National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Distinctly Catholic

Yes to High Speed Rail


My colleague Rich Heffern posted yesterday about the Obama administration's request for $63 billion in new funding for high-speed rail and light-rail projects.
Last night on "Hardball," Chris Matthews asked why America is the only place you can't get on a high speed rail for travel between major cities, as he and his wife Kathleen recently did while traveling from Rome to Florence. China and Japan are way ahead of the U.S. in this area also.

Abortion & Hypocrisy


Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on Rep. Chris Smith’s “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” The hearing was contentious, as political discussions of abortion policy usually are, and has earned plenty of media coverage. The Washington Post wrote about it here and Politico has an article here. But, the debate over abortion is not just contentious, it is also curious because of the way it exposes the intellectual and philosophic inconsistencies of both parties.

Gerson on Catholics & Republicans


Michael Gerson was one of the champions of the "compassionate conservatism" that George W. Bush ran on in 2000 and, as a Post columnist, Gerson continues to give voice to a morally serious understanding of politics. It is curious that this non-Catholic seems more interested in the Catholic intellectual tradition than many Catholic politicians!
Today, he has an interesting essay that echoes some of the issues I have rasied in these pages, specifically, how the libertarian instincts of some in the GOP base is at cross purposes with Catholic social teachings. Gerson is right to instruct his Republican friends to consult the Catholic tradition and to allow it to serve as a check on some of the Tea Party hyper-individualism. Gerson is also correct in his admonition to some Democrats to allow the Catholic intellectual tradition to put a check on their, very different, hyper-individualism. Alas, I suspect that at the national level, political orthodoxies will continue to trump religious orthodoxies.

BBQ & Orthodoxy


I was delighted to see such heartfelt comments on my post last week about BBQ. To be clear, and to repeat, I do not consider BBQ preferences to be the stuff of orthodoxy. Kansas City style BBQ may be the "official" BBQ of the National Catholic Reporter, but I am just as happy with North Carolina BBQ, east or west, when I am served it. Beef or pork is another instance where what the Holy Father calls the "great et, et" comes into play: Why choose between them when you can enjoy both! Protestant theology is classically defined by its penchant for "either/or" constructions. We RCs prefer "both/and."

With Palin: Discard Traditional Categories


It is almost comical to watch pundits analyze Sarah Palin as if she were just like other politicians. She is not. By way of example, Politico has an article today about Bristol Palin, in which she discusses politics nad her personal life. The header with the link on the homepage at Politico reads "Bristol talks politics, personal life." The editors did not even feel the need to list her last name although there is a photo.
Ask yourself this. Does anyone know the name of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's children? Does anyone know if Sen. John Thune has children?
Ask yourself this: Who are those people who are identified only by their first name? Oprah is. Bono is. Diana was. When you break into the culture in such a way that only your first name need be used, and when your claim to the culture's attention is that your Mom was a less-than-full term Governor of Alaska, that Mom has broken through standard categories of political analysis.

Vox Nova Takes On Papist


Our friends at Vox Nova have a fine takedown of the American Papist who wonders why more of us on the left have not joined him in applauding a group that stages videotaped encounters with the staff at Planned Parenthood clinics in an effort to "expose" them and their nefarious deeds.
I am no fan of Planned Parenthood. But, these juvenile, staged, videotaped encounters, like the earlier efforts to take on and take down ACORN, are not worthy of comment. They entirely miss the fact that the people they are "exposing" are, perhaps, not as morally indignant as the Papist wants them to be because they are trying to figure out what the hell is going on. If someone goes in with a problem, really any problem, a counselor should not attack them. It takes a while to answer basic questions: Is this person making this up? Is this person mentally unbalanced? Is this a hoax? How desperate is this person? The sense of bewilderment is not the same as a sense of moral laxity.

Silk on Obama and RC's


Over at Spiritual Politics, Mark Silk notes the new members of the Obama Administration's Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership Office's Advisory Council. Amongst other problems, Silk notes that the Obama administration has dropped the ball on dealing with the Catholic hierarchy: "If the Obama White House can't round up a single Catholic bishop for this Council, it should be ashamed of itself. (Indeed, the administration's inability to establish decent relations with the Catholic hierarchy represents its single biggest faith-based failure.)"
The fault is not only with Obama. Two weeks ago, at the State of the Union, newly instaled House Speaker John Boehner had Cardinal Wuerl in his box. I do not recall Speaker Pelosi ever having a prominent - or a not prominent - Catholic clergyman as her guest at the State of the Union.

The Complexity of Morality in the Neonatal Unit


Normally, it would not occur to me to read, let alone recommend, a book of moral theology. Better to put pins in your eyes than read through another dry analysis of the moral law. Besides, morals have always bored me. It has never seemed that difficult to figure what is bad and what is not, and my Wildean inability to resist temptation keeps me frequently enough at the confessional that I am always reminded that the remedy for evil-doing is, in the end, the mercy of God.

Get Palin a Strategist Now


Yesterday, Sarah Palin criticized the Obama administration's handling of the crisis in Egypt by recalling the famous television ad Hillary Clinton ran during the 2008 primaries about the phone ringing at 3 a.m. in the White House. The point of the ad was that then-candidate Obama was untested, and might not be able to handle a foreign crisis. I never liked the ad. No matter who picks up that phone at 3 a.m., you know that the caller would be the National Security Advisor. The incumbent in that post, Tom Donilon, would be as likely to hold that job had Clinton won in 2008. And, no matter who picks up the phone, the first question they ask is the same: What do you recommend? And the first command they give would be the same: Assemble the team.


Subscribe to Distinctly Catholic


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

February 12-25, 2016


Some articles are only available in the print newspaper and Kindle edition.