National Catholic Reporter

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Hope for HUD: Excellence overtakes cronyism


A longtime bureaucratic backwater, home to more cronyism and corruption than a Bernard Madoff hedge fund or Rod Blagojevich appointment process, provides one of the best yardsticks to measure Barack Obama’s commitment to effective government.

HUD -- the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- was subject to a rare combination of incompetence, chutzpah and malfeasance during the Bush presidency. That, it seems, is about to change. On Dec. 13, Obama named Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development under Republican-turned-Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to head the department. The baby-faced 41-year-old Harvard-educated architect is hailed by leaders in every segment of the housing industry; realtors, developers, low-income housing advocates, lenders and those who administer the nation’s public housing authorities all praise the choice.

Review of funding faith-based projects called for


WASHINGTON -- Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on Tuesday (Dec. 16) called on religious leaders to play a prophetic role in the public square but criticized faith groups that use government money to forward a sectarian message.

“The idea that faith-based groups should have special entree to government funding just makes me twitch,” said Jefferts Schori, who leads the 2.2 million-member Episcopal Church. “It makes me twitch when groups funded with public funds will only hire their own members, or use the funds to advance sectarian” views.

Speaking at the National Press Club here, Jefferts Schori also said she hopes the incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama “is asking questions” about whether to continue President Bush’s faith-based initiative.

Jefferts Schori, 54, was elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006, and has seen her church rent by infighting over homosexuality and the Bible. Earlier this month, a group of conservatives announced plans to form a rival church in North America.

The future of conservatism in a nation of mutts


Conservatism RIP?

American conservatism has crashed and burned and its carefully constructed religious cornerstone, based on an uneasy alliance of white evangelicals and “blue collar Catholics,” sits atop the ash heap.

This reality is not attributable solely to Obamaism, though that is part of it. Rather, it is about the past, namely the contradictory impulses of American conservatism, and the future, specifically a demographic tidal wave that threatens to bury a once powerful political tradition.

The history is effectively explained in White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement (Atlantic Monthly Press). American University history professor Allan Lichtman refutes the idea that modern American conservatism dates back to the 1955 founding of National Review, the erudite and pugnacious product of William F. Buckley’s vivid imagination and abundant energy.

NCR Commentary: The Republican captivity


In their long history, the People of God have seen many captivities, both literal and figurative: the Babylonian Captivity; the Constantinian Captivity, the Carolingian Captivity, the Holy Roman Empire Captivity, the Avignon Captivity. In each of these situations, civil authorities captured God’s people and used them for their own advantage. One would think that history has seen enough of such “captivities,” and that the church, having learned from this history, would be wary of it ever happening again.

What then explains the current captivity, perhaps more figurative than literal, of the Catholic church in America by the Republican Party? This captivity was again in evidence earlier this month in Baltimore as the bishops met. The more vocal bishops were obviously unhappy with the election results, and some of the more extreme statements, such as prohibiting the vice president elect from a return to the town of his birth unless he changes his ways, sound like Republican ward heelers. How did this happen? Why are these bishops acting like functionaries of the Republican Party?

How a bill doesn't become a law


Opponents of the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA), legislation supported by President-elect Obama that would establish a federal statutory right to abortion that goes beyond Roe v. Wade, must act urgently to halt its passage.

Or so the nation’s leading antiabortion advocates would have you believe.

“WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! WE MUST ACT IMMEDIATELY!!!” screams the flier produced by the National Right to Life Committee, formed in 1973 to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Meanwhile, Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki said this month that FOCA “could mean discontinuing obstetrics in our hospitals, and we may need to consider taking the drastic step of closing our Catholic hospitals entirely.” Cardinal Francis George, president of the bishops’ conference, agreed, saying that Paprocki’s warning was “well-founded.”

Here’s the reality: FOCA has as much chance of passage as the 0-10 Detroit Lions have of winning the next Super Bowl.

Will Obama be good for Israel?


Israeli reactions on Obama run from fear to cautious optimism

Except for professions of unqualified support of Israel by both candidates, little was said specifically during the recent presidential campaign about the principle U.S. ally in the Middle East or about how each candidate might approach the seemingly intractable problems that would face a new administration.

Even though news cycles now are understandably overwhelmed by the deepening global financial crisis, the realities on the ground in Israel and its neighbors will inevitably demand the attention of the new president. The court of public opinion that president-elect Barack Obama will face in Israel is very mixed, running from skepticism to an assessment that considers his election “a miracle.”

Part of that mix involves Christians, whose primary interests are the peace process and ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Diocese: Priest wrong in Obama condemnation


A South Carolina Catholic priest was wrong to warn parishioners who voted for President-elect Barack Obama to confess their sin before receiving Communion, according to the head of the priest's diocese.

Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin, administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, said in a statement late Friday (Nov. 14) that "if a person has formed his or her conscience well, he or she should not be denied Communion, nor be told to go to confession before receiving Communion."

Last week, the Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, said that by receiving Communion, Obama supporters "drink and eat their own condemnation," because the president-elect supports abortion rights. Newman later said he would not deny the sacrament to anyone "based on political opinions or choices."

Newman's statements "do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church's teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated," Laughlin said. He added that Newman pulled the church's moral teachings "into the partisan political arena" and "diverted the focus from the church's clear position against abortion."

U.S. bishops see 'ray of light' in Prop 8 outcome


Amid what many American bishops saw as a rather dismal election with regard to traditional “faith and values” issues, several prelates during their recent meeting in Baltimore pointed to Proposition 8 in California as a ray of light.

“Strengthening marriage” is one of five top priorities the U.S. bishops have identified through 2011. The success of an anti-gay marriage measure in California, usually seen as among the “bluest” of the blue states, seemed to embolden the bishops in defense of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“Marriage is not an institution created by the church, or by the state,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in remarks to reporters in Baltimore. “It’s a natural institution, a universal institution.”

“To imagine that we can change it by a vote or by a court decision is an example of hubris,” George said, arguing that the victory of Proposition 8 shows that “people recognize that … people feel that.”



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