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RIP: Richard Holbrooke


One of the great things about living in Washington, D.C. is that you have these occasional Forrest Gump moments where you find yourself in the company of important people at an important moment and not exactly sure if God is sending you a signal or not. My best Forrest Gump moment happened with Dick Holbrooke, who died last night after the most storied career in diplomacy in American history.

It was 1995. I was going to Rome to attend a speech Cardinal John O’Connor was set to give on Thanksgiving Day, which necessitated traveling on the day before Thanksgiving, something I had avoided up until that time and have avoided ever since. Sitting on the plane at Washington’s National Airport, there was only one empty seat, which happened to be next to me. We had all been seated for ten minutes, and still the stewards had not closed the door and the car remained parked at the terminal. Another five minutes passed. I began to get nervous about my connection in Newark to the flight that would bring me to Rome.

WikiLeaks: Vatican Chatty Cathy?


Generally, I think the WikiLeaks scandal has been a big yawn. In fact, the dominant fact that emerges from the cables is that American diplomats mostly say in private what the government says in public.
But, one paragraph in the cables from the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican did catch my eye. In a discussion of the Vatican's handling of the sex abuse crisis in Ireland, this appeared:

Right Wing Hypocrisy Watch


There is an argument to be made, and an argument that evidently won the day in a Virginia District Court, that the indvidual mandate to acquire health insurance is unconstitutional. I do not happen to think it is a very persuasive argument, but that is a separate issue.
But, I predict you will look in vain in the next few days for the conservative commentariat to abandon completely one of their decades-long staples: Their objection to "activist" judges.
The political branches decided the Commerce Clause was sufficient to justify the individual mandate. Now, an "unelected judge" has decided otherwise. I like a robust judiciary as much as the next liberal - and note that two other federal judges have ruled the individual mandate did pass constitutional muster - but the right wingers should be suffering backlash right now, and I suspect they will go to great lengths to conceal it.

Arroyo & Sirico Back At It


There is a perverse pleasure in watching one's ideological opponents ties themselves in knots, and both EWTN's Raymond Arroyo and Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute were engaged in what amounted to philosophic :Twister" this past weekend on the EWTN show "The World Over."
In discussing the Dream Act, Sirico allowed that "I like the spirit of the DREAM Act..." But, the problem he saw was that the Act allowed those with criminal records to gain citizenship, which is not the case. Arroyo, after refering to our undocumented borthers and sisters as "aliens" and "illegals," mentioned that the bishops were supporting the DREAM Act and the two of them fell all over themselves in arguing that on a matter such as this, the bishops were not to be listened to necessarily because no issue of faith or morals was on the table. Alas for them, doing justice is not a matter of morals.

Non-Story Hysteria Watch


According to Politico, the Republicans in Congress have declined to "fix" the requirement of the new health care law that forces small business to file a 1099 tax form for every vendor with whom they contract for more than $600. This provision has been "universally panned." And the GOP wants a nice, populist, anti-big, intrusive government issued tee'd up and ready to go in the new year.
Well, in the spirit of entrepreneurial capitalism, might I suggest that the "fix" that is needed is not a legislative one, but a logistical one. Small businesses need an application for their inventory software, that's all. Most small business know exactly how much they are buying from each vendor, they have the vendor's address, they have all that information already. How else would you be able to do an inventory and know what to order and from whom? I am a computer Luddite, but I am sure someone in the Obama White House knows a smart computer genius who can "fix" this terrible 1099 problem in a heartbeat, and make a little money doing it in the meantime.

McMullen v. Broglio


Eugene McMullen has written an essay about chaplains in the military and Archbishop Timothy Broglio’s commentary about keeping “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” at Religion Dispatches. Like McMullen, I found Broglio’s comments nonsensical, even foolish, and offensive. But, McMullen’s essay has its own foolishness.

McMullen includes this sentence in his commentary: “Chaplains are engaged primarily in a non-sectarian work of care and counsel.”

It is true that military chaplains deal with those outside their own faith, but it is also true that Catholic chaplains provide something unique to Catholic members of the armed forces, specifically, the sacraments. The word “sectarian” invites images of the Thirty Years War, but if it is sectarian to provide the sacraments to our Catholic soldiers, then three cheers for sectarianism. Care and counsel are all well and good but a nice person or a smart shrink can bring those to the soldiers and sailors. Only a priest can bring the sacraments.

The Theology of Guadalupe


There were no empty seats at Mass yesterday at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church, and many people stood along the walls. The church was bedecked with the national flags of all the countries of the Americas hanging from the rafters. Hanging from the flags were balloons. To the right of the altar, the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe stood atop a series of risers, of the kind a choir would stand on, only each riser was covered with bouquets of flowers. In the parking lot, there were dozens upon dozens of pickup trucks and family-sized SUVs, all of which had either a Mexican flag, or a medallion of the Virgin, or a Peruvian flag.

Feliz Fiesta


My liturgical calendar tells me that today is Gaudete Sunday. But the non-stop ringing of bells at the church down the street tells me that it is really the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I am not going to try and compete with the excellent coverage and commentary provided by Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia. Check it out to see the face of the American Church in the decades ahead.
What is most striking about the clips Rocco has is the devotion, the highly personalized identification, with the Virgin that you see in the faces - and in the costumes - of those celebrating the feast. Listen to the words of the Mexican pop star Lucero as she speaks to the Virgin before singing her song, facing the tilma in the basilica in Guadalupe. This is their day because it is her day. I can't think of anything like it, certainly nothing so vibrant, in my church experiences growing up. Latinos do not only pray to the Virgin, they do not only celebrate this day, they LOVE the Virgin.


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October 9-22, 2015


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