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The Indispenable Sister Carol

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It is always a bit dangerous to predict how future historians will interpret events. Certainly, Xavier Rynne never foresaw Jospeh Raztinger, by way of example. But, when historians come to analyze the reasons health care reform passed this time when such political giants as FDR and LBJ failed to achieve it, many people will get the credit. First and foremost, the voters who elected Barack Obama who pledged to deliver health care reform deserve a large bit of credit. Obama himself deserves his share of the plaudits, especially because the Massachusetts special election in January gave him ample reason to set the troublesome issue aside. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s performance shamed the historical reputation of the men who wielded the Speaker’s gavel before her. But, one woman seems to me to have been especially indispensable: Sister Carol Keehan.

The great balancing act

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How do we live out our unique identity and embrace our own mystery? One way is to open the ancient overflowing toolbox of our spiritual traditions. Nestled therein are many reliable implements that have stood the test of centuries of use in the work of creative inner integration and soul crafting.

What are some of these tools? Patience, silence, incubating darkness, the wonderful yeasting action of prayer, wise and careful discernment, the adventure of striving for simplicity, meditation techniques, the great and not-so-easy art of letting go, the simple craft of mindfulness, the call to the death-rebirth dynamic of the paschal mystery, the cultivation of a contemplative attitude, renunciation, fasting, forgiveness, and the endless mystery of forgiving others.

Who's Cutting Slack for Whom?

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It's been a while since "permissiveness" was blamed for America's social ills. Wall Street thievery and wildcate ventures including Bernie Madoff's helped set aside the notion that the old nemesis could be invoked on liberals with impunity -- and permissiveness talk sort of went away.

Now the pope's letter to the Irish, and the premise behind Rome's investigation of nuns, signal a revival. In one case, Benedict says child abuse was in large measure egged on when the "renewal" called for by Vatican II "was sometimes misinterpreted," a situation made more confusing by "profound social change" in and around it.

Nothing Benedict says indicates he thinks anything is wrong with church laws and discipline. Things just got lax and the church sheriffs were distracted from enforcing those laws. The remedy is to do a better job. There's no need to reform the system itself.

Unmentioned is the permissivness angle. Bishops are told they "failed, at times, greviously, to apply the long established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse." But so far the bishops face no sanctions for this permissive behavior.

Stupak & White House Reach Agreement

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Congressman Bart Stupak is holding a news conference as I write with his fellow pro-life Democrats. They announced an agreement with the White House for an executive order that confirms a pro-life interpretation of any ambiguous aspects of the current health care bill. Some on the Left charged that Stupak’s concern about the abortion language in the bill was all a ruse to defeat the health care bill. They owe the congressman an apology – he held the critical, decisive number of votes in his group, and he has delivered them.

Stupak’s commitment to pro-life principles in beyond question; in this murky world of politics if anything is clear, it is clear that Stupak was willing to defeat the bill unless he felt his concerns about abortion funding were met. So, it will be interesting to see which groups – and which Catholic blogs – denounce him now. This will distinguish those whose primary concern is for the protection of unborn life from those whose primary concern is the promotion of the GOP’s agenda.

A Tale of Two Rallies - & How NOT to Lobby Congress

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A friend started getting a lot of phone calls on his answering machine the other day. Evidently, his number is remarkably similar to that of Congressman Jim Oberstar, one of the pro-life Dems who was holding out on the health care bill for a different approach to the issue of abortion funding. Rule #1 of lobbying: Make sure you have the right phone number.

The messages were telling. One person who identified themselves as a pro-life voter said the problem with the health care system could be fixed with tort reform. “Kill all the lawyers,” he said, not seeing the irony in being pro-life and advocating killing anybody. The calls came from all across the country, not only from the congressman’s district.

Stupak to Vote \"Yes\"!

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NBC News is reporting that Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak, the leader of twelve pro-life Democrats who have refused to support the final health care bill until their concerns were met, has decided to vote “yes” on the health care bill. Stupak was in negotiations with the White House and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, working out the details of an executive order that would achieve a result that came closer to Stupak’s approach to enshrining prohibitions on the use of federal funds for abortion in a manner reminiscent of the Hyde Amendment. Stay tuned.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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