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Good Guy Randy Edsall

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College football season is about to begin. This, like the start of college basketball season, brings a smile to my face. I am not such a fan of professional sports where the egos seem to get in the way of a good game with more than a little regularity. But, college football is a great game, especially when you can attend in person but kicking back and watching it on television is not a bad way to spend a Saturday either.

A few years ago, heading into the gym at Catholic University, I ran into Athletic Director Mike Allen. He was walking with Randy Edsall, the coach of the University of Connecticut football team, and he introduced and we passed a few moments in conversation. I grew up about twenty minutes from the UConn campus so I know it well and a friend of mine played football for Edsall a few years back. He seemed like a great guy.

Shaky Prospects for Peace

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The negotiations for Mideast Peace have begun anew at the White House. Despite the promising talk about how a deal can be reached within a year, the prospects of reaching the kind of deal that could actually work are as grim as ever. For all of our political difficulties here in the U.S., the politics of the Mideast are, simply put, a mess.

Blast From the Past: John Carroll

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The first census showed that America had almost 4 million souls of whom only about 35,000 were Catholics, that is a little less than one percent.

If the French Alliance and the wide diversity of faiths had both helped take the anti-RC edge off the new republic, a third factor, the patriotism of the leading Catholic families in Maryland not only helped during the Revolution but made Maryland the natural focal point of the young Church.

Fr. John Carroll, the cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton -- the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence -- had been named superior of the American missions in 1784. In this capacity he wrote to the Holy See requesting a new bishop and, as well, that in this first instance -- and cognizant of American sensibilities -- that the first bishop be nominated by a free vote of the clergy. The Holy See gave its assent and, gathering in a chapel at White Marsh in Maryland, the priests of America selected John Carroll to be their first bishop.

Yahoo Watch: Father Henry

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I am frankly surprised that the President of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Franciscan Fr. Terence Henry, agreed to participate in one of Glenn Beck's radio shows, giving a morning prayer on the air. Now, of course, the Master dined with sinners and tax collectors, so there is a precedent. But, Fr. Henry went further, comparing Beck to Paul Revere "spreading the alarm." What alarm is that Father? The racist anti-Muslim alarm? The confused "socialism is everywhere" alarm? Or the "leave your church if the priest talks about social justice" alarm?

I know that Steubenville is not everyone's cup of tea, but I applaud them for their commitment to the church and their zeal for the faith. I am told that one gets a good education there, which is more than can be said for many colleges and universities. I would have no objection to his bringing Beck to campus to speak, in fact. But going to Beck-land and joining the creepily adoring masses who worship at Beck's feet is unseemly.

Religious Leaders & Military Experts Denounce Islamophobia

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A group of religious leaders and military experts held a conference call today to denounce Islamophobia and to urge that the planned Islamic community center and mosque in lower Manhattan, Park 51, be built.

Rev. David Gushee, a Baptist professor at Mercer University, noted the long history of Baptist support for religious liberty, including their role in supporting the First Amendment when it was first drafted. “Baptists should recoil from intimidation directed at any religious group,” Gushee said. He urged those evangelicals who have stoked the flames of intolerance against Islam to “cease and desist.”

Andrew Bacevich, a retired army officer and professor at Boston University, argued that the Islamic radicals who attacked America on 9/11 want to create the perception that America’s struggle against terrorism is a civilizational war, that America is at war with Islam. Bacevich also noted that he is a Catholic and that in previous times Catholics had been the object of similar anti-religious bigotry.

Anti-Catholicism & The Founders

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With Glenn Beck and the Tea Party crowd constantly invoking the Founders, it would be nice to see then discuss the role that virulent anti-Catholicism played in the lead up to the American Revolution. In the event, the Founders were able to transcend their anti-Catholic bigotry, but the bigotry of the Tea Party crowd seen in the anti-mosque effort and their hysteria about the imminent threat to American liberties posed by sharia, to say nothing of the racist bigotry of the anti-immigrant advocates (are these the same groups?), remains among the grass roots of the movement – you will pardon the expression – a point of honor.

Obama's Speech

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I admit it – I hate Oval Office speeches. I hate the inevitable references to “limitless possibilities,” especially at the end of a decade that showed the very obvious limits to our possibilities, both at home and abroad. I understand that the President needs to be a cheerleader for the nation, but I don’t have to like it.

The President’s opening and closing were especially strong. The speech was the first time, in a long time, that he painted a “big picture,” saying how his many policies fit together, remaking the social compact at home and our priorities abroad, and the relationship between the two. He called on all citizens to emulate our veterans in coming together to pursue the common good, and praised the men and women of the Armed Forces in appropriately fulsome language. He pointed out that we spent a trillion dollars in Iraq, none of it paid for at the time, or even budgeted, making it at least a bit more difficult for Republicans to complain about his stimulus spending in Boston when they just spent so much in Baghdad.

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