lakin is a birther who denies President Obama was born in the United States and, so, argued he was not bound by his commands because President Obama is not really the commander-in-chief.

To be clear, there is a word for birthers: Dumb. But, being dumb is no crime. Being insubordinate in the military, however, is a crime. The idea that an officer thinks he can arrogate to himself the right to determine the political legitimacy of the government is among the more frightening ideas I have ever encountered in my researches of U.S. history. General Douglas MacArthur, filled with ambitions of Caesarian proportions, held similar views and Harry Truman never served the nation so well as when he fired MacArthur.

Lt. Col. Lakin should go to jail. And he should be dismissed from the Army. He is a disgrace.

Condomania Continues


Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics has an update on the fallout over the Pope's remarks about condoms.

I suspect Silk is right that the Holy Father will, at some point, issue a more thorough clarification but maybe not. The other day a priest friend said that the Vatican simply does not understand modern communications and it needs to. I think he is right they don't understand modern communications, but I also suspect the Pope wonders how vital the 24/7 news cycle is in the long term and perfers to ignore it.


Subscribe to Distinctly Catholic


NCR Email Alerts