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A moral measurement for candidates' tax plans



“The tax system should be continually evaluated in terms of its impact on the poor.” So stated the U.S. bishops in their 1986 pastoral “Economic Justice for All.” They enunciated three guiding principles:

First, the tax system should raise adequate revenues to pay for the public needs of society, especially to meet the basic needs of the poor. Secondly, the tax system should be structured according to the principle of progressivity, so that those with relatively greater financial resources pay a higher rate of taxation. The inclusion of such a principle in tax policies is an important means of reducing the severe inequalities of income and wealth in the nation. ... Thirdly, families below the official poverty line should not be required to pay income taxes. Such families are, by definition, without sufficient resources to purchase the basic necessities of life. They should not be forced to bear the additional burden of paying income taxes.

GOP in a jam when it comes to Latino vote



Politics occurs at the intersection of ideas, personalities and demographics. To win an election, a candidate needs good ideas, a personality conducive to persuading others those ideas are compelling, and an appreciation of who makes up the electorate. As the 2012 election takes shape, and Mitt Romney appears certain to become the GOP nominee, the Republicans find themselves in a jam.

Romney chose to make immigration an issue on which to display his conservative bona fides, placing him on the wrong side of that issue with the fasting-growing sector of the electorate, Latinos. And, given his “Etch A Sketch” reputation for changing positions to suit his political needs, Romney is almost uniquely ill-suited for the task of pivoting from pandering to the base to win the primaries and tacking back to the center to win the general election in November.

Bishops say Obama compromise is 'unconstitutional'


The nation's Catholic bishops say the Obama administration's proposed revisions to a mandate that requires insurers to provide birth control coverage are still unacceptable and even "radically flawed" -- signaling a long drawn-out election-year fight between the White House and the Catholic hierarchy.

The bishops also say that they will continue to try to overturn the contraception regulations in Congress and the courts even as the bishops carry on negotiations with the White House.

War no more -- or at least, peace with Obama



When the president chose to not grant an exemption from the mandate that employer-provided insurance should include contraceptive coverage, some bishops called the decision an act of war on the church and religious freedom.

With due respect, I believe this overstated matters considerably. This is especially so, since the president responded promptly to begin discussions on how the ethical concerns of the church might be met more satisfactorily. In particular, the president proposed that no Catholic employer would be directly asked to supply contraceptive coverage; instead, that coverage would be provided by the employer's insurance company.

To a good many theologians, this worked well enough to avoid formal cooperation with evil, but left unanswered how the problem could be avoided where a Catholic employer did not use a third-party insurer, but was self-insured. Discussions continue, with some now suggesting that it might be possible to create a public entity by implementing regulation to offer the contraceptive benefit in this self-insured context in a way that similarly separates a Catholic employer.

Despite 'tensions,' Catholics and administration working together


While the words “Obama administration” and “Catholic” have been used together in recent weeks frequently to only highlight discord between the executive branch and the U.S. bishops over the administration’s mandate requiring coverage of contraceptives in health care plans, federal funding figures may tell a different story.

It’s a story of “partnership” and of the “deep respect” the president has “for the work of Catholic organizations around the country that are serving people and are helping the most vulnerable,” says one senior White House official.

Speaking in an exclusive phone interview late last week, Joshua DuBois, head of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, pointed to the administration’s efforts to help funnel funds -- estimated by the White House to total some $1.5 billion since 2008 -- to agencies like Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services in evincing that partnership.

Priestly constituent blasts GOP budget proposal

Faith leaders and poverty experts Wednesday called the new House GOP budget proposal "immoral" and "irresponsible."

The budget released the previous day by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., included deep cuts to programs that would unfairly burden the poor, middle-income families and senior citizens, said Fr. Thomas Kelly, who participated in a phone conference with the media.

Maryland governor: Same-sex marriage is about rights, dignity


BALTIMORE -- Legalizing same-sex marriage is about protecting human rights and dignity, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley told a national gathering of about 400 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics on March 16.

A little more than two weeks before, O'Malley, a Democrat and a Catholic, had signed into law a bill allowing same-sex marriage in the state of Maryland.

The governor received a standing ovation when he arrived to give a luncheon speech at the Seventh Annual Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality, and an even longer ovation at the end of his brief talk.

Speaking on "the dignity of every individual," he said, "I think at the end of the day, all of us want the same thing for our kids. We want our children to grow up in caring conditions and loving homes, protected equally under the law.

'Effective love' and 'practical charity' secure the common good



Four years ago, a friend told me that he was voting for candidate so-and-so for president because it would be best for the business in which he worked. My friend is a good man, but in this case he had it wrong. The measure of a candidate can’t be my business, my taxes, my state, or even my family. The ultimate measure for a voter is not any personal interest, but the ancient standard of the common good. Born out of Greek and Roman philosophy, the common good described the goal of political life, the good of the city (the pólis), and the task entrusted to civic leaders.

After centuries of Christian scholarship and debate, we arrive at the definition in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, taken from Vatican II, and ultimately from Pope John XXIII in Mater et Magistra (1961):

According to its primary and broadly accepted sense, the common good indicates “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.”

Of Franklin Graham, Fox News and faith's distortion



I haven't always seen eye to eye with President Barack Obama. We disagree on abortion, the troop build-up in Afghanistan and a recent tendency to ignore those who have his best interests at heart.

That said, I have no basis to question or doubt the importance of faith in president's life or his unswerving commitment to ensure religious freedom for all. In a new book, Lift Up Your Hearts, I elaborate why it is that the president is so impressively well-informed on this sensitive topic, but suffice it to say that the president's integrity in these matters is well summarized by the nightly prayer he has revealed to many that "we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all."



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January 29-February 11, 2016


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