Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tocqueville and The Religious Liberty Crisis At Vanderbilt University

I posted this link earlier. See Vanderbilt Catholics Unites For Religious Freedom and Association On Campus Today ( Wearing White Nationwide ) .

Of particular importance is this link Why I'm wearing white that describes the situation and crisis .

I was struck how much this had to do with a Mirrors of Justice post yesterday at The Importance of Institutional Pluralism. Now Vandy is a private University and does not have all the restrictions on it a public University has on it. So I recognize there are different legal dynamics going on. However it really struck me at root of this is a ethos we are seeing in the Government itself on other matters.

First let me excerpt that post:

...It strikes me that one’s view of the HHS mandate will often vary depending on whether one embraces “the logic of congruence,” in Nancy Rosenblum’s phrase, or a robust commitment to the freedom of civil society (churches, civic organizations, families, etc.), including toleration for views one sharply disagrees with. If the former, then you just have to bide your time until your side has a grasp on the levers of state power, and so, as Douthat points out, the increased authority of the state in these matters will eventually gore everyone’s ox--liberal or conservative, religious or not--depending on the politics of the administration.

As Rosenblum and Robert Post put it in the introduction to Civil Society and Government (Princeton, 2002):

Advocates of congruence fear that the multiplication of intermediate institutions does not mediate but balkanizes public life. They are apprehensive that plural associations and groups amplify self-interest, encourage arrant interest-group politics, exaggerate cultural egocentrism, and defy government. What is needed, in their view, is a strong assertion of public values and policies designed to loosen the hold of particular affiliations, so that members will be empowered to look beyond their groups and to identify themselves as members of the larger political community. The “logic of congruence” envisions civil society as reflecting common values and practices “all the way down.”

All of this was diagnosed by Tocqueville, who saw that individualism and statism are reinforcing over time, crowding out religious and other forms of associational life for the allegiance of citizens:

As in periods of equality no man is compelled to lend his assistance to his fellow men, and none has any right to expect much support from them, everyone is at once independent and powerless. These two conditions, which must never be either separately considered or confounded together, inspire the citizen of a democratic country with very contrary propensities. His independence fills him with self-reliance and pride among his equals; his debility makes him feel from time to time the want of some outward assistance, which he cannot expect from any of them, because they are all impotent and unsympathizing.

In this predicament he naturally turns his eyes to that imposing power which alone rises above the level of universal depression. Of that power his wants and especially his desires continually remind him, until he ultimately views it as the sole and necessary support of his own weakness. It frequently happens that the members of the community promote the influence of the central power without intending to.

Democratic eras are periods of experiment, innovation, and adventure. There is always a multitude of men engaged in difficult or novel undertakings, which they follow by themselves without shackling themselves to their fellows. Such persons will admit, as a general principle, that the public authority ought not to interfere in private concerns; but, by an exception to that rule, each of them craves its assistance in the particular concern on which he is engaged and seeks to draw upon the influence of the government for his own benefit, although he would restrict it on all other occasions.

If a large number of men applies this particular exception to a great variety of different purposes, the sphere of the central power extends itself imperceptibly in all directions, although everyone wishes it to be circumscribed. Thus a democratic government increases its power simply by the fact of its permanence. Time is on its side, every incident befriends it, the passions of individuals unconsciously promote it; and it may be asserted that the older a democratic community is, the more centralized will its government become.

Democracy in America, Vol. II, Pt. 4, Ch. 3

Is not that logic of congruence really what is going on here? There is of course the " Nation of Vanderbilt " that includes Government ( administration), social services ( food , FOOTBALL, housing ) , and of course the education component.

But like all places of higher learning there are other important Independent Institutions that play a vital role in life of the country of Vanderbilt.

Those might be social ( Frats), charitable and service ( Circle K ), political ( Young Republicans and Democrats ) , ethnic ( the Black Student Union) and needless to say religious.

It appears that there is some concern that people of a LGBT orientations or various degrees of same sex attraction might be discriminated against. At least that seems ONE of the concerns of the Vandy administration. Therefore something needs to be done about these " plural associations and groups that amplify self-interest, encourage arrant interest-group politics, exaggerate cultural egocentrism, and defy government ".

Now I am not sure there is really any real threat to the rights of LGBT students or anyone else. But damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead anyway. The fact that if the policy results in a former Baptist now Catholic heading the Baptist Student Association is no matter.

This all seems pretty radical ,and I think the bigger issue of congruence is at play. What we see at Vandy is playing out on a larger scale nationwide. Where will this attitude and policy choice lead in the end is what we don't know.

Vanderbilt Catholics Unites For Religious Freedom and Association On Campus Today ( Wearing White Nationwide )

Students at Texas A & M Wear White In Support of Religious Freedom At Vanderbilt University

Well it appears folks nationwide are protesting the absurd new policy at Vanderbilt University today that attacks religious freedom and association. See Why I'm wearing white

Also see the above video. The very dynamic Vanderbilt Catholic group ( Where we have the very dynamic FOCUS involvement too) have been in the front lines of this too.

Legally no doubt these groups are not in a great position. It's a private University so they can do things a public University cannot. However I find it astonishing that this is going on at what we are told is the academic Jewel of the South Eastern Conference. If you are on Twitter follow the hash tag #wearevanderbilttoo

Sadly Meeting Between Pope Benedict And Russian Orthodox Patriarch Not Happening .

Well to say the least this is disappointing news coming off Christian Unity week . Protect the Pope has the link and thoughts at Russian Patriarch dashes hopes of meeting with Pope Benedict

Senator Mary Landrieu In Tough Spot On Jindal Education Reform Plan

The New Orleans Picayune had a good piece yesterday Mary Landrieu walks tightrope on Bobby Jindal's education plans . This seems to put her odds with her State Party to a certain degree.

I think Jindal should do everything to encourage her support ,or at the very least keep her quiet on things she does not like about the plan.

Media Coverage Lacking on Opening Weekend Of Bishops Offensive Against Obama Birth Control Mandate

Get Religion has a ton of links of interest packed into this piece Catholics outraged, media unimpressed.

This is going to be a daily matter on this blog as best as I can find relevant material to link.

Catholics and other concerned parties should not be putting their hope in two baskets.

One that a Republican will be elected President and the regualtion will be removed


That the Court system will overturn this law. I am quite frankly not as optimistic as some that the Courts will overturn this law. Further the Court system moves at a glacier pace and in some Dioceses the damage might be done , depending on Circuit they are in, by the time the ( and this is a big IF they take it ) the Supreme Court decided to take the case.

Direct political heat must be applied to the Obama administration on this. Perhaps someone will make the political caculation this is not worth it and the new regulation will be withdrawn. I still think that is plausiable and I suspect that's the Bishops hope.

Obama Birth Control Mandate Threatens Catholic Services to Immigrants Regardless of Legal Status

Cafe Con Leche Republicans has a good post up at Obama’s Attack on Religious Liberty is an Attack on Immigrants. It is truly amazing the far reaching potential effect here of this move by the Obama administration on the Birth Control mandate

I also think they are right to bring up on "our side" parts of the problematic Alabama immigration law.

Regardless we could be in a situation where it's very likely the Church would be severely hampered in its mission to minister to the immigrant ( of varying degrees of legal or non legal status). This very well could put some of these immigrants in danger.

Finally I let me put this in profane secular terms. It's put the Catholic Church at a major disadvantage to other Faith groups . Not all these people are Catholics but many are. I find it mind blowing that the Methodists, main line Protestants Baptists, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals are being given this "competitive advantage".

Monday, January 30, 2012

Common Law Tradition of Religious Liberty and the Obama Birth Control Mandate

Catholics are the first often to get that is a difference between "Freedom of Worship " and "Freedom of Religion".

So when lets say the Secretary of State uses the more restricted "Freedom of Worship" in a speech alarms bells go off in Catholic Internet land.

On the issue of the Obama birth control mandate even Catholic dissenters on the birth control issue I think sense something is not right.

There was a interesting article at the National Review that makes an important point . See Religious Liberty and Civil Society

....As many have noted around here, the fact of the administration’s willingness to do this sheds light on its hostility to (or at the very least its contempt for) religious liberty. But it’s not quite that simple. This incident (and especially the nature of the exemption that the administration was willing to grant, which is essentially an exemption for actual houses of worship but not for other religiously-affiliated institutions) also sheds light on a very deeply rooted problem in our tradition of religious liberty itself—a problem that should cause those of us inclined to seek recourse in “conscience protection” and religious exemptions to pause and think.

The English common law tradition of religious toleration, which we inherited, has always had a problem with religious institutions that are not houses of worship—i.e. that are geared to ends other than the practice of religion itself. To (vastly) oversimplify for a moment, that tradition began (in the 16th century, and in some respects even earlier) with the aim of protecting Protestant dissenters and Jews but (very intentionally) not protecting Catholics.

And the way it took shape over the centuries in an effort to sustain that distinction was by drawing a line between individual religious practice (in which the government could not interfere) and an institutional religious presence (which was given far less protection). Because Catholicism is a uniquely institutional religion—with large numbers of massive institutions for providing social services, educating children and adults, and the like, all of which are more or less parts of a single hierarchy—this meant Catholics were simply not granted the same protection as others. Obviously the intent to treat Catholics differently has for the most part fallen away since then, but the evolved legal tradition is very much with us, and it is not a coincidence that it always seems to be the Catholic Church that gets caught up in these situations when the government overreaches.....

Mirrors of Justice takes up on this theme and others at The Importance of Institutional Pluralism

Lawyer For Social Justice In New Orleans On Road To Becoming A Nun

A rather nice inspiring article about a Catholic Convert in the New Orlean's Picayune. See Young lawyer fights for social justice on her way to becoming a nun

The New Papacy of Episcopal Church USA Hits A Rough Spot

I am one of the few Catholic bloggers it seems that takes an interest in the Episcopal Church on a consistent basis. In fact I might do a ost soon on their first prayer book.

I find a lot of the issues in this faith community pretty intriguing. For instance I think it is beyond dispute that the National Church has gained more power in just a matter of decades versus the local Dioceses. Further that has meant the "Presiding Bishop " ( Now Primate ? ) has gained more power. Many are wondering how exactly this happened but it has.

So I saw with interest at MCJ this interesting dust up between the leadership. See AS THE WORLD TURNS

This comment I thought was apt:

Dear Bonnie,
I regret to inform you that yes, Katharine is the boss of you. Oh, you may be President of the House of Deputies, but that just means they’re happy to let you play in your sandbox with all the other kindergartners while the real power is elsewhere.
Don’t believe me? Okay, then explain the following points:

(a) Why the insistence in the lawsuits that TEC is so too a hierarchical church, with the Presiding Bishop (and no mention of anyone else that I remember) having a fiduciary duty to sue the hassocks out of any departing members? In a hierarchy, there are people at the top and people at the bottom.

(b) You lot are the ones who introduced clericalism into the mix. If you hadn’t made it a matter of JUSTICE!!!! and CIVIL RIGHTS!!!!! to hang a stole, surplice and cope on first women and then the LGBT constituency so that they could be clergypersons and bishops, then maybe we might believe all that guff about TEC is democratic, the laity have just as much influence and status as the clergy, yadda yadda yadda. I don’t see you demanding that the World Tiddlywinks Championship should have a special LGBT league as a matter of justice and civil rights. So obviously, as far as you guys are concerned, the vestments are where it’s at.

(c) Why is your Presiding Bishop a Primate (after the not-so-kind gorilla jokes about Global South primates, too?) To give her equal status with the archbishops and primates of the other member churches of the Anglican Communion – you know, those same Neanderthals, knuckle-draggers and chicken-dinner eaters that you lot looked down your noses at whilst wrapping yourselves in Old Glory and lecturing them about what a special snowflake TEC was, with its democratic polity and three equal houses of representation?

(d) What’s with the “2.4 million members in 16 countries and 110 dioceses” bit on the website? Could this possibly be nudging towards a claim that you lot are an international communion – or even a worldwide denomination – of your very own? Because correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t the churches of Ecuador, Colombia, Haiti and so forth be their very own churches, given that you’re not fans of colonialism?

(e) Putting points (c) and (d) together, could it possibly be that the Presiding Bishop feels herself to be the equal of, and playing the same role as, the Archbishop of Canterbury? Or better yet, the Pope, since poor old Rowan gets hammered every time he tries to exercise a fragment of discipline and authority with loud yells of “No Anglican Pope here!” and “We don’t want a Curia!”

(f) All of which mean, that sorry, but you being a laywoman and she being the Pope person in the biggest of the big hats, she can talk to whomsoever she darn well likes without let or hindrance from you. Next thing you know, you won’t even let her process into the House of Deputies carrying her crosier and wearing her mitre! (Remember all the kerfuffle over the ‘insulting treatment’ of Bishop Jefferts Schori when the Archbishop enforced the same rules on visiting clergy and who can and who cannot exhibit tokens of governance as you’re trying to enforce here with who can and who can’t directly talk to the Deputies without going through you first?).

This is nothing new of course . Back in the 70's and 80's when Progressives ruled the Catholic Church in the USA they could use and accumulate power quite well.

Sister ( x) might do a good job of talking about the all male un democractic Church , but she was pretty good at the local Parish or Campus Ministry of freezing out "pre Vatican II" folks and replacing them with the "Spirit of Vatican II crowd. I saw this on the Campus Ministry level where religious were dominant all the time.

Progressives no matter their sex or sexual orientation are very good at accumulating power and using it for the common good. How this plays out in the Episcopal Church remains to be seen. There might be signs of regret to come yet.

The Anti Catholic and Anti Bishop Tone of the Birth Control Mandate Debate

Back to the birth control mandate issue ,and another troubling facet of it. That is the blatant anti Catholicism and anti Bishop tone that is not even hidden.

At MOJ there is a post Confusion about "conscience" where a couple of supporters of the mandate are engaged.

......Bugyis writes, "[a]s it stands, the bishops and other religious leaders seem intent on protecting their prerogative to coerce rather than counsel, and this is a slap in the faces of the faithful, who have already endured and forgiven so much loss of moral credibility among their clergy." Again, the bishops are not "coercing" anyone, and the question whether the Church's teaching on contraception has been persuasive (to most people, obviously, it has not), should be entirely irrelevant to the question (I understand that it is relevant to the Administration's political calculations) whether a government that is constitutionally and culturally committed to religious freedom should make Catholic institutions subsidize employees' contraception. At the end of the day, it seems to me that Bugyis welcomes the mandate out of something like spite, as a kind of justified punishment, or come-uppance, of the Church for its failure to confess error and reform in the direction he would like. Very disappointing.

Sadly this is too common, but there is little doubt that the Obama administration and it's friends on this issue will engage on it in various ways some subtle some not.

As Prof Garnett states here:

...The decision is all the more unattractive for being so obviously political, in a low sense. It appears to me that the Administration simply decided that -- perhaps because the Bishops' stock is low in American culture at the moment, and perhaps because the polls and many advisors assure them that, because most Catholics report that they don't accept the Church's teachings on contraception (remember, though, this mandate covers some abortion-causing drugs, too) -- it would not face any serious political cost if it imposed the mandate, but it would demoralize "the base" during a re-election campaign if it did not. Catholics were quite useful during the 2008 campaign and, apparently, the Administration believes that this decision will not cause Catholics to stay home or switch sides in sufficient numbers to undermine the 2012 effort.

There is no an huge element of pay back time that one sees as to this issue. When Roe V Wade happened it was the Catholic Church that raised it's voice. In fact they had to spend years getting many Evangelicals on their side. It is forgotten now ,but it was an acceptable position among even many Fundamentalist to be pro-choice on the issue. The resolutuions of the Southern Baptist Convention on abortion in the early 70's are instructive on this .

So organization like NOW , NARAL, and MS Magazine no doubt see an opportunity to strike while the Bishops are not in great PR shape.

The fact that Bishops are at a low PR moment should be a sign to many in the Administration that more caution is urged on this matter not less.

I have no doubt that there are people that are committed to the Fist amendment in the Obama administration that can see beyond the short term political gain. That is the danger that the coercive power of Government is being used in a climate of not so hidden anti Catholicism. Who will be next? This is something sadly that will not be able to be contained in one party I think.

The "But the majority of Catholics" argument is the most dangerous to the health of this Republic.

First it flirting quite dangerously with the thought that the Government can decide what is an essential belief of a Faith.

Second it interferes with he internal workings of the Church and it's Governance by trying to drive a wedge between its Bishops and the Laity.

Now of of course people are free under the First Amendment to do the above. But if we start hearing "But the majoruty of Catholics" argument at Government Press conference and publications we are in troubled waters.

American Dictators and Catholics

I know a older lady that is quite involved with Republican politics . She is so conservative she makes me look like a raging liberal. She has a strong opinion of Huey Long who she encountered in her youth in Winn parish . That is he was a SAINT.

He also was a raging Dictator.

American Catholic engages an George Will Column at George Will on Obama’s Militaristic Rhetoric . This part struck me:

...In his first inaugural address, FDR demanded “broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” He said Americans must “move as a trained and loyal army” with “a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.” The next day, addressing the American Legion, Roosevelt said it was “a mistake to assume that the virtues of war differ essentially from the virtues of peace.” In such a time, dissent is disloyalty.

Yearnings for a command society were common and respectable then. Commonweal, a magazine for liberal Catholics, said that Roosevelt should have “the powers of a virtual dictatorship to reorganize the government.” Walter Lippmann, then America’s preeminent columnist, said: “A mild species of dictatorship will help us over the roughest spots in the road ahead.” The New York Daily News, then the nation’s largest-circulation newspaper, cheerfully editorialized: “A lot of us have been asking for a dictator. Now we have one. . . . It is Roosevelt. . . . Dictatorship in crises was ancient Rome’s best era.” The New York Herald Tribune titled an editorial “For Dictatorship if Necessary.......”

I suspect that was common. This was also the era that gave us the movie Gabriel Over the White House.

I wonder who in Catholic Social Justice and political tradition opposed people like Huey Long and indeed maybe even Roosevelt. Anyone?

Pope Benedict Had Problems With Doves Yesterday ( Funny Video )

Well this is pretty funny. Thanks to Catholic Vote and their post Charming Video: Pope Scolds Stubborn Doves, Ad Libs “They Wan’t To Stay in the Pope’s House!” “Mama Mia!”

Where In the United States You Can Get Away With Murder

This is a pretty fun and easy to read Law Review article. See The Perfect Crime available for download here .

Say that you are in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone and you decide to spice up your vacation by going on a crime spree," Kalt writes in a forthcoming paper for the Georgetown Law Journal. "You make some , the state in which the crime was committed. "Perhaps if you fuss convincingly enough about it the case would be sent to Idaho. "But the Sixth Amendment then requires that the jury be fmoonshine, you poach some wildlife, you strangle some people and steal their picnic baskets."You are arrested, arraigned in the park and bound over for trial in Cheyenne, Wyoming, before a jury drawn from the Cheyenne area. "But Article III [Section 2] plainly requires that the trial be held in Idahorom the state - Idaho - and the district - Wyoming - in which the crime was committed. "In other words, the jury would have to be drawn from the Idaho portion of Yellowstone which, according to the 2000 Census has a population of precisely zero. "Assuming that you do not feel like consenting to trial in Cheyenne, you should go free."

Now this Law Review article is from 2005 and got some press coverage even on the BBC. However from my research it appears that this problem has not been corrected strangely.

Response to the Disappointing New York Times Position on Birth Control Mandate

Update - Mirrors of Justice Link fixed

A rather disappointing New York Times Op Ed from their editorial board. See Birth Control and Reproductive Rights. It' not that their position is unexpected , but well they don't deal with the major objections.

I read this article today Birmingham Catholic Diocese's new warehouse just in time that deals with a major purchase and investment to help the Tornado victims to recover and it got me thinking about the future.

From the New York Times Op Ed:

.....The requirement, announced last August, contains an exemption for employees of churches and other houses of worship. But it properly covers employees of hospitals, universities, charitable groups and other entities that are associated with religious organizations but serve the general public and employ people of different faiths. The final version of the rule gives certain nonprofit employers an extra year to comply. The administration’s commitment to affordable birth control is welcome at a moment when women’s access to reproductive health care, including contraceptives, cancer screenings and abortion services, is under assault in the courts, state legislatures and Congress, as well as on the Republican campaign trail.....

Reading that it seems that the Catholic operation and employees in Alabama might be covered. Hire a Methodist and help Pentecostal Tornado victims ,and it appears one has go against core teachings.

Mirrors of Justice has a good post today at "Government and its Rivals". In it they quote Ross Douthat also of the Times but who has a different view. He says in part:

WHEN liberals are in a philosophical mood, they like to cast debates over the role of government not as a clash between the individual and the state, but as a conflict between the individual and the community. Liberals are for cooperation and joint effort; conservatives are for self-interest and selfishness. Liberals build the Hoover Dam and the interstate highways; conservatives sit home and dog-ear copies of “The Fountainhead.” Liberals know that it takes a village; conservatives pretend that all it takes is John Wayne . . .

. . . But there are trade-offs as well, which liberal communitarians don’t always like to acknowledge. When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good. Unlike most communal organizations, the government has coercive power — the power to regulate, to mandate and to tax. These advantages make it all too easy for the state to gradually crowd out its rivals. The more things we “do together” as a government, in many cases, the fewer things we’re allowed to do together in other spheres. . . .
. . .
The more the federal government becomes an instrument of culture war, the greater the incentive for both conservatives and liberals to expand its powers and turn them to ideological ends. It is Catholics hospitals today; it will be someone else tomorrow.

The White House attack on conscience is a vindication of health care reform’s critics, who saw exactly this kind of overreach coming. But it’s also an intimation of a darker American future, in which our voluntary communities wither away and government becomes the only word we have for the things we do together

The Church Cannot De Baptize People - France

Rare day that I get to talk about the Sacrament of Baptism twice. See Holy Sacramental Confusion In The New York Daily News - Getting Rebaptized

From Get Religion we have Wash away your affiliation . I very much would like to read a Enlgish translation of tht French Judge's opinion. But the Church is quite right that one can't debaptize a person. Also I have hard time with the concept that it can be forced to " rewrite" history.

Holy Sacramental Confusion In The New York Daily News - Getting Rebaptized

Involving a soon to be Cardinal no less. See Dolan gets a holy dip on holy trip

Archbishop Dolan followed in the footsteps of John the Baptist Sunday and was rebaptized in the River Jordan during the lastest stop on his Holy Land pilgrimage........

I can assure you that whatever symbolic ritual happened there it was not "baptism" ,and I don't think the Cardinal would view it as that.

Catholics do not re baptize people when they come in the Church as long as the Trinity has been involved. Its a rather big deal and why "one Baptism" is mentioned in the creed each week.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Money Quote On Incompetence of Pope Benedict 's Aides At Time

I linked this John Allen piece with other links on what the matter of what some call the Vatican "Corruption" Scandal we are dealing with this week.

John Allen has perhaps the money quote of Benedict's Pontificate as to the people that advise Pope Benedict and carry out ( we hope ) his wishes. I bold the money quote at the end of this excerpt which I contend at times can apply to other matters:

..In truth, money management is one of the few areas in which Benedict XVI has actually taken a strong interest in terms of internal administration. Rocked by a series of scandals, including the 2010 seizure of $30 million in Vatican Bank assets for allegedly violating European money-laundering protocols, Benedict created a new Financial Information Authority in December 2010 with the power to oversee the transactions of every department in the Vatican. Given the notoriously compartmentalized culture of the place, this amounts to a real revolution.
Benedict has also directed the Vatican to come into compliance with international norms on financial transparency. Ironically, the same day the Viganò story broke, the Vatican announced it had ratified three U.N. conventions intended to curb illegal currency flows and transactions around the globe.

In part, these efforts reflect a realization by Benedict XVI that he can't credibly preach to the outside world about the need for greater ethics in the economy, as he has repeatedly done, if the perception is that he doesn't have his own house in order.
Why, then, if Benedict is committed to glasnost, would Viganò be shipped off -- especially in light of the mixed signal it inevitably sends?

Most Vatican-watchers believe the answer lies in Bertone, whom everyone admires as a sincere and affable guy, but who's also been a decidedly mixed bag as an administrator. In this case, insiders say Bertone was persuaded that Viganò was disruptive, and thus fell back on the classic Vatican logic of "promoting to remove" without adequate consideration of how that move would look. incompetence

At a bare minimum, Bertone had to know since October that Viganò's correspondence with the pope, which was widely alluded to at the time, amounted to a ticking time-bomb. That no steps were taken to get ahead of the story thus represents yet another chapter in the checkered PR record of the last six years.

In the Middle Ages, alchemists sought to turn lead into gold. Some of Benedict's aides actually seem to have a genius for turning potential public relations gold, in this case Benedict's impressive financial reforms, into lead.

Archbishop Aymond of New Orleans Interviewed By Vatican Radio ( Guess What Issue Was Huge )

Among other things right off the top RELIGIOUS LIBERTY CONCERNS. However there is more. See via Vatican Radio the link and overview US Ad limina: New Orleans in Rome .

He also talks about the Year of Faith and how they are focused on the Eucharist .

Friday, January 27, 2012

How God Removed Hate From Justice Clarence Thomas 's Heart

There has been a book that I thought would be getting attention that is out. That is the Fraternity which relates the the lives of Clarence Thomas and four other African American Men the Priest/ President of Holy Cross mentored and nutured.

It appears this affects Justice Thomas still a great deal .

Justice Clarence Thomas became emotional during a speech at his college alma mater on Thursday as he remembered the time he had dropped out of the seminary and got kicked out of his home.....

Before going to Holy Cross, he was just a “lonely kid,” Thomas said. “In the summer of 1968, I had no place to go and no idea what I was going to do,” Thomas said. “I was 19. “My only hope was Holy Cross College, a place I'd never seen and had barely heard of.”

At the school, Thomas said he “enjoyed the first brief glimpses of what it meant to be educated” and pledged to give up his anger. “It was here, directly in front of the chapel, on the morning of April 16, 1970, that I promised the Almighty God that if he took hate out of my heart I would never hate again,” Thomas recalled. “He did and I have not.”

The British Are Coming - Archbishop of Canterbury Versus Episcopal Church Imperialism and Exceptionalism

Hmm why is this not getting covered more. No matter what you think of the argument this language is rather explosive.

In Anglican News we have this thing called the Anglican Covenant which is an attempt to impose some slight order on the Communion as to theology and practice. Which sort of makes sense because being in Communion means at least shared beliefs about the very basics I would think.

In other words some Anglican parts of the Communions think before an essential doctrine is changed everyone in the Communion should sign on. The Archbishop of Canterbury likes that idea the United States Episcopal Church ( which is why this got started) hates it.

Well a Canon Librarian at Norwich Cathedral by the name of Stephen Doll's paper has produced "Anglican Covenant - Bishop's Council" which was circulated to all bishops in the Church of England.

It's motivation is to encourage support for the Anglican Covenant and appears to have the Archbishop of Canterbury's approval . I repeat even on this side of the pond it's very much assumed the Archbishop of Canterbury approved this paper to go forward .

It contains some wording that must drive the more progressive liberal leadership of the Episcopal Church USA up the wall. After some interesting history of deletions in the first Prayer book of the Episcopal Church USA he lets it fly:

...My fear is that we no longer care enough about unity to hold on to it. Unity is
not an idea that means much in the context of American religious life.
Americans are
strongly imbued with a sense of their own ‘exceptionalism’, and this is (if possible)
even more true of their religious than of their political and social life.5
The particular
extreme reformed Protestantism that arrived with the early settlers has formed the
theological habits of the continent, with a conviction that in the new world the
original humanity, before-the-fall humanity could be recovered. ...

....The American religious experience is like no other, and even if American
Anglicans have historically identified themselves as standing apart from evangelical
Protestantism, as being a cut above socially and intellectually, their actual experience
is nevertheless deeply imbued with these same primordialist assumptions. From the
beginning of the Republic, American Anglicans assumed their church was ‘purer’
than the Mother Church of England because they had disposed of state establishment.
America is a self-referring cultural power; it does not occur to most Americans to
consult others, politically or spiritually, to arrive at an understanding of truth and

....I don’t think it takes much knowledge or experience of the Episcopal Church
to see the power that this ‘American Religion’ has over its life. If ‘personal
experience’ has absolute authority, if finding the ‘real me’ is the central quest of
human existence, then the individual
requires complete freedom of choice
unconstrained by any authority outside the self. A church inculturated in such a
setting will affirm the individual quest in all its forms. Inclusion becomes a
fundamental value for the church, the unconditional affirmation of all personal
experience of whatever race, creed, gender, or sexuality
. The purpose of the church is
to validate those who have found their true identity and have thus found God. This
would seem to be the thinking behind a recent orthodoxy of the Episcopal Church, the
welcoming of all of whatever faith or none to communion. This seems to me a much
more serious issue than the current disagreements over sexuality. By obviating the
need for baptism, it leaves no space for the atoning power of Christ’s death and
resurrection, repentance, faith or holiness of life

...The attitude of the Episcopal Church is very firmly, ‘No one can tell us what to do.’....

...It is utter nonsense, I would argue, to equate the current American experience with that of African and Asian post-colonial societies. And yet if we take the statement at face-value, it must express how these
Episcopalians feel about their situation.
These rich and powerful Americans, the most
privileged people on earth, identify their own experience of being oppressed and
persecuted for their advocacy of gay rights with, for example, the experience of black
South Africans under apartheid

And then the bomb

...American church is not prepared to accept further consultation or dialogue over this issue nor to wait for the rest of the church to catch up with its own understanding of the place of same-sex relationships
in the life of the church. Whatever is acceptable and right in a particular American
cultural context must be universally applicable to every other culture and context.
There is more than an element of cultural imperialism in these American attitudes.
Ironically, they resonate strongly with the gung-ho combination of domestic
isolationism and foreign interventionism of American political life which so many
American liberals deplore, and yet they don’t seem to be able to see the parallels here

Well Well Well.

As to be expected some folks did not like that. See this response here at Anti-Americanism and the Anglican Covenant.

In response to that a former Episcopalian went into quite a lengthy frisking of the response to the response that is a must read at PROMISED LAND.

I might add there is some truth to this sadly in the American Catholic Church. Who cares what the rest of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox world thinks WE American Catholics want this so do it damn it. The sin of schism is just so overblown you know.

Pope Benedict Meets With All the Bishops of Louisiana - Picture

Pope Benedict XVI poses for a photo with U.S. bishops on their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican Jan. 26. From left are: Bishop Ronald P. Herzog of Alexandria, La., Auxiliary Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of New Orleans, Bishop Glen J. Provost of Lake Charles , La., Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, the pope, retired Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, Bishop Michael G. Duca of Shreveport, La., Bishop Sam G. Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux, La., Bishop Robert W. Muench of Baton Rouge, La., and Bi shop Michael Jarrell of Lafayette, La. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano) (Jan. 27, 2012)

Via the Diocese of Shreveport

Slander, Gossip , and Truth - Thoughts on Viganò and Vatican " Corruption " Scanda ( Updated )

Update - John Allen has another good and balanced piece after you read the link below. See Thoughts on America's new whistle-blowing nuncio Interesting enough he seems to think that
A Viganò effect in the USA might be good . So in this post we see two different views perhaps of the situation

What's is the dividing line between gossip / slander and exposing truth and promoting Justice. This is something that is grappled with in the scriptures and the Church Fathers. Sometimes that line is not clear. In the real world it's often a mixed bag that has the added dimensions of real hurts.

It seems we see this in what is now being called the " Vatican Corruption " scandal by many. See my post from yesterday at Corruption In Running Vatican City ? Some links .

Today the widely read Sandro Magister has a piece of with his view. See Vatican Diary / Viganò, the untouchable
The current nuncio to Washington cannot stand having been driven out of Rome. And he is reacting against his archenemy, Cardinal Bertone. He has many supporters in the curia. And the pope is getting caught in the fray

Good Grief. Well it's a viewpoint ,and I suspect others might disagree. But the article does a good job of explaining some of the background of the Italian TV show that has parts of the Catholic world abuzz.

What is sort of astonishing is the fact that he has at the end of this piece.

Viganò's nephew, Archbishop Carlo Maria Polvani, 47, heads the information office of the secretariat of state that oversees "L'Osservatore Romano," Vatican Radio, and also the press office directed by Fr. Lombardi.

Well that must make for some tense relationships right now.

One question that should concern Unoted States Catholics is how exactly this will affect us here. The Apostolic Nuncio does a play a role in the whole selection of Bishops process. Something we have a back long on.

Further in a time when perhaps the United States Catholic Church needs help against foes in it's own land the timing of this is not very great . It would be wrong to assume that the Apostolic Nunico himself leaked this. But it seems apparent that his supporters might have done it. How does this play out between the Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone and Viganò in just simple things as communication?

Besides those issues this does not look for the Body of Christ right now on many fronts. Here is praying this gets resolved and cooler heads prevail

Why American Catholic Law Schools Are Not Very Catholic

Mirrors of Justice has a link to a good article that appeared at American Journal of Legal History. See The Road Not Taken: Catholic Legal Education at the Middle of the Twentieth Century .

Its a rather long article and perhaps not interesting to many but I think it's some good work. It also shows with some regret the opportunity missed. An opportunity we might be paying for dearly today.

Some Puerto Ricans Enraged At CNN Over Florida GOP Debate

With some cause I think. Fox Latino has Insulted Puerto Ricans Slam CNN Debate, Republican Candidates

At least as to this debate I am not sure how it's the Candidates fault. In fact I thought Santorum actually gave a clear answer my self. In fact as I commented last night Rick Santorum seemed to do well on many Latin American and related issues. I thought it was unfair to the other hopefuls that Santorum was the only one that got a shot at these issue.

Controversy - Twitter Can Censor Tweets Country By Country

I am a big user of Twitter and fan. But this is a big reminder of the power of the gate keepers as to information ( even in the West ) might be censored. See Twitter faces censorship backlash from the UK Guardian .

All Louisiana Bishops Met With Pope Benedict On Their Ad Limina Visit ( Archbishop of New Orleans Interview )

That would include mine of course who is Bishop Duca of the Diocese of Shreveport. He also talks about other events of the day and what Bishops do at the Vatican besides meet with the Pope.

See report from Archbishop Aymond Jan. 26 ad limina

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New York Times Guest Op Ed - Mormons Are Protestants

This sort of religious illiteracy is just annoying. I have known a few Southern Baptists that rankle at being called Protestants. Yet I have never met a Mormon that thought they were a Protestant.

Get Religion has But I read it in The New York Times!

Environmental Activists Huey Long Impersonators Take Over New Orleans Roosevelt Hotel

I am not sure I would agree with the specifics of all of what this group might be advocating for ,but I admire the originality and fun of it. See Host of Hueys Clog Canal via Len's Nola

As was pointed out:

Amused onlooker, Mary Broussard, said, “I wouldn’t dress up like that, but it’s a good way to make their point without hostility or angry confrontation.”

I think we need more of that. . For non Louisiana folks the the famed Roosevelt Hotel is very linked to Huey Long.

Corruption In Running Vatican City ? Some links

I have an Update at Slander, Gossip , and Truth - Thoughts on Viganò and Vatican " Corruption " Scandal

Well there was a quite a stir in Rome and the Vatican yesterday. It will be interesting to see if the USA secular media takes must interest here since the prime player in this drama is now in the United States. That is Papal Nunico to the USA Archbishop Viganò.

One difficulty is of course I don't speak Italian so I can not judge the fairness or tobeof the Italian TV news show this appeared on. . But if you do you can watch it here.

The best regarded Vatican beat reproter John Allen had a piece up on this pretty quick at Vatican denies corruption charges attributed to U.S. nuncio . As he points out the Vatican did not deny the authenticity of the leaked letter itself. The Italian based Vatican Insider does not have a piece up on this yet on their English page yet but I expect that to change. They have covered the drama on this for some time.

It does not appear we have "corruption" issues here that rocked the Vatican like the bank scandal did in the 1980's. Of course also these are Italians and their view of corruption might be different. Where is the line between giving a contract to the friend of the Church and like someone's nephew. The bigger issue here seems that the credibility of some bankers have been called into question. Were they looking out for their own interests rather than the Holy See's interest for instance.

It does seem that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano before he was removed in October as the No. 2 administrator of the Vatican city-state did some needed reforms. Though as the Vatican Press people said maybe not all the positives can be just attributed to him.

I suspect in the cause of reform he ruffled a few feathers ( WHO ARE YOU TO BE CHANGING ALL THIS) in places like the Museums and other facets of running the physical plant of the Holy See . Those issues might have little to do with "corruption" but issues of change and people resenting it. For peace perhaps Benedict had to transfer (demote) the Archbishop to Papal Nuncio tot he USA.

The other issue is someone leaked this memo. I would not assume it was the Archbishop which might indicate the battle for good financial practices in the Holy See is far from over.

More Later.

Jeb Bush and GOP Immigration Issues Pickle

On the issue of immigration reform and the Latino vote many Republicans are finding themselves in quite a pickle.

Governor Rick Perry seemed to get that "tone" and compromise mattered as to this emotional issue. He was sophisticated enough to get the diverse Latino vote and viewpoints. Sadly he was a dud in the debates and now he is gone.

The only other person that seems to get "tone" matters is Newt Gingrich. One can complain validly that Newt has electability issues, but as to the Latino vote he has engaged it. Mitt Romney on the other heads seems just to veer hard right all the time on this issue. Why I don't know. He must have smart people looking ahead to the general election that can read the numbers.

Sadly Senator Rick Santorum does not seem to offer much alternative. He as one widely read Catholic pundit and supporter of his said "he has room to grow". Well I think that is putting it kindly.

So we have numerous people that seem friendly to Romney that no doubt have concerns about this. Think Republican elements of the Chamber of Commerce for instance.

Which brings us to the immigration GOP article of the day from former Gov Jeb Bush. Jeb , though not endorsing Romney, seems friendly to him if reports are right. So Jeb in the Washington Post talks into the hurricane winds of this issue at Four ways Republicans can win Hispanics back.

Jeb Bush is very careful ( perhaps too careful) in not talking directly about some of the hot button issues around immigration reform that cause emotions to fly off the handle. But the message is clear. TONE and ideas matter.

Personally my fantasy scenario at this point is a brokered convention where the delegates rally behind Jeb as Prez. Of course that plan b is unlikley to happen , but it is what gets through this primary season so far.

Interview with Bishop Bruslewitz From Vocation Rich Diocese of Lincoln Nebraska

National Catholic Register has interview up with Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln Nebraska. See How Bishop Bruskewitz Built Up the Church on the PlainsRead more.

Bishop Bruslewitz is one of the Bishops as well as his Diocese that we conservatives point too and GO LOOK AT THIS. For a Diocese of 100,000 the fact he has ordained just for his Diocese 67 Priests in the last 20 years is something. The fact he has currently 38 seminarians also must show to even his harshest critics he is doing something right. I think Bishop Bruslewitz is not above criticism in some of administrative choices but still it appears things are going well there. With the caveat that all Dioceses have their problems I suppose.

What is interesting to me it is the Bishop is 76. Most Bishops seem to retire around the age of 75. In fact it is expected that they Bishops submit their voluntary resignation to the Pope at 75. It appears that has not been acted on here , and the article does not give us any hints he is retiring soon. Though the fact alone that the article appears today might fuel spectualtion that time is coming.

The successor of this Diocese will be largely watched. I also expect Bishop Bruslewitz will have some thoughts on that subject that he will no doubt convey.

Alaskan Airlines Stops Giving Out Prayer Cards

I don't know much about Alaskan Airlines except they have one of the more interesting tail fins of any airline. I also did not know that untill up tp now they gave out prayer cards with lunch.

Saw this story yesterday and Get Religion fills in some details. See Airline: No prayer card for you

Good Interview with New Head of US Ordinariate - Father Jeffrey N. Steenson

Catholic News Service yesterday ran a rather excellent and long interview with the new head of the ordinariate in the USA. See New questions, challenges confront Episcopal-turned-Catholic leader . On an interesting note this married "not quite a Bishop but close" new head of the ordinariate has two children with special needs.

Need 8th Grade Education To Get Obama State of the Union 11th Grade Education to Get A Pope Benedict Homily

The 1964 blog has an interesting post up at How Much Schooling Do You Need to Best Understand a Papal Homily? .

I actually have to think under John Paul the II it might have been even higher. Benedict has an amazing ability to put diffifcult things in an understandable way I think

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Franciscan Brother Does Not Like The March For Life

What a very depressing column that is talked about in some detail at American Catholic. See Brother Dan Doesn’t Like the March for Life

Thankfully, many Catholic families, youth, religious, clergy, Bishops, Cardinals , and by his presence the Pope's Apostolic Nunico seems to disagree.

There are of course more positives than just the fight against abortion here. Christians of many faith coming together in a common cause. From the Catholic viewpoint these kids know they were not alone. They get to worship together and see our Catholic Patrimony too boot. Who knows what vocations ( secular or religious or family ) might have been sparked out of the 500,000 there.

Plus I noted for the Louisiana delegation they got a meeting and questions and answers session with their elected Representives. SEEMS LIKE A WIN WIN on many fronts.

Quit being a Debbie Downer Brother. I have no problem if you were not there and no one really cared if you were there or not.

National Park Service Flirting With Viewpoint Discrimination With Occupy Movement ?

See So #Occupy does 'First Amendment sleeping?'

The National Park Service and the Interior department need to be very careful here. I keep hitting on the problems of future viewpoint discrimination in the future as various agencies deal with Occupy.

I can think of many groups that could have "occupation" of territory as part of its message . What about the Environmental groups? What about people that want to ride four wheelers out rest on Federal land? What about people that want the economic assets on National Park land and Forests to be used in a more aggressive manner. Will they be treated differently than Occupy in the future if they wish to have an "occupation " of territory? What if a couple of hundred people from the March of Life we had yesterday decided to have an occupation of the park at issue as a part of it's message. Would they be or will they be treated different in the future?

My issue is not with the merits of OCCUPY , but that in the future we don't see discrimination as to other viewpoints.

Why Was Rick Santorum Asked An “ do not resuscitate ” Question At Last Night's Debate ?

I get the practical implication of DNR orders can be messy at times. But I am not sure what in the blue blazes it has to do with the Terri Schiavo case.

As Get Religion points out:

Speaking of doing it wrong, I endured the unbelievably boring NBC debate of the Republican candidates. If you’ve missed a few or most, I hope last night’s was one of them. Unless you like lots of questions about what the candidates themselves think of the horse race of running for office. (Newt Gingrich did discuss his unique views on divine judgment and one Fidel Castro.) One of the few substantive parts of the debate was a question about something that happened seven years ago. Here’s how the Huffington Post wrote it up:

Exhuming Terri Schiavo Adam Smith,

citing a 2005 case that gripped the state of Florida, and, eventually the nation and the federal government, reminds Rick Santorum about his support for the family of Terri Schiavo. Santorum said that the support he offered was sincere, but made sure to indicate that he “did not call for congressional intervention.” Rather, he said, “I called for judicial intervention on behalf of the parents,” who were from Pennsylvania, and thus, his constituents. Santorum said that his intention was simply to ensure that the judicial process worked as fairly as it could.

Asked if “do not resuscitate” orders were “immoral,” Santorum said, “No, I don’t think so.”

This is a very abbreviated and not entirely accurate summary but the question was “Do not resuscitate directives, do you think they’re immoral?” and the response from Santorum was “No, I don’t believe they’re immoral. I mean, I think that’s a decision that people should be able to make, and I have supported legislation in the past for them to make it.”

It was interesting that neither the journalist nor Santorum mentioned that the legislation Santorum sponsored regarding Schiavo received votes from every Democrat, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. However, the “do not resuscitate” question was supposed to be the follow-up to the Terri Schiavo question. And why? I have absolutely no idea. The question about Terri Schiavo’s life was about whether her husband should be permitted to starve and dehydrate her, not whether she should be resuscitated.

In fact, her husband had obtained a do-not-resuscitate order on her life 12 years prior. It is staggering to me that a reporter who had prepared such a dated question wouldn’t have some grasp of the most basic facts of the case. Particularly considering he’s at a local newspaper there (the Tampa Bay Times). Even before I experienced dehydration in 2010, I knew this (once you’ve experienced dehydration, if you survive it, you will not forget it — unbelievably painful).

Pope Benedict Calls Rare Vatican " Cabinet Meeting " On Procedure of Publication and Preparation of Documents

An Italian Newspaper , Il Messaggero , is reporting that well there is some fire to some that controversial smoke we saw late last year. ( The translator has comments at the area he does the translation)

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has decided to call the heads of all the congregations and pontifical councils for a meeting to lay down the rules for the procedure they must all follow in the preparation and publication of documents.

The object is to reinforce the level of collaboration between the dicasteries and the Secretariat of State as the central organism that should serve as the conveyor belt for Vatican documents.

The letter calling the dicastery heads to the meeting on January 28 was received last week in a double envelop marked 'Riservato' ('top secret'). The meeting will be held in the Sala Bologna of the Apostolic Palace on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of academics and librarians. Meetings like this - similar to cabinet meetings - are relatively rare and take place about once a year for tbe purpose of streamlining Vatican govenance.

Last year, the summit had to do with problems relating to religious orders and the exercise of authority in some of these institutes of consecrated life. The year before, it was on the 'pedophile priest' scandal. This time, it is to define the central role of the Secretariat of State in coordinating the activities of the various dicasteries, especially in the matter of publication of documents attributed to the Vatican.

It seems designed to avoid incidents like the episode last October when the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace issued a Note regarding the global economic and financial crisis that caused some controversy because of its recommendation for a world public authority to regulate world financial activities. Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said at the time that he had not seen the document before it was published.

The line expressed in the document was not that of the Secretariat of State, much less that of the Pope, such that L'Osservatore Romano was constrained to issue some days later a clarification on this issue. To make things worse, the document from Justice and Peace contradicted the encyclical Caritas in veritate, which could have been avoided if there had been more coordination.

John Quincy Adams Participates In Orthodox Baptism and His Thoughts On Fasting

An American Eastern Orthodox history site has an interesting " Today in History post ' . See An Orthodox Baptism in the home of John Quincy Adams – and much more besides

I thought his comments on the practice of fasting was interesting too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Catholic Seminarians from Archdiocese of New Orleans ( March For Life 2012 )

While it's cold appears they are having a good time.

Also see The Rajun Cajuns of ULL and Others At the Lafayette March for Life 2012 ,Cabrini Catholic School Delegation From New Orleans at 2012 March For Life , Over A 1000 Louisiana Youth at the Geaux Forth Preaux Life Rally in D.C. ( March For Life 2012 ) , Youth From St Agnes Catholic Church Baton Rouge Louisiana at 2012 March For Life in D.C. ( PIC ) , and Pro Life March In Baton Rouge Louisiana ( Vid )

The Rajun Cajuns of ULL and Others At the Lafayette March for Life 2012

Cabrini Catholic School Delegation From New Orleans at 2012 March For Life

Over A 1000 Louisiana Youth at the Geaux Forth Preaux Life Rally in D.C. ( March For Life 2012 )

Nice crowd in D.C. for this event hosted by the Louisiana Right to Right this morning in D.C. See Geaux Forth 2012 at March for Life

Youth From St Agnes Catholic Church Baton Rouge Louisiana at 2012 March For Life in D.C. ( PIC )

Nice crowd from this Parish in D.C. today. Saint Agnes Youth, Baton Rouge, La

Big Day -Historic Episcopal Anglo Catholic Church In Maryland Enters the Catholic Ordinariate

Busy Catholic weekend news wise to say the least. Part of that occurred in Maryland where a former Episcopal Church came over to the Catholic Church.

Pics here and more at A Historic Day at Mount Calvary-Baltimore . Looking at a couple other sites and when they update will hope to recall to link on this post.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pro Life March In Baton Rouge Louisiana ( Vid )

Its the big event this week. Praying for the Unnborn and their Moms and Dads

Pope Benedict and the Political Left Are Buddies Sometimes

I want to hit part two ( see my previous post Are Pope Benedict's New Cardinals Too Roman ? ) very interesting article Finding the 'new' in Vatican news.

The Church is well Catholic which means Universial which basically means world wide. That sets up all sort of interesting alliances that might be foreign to the American Catholic experience. Allen notes this as to Pope Benedict's recent speech to Diplomats:

In his discussion of the defense of human life, Benedict XVI cited two developments that he found encouraging in the last year:
An October decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union banning the commercial patenting of embryonic stem cells.

A resolution adopted in the same month by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex.
The novelty is that in both cases, political support for these moves came from the left, not the right. The legal complaint that led to the ban on patenting embryos was brought by Greenpeace, while the parliamentary resolution on prenatal selection was introduced by a Swiss socialist and feminist named Doris Stump. Needless to say, these are not exactly the fellow travelers one ordinarily associates with the political agenda of Benedict XVI.

In effect, the pope's speech was a lesson in what Jeremy Rifkin has called "the new biopolitics," in which erstwhile enemies are suddenly on the same side.

In a growing number of biotech debates, including embryo patenting, genetic engineering and animal/human hybrids, the Catholic church and the pro-life movement find themselves allied with elements of the secular left, including environmentalists, feminists and anti-corporate activists. Their points of departure are obviously different, but they arrive at the same place. On the other side is a constellation of pro-business conservatives, the medical and scientific establishment, and libertarians opposed to any form of government regulation.

To some extent, those shifting sands remain hard to see because older bio-debates such as abortion and gay marriage still loom large. As the 21st century rolls on, however, the battle lines of the culture wars may be increasingly redefined, and the pope's speech offered proof of the point.
Now, there's something worth reporting.

Are Pope Benedict's New Cardinals Too Roman ?

John Allen has a rather excellent article that is sort of a teaching Vatican 101 journalism. See Finding the 'new' in Vatican news. I am going to break this up into two posts because there is some interesting news here on some fronts.

There has much been said about the new Cardinals the Pope had picked. It has been noted this group is very Italian. The Vox Nova piece More Roman, less catholic? pretty much portrays the outlook of some. But as Allen points out looks can be deceiving

The new cardinals
The other big storyline was Pope Benedict XVI's Jan. 6 announcement of 22 new cardinals, including 18 under the age of 80 and hence eligible to elect the next pope. Given that the bulk are Vatican officials (10), Italians (seven) and Europeans (13), news reports styled it as a crop reinforcing the conservative, and curial, stranglehold on the College of Cardinals.

"More Roman, Less Catholic," was one pithy header for the story.

Again, even if true, where's the news? Yet in this case, it's less true than it may seem.

First of all, this isn't likely to be a celebrated consistory on the Catholic right. This isn't the crop of November 2010, which featured conservative lions such as Cardinals Raymond Burke of the United States and Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka. Instead, this group is composed mostly of ecclesial equivalents of Mitt Romney, meaning center-right pragmatists who inspire little ideological fervor.

Consider Archbishop Dominik Duka of Prague, a Dominican and a biblical scholar. Duka reportedly has called the older Latin Mass "a Baroque artifact for Baroque times" and has signaled openness to in-vitro fertilization if the destruction of embryos could be avoided. Archbishop Giuseppe Betori of Florence has tried to heal the historical divide between the progressive and conservative camps among Italian laity, and for his trouble, a traditionalist commentator has labeled Betori a "paleo-liberal," charging that he's part of a subterranean bloc of cardinals opposed to Benedict XVI. There's also Brazilian Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz at the Congregation for Religious, a friend of the Focolare who's had a good relationship through the years with the liberation theology movement in Latin America.

These guys may not be anybody's idea of a flaming liberal, but they're also not hardcore conservatives.

Second, the assumption that naming a lot of Italians and Vatican officials automatically makes the College of Cardinals more "Roman," in the sense of more insular and less in touch with the wider world, is open to question.

Take, for instance, Italian Archbishops Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the government of the Vatican city-state. Both are veteran diplomats who have served all over the world. Filoni was assigned at various points to Sri Lanka, Iran, Brazil, Jordan, Iraq and the Philippines, in addition to spending 1992-2001 in Hong Kong heading up a study mission on China. Bertello has served in Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela, Mexico, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Rwanda.

To be clear, these weren't pleasure cruises. Filoni was in Baghdad in April 2003 when the U.S.-led invasion began, while Bertello was in Rwanda in 1994 at the height of the genocide. As most Western diplomats fled, Filoni and Bertello both stayed on the job, insisting they couldn't abandon the local church or the missionaries. Both won high marks for their humanitarian and diplomatic efforts, even if both were ultimately powerless to stop the bloodshed unfolding around them.

In the abstract, is it really the case that Italians and Vatican officials such as Filoni and Bertello are bound to have a more narrow outlook than, say, a residential prelate from North America or Africa who's rarely traveled outside his comfort zone?

If you want an actual newsflash from this consistory, Filoni and Bertello hint at the headline: "Triumph of the Diplomats."

Five of the 18 new cardinal-electors named by Benedict XVI -- notably, the first five names on the list -- come out of the Vatican diplomatic corps. In addition to Filoni and Bertello, the former diplomats include:

Portuguese Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, now running a Vatican court, who's previously served in the Antilles, El Salvador, Honduras and South Africa;

Spanish Archbishop Santos Abril y Castelló, who replaced Cardinal Bernard Law as Archpriest of St. Mary Major after spending much of his career in Cameroon, Bolivia, Argentina and Slovenia; and

Italian Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, currently heading the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Refugees, who's spent time in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Lebanon and Kuwait.

All this is striking in light of the traditional Vatican rivalry between the two heavyweight departments that tend to dominate the place, the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In oversimplified terms, it's a contrast between diplomats and theologians -- between outward-looking figures focused on geopolitics and dialogue, and more inward-looking figures concerned with Catholic identity and doctrinal fidelity. (In theory, of course, these two instincts can be complementary, so the tension is usually a question of where one puts the emphasis.)

The 2005 election of Benedict XVI, whose previous job had been running the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a quarter-century, was seen as a big win for the theologians. When the new pope tapped a former aide from the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, as his Secretary of State, it seemed to put a slammer on that conclusion.

In that light, the consistory of 2012 shapes up as a good day for the diplomats -- and, perhaps, for the cosmopolitan, dialogue-oriented and practical mentality long associated with the world's oldest diplomatic corps. How that plays out in practice remains to be seen, but it's at least a fresh question to ponder.

Can't Put Pope Benedict In A Box - The Neocatechumenal Way

Its always interesting when public figures don't follow the established story line that others have fixed for them. We see that with Pope Benedict in a huge way in how he is portrayed.

The new Liturgy translation recently caused a avalanche of the Pre Vatican II bad ole Benedict articles variety. Therefore I took some interest that events of last week hardly did not merit a peep from the peanut gallery. See Benedict XVI embraces Neocatechumenals

The "Way" is a controversial group and to say the least some more Traditional Catholic folks are not pleased at this. Also it's clear that Benedict still might have some concerns. See Father Z's The Holy See did NOT approve NeoCat liturgical variants for Mass. However regardless we are seeing quite an openess from the Pontiff as to a Catholic movement that is well not very "traditional" .

None of this fits the Pope Benedict story line of course we see in the press. Which is one reason why most people will not read about it.

Catholic Democrats Versus Pope Benedict

I note today that the group Catholic Democrats have issued a statement on the Obama Administration's Birth Control mandate.

They say in part:

As a Catholic, I am aware that some Catholics will hear this news with mixed or negative emotions, including many bishops. At the same time, we know Catholic women, and by extension their families, use oral contraception at the same rate as the overall population. For over half a century, since the issuance of Humanae Vitae, Catholics and Catholic theologians have taken issue with the Church's teaching on birth control.

Quite frankly that is not the point. We are dealing with a religious liberty issue here.Thankfully It seems some Progressive Christians get the bigger picture. See here , here , and here.

In their statement they also said:
Today, many will use this decision to further their own political agenda. The need for the hierarchy, theologians, and the laity to come together and discuss these important issues has never been more pressing. This is particularly true at a time when our nation, and our Church, needs informed public debate on a range of moral issues, especially the economy, growing poverty, and the continuing "scandal of glaring inequalities" (see Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 2009).

While it's wonderful they quote Pope Benedict I find it striking they failed to quote ANYTHING from his statement on this issue ( and have no doubt this was partly what he was speaking of ) the day before this horrific policy choice. See ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO THE BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT

All political factions are guilty of using Government power to intrude on religious affairs. I have talked at length how over broad anti Shari laws and legislation that might make Christian charity to illegal aliens a CRIME are a huge problem. THe Obama birth control mandate is in the same category.

I end by quoting this article Professor Vischer on New Conscience Regs

A closely related development is a shifting view of professional licenses. Generally the state’s licensing authority has been viewed as a means by which to ensure a provider’s competence. As access to goods and services becomes an essential dimension of meaningful liberty (in progressives’ eyes), there is a stronger justification for viewing licensed providers as quasi-public officials, and the license becomes a means of ensuring that governmental objectives are met.
Progressives are quick to rally to the defense of a student forced to violate her conscience by participating in the pledge of allegiance. Few progressives have rallied to the defense of pharmacists required by state law to sell the morning-after pill. In my view, this is a progressive blind spot that stands in tension with the overarching progressive commitment to freedom from state coercion in matters comprising a person’s moral identity and integrity. Progressives have shown a steady shift in their willingness to accept incursions on conscience in order to further other socially desirable goals. Progressives may eventually come to regret this shift – state power unbounded by conscience protections is not necessarily captive to progressive causes – but so far there is very little indication of remorse. President Obama’s foray into the debate, though certainly not a disastrous turn of events, shows little indication that the partisan presumptions about conscience will change anytime soon.