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From the email inbox of Bishop Bruskewitz - UPDATED

The good news is, the discussion of religious freedom at the bishops' conference has not focused solely on Catholics or Christians. The bad news is that this is how Muslims came up:

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz: I haven't had a chance to read the Obamacare Protection Act, but somebody told me that there's a total exemption for Muslims in the back of that act, that all Muslims are exempt because insurance, for Muslims, is a type of gambling, which is contrary to the Koran, and therefore Muslims are not obliged in any way to observe the insurance mandate which derives from the act. I'm not sure if that's true or not; I just want to know if any of you know anything about it.

He was addressing his question to Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and to John H. Garvey, the president of Catholic University, both of whom had just finished their presentations to the assembly. (I'll link to the video at the end of this post.)The bishop from Nebraska is misinformed: there is no exemption for Muslims buried "in the back" of the Affordable Care Act. The claim has been circulated in some chain emails, and yes, has debunked it (, too). It plays to a number of popular themes in anti-Obama right-wing discourse, which you will recognize if you have been on the receiving end of such emails (or, as Michael Sean Winters says, if you watch a lot of Fox News): there is, first of all, the strange conviction that Muslims are getting off easy in America because everyone is bending over backward to avoid offending them. Related to that is the suspicion that President Obama is himself a Muslim, or perhaps just a bit more sympathetic to Muslims than befits an American leader. Then there is the objection (this one fairly mainstream) that the bill is so long and complicated that "no one" knows what it says. And these accusations are often accompanied by dark warnings about "creeping sharia" and the Muslim plot to take over our nation.In other words, there's a lot of ugly baggage that goes along with what was, I trust, an innocent query on Bruskewitz's part.

He seemed to earnestly believe that what he described was a possibility, and I suppose it's good that he knew enough to say "I'm not sure if that's true." But to believe that it is true requires one to believe that the Obama Administration has succeeded in slipping something this controversial past everyone, save for a few brave freedom fighters sending out chain emails. Anyone who has spent any time thinking about the implications of the Affordable Care Act, as at least some of the bishops have, ought to be able to say confidently that this is not so.

Gregory Metzger, who recently wrote an article for Commonweal lamenting the lack of attention to anti-Muslim prejudice in the bishops' statement "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," blogged about the distressing exchange. As he points out, it's not just Bruskewitz's ignorance that's troubling; there's also the response, or rather non-response, from the rest of the room. Lori makes a nervous joke (because gosh, that bill is long, amirite?), Garvey does likewise, and then Cardinal Timothy Dolan calls on Cardinal Francis George, who moves on to something else. Bruskewitz's wild speculation hangs there, uncorrected. [Update: At the beginning of the next session, Bishop Richard E. Pates took a moment before his own presentation to note that Muslims are not, in fact, exempt. Thank you to John Page for pointing this out in the comments. I've included Pates's remarks at the bottom of the post.] I know bishops don't like telling other bishops they're wrong in public. But in this case, given what's at stake -- that is, the need for the bishops to be seen as credible and informed voices on the subject of religious liberty and the related provisions of the Affordable Care Act -- couldn't someone have gone out on that limb? Bishop Lori is supposed to be the point man on this issue for the bishops' conference. He can't bring himself to say, "You know, I'm pretty sure that's not right"? Metzger:

Bishop Lori--you really don't know if the document you have spent the better part of the last 18 months criticizing does or does not allow for an entire religious group to exempt itself from its reach? Then why should we trust your judgments about the President's actions on religious freedom?

Perhaps the trouble is that the issue is complicated. No, there's no secret Muslim exemption hidden at the end of the ACA. But the act does leave room for the possibility of exemptions on religious grounds, as noted in the writeup. There is no reason to believe Muslims will apply or qualify for such an exemption, but there may be groups who will, and the government will consider those applications, weighing competing freedoms and benefits and historical precedent as it so often does in such cases.The bishops' resistance to the contraception mandate in the ACA has generally failed to acknowledge the complicated history of religious freedom and government policy, as many of the contributors to our forum pointed out. Here, for example, is Cardinal Dolan's proposed solution, from a recent column in Catholic New York:

All Washington has to do is say, "Any entity that finds these mandates morally objectionable is not coerced to do them," and leave it there. Don't get into the red tape in trying to mandate for us how our good works should be defined.

How simple! How constitutional! How American!

While I agree with the cardinal about the troubling aspects of this particular mandate and its limited exemption for religious institutions, I wonder if he's thought about the implications of writing the language he suggests into law. It seems to me "getting into red tape" is basically the definition of legislation -- the protest the bishops ought to be making is not against the very fact of legal distinctions where religious objections to a law are concerned. The distinctions have to be made, and the aim is to make them well.

A straightforward answer to Bruskewitz's question might force the bishops into an uncomfortable position. After all, based on their reasoning about the HHS contraception mandate, if Muslims did object on moral and religious grounds to buying health insurance, shouldn't they be allowed to refuse? Wouldn't that make this an unjust law, and therefore no law at all, where they are concerned?

You can watch the whole exchange on the USCCB website: go here and click on the video titled "2012 Spring General Assembly Afternoon Session Part 1." Then skip ahead to 1:31, close to the end of the nearly two-hour session, for the exchange with Bruskewitz.

P.S. While you're watching, stay tuned to hear Cardinal George offer a caution about invoking St. Thomas More, who was called on by Garvey at the end of his speech: "Thomas More taught us that we need religious liberty. More important, he taught us that loving God is worth dying for," Garvey said. George pointed out that More also sent people to their deaths in his defense of the truth, making him a complicated patron for the cause of religious liberty today. Good for George.

Update: Go to the same page and click on the video titled "2012 Spring General Assembly Afternoon Session Part 2" to hear Bishop Pates correct Bishop Bruskewitz's misinformation, right at the beginning. Here is what he says:

Bishop Richard E. Pates: Our very capable staff here at the conference very quickly researched the question that Bishop Bruskewitz raised with regard to the Muslims, and they've asked me to say that they are not exempt. And so, if you have further questions, they would invite you to consult with the staff here, but that they already have had some questions through the media, et cetera, about the exact status of the exemption, but it's not the case, as I understand it.

Good for Bishop Pates and the conference staff.

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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Mollie are much too kind to hierarchal overreach. "Obamacare Protection Act, "Maybe changing names of laws is part of his idea about religious liberty. and the fellow bishops giving him a pass is like asking again for a Taco Bell exemption. . PHEW

We have switched places on this one, Mollie--I think I am more upset with Bruskewitz than you and can not help but make conclusions about his motivations in bringing up this question. But like you said, my main concern is with Lori/Garvey's "nonresponse". I am not an expert in "bishopspeak", but it seems like when "the world is watching" the good bishop should make a point of clarifying the issue at hand and showing that you have some credibility on the question of "religious freedom for all", not make a little joke and claim ignorance. Of course, he may well be ignorant about this rumor and the motivations behind those who have been advancing it for going on two years. But if Lori is ignorant about that, it really speaks to why I have no more trust in the Bishops' campaign and its claim to represent all Americans. When your leading spokespeople can't even articulate a competent response to a question like Bruskewitz's (whatever his motivations may have been) the bishops lose whatever credibility they still had on this issue. First, they are silent on anti-Shariah laws, now they are silent on the very law that they have been claiming expertise on for months.

And don't even get me started on Garvey's response--OK, I'm started. His little joke about not being a lawyer anymore and claiming ignorance of the ACA's wording is just sad to see. How do people expect to be trusted as voices for the Catholic community when on the most essential aspect of the law in terms of the bishops' campaign--namely, how religious communities are going be treated under it--they embarrassingly giggle and claim ignorance. That is the real joke. What they both should have done is taken a page out of the baseball player Bryce Harper who responded a couple days ago to a dumb question with the response: "That's a clown question, bro." It may not be "Bishopspeak" but that response sure would have been better than what Lori/Garvey they gave us. But in this case it was a clown question about an entire segment of people who the bishops claim to be speaking for, not a question about drinking beer in Canada like the question to Harper. When I was received into communion in the Catholic Church 12 years ago, it was in part due to the social teachings of the Church. To see leading spokespeople for our Social Doctrines do so with such blatant incompetence at such a key moment is a real disappointment.

Maybe some of the catechists and theologians could help/correct me on this, but isn't this an example of a failure in the formation of conscience?Catholics who disagree with a particular Church teaching, or with the way it's applied, are regularly reminded/instructed about the burden that is upon them to form their consciences properly---by prayer, works of mercy, study of Scripture and of the Church's teachings, etc.And here we have bishops, who not only have decades of experience with these practices and disciplines, but who also have diocesan staff, as well as easy access to the resources and expertise at Catholic universities, the USCCB, the Vatican, etc., for help with gathering the information necessary to form their consciences and make prudential judgments about any number of public issues---including this issue which has been at the top of their collective agenda for the past two years.(I try to keep things like this in mind during the Prayers of the Faithful at Sunday Mass when praying for our bishops.)

I would not be at all surprised to hear that the majority of the U. S. bishops find the bishop of Lincoln Nebraska to be an embarrassment, since he was the only bishop who did not sign the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People at the June 2002 meeting. As someone who has never seen the President at CU before, I would say that he isn't very good at thinking on his feet.

It's hard to listen to. A bishop yesterday said something about how the laity "perceives" something. He seemed so timid. He emphasized "perceives" and "perception" a few times as if to make sure Dolan and the others understood that he didn't share the perception.As to Lori? On the Baltimore Archdiocese's page, it says: "The U.S. Bishops have called for a Fortnight for Freedom, June 21-July 4, celebrating religious liberty."Celebrating? I thought they were mourning the loss of it. Or battling to regain it. Or something.

I agree that there should have been some direct response to Bishop Bruskewitz from Archbishop Lori or President Garvey of CUA. They were the presenters to a plenary meeting of the US bishops on the topic of domestic threats to religious freedom.However, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Policy, did, before beginning his own presentation (at the rostrum) on frequently violent religious persecution in various parts of the world, go out of his way to make clear that there are no exemptions for Muslims in the ACA. Even though this was not part of his brief. Good for him.Bishop Pates was on the staff of the then Apostolic Delegation during the years of the often dishonored Archbishop Jean Jadot ("the Jadot bishops"). Bishop Pates remained close to Archbishop Jadot till the archbishop's death at ninety-nine a year or so ago.

That is good to hear about Bishop Pates. I will go and listen to that on tape. I had missed that. Thanks for the heads up, @John Page. I will also note that on my blog. This is the kind of thing that needs to happen, and happen soon.

Hmm. Maybe another indication that Cardinal George is not too happy with this "freedom" enterprise. article yesterday on Bruskewitz who is past retirement age and has submitted his resignation. Will the pope accept it? Is there anyone who can fill his buskins?(The Current Issue of the Register, top right on the page, has a big article about the Girl Scouts. Safe for Catholic Girls?)

It is hard for me to understand why the bishops allowed this broadcast. The bishops do not emerge from this broadcast looking or sounding very impressive.

Bruskewitz continues to damn himself and prove his vincible ignorance. And this man is supposed to be recognized as a TEACHER in the church?The man is a total embarrassment. Could he possibly be suffering from dementia?Who can fill his buskins? Any retrograde from any other backwater diocese would be an improvement.

Helen: I thought Bruskewitz was joined by Vasa, then of Oregon and now foisted on the poor people of Santa Rosa, CA, in refusing to sign the Charter. I know that both of them, along with all/most of the Eastern Rite Eparchs (?) refused to allow investigations in their dioceses/eparchies."Submitted by Who Repealed Vatican II? (not verified) on Jun. 04, 2011. .... It is my understanding that both Vasa and Bruskewitz do not allow the audit because they do not allow the "bad touch" training to young kids, claiming that is the parent(s)' job. On the face of that, one might cut them a little slack, but last month, a lawsuit against the Baker Diocese was filed by a family of 2 twin girls molested by a 12 yr old boy while unsupervised during an activity sponsored by a lay organization in a rental hall of a Bend Church. Although the Diocese obviously was not directly responsible for the molestation, the girls would have been better served if they knew what was happening was a bad touch and immediately reported it to an adult."

Also ----"Bennett is right to point out that, while zero tolerance is a blunt instrument, it was adopted because the bishops lost credibility on this issue. He cites Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, who has never complied with the Charter, and continues to refuse audits of abuse allegations in his diocese. Bennett calls that arrogant and outrageous. Also outrageous is the failure of bishops to fraternally correct Bruskewitz in a public venue. At the USCCB meeting, Bruskewitz submitted twenty-eight amendments to the revision of the Charter. None was accepted. (Bishop Blase Cupich, chair of the Committee for Child and Youth Protection, explained that his committee would accept only those amendments that strengthened the Charter.) Bruskewitz said: It is fundamentally dishonest to tell the faithful and the general public that the USCCB has any authority whatsoever to bind diocesesto obey the charter. The more commitments, the more grounds for lawsuits. Emcee Arroyo thinks that makes some sense."

John Page: Thank you, that is very good to know. I will update the post and link to Pates's presentation if possible.

Yes, by all means focus on a throw-away comment from a caricature, all to ignore the fine presentation by Pres. Garvey.

Thomas F. is right. The LA Times reported on some opinions that they need better PR. The best thing they could do for their public image immediately appears to be to forget the transparency and hold private meetings. It's to Cdl. George's credit that he brought them up to date on Thomas More -- not a great icon for religious liberty, as many outside the USCCB have laughingly noted since it was announced. (See Wikipedia)

Thomas Farrell"It is hard for me to understand why the bishops allowed this broadcast." Hopefully had they not it would have been leaked.

"Its to Cdl. Georges credit that he brought them up to date on Thomas More"I was surprised but pleased. Hats off to Cardinal George.

John Page:"Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Policy, did, before beginning his own presentation (at the rostrum) on frequently violent religious persecution in various parts of the world, go out of his way to make clear that there are no exemptions for Muslims in the ACA."I thought I heard that comment, but could not find the archive on USCCB website to validate it. Thanks.

Curious, no mention of the recent would-be hero, Bp. Stephen Blaine's intervention after Card. George, talking about the incursion of government into religious activities, and Planned Parenthood's activities.

Jeff Landry:"no mention of the recent would-be hero, Bp. Stephen Blaine"Why do you think that he is a hero?

The Law of Large Meetings: In any sufficiently large meeting, an ignoramus or two will eventually be found standing at the microphone.

Jeff Landry: Did you mean Bp. Stephen Blaire?If so he back-tracked on his original statements at the Bishops' meeting.He called the federal contraceptive mandate an "unbelievable and egregious" intrusion on the right of the church and its institutions to follow their consciences. He led the motion at the bishops' meeting (which passed unanimously) to reaffirm a document calling for Catholics to unite behind the religious freedom campaign.Doesn't sound very heroic to me.

The prejudice against Muslims is similar to the prejudice against blacks in the church prior to MLK. The prejudice at that time was just as much clergy driven as laity drives as it is now. Mollie mentioned it when she wrote above: "And these accusations are often accompanied by dark warnings about creeping sharia and the Muslim plot to take over our nation." This is not just Fox News but a tremendous amount of Catholics. So the accusation that the Bishops are not concerned about the rights of Muslims is not just a presumption. On another list I admonished a blogger that his hatred of Muslims was not good and that Jesus commands us to love. He responded by writing that it is hard to love. True but telling. So it easy to hate. The Muslims stand right up there with the Samaritans when it comes to hatred by Catholics and other Christians. Thankfully the staff at the conference corrected false notions by a bishop who should know better. Sadly too many Catholics share his view.

Timidity and ignorance are just not an excuse for irresponsible leadership.

The telling thing about the helpful clarification by Bishop Pates is how quickly the "conference staff" was able to arrive at the truth and yet the two leading spokesmen for the bishops on religious freedom had no idea. That says all we need to know about the competence of those who are leading the USCCB heading into the Fortnight. My guess is that Bishop Pates and others with their heads screwed on right will be urging their fellow bishops to "declare victory" on this situation and end this "campaign" ASAP. The credibility of the conference has taken a real hit and the Fortnight will only be worse unless the bishops realize how shallow the leadership actually is on the basic facts and issues surrounding the broader issues of religious freedom in America. Let Notre Dame and some good lawyers move ahead with their suit and lets get the bishops back to working on things that they are competent to work on and leave the "campaigning" to the laity of whatever perspective. What this incident indicates with great clarity is that the competence of the bishops does not reach to orchestrating a public relations campaign of this magnitude (and shouldn't).

Bruskewitz excommunicated the Rainbow Girls, a girl scout like group affiliated with masons, when his episcopal reign in ? Nebraka?

Regarding the term "Obamacare" - I've read that the Obama White House and the Obama campaign are now using the term. That doesn't prevent it from being muttered in a derogatory tone of voice, but, for political purposes, anyway, it seems to have morphed into a relatively neutral descriptor. That is why I've used it once or twice in recent comments. If the sense of this group is that I shouldn't, I'll stop.

Later after the good bishop of Lincoln asked his question Bishop Jaime Soto got up and asked the bishops not use the term "Obamacare" because it was a term that reflected an ideological bias. His intervention and that of Cardinal George was the high point of the afternoon.

I think "Obamacare" is a good name for it. It reminds Americans that Obama and the "Democrat" Party CARE for them, as opposed to the Republicans who don't care for anyone other than their masters. When the SCOTUS strikes down Obamacare here's what it will mean for one family:

The RCC (Republican Catholic Church) will mark Independence Day by TOLLING church bells. By putting a damper on the Fourth of July, they will demonstrate . . . something.At a demonstration in St. Louis, a priest did his part: that:Holding signs saying, "Stop President Obama's HHS Mandate," and "Religious Freedom Gone Today. What Freedom Next?" protesters heard the Rev. Anthony Gerber, 31, an associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Imperial quote from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Gerber made fun of Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and asked what the Obama administration "might mandate next.""Where will the hubris stop?" Gerber said. "Will they mandate that women take contraception? Will they mandate that men be sterilized? Will they mandate that families only have one child, like they do in Communist China? And like in China, will this government mandate the church be quiet about it?"

The fact is Obamacare, or the ACA for those who prefer acronyms, will not hold up under scrutiny. Legally, it will probably go down via the Supreme Court decisions, and as a practical matter, it is too cumbersome and complex.Hopefully, what will prevail is a federal health care plan, a single-payer system whereby the federal government provides a basic, minimal policy to everyone living here (yes even to the indocumentados), and people can then supplement the national policy by purchasing their own rider policies.Simple and straightforward, a national single-payer plan will settle all the griping, and then we all get get back to living our lives.

And Gerelyn; I have one of the Stop President Obamas HHS Mandate signs big red letters; pastic sign suitable to put in the front yard. It is still in the trunk of our car from last Fridays rally in Sacramento. We listened to various speakers, walked around waving the signs, it was a nice day and it was fun.

God help us.Forget Bruskewitz - one of the episcopal loonies we endure from the hierachical pickings sent us from Rome.There was a clear expression that the Bshops needed bette rPR, perhaps a new spokesman.I said to myself, who?Bill Donahue? (Then we're really up the well known tributary.)John Allen? He'd fit the bill - got an exclusive with Cardinal Levada on LWCR -which shows how up the chain they realize the image is just getting worse.But they'll have continued problems with the perception they're in bed with the GOP and the whiter than white (to borrow on Colbert last night) reach of that party.Bruskewitz is just a small example of that.

Gerylyn:For me the most powerful indicator that this entire, expensive Fortnight for Freedom hype is a disgrace and most probably politically motivated:1) the powerful presentation given at the USCCB meeting by Bishop Shlemon Warduni in which he described the persecution of the Church in Iraq and (Did they all miss this?) put the blame on the U.S. Invasion of Iraq.2) an interview that I heard last night on BBC, broadcasted on our local PBS station here in the Philadelphia area. An Italian Jesuit priest and a Syrian nun described the Syrian governments persecution of Christians. The Priest is being forced to leave by the government.Our bishops should be ashamed of themselves, when so much real persecution is occurring throughout the world. Isnt this supposed to be a Catholic (universal) Church?

Hi, Helen:Articles this morning about the bishops' "lively session". Here's one: that: In a lively session at their national conference in Atlanta, several bishops expressed dismay that they are slow to get their talking points across and are perceived as too confrontational.The recent Vatican crackdown on the largest organization of U.S. nuns turned into a public relations "debacle" for the bishops, said Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston.He complained that the Vatican's decision to put bishops in charge of rooting out "radical feminist" elements within the nuns' group was linked in the secular media to unrelated events, such as the bishops' investigation of the Girl Scouts, with negative consequences for the church's image.

Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, said on Wednesday "We've seen some reaction to our work that is sometimes hostile, sometimes unfair and inaccurate and sometimes derisive". He offered some explanations, including that "It [derogatory comments] shows how far we have fallen and how far we have to climb before we can rest assured religious freedom stands on firm footing". He apparently doesn't recognize that inability to respond professionally from the podium to an inevitable oddball meeting input of some kind from confrere Bruskewitz contributes to that fall. Bp. Bruskewitz in his letter on HHS for all Masses Jan 29 called for preparing like martyrs of old for suffering, which might include heavy fines and imprisonment. Martyrdom was in the air. The St. Louis archdiocesan director of marketing and mission awareness wrote in the archdiocesan newspaper in Feb of "Ever-increasing attacks on Church calling us to martyrdom". She attributed to Cdl. George an assertion about his successor dying in the streets and that man's successor martyred in the public square. Where does the USCCB stand today on martyrdom? Is Bruskewitz its only proponent? (Add Nigeria to Helen's list at 11:12am.)

Jim P--While I agree it's probably not good form for a bishop to use the term derogatively (in public), I will be upset if you stop using the term, as would the president, I think.

About the term "Obamacare". It certainly reflects Democratic values. George Lakoff, the fascinating linguist who is also a Democratic theorist, has a recent article about the Wisconsin recall, in which he points out that the Republicans are experts at manipulating the populace by their not very subtle use of Republican words and constant repetition of their message. He doesn't use the phrase "code language", but I think that's what it basically is. Lakoff contrasts the fundamental, differing values of progressives and conservatives and shows how the Republicans use language over and over which appeals to those basic values. He thinks the Democrats have failed to emphasize their basic values in language that reinforces their basic values. (I think "Obamacare" is an exception -- it emphasized "caring".) In other words Democrats pay little attention to their political vocabulary. He thinks one big reason the Democrats lost in Wisconsin is because they didn't "talkDemocratic" sufficiently. Says he, "What progressives need to do is clear. To people who have mixed values - partly progressive, partly conservative - talk progressive values in progressive language, thus strengthening progressive moral views in their brains. Never move to the right thinking youll get more cooperation that way."Start telling deep truths out loud all day every day: Democracy is about citizens caring about each other. The Public is necessary for The Private. Pensions are delayed earnings for work already done; eliminating them is theft. Unions protect workers from corporate exploitation - low salaries, no job security, managerial threats, and inhumane working conditions. Public schools are essential to opportunity, and not just financially: they provide the opportunity to make the most of students skills and interests. They are also essential to democracy, since democracy requires an educated citizenry at large, as well as trained professionals in every community. Without education of the public, there can be no freedom." plugs his forthcoming"The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic".

I always thought it was a strategic mistake- or at least a little bit of Russian roulette- for opponents to early on label the ACA "Obamacare". Who knows if health care reform will stick, but if it does, it could be as big an expansion of the safety net as Social Security has turned out to be. And thanks to his critics, it is now indelibly labelled with Pres. Obama's signature.

Ann Olivier: In short, Democrats today are inept at meaningful political talk, as they have been in recent decades.

It always strikes me funny to see all of the bishops, dressed identically and with apparently same gold chains across the chest holding sometimes different pectoral crosses, with the enforced uniformity of such gatherings. That is when I realize how much they can't stand the individualism of American religous orders that no longer have habits or even veils! There is not the uniformity! And the uniformily also structures the dialogue and interactions, I believe. Just once I'd like to see them in smoking jackets (without smoking!) or how about in shorts and golf shirts...Just a whimsical image!

The Church of Whimsey -

The Church of Whimsey -Better than the church of self-selected, self-appointed, self-protecting, unelected mysoginistic, "celibate" male leadership that exists today.

I have tried to clarify and expand on some of my points with this new post.

And Greg was good enough in MSW's blogspot @ NCR to - once again! - prove the kool aid nonsense that the Good Bishop Fabian seems to have ingested with his daily pablum is jujst that, nonsense: seems not to be a qualification for ordination to the episcopacy. We all hope B takes a deserved retirement sooner rather than later.

I just saw the replay of the press conference after the Wednesday afternoon session of the USCCB meeting. Bishop Lori was asked how the Fortnight, etc. was being funded. He mentioned the K of C (not surprised), Knights of Malta, and National Catholic Register (affiliated with EWTN (also not surprising).He did not mention that each diocese is contributing 3% more to their assessment to USCCB to support of the Ad Hoc Committeee for Religious Liberty. They overwhelmingly agreed to that at their fall meeting.

Thomas F. ==Yes, there is little Democratic talk (though "trickle down economics" still has meaning). I think that one of the problems is that there has not be any fine articulation of Democratic principle since Pres. Kennedy, and certainly there have been no theorists who have captured the public's attention since FRD's administration, when Msgr. John A. Ryan was one of the ones who articulated a social philosophy of the common good. The Republicans had the great master of Republican talk, Pres. Reagan. Yes, he over-simplified, but it worked for generations -- "the city on the hill", the Soviets as the "evil empire", and "the government is the problem" still echo.I think we need some new Democratic theorists who can articulate not only a philosophy of the common good (which even Christian conservatives can hardly gainsay) but who can also articulate in simple enough terms why "the government is the problem" philosophy won't work.

Greg --Fine post on your blog.

Ann Olivier: I thought that President Lyndon Johnson articulated his civil rights' goals and the goals of the Great Society reasonably well.Unfortunately, he also tragically escalated the war in Vietnam.

Thomas F. --I think Johnson articulated them well enough in Congress, but I think it was his legislative savvy that got the bills passed, not his appeals to the people. But I really should read the new Caro book to say. I think the Democrats need both a solid academic thinker who can appeal to both to the history of the founding of this country and to the way capitalism has evolved in since the Industrial Revolution. The two (e.g., George Washington, farmer, and George Soros, billionaire investor.) I mean someone analogous to Russell Kirk who, after WW II, articulated a contemporary sort of conservatism that was grounded on his moral principles, and who related those principles to American history and experience. Not that the liberals don't have their own important moral principles, but each side emphasizes a different set of principles. (See Lakoff on this -- excellent.) I also think that the American liberal establishment (the guys who run the Democratic party) has not represented the middle-ground liberals. They have moved too far away from "the common man". And they certainly haven't articulated any sort of coherent political philosophy, Of course, that sort of thinker doesn't come along very often. Somebody with Zizek's brains and maybe his passion, but not crazy.

P. S. -- I should add that this is the sort of fundamental thinking that the bishops should be encouraging among Catholic academics. But I fear that Catholic academics are generally too liberal for their taste. But they too need a really fine theorist or two or three to help guide them through the political thickets.

P. P. S. To you conservatives -- Yes, Jesus was a liberal :-)

@ Ann Olivier: Yeaaaayyyy!I remember being taught about the sin of "rash judgment." Yet here's a bishop passing on a rumor without doing the most basic fact-checking. I hope he doesn't watch the fair-and-balanced network too.

Ann Olivier: You've figured out what's needed politically in the United States at the present time, but you've not figured out how to do it.By the way, I'm not convinced that the historical Jesus was a liberal.I know, I know, John Dominic Crossan thinks that the historical Jesus was concerned about social justice, as certain ancient Hebrew prophets such as Amos were.But I think Crossan is wrong about this this.The historical Jesus announced that the reign of God (also known as the kingdom of God) has come.Yes, the reign of God has come. People today can also experience the reign of God, as the historical Jesus did.The spiritual thinker who in effect describes the reign of God today is the late Anthony de Mello, S.J. (1931-1987), of India in his new posthumously published book REDISCOVERING LIFE: AWAKEN TO REALITY (ImageCatholicBooks, 2012).I say "in effect" because he does not happen to explicitly advert to the reign of God or the kingdom of God.

Angela --You're right. Eash judgment,it's not a popular sin these days, not in the sense that we are very aware of doing it. But when I think of blogs and the insults people hurl at each other, it looks like rash judgment is the most popular sin on the net. In particular, the word "hypocrite" is heard much too often to be justified. Maybe we should regularly add "rash judgment" to our examination of conscience.

Thomas F. --No, I certainly don't have the foggiest notion of what this country needs most. I suspect it mainly needs a revised economic system, one which somehow has people paying their fair share of taxes and providing for the truly needy. But I don't think that taxes are the whole economic problem. Our capitalist system needs overhaul. It permits and even encourages greed to an extent that it's destroying the nation from within. I notice that the very young are starting to say "Chuck capitalism!!!" But they don't remember Communism and how much worse that was. So what's our alternative? This is the question that the bishops should be seeking an answer for. But I fear that their hierarchical culture is so set in concrete that it can't even think about new ideas. Jesus wasn't a conformist. Why are the bishops?

Ann said: "Jesus wasnt a conformist. Why are the bishops?"This very bright Jesuit put it so very well:"Those called to serve the people of God as bishops have to remember that they walk on feet of clay and rely on the power of prayer and sacraments to protect them from the dangers of earthly ambition and corrosive pride. Regrettably, some bishops fail to understand the shepherding nature of their episcopal role; they attempt to rule rather than lead the flock that has been entrusted to their care. That simply doesnt work, and it is regrettable that the bishop is often the last to notice. "William J. Bryon, SJ, The church can learn a lot from 'servant leadership', NCR, Aug 21, 2010,

If the Obama campaign says we should call it Obamacare, I fail to see how it is derogatory or partisan to do so. All sides now seem to agree on this label.

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