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Bishop Tobin, Meet Cardinal Levada


Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, often makes a hash of things when he enters into public debates. But, in an interview with a local paper, he allows that the Church would not object to conferring some of the benefits we normally associate with marriage to gay couples, provided marriage itself is left out of the equation. This stance merely recapitulates the position articulated more than a decade ago by then-Archbishop, now Cardinal, William Levada when he negotiated the issue of same-sex partner benefits with the San Francisco city government.
More important than any of the details - although details are important - it is encouraging to see Tobin recognize that confrontation is not always the best policy and that the teachings of the Church admit of a certain suppleness in their application. Culture wars are to be avoided whenever possible. It will be curious to see how some of the fire-breathers on the right respond to Tobin.

Gehring Calls on Bishops to Refute Cong. Ryan


John Gehring has a post up at Faith in Public Life that reminds the bishops of their own history in creating the New Deal and urges the bishops to take on Cong. Paul Ryan's proposals to dismantle the safety net an earlier generation of bishops endorsed. In his post, Gehring calls attention to one of my heroes, Msgr. John A. Ryan, a professor at Catholic University and staffer at what was then known as the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the forerunner of today's USCCB. Ryan was a lion, and his social activism earned him the sobriquet "Rt. Rev. New Dealer." We need voices like his today more than ever.

9th Circuit Win for Immigrants (& for the rest of us too!)


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a lower court ruling that declared most of Arizona’s punitive and racist anti-immigration law unconstitutional. The law, you will recall, requires policemen to ask for immigration documents from anyone they “suspect” of being here illegally, a more or less open invitation to racial profiling. The fact that the Court of Appeals has now backed the District Court in finding the law unconstitutional is a little bit of good news in the fight over immigration.

The decision of the court, written by Judge Richard Paez, could not have been more blunt: “Arizona has attempted to hijack a discretionary role that Congress designated to the Executive.” Arizona, and other states which are contemplating similar statutes, cannot do an end-run around the federal government and try to enforce immigration laws that state makes up. Immigration is, obviously, a federal issue. And, the idea of states doing end-runs around the federal government died on a field at Appomattox.

Malta Hearts Kmiec


My colleague Joe Feuerhard has given the back story on why some officials in the State Department, while acknowledging the high regard in which U.S. Ambassador to Malta Douglas Kmiec is held, nonetheless saw fit to rap him on the knuckles for giving so many speeches and undertaking so many writings on subjects not strictly dealing with bilateral relations between the two countries. This is not the first time that the good people at Foggy Bottom have missed the forest for the trees. In an overwhelmingly Catholic country like Malta, failing to take cognizance of the people's faith traditions is tantamount to malpractice, no matter how squeamish some apparatchicks at the State Dept. get when God is mentioned.

Obama Plans Deficit Reduction Speech


I confess that the news that President Obama plans to outline a deficit reduction plan fills me with dread. Just as I was getting ready to articulate my reasons for fearing the President may be too willing to compromise with the GOP, Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic provides a post that articulates my concerns better than I could. The President needs to stand up for seniors and frontally assault the myth the lower marginal tax rates for the super-rich are the most essential ingredient in creating a more dynamic economy. Before he gets to the negotiating table, President Obama needs to dig in a little.

Revisiting The Abortion Debate


In the post-mortems for the narrowly averted government shutdown, and the negotiations that enacted a compromise on the rest of the fiscal year’s budget, another piece of evidence has emerged that Republican politicians are willing to be disingenuous when it comes to abortion legislation.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican Congressman from New Jersey who is a leader in the pro-life movement. Cong. Smith was one of those who led the effort to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, a proposal that did not survive the negotiations after Democrats insisted that the funding not be removed. “You would think this is about women’s health care,” Smith told the Post. “It’s about abortion.” As evidence, he noted that Planned Parenthood provides nearly one-quarter of all abortions performed in America and, according to the article, Planned Parenthood’s “services for women were minimal compared with community health centers that focus on helping the poor.”

Shutdown Over Planned Parenthood?


I understand that women's rights organizations that support Planned Parenthood are a critical part of the Democratic Party's base. But if, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insists, the GOP desire to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood is the last outstanding issue in negotiations to avert a government shutdown, Reid and President Obama should agree to the cut-off in aid and keep the government going.

Donald Trump is Now Pro-Life?


I really don't care why someone changes their position from pro-choice to pro-life or, better to say, I am just always delighted when someone becomes pro-life for whatever reason. But, in an interview with David Brody, Donald Trump explains why he is now pro-life: A man he knows got his wife pregnant and he didn't really want the baby but they had it anyway and now Donald's friend just loves being a Daddy. Q.E.D.
Now, far be it from me to underestimate the power of a good story to move people to change their views, but it did jump out at me that Trump's tale barely mentions the happy mother.
It is difficult not to expect that the more proximate reason for Trump's conversion has to do with his wanting to be taken seriously as a GOP contender. Then again, by embracing the birthers, maybe seriously is not the best adverb to use when writing about Trump.

Jack Smith's Doug Kmiec Obsession


We bloggers have to entertain at least a few obsessions. But, Jack Smith, the editor of the Catholic Key blog, which is the official blog of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph seems to have a particularly unhealthy obsession with Ambassador to Malta Doug Kmiec.

Smith has a post up that the makes a molehill out of a molehill. He notes that the State Dept. gave Kmiec a spanking because he has embarked on a variety of activities that are seemingly unrelated to his official duties as the conduit for bilateral relations between the United States and Malta.

Mind you, Kmiec is a man with a fertile mind and Malta is a country with a little more than 400,000 people, so I am sure the bilateral relations are not all that time-consuming. But, Malta has a rich history as a crossroads of civilizations, so Kmiec's work on inter-religious dialogue is better characterized as a deepening of his official duties, rather than a straying from them.


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