A while ago I posted on Archbishop Burke’s “father of lies” speech about the Kennedy funeral, and the prelates who defended it. Now the controversy has made Time magazine.
Archive for November, 2009
From the story in today’s New York Times:
Ms. Pelosi, the first woman speaker and an ardent defender of abortion rights, had no choice but to do the unthinkable. To save the health care bill she had to give in to abortion opponents in her party and allow them to propose tight restrictions barring any insurance plan that is purchased with government subsidies from covering abortions.
The Stupak amendment passed thanks to the hard work of Representative Stupak and his supporters in Congress and the United States Bishops Conference who joined their ardent support for universal health care with their principled opposition to abortion funding.
I am personally grateful to Michael Sean Winters on the America blog for his steadfast advocacy of the Stupak amendment.
Winters writes today:
There are kudos aplenty to go around this morning, but I really can’t express sufficiently my admiration for the work of the USCCB and CHA. All uninsured Americans owe them a debt of gratitude. All future expectant mothers who discover that their health care covers the cost of pre-natal care but not abortion services owe them a debt of gratitude. And, all of us Catholics who care about human dignity and human life owe them a debt of gratitude. Now, on to the Senate and let’s win there too.
This is an important first step, but far from the end of a process that will require both ongoing support and careful vigilance.
As I was catching up with the news this week, I came across this account of the police officer--the female police officer who stopped the rampage at Fort Hood in Texas.
And then I read this story of Cardinal Rode admitting that the reason he’s launching an investigation of women’s religious orders is that he wants to combat “a feminist spirit.”
What is “feminism”? The term is notoriously contested.
Is this police officer a self-identified “feminist”–I don’t know. I do know that she has managed to make good, and full, use of the gifts that God gave her–to protect those more vulnerable than she. And I know that anyone, male or female, who puts their life on the line to save other people is a hero.
Will it still be possible to raise girls–women–in the Church who admire that police officer for living out her own unique vocation as a woman -even if it isn’t theirs?
C-Span is broadcasting the House debate on health care. A civic’s lesson, for sure, but a sports announcer would help.
And this in the Times (11/7/09): “On Friday night, as the clocked inched toward midnight, lawmakers in the House Rules Committee hearing room were arguing loudly over various provisions of the big health care legislation. But the real fight was going on in the office of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, who tried mightily – and ultimately failed – to bridge a bitter intra-party disagreement over the issue of health insurance coverage for abortions.
“With just hours to go before the start on Saturday morning of historic floor debate over the health care bill, leading Democratic members of the Pro-Choice Caucus emerged from Ms. Pelosi’s office unable to contain their fury. Ms. Pelosi, unwilling to delay a vote on the larger bill, had decided that Democrats who oppose abortion simply had too many votes on their side; for the moment, at least, the liberals who favor abortion rights had lost.
“In the end, Ms. Pelosi decided that abortion opponents would be allowed to offer an amendment
to the health care bill that would impose tight restricts on abortions that could be offered through a new government-run insurance plan and through private insurance that is bought using government subsidies that the legislation would provide to moderate-Americans to help them afford health coverage.
“With dozens of Democrats and most of the 177 Republicans expected to vote in favor of the amendment to restrict coverage for abortions, Democratic leadership aides said it was likely to be approved.”
We’ll see how this goes! http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/abortion-fight-erupts-in-health-care-debate/?hp
I don’t have much time to blog today but I wanted to note an interesting development in the ongoing Congressional debate about abortion in health care reform. The New York Times reports today that Rep. Brad Ellswirth (D-IN) is planning to offer an amendment to the House bill that would modify its treatment of abortion.
According to Ellsworth’s web site, his amendment:
- Explicitly prevents all federal tax dollars from being used to provide abortions in the public option;
- Prohibits any funds from the US Treasury from paying for abortion services in any of the plans purchased through the proposed Health Insurance Exchange-private or public;
- Establishes clear, strict rules for separating public funds from the premiums of private individuals (ensuring that no public funds are ever used to pay for an abortion in any health plan offered on the Health Insurance Exchange);
- Guarantees every American participating in the Health Insurance Exchange will always have access to a pro-life insurance option;
- Expands conscience protections to prevent the government from discriminating against pro-life health insurance plans
Although Ellsworth has a very strong pro-life record, the NRTL’s Doug Johnson was fairly scathing in his reaction, saying “when you’re going into battle, it is always unpleasant to be bayoneted in the back by somebody who said that he was on your side…The Ellsworth language serves no purpose except to assist the pro-abortion House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to peel votes away from the authentic pro-life amendment, the Stupak amendment.”
The Congressional Quarterly coverage is depicting this as a split in the ranks of pro-life Democrats, many of whom had previously been supportive of the Stupak amendment. From other coverage I’ve read today (getting too tired to link to all of it) it does appear that Ellsworth has the support of the Democratic leadership to offer the amendment. I think Doug Johnson may be right that they are hoping to peel off enough pro-life Democrats so that Stupak will not be able to muster the votes he needs to block consideration of the bill if he is not allowed to offer his own amendment.
Since I have not yet seen the actual legislative language, I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of substantive analysis to offer at this point.
New York Times religion writer Laurie Goodstein was one of the targets of Archbishop Dolan’s recent blog post alleging anti-Catholicism on the part of The Times (as discussed in Father Imbelli’s post below). I found the Archbishop’s piece indiscriminate in its effort to tar his opponent, and think he missed an opportunity to be more effective by being more selective, and to be more just as well as more charitable. That was disappointing as his post was also one of those that gave license to many far harsher criticisms and helped to lower the quality of conversation.
(Bill Donohue’s omnibus attack on us “hypocrites” who thought the Archbishop less-than-convincing is worth the read if only for his jab at Commonweal: “a Catholic magazine on life support, faults Dolan for responding in a way that is ‘not fruitful.’ Nice to know that these writers object to the archbishop for writing. Maybe they prefer throwing bricks.” I’m not sure what that means, but at least he considers Commonweal Catholic!)
Dolan’s piece was also surprising, in that he is known as media-savvy and someone with a reputation for engaging even those he considers critics on a personal level before resorting to the brickbats. That he hasn’t done so, especially as the city’s new archbishop, is strange to me. (My biases: Laurie Goodstein is a friend and a colleague on the beat, so my instinct is to defend her and journalists in general. As for Dolan, he wouldn’t know me but I had interviewed the Archbishop in years past a couple of times and always found him, as others do, very open and engaging, and I was very happy to see him come to New York, where he seemed happy to be greeted with open arms–and glowing coverage in the Times. Hence my surprise at the tone and content of his roundhouse.)
In any case, Laurie Goodstein has written a response to the Archbishop on Wednesday, posting it in the combox of his blog. (I guess the Archdiocese refused to print it in the newspaper?) The Archbishop has not responded, which again is unfortunate, as she took the time to engage him directly and personally, and I think a good deal more thoughtfully and charitably than he did. So I would certainly give her this round on points, if not a KO.
Unfortunately her response is buried in the thread, so I cut-and-paste it here after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »
The official that initiated the Vatican’s investigation of women religious in the United States admitted this week that the enquiry was fueled by concerns that American nuns had become overly secularized and influenced by feminism.
Cardinal Franc Rodé told Vatican Radio on Wednesday that his office decided to launch the investigation — officially called an apostolic visitation — after hearing “critical voices from the United States”. The cardinal, who is prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, indicated that “an important representative of the Church in the United States” was among the critics.
He said the representative — whose identity was not revealed — had “alerted” him “to some irregularities or deficiencies” in the way the religious sisters were living. “Above all, you could speak of a certain secularist mentality that has spread among these religious families, perhaps even a certain ‘feminist’ spirit,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Rodé’s comments, which were given in an Italian radio interview, were sharper than a more carefully written English-language statement he issued a day earlier as a response to the “many news reports” that have criticized the Vatican visitation. In that text he never mentioned secularism or feminism. He said the purpose of the investigation was to “to identify the signs of hope, as well as concerns, within religious congregations in the United States”.
Cardinal Rodé on Wednesday said the final decision to hold an apostolic visitation was taken in September 2008 during a symposium on religious life at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. Nearly 600 people attended that event, including some bishops, priests, lay people and religious. Many of the speakers were critical of develops that have appeared in religious orders in the forty some years since the Second Vatican Council. [NCR reported on the event here.]
“There a desire was expressed to look for a remedy to this situation [of women's religious life], which many say is is not as good as that of past decades,” the cardinal said in this week’s interview.
UPDATE: In his diocesan paper, Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy wrote about the visitation:
The first I knew of such a visitation was when the announcement was made last spring that Mother Clare Millea, Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was named to conduct a visitation on the quality of life of congregations of women religious in apostolic life. At the meeting of the bishops in San Antonio in June, Mother Clare spoke to the bishops and outlined the three-step process she and her colleagues would be following. This and all other information can be found on their Web site, www.apostolicvisitation.org. She made it clear that the visitation would be conducted by sisters under her leadership and that, while we bishops will be asked our opinion at some point in the process, the whole project was outside the hands of the U.S. bishops.
In light of some recent discussion on the topic here, I thought I would offer my own thoughts about whether health care reform will “work.” Let me begin by saying that I fully expect that some things will not work out the way reformers expect. That is to be expected. The idea that a single piece of legislation could permanently fix everything that is wrong with the health care system is a fantasy. The legislation currently under consideration will fix some problems and probably create others that will need to be fixed later. I am of the opinion that the net effect will be positive, but we may have to navigate a little whitewater in the process.
As anyone who has designed an IT system knows, there are two types of problems you get in system development. There are problems when the system doesn’t work the way you designed it. The technical term for this is a “bug.” A second type of problem is when the system works the way you designed it, but it causes something else to break. The technical term for this is “Microsoft Vista.” I think most of our problems with health care reform are likely to be of the “Vista” type.
There are parts of reform for which implementation is likely to be reasonably straightforward. Some of expansion in coverage will come from expanding Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Those programs currently exist, have mechanisms in place to enroll people, relationships with providers and health plans, etc. That’s not to say that there are not problems here (e.g. providers refusing to participate in Medicaid because of low reimbursement rates), but expanding coverage through these two programs does not require either federal or state governments to start doing things that they have no idea how to do right now.
Another way that coverage will be expanded is through an employer mandate on employers over a certain size. This is a new thing. On the other hand, the federal government—as any employer will tell you—has a lot of experience in regulating businesses, enforcing mandates, etc. For this reason, I don’t think the employer mandate creates huge technical challenges.
One idea that is somewhat new is the creation of “health exchanges,” where individuals not insured elsewhere could go to purchase coverage. Because these exchanges would aggregate a large number of individuals, they would spread risk reasonably widely and allow insurers to offer the standard benefit package at an affordable cost. While this is somewhat new, both federal and state governments have experience in creating group purchasing arrangements of various types (e.g. “high risk” pools; Medicaid Advantage; the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan, Children’s Health Insurance Plan, etc.). Much will depend on whether there are enough people in the exchange or exchanges to create a reasonably stable risk pool.
My most significant technical concern is not with the various ways reform will extend coverage, but with the implementation of the individual mandate and the associated subsidies. While the reform bills do contain various types of legal enforcement, the mechanics of actually tracking down non-compliant individuals and sanctioning them could prove challenging.
Exactly how challenging will depend on the subsidies. If they reasonably generous, the number of “mandate evaders” may be somewhat small. But if someone is looking at a health insurance bill of several thousand dollars—even with subsidies—they might well decide to risk non-compliance.
Finally, the “public option” presents some significant technical challenges. It’s true that Medicare has a lot of experience as a payer. But the federal government has never run an insurance plan that had to operate like a business and compete with other plans. Whether the federal government could offer a truly competitive insurance product remains an unanswered question.
That covers a fair number of the “bugs.” What about the “Vista” problems?
One concern is whether insurance regulation (e.g. plans will no longer be permitted to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions) will drive up insurance premiums. All things being equal, bringing higher risk individuals into an insurance pool would increase rates. At the same time, an individual mandate that brings relatively low-risk individuals into the system would—again, all else held constant—decrease premiums. The ultimate effect may be a wash, but if it’s not that could be a problem.
My second major concern is the impact on the federal budget. Historically, entitlement programs (e.g. Medicare) have cost more than originally estimated. If insurance premiums rise faster than projected, then the subsidies will have to match that growth or risk a major backlash from voters. The resulting crisis would probably lead either to the dismantling of reform or to more aggressive regulation of insurance rates.
Much depends on whether, under a reformed system, market forces would be powerful enough to keep insurance premiums in check. Advocates for a public option think that this would be one of the roles it would play. But if it turns out that the public plan doesn’t have any more luck than private plans in reining in the cost of health care services—and I think this is a significant possibility—then that hoped for feature may not materialize.
All in all, though, I would argue that the upside of reform is worth the risks. We will have established the most important principle, which is that all Americans should have access to a basic level of health insurance. I suspect, though, that we will need to keep working the details—particularly around cost control—as we move through implementation.
Ezra Klein is a liberal blogger who has made a name for himself as a sort of health care “policy wonk”. In my own biased opinion, he has tended to focus almost exclusively on the evils of the insurance industry in creating our current rotten system. But yesterday, for the first time that I know of, he posted some international health costs data.
As he says:
On Friday, I sat down with Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson to talk about health-care reform. The conversation was long and ranging and will take a while to transcribe. But before we really got into the weeds, Halvorson handed me an astonishing packet of charts. The material was put together by the International Federation of Health Plans, which is pretty much what it sounds like: an association of insurance plans in different countries. But it showed something I’ve never seen before, at least not at this level of detail: prices…
The packet’s 36 pages are mostly graphs showing the average prices paid in different countries for different procedures, diagnostics and drugs. There is a thudding consistency to the pages: a series of crude bars, with the block representing the prices paid by American health-insurance plans looming over the others like a New York skyscraper that got lost in downtown Des Moines.
I have several observations about this. First, these ratios are quite accurate from my own experience in the industry. Second, a common criticism of the health care reform is that if costs are not contained in some way by the reform itself, the system will not work in the long run on the financing side. Third, I will point out that the slide deck (and you should look at the whole deck here [PDF]) separates Medicare rates from commercial rates. Note that 1) Medicare rates themselves are higher than for the other countries 2) commercial rates are higher than Medicare rates and 3) commercial rates are higher than the 5 percent bump to Medicare that the public option people propose as the reimbursement rate for the public option.
Another blog below asks us if the health care reform will work. My short answer is: no. To see why, I encourage you to read all of the comments to Mr. Klein’s blog. When you cut through all of the snark you will find that many people have very very good points to make but that no one is really talking to anyone else. Out of this chaos shall come — chaos. Call me an evil capitalist businessman, but if health reform were a business problem I was called upon to solve, I would approach it entirely differently. What I see here is that we have hardly left the brain storming sessions.
Does anyone commenting here live in District 23? I’d love to know what you all thought about Owens’s victory. And why you and your neighbors voted as you did.
We in New York are at this hour surprised to learn that we’ve actually had an interesting mayoral race. Our billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, spent what will probably amount to $100 million to assure that there would be absolutely no suspense on election night over his prospects for securing a third term. His opponent, Democrat Bill Thompson, seemed frozen for much of the campaign, buried under an avalanche of negative advertising. Few people in the city knew anything about Thompson except for what Bloomberg’s misleading ads said about him. The last polls showed Bloomberg ahead, 50-38. And with Thompson outspent at 14 or maybe 16 to 1, no one expected any late surge.
It now turns out that Bloomberg beat Thompson by just 5 percentage points or so, 51-46.
The mild-mannered Thompson waged what seemed to be a terrible campaign, devoted mainly to assailing the brazen grab for power that occurred when Bloomberg and New York’s City Council changed the city’s term-limits law to award themselves a chance for a third term. Thompson never offered a vision of what he would do as mayor. And the mayor bought up the support of many of Thompson’s potential allies, sometimes through his private philanthropy.
New York’s wealthiest resident will continue to hold its highest office. For all he may accomplish, I don’t see how he can escape the shadow of having purchased his office, though. In retrospect, I think the turning point of the race came early on, when Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of Brooklyn and Queens, announced he would not run. Weiner would have run a much feistier campaign than Thompson did and, given the substantial voter discontent with Bloomberg’s power grab, might actually have won. Weiner dropped out after Bloomberg’s aides had leaked a story saying that the Bloomberg campaign planned to spend $20 million on ads attacking Weiner. Whose reputation could withstand that?
I hope folks in other parts of the country will see how such excessive spending essentially subverts the democratic process.
Commonweal is celebrating its 85th birthday this year, and our anniversary issue is on its way to subscribers now. Here’s what you all can read online:
- J. Peter Nixon’s critique of the way the principle of “subsidiarity” has been abused in the debate over health-care reform: “When Bigger Is Better“
- Patrick Jordan’s review of John Allen’s new book, The Future Church: “Cloudy Crystal Ball“
- A reflection from the editors on the state of the union, and Commonweal‘s role: “Our Times“
Those of you who are not subscribers will want to fix that right away, because there’s lots more good stuff in this issue. For example: a defense of the independent press by John Wilkins, former editor of the London Tablet. A roundtable discussion with Peter and Peggy Steinfels and the current editors about Commonweal‘s past and its future. A piece by Paul Baumann on the challenges of editing the magazine, and identifying the church’s role in the larger culture, today. Cathleen Kaveny’s column on the problems with analyzing health care through the logic of insurance. William Cavanaugh’s short essay on the common good and the economy. Letters in response to “Sister X.”
Plus, reviews: Richard Alleva on the film The Informant!; David Castronovo on Morris Dickstein’s Dancing in the Dark; Rodney Clapp on Greg Garrett’s We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2; Brad S. Gregory on Eamon Duffy’s Fires of Faith; Richard A. Rosengarten on Theordore Ziolkowski’s Modes of Faith.
And, to wrap things up, Sidney Callahan reflects on finding a letter sent long ago from Dorothy Day. Not a bad lineup, if I do say so myself. No wonder we’ve been around for 85 years! With your support, we’ll make it to 100 and beyond. (Have I mentioned that Commonweal makes a great gift?)
I think Commonweal readers are likely to have some interest in the newest book by my friend and colleague, Steve Shiffrin. Here’s a link to the publisher’s page. And here’s a blurb from the publisher’s description:
In The Religious Left and Church-State Relations, noted constitutional law scholar Steven Shiffrin argues that the religious left, not the secular left, is best equipped to lead the battle against the religious right on questions of church and state in America today. Explaining that the chosen rhetoric of secular liberals is poorly equipped to argue against religious conservatives, Shiffrin shows that all progressives, religious and secular, must appeal to broader values promoting religious liberty. He demonstrates that the separation of church and state serves to protect religions from political manipulation while tight connections between church and state compromise the integrity of religious institutions.
Shiffrin discusses the pluralistic foundations of the religion clauses in the First Amendment and asserts that the clauses cannot be confined to the protection of liberty, equality, or equal liberty. He explores the constitutional framework of religious liberalism, applying it to controversial examples, including the Pledge of Allegiance, the government’s use of religious symbols, the teaching of evolution in public schools, and school vouchers. Shiffrin examines how the approaches of secular liberalism toward church-state relations have been misguided philosophically and politically, and he illustrates why theological arguments hold an important democratic position–not in courtrooms or halls of government, but in the public dialogue. The book contends that the great issue of American religious politics is not whether religions should be supported at all, but how religions can best be strengthened and preserved.
We just had a wonderful celebration of the book here at Cornell, with talks by Kent Greenawalt, Sally Gordon, and Bernie Meyler. Check it out.
One of the things I appreciate most about this blog is the range of expertise. Peter Nixon has an essay on health care reform in the latest issue, and he, like Unagidon works in the insurance industry.
So as it comes down to the wire, what’s your take on the proposed reform, gentlepersons? How will it work? Will it do the job? Will it actually fix what’s broken?
(I realize that abortion is a controversial issue in HCR, but let’s devote this thread to these other questions).
(at least it would be if I were pope)
I generally enjoy Zoe Romanowsky’s posts. And the substance of this post is very interesting. But there’s a problem.
I beg you: NEVER, EVER, EVER post a big picture of a BIG SPIDER without warning the person about to click the hyperlink. I threw the laptop on the floor to get away from it.
For All Souls Day, from Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life by Joseph Ratzinger:
“The Body of Christ” means that all human beings are one organism, the destiny of the whole the proper destiny of each. True enough, the decisive outcome of each person’s life is settled in death, at the close of their earthly activity. Thus everyone is judged and reaches his or her definitive destiny after death. But their final place in the whole can be determined only when the total organism is complete, when the passio and actio of history have come to their end. And so the gathering together of the whole will be an act that leaves no person unaffected. Only at that juncture can the definitive general judgment take place, judging each one in terms of the whole and giving him or her that just place which they can receive only in conjunction with all the rest.
As chairman of the bishops’ committee that drafted the statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has had an important role in interpreting what it actually means. In the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign, he wrote in a letter to The New York Times that the newspaper had erred in a story on Joseph Biden and the Catholic vote in reporting the statement would “explicitly allow Catholics to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights if they do so for other reasons.”
Later, Bishop DiMarzio joined those bishops who condemned the University of Notre Dame for hosting President Barack Obama, calling it a “serious error” on the part of the school’s president, Father John Jenkins.
Nonetheless, Bishop DiMarzio has aided two politicians in the 2009 election campaign who have a long history of being pro-choice on abortion. A Brooklyn newspaper reported that an organization called the Catholic Citizens Committee used an automated message from the bishop in which he thanked Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic leader, for supporting the Catholic Church’s policy agenda. (Lopez is not running this year, but is waging a tough battle to elect a supporter who lost the Democratic primary for the City Council seat in Williamsburg, where the calls were reportedly made.)
I checked on this with a diocesan spokesman, who said the call specifically referred to Lopez’s successful opposition to a bill that would have temporarily suspended the statute of limitations on lawsuits over sexual abuse of minors, a measure that would have been very costly to the Catholic Church in New York State.
Monsignor Kieran Harrington, the diocesan spokesman, told me that the bishop did not tape the message to support a candidate but simply to thank Lopez, whose office was targeted by protesters as a result of his stance on the sex-abuse bill.
Bishop DiMarzio also appears in a full-page, color ad for the re-election of the resolutely pro-choice Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It ran in the diocesan newspaper, which in the past had as a matter of policy rejected all political advertisements so as to avoid taking ads from pro-choice politicians. The bishop and mayor are pictured in Yankee Stadium, the bishop in a Yankees hat and the mayor in a Yankees warm-up jacket. It says: “MIKE BLOOMBERG: PROTECTING NYC’S CATHOLIC SCHOOLS. FIGHTING FOR US.”
Monsignor Harrington said that the no-advertising policy was ended last March, and not for this particular advertisement. He said Mayor Bloomberg has not been invited to speak at churches, and that “I would expect the bishop to have a relationship with the mayor of the City of New York.” The billionaire mayor co-chaired a fundraiser for diocesan schools.
It sure looks to me as if the bishop is showing greater flexibility than he did during the 2008 presidential campaign. Monsignor Harrington pointed out to me that the situation differs, since abortion is not an issue in the New York mayoral race but was in the presidential campaign. But the bishop is certainly taking a more flexible position now than he did when opposing even Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak.
Over the years, I have heard several priests comment that they’d rather perform funerals than weddings –and I’ve always wondered why. Aren’t weddings happy, and funerals sad?
Well, “Rev. Know-It-All,” the pseudonym for an Illinois priest, enlightened me. It’s very funny–and very depressing. You can find it on page 3 of the parish bulletin.
Here’s his disclaimer:
Warning: THIS EPISODE OF THE REV. KNOW IT ALL IS EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU OR ANYONE YOU KNOW. PLEASE READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE.
THE REV. KNOW IT ALL IS NOT OPPOSED TO ALL WEDDING CELEBRATIONS. HE IS NOT TALKING ABOUT YOUR WEDDING WHICH WAS A TRIUMPH OF PERSONAL
SANCTITY AND GOOD TASTE. HE IS PROBABLY JUST HAVING A BAD DAY.
Americans put a lot of faith in elections as a sign of legitimacy and democracy–and we have had good reason. With some exceptions, our elections give legitimacy to the winner and are (usually) an expression of the people’s will. Should that confidence in elections color our policy in Iraq and Afghanistan?
The Iraqis have yet to pass the law necessary for elections in January raising questions about when U.S. troops will be withdrawn.
Mr. Abdullah has withdrawn from the run-off in Afghanistan leaving Mr. Karzai in place after a fraudulent election. What can nation-building mean in these circumstance and exactly what kind of war can the U.S. run in the circumstances? Times’ reporters say this: ”The election deadlock over the last nine weeks has highlighted the Afghan state’s fragility and has showed deep and growing divisions among Afghans. And it has, like so many other recent events here, posed a worsening problem for American and other Western leaders, who have found themselves stuck with a leader who has lost the support of large numbers of Afghans, and whose government is widely regarded as corrupt.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/world/asia/02afghan.html?_r=1&hp
And just to confuse matters: in Upstate New York, the duly-nomated Republican candidate has withdrawn, a move that favors the Conservative Party candidate supported by right-wing Republicans, Sarah Palin, etc.; in effect, delegitimizing local Republican party officials who chose the now retiring candidate, Dede Scozzafava. “G.O.P. Moderate, Pressed by Right, Abandons Race” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/nyregion/01upstate.html?hp
Cathleen Kaveny has a post below on “The Ethics of Blogging.” It might be complemented by some reflections on the spirituality of blogging. Indeed, the two, ethics and spirituality, seem inseparable.
What is the tone we encounter (and perhaps contribute to) on blogs? Is it divisive, derisive, dismissive? What about an asceticism of comments? Does a pile-on of lengthy comments from the same persons advance a discussion or does it suck all the air from the blog and dissuade others from participating? It’s easy enough to decry the Taliban-tactics of the other. What of the bullying of the partisans?
Recently John Allen published a column regarding young Catholics. I passed it on to a number of my undergrads and asked if it “rang true.” The unanimous response was “Amen!”
Here is some of what Allen wrote:
This new generation seems ideally positioned to address the lamentable tendency in American Catholic life to drive a wedge between the church’s pro-life message and its peace-and-justice commitments. More generally, they can help us find the sane middle between two extremes: What George Weigel correctly calls “Catholicism lite,” meaning a form of the faith sold out to secularism; and what I’ve termed “Taliban Catholicism,” meaning an angry expression of Catholicism that knows only how to excoriate and condemn. Both are real dangers, and the next generation seems well-equipped to steer a middle course, embracing a robust sense of Catholic identity without carrying a chip on their shoulder.
And he quoted one young student:
“Why would I want to join a bunch of people who seem bummed out about the church?” one asked. “What’s the attraction in that?”
The attractiveness desired may be for a spirituality that is manifest in generosity of spirit. Too often mean-spiritedness seems the order of the day on blogs.
Blessed “Beatitudes Sunday.”