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One Thought on the Stewart/Colbert Rally


I am not sure the rally last Saturday merits much more than a single thought. Maybe if I had indulged an extra martini or five Saturday night I could wax eloquent about the cultural significance of the event. In a culture dripping in irony, bring irony to the Mall just doesn't seem to me like a significant event.

I will, however, confess a worry, a worry that requires the reader to take a test. Quick, now, who is the President of Harvard University? Yale? University of Chicago? We all know Fr. Jenkins at Notre Dame because of his invitation to President Obama last year, but would you have known his name before that?

A. Bartlett Giamatti was the last university president who functioned as a public intellectual on the national stage. Today, the culture is shaped not by university presidents but by comedians like Stewart and Colbert, and entertainers like Glenn Beck who merely pretend to gravitas. And, university presidents are tasked primarily with fundraising. Is it any wonder that our culture has become more silly and supercilious when comedians replace professors as arbiters of the national ethos?

Q & A: Schneck, Stephanopoulos, Green, Dionne, Jones & Rotondaro


This is an unusual week, so I am doing something different for Q & A.

Today, I asked a group of experts to look into their crystal balls and predict a surprise from the results on Tuesday. Here is what the experts predict:

Professor Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America: One race that has not received much attention is the Oregon governor's race, which is a statistical dead heat in all polls. But I think out on the West Coast we're starting to see the beginnings of real reaction against the Tea Party message that will help some Democrats. So, the upset I predict is Democrat John Kitzhaber beating Republican Chris Dudley in a squeaker.

George Stephanopoulos, Host of ABC’s Good Morning America: I’ll take McAdams in the Alaska Senate race.

Those Unlikely Voters


The Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday shows an alarming gap between those deemed "likely voters" and those who are registered to vote but probably won't make it to the polls on Tuesday. This has been a constant dynamic in virtually every poll all year.

Still, the numbers are astounding. While only 42% of likely voters approve of President Obama's handling of the economy, 48% of unlikely voters approve. And while 45% of likely voters trust the GOP to do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces, compared to 41% who trust the Democrats, among unlikely voters, 55% trust the Dems compared to only 29% who trust the Republicans.

It is clear that these numbers have put the fear of God into the Democrats. But, it is a Calvinistic God. Fear and anger motivate voters more than tepid approval. It is depressing.

Reformation Sunday


Yesterday, at Mass, our music director impishly had us sing the hymn "Christ's Church Shall Glory in His Power," which is set, in the Worship hymnal, to the tune "Ein' Feste Burg." I don't know how many people got the joke. Yesterday was Reformation Sunday, the day on which our Protestant brethren commemorate Martin Luther's nailing of his Theses to the door of the chapel in Wittenberg.
I am all for ecumenical dialogue, and the dialogue with Luther's direct descendents has been especially fruitful. We now realize what no one realized back then, that we actually agree on the issue of justification by faith. There is today a renewed respect for each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

What the Midterms Will Not Achieve


The votes have not yet been tallied but already the spin has begun to explain their significance. Here are a few things that will not be decided on Tuesday.

Long-term v. Short-term economics. The deficit is a long-term problem, mostly involving entitlement spending. The most necessary thing to solve the deficit problem is to get the economy humming again. That was, in part, the goal of the stimulus package, although its primary goal was to stop the bleeding, a goal that was achieved even though enough blood had already flowed out to leave the economy in really bad shape. Efforts to cut back on government spending have the potential of crippling the economic recovery and thus making the deficit problem worse.

Tax cuts can be stimulative, but only if there is a significant drop in marginal rates as in the Reagan years and if the cuts are off-set by cuts in spending. Keeping the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich will have little stimulative effect which is why they are not worth keeping. The Laffer Curve, mentioned the other day by Sarah Palin to justify extending the Bush cuts, is laughable.

Blast From the Past: Nat'l Right to Life Cmte


I have my differences with the National Right to Life Committee. I think they drank the GOP Kool-Aid on health care, or at least they sipped it. But, there was a certain non-partisan consistency in their stance, as exhibited by the fact that they decided to score the autumn vote on the Stupak Amendment after it became obvious to some Republicans that they could scuttle the health care bill if they first assured the defeat of the Stupak Amendment. If NRLC was simply singing from the GOP hymnal, they could have decided not to score that vote.

This week, while doing research, I came across something that I had either forgotten or never known. During the debate over welfare reform in the mid-1990s, one of the reforms would have rewarded states with additional block grants if they lowered the rate of illegitmate births in their states. This was dressed up in familiar language about the traditional family and all that and the provision was strongly urged by the GOP. But, the NRLC's Wanda Franz opposed the measure and said at the time: "Being born out of wedlock didn't make it into the Ten Commandments - killing did."

Q & A: Father Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities


This week, noting both the new report on the Catholic Campaign for Human Devlopment and the fact that Catholic Charities has just finished celebrating its centennial, we have been focusing on what is distinctive about Catholic charitable work.

We finish, apporpriately, with an excerpt from the speech Fr. Larry Snyder, CEO and President of Catholic Charities USA, gave to the centennial gala. Please consider going to their website and helping them with their important work by making a contribution.

More Evidence Why De-Regulation is Dumb


"If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

So states Federalist #51.

Tea Partyers like to claim they have a much-needed and full blown devotion to "the Founding." They also claim to support "limited government." But, the news that Halliburton and BP knew there was a problem with the concrete used in the well that exploded in April shows why government is necessary.

Men are not angels. Certainly the men at Halliburton and BP were more concerned with profits than they were with any sense of self-regulation.

Ask Your Bartender


In my profile of the VA-5 race a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I stopped by a restaurant at "the corner," the collection of shops and restaurants located next to the campus of the University of Virginia. Donnie was the bartender and he expressed the sentiment that no one was really paying attention to the election.

Bartenders, like barbers and hair dressers, spend a fair amount of time making chit-chat with customers and they are the first people I talk to when I try to get a sense of what is going on in a town.

Yesterday, on the way back from Lynchburg, I stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the pedestrian mall in downtown Charlottesville. A few blocks away, the Secret Service was looking over the site where President Obama will be headlining a rally for Cong. Tom Perriello tonight. The bartender, Kyle, offered me a menu and asked what I wanted to drink. Then, without prompting, he said, "You know, the President is coming tomorrow."

This is good news for Perriello who needs a strong turnout among UVA students and Charlottesville liberals. Kyle said he would be voting for Perriello.

The bad news? Later in the meal, Kyle asked me when the election was.

Miller to Trivial Pursuit


If the latest poll is to be believed, Alaska GOP Seante candidate and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller is headed not to the U.S. Senate but to a mossible appearance as an answer to an especially difficult Trivial Pursuit question.

He has plummetted to third place behind "Write-In" and Democrat Scott Adams.
Additionally, the poll was in the field as news was breaking -- and before it set in -- that Miller had tried to cover-up his own misdeed in using government computers to conduct partisan political work.

I am hoping that the eventual Trivial Pursuit question will be: "Name the five Tea Party candidates who lost their Senate bids in 2010?" But, maybe it will be only "Name the three Tea Party candidates..." But, one thing is increasingly likely. Christine O'Donnell and Joe Miller were not ready for prime time, and there is a lesson in that for the GOP.

Whether the GOP learns that lesson or not will largely determine the party's future.


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May 22-June 4, 2015


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