Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back to School

by David Warren

In Jerusalem, on the Dome of the Rock -- situated on top of what is almost certainly the Holy of Holies, within the ancient Temple precincts -- is an inscription, in their earliest angular Kufic script, on what was also the earliest monument the Arabs caused to be erected in a conquered land. It reads, in its most significant part: "Praise to Allah who begets no son and has no associate in power and who has no surrogate for humiliations." The point is sustained by repetition, together with the contrary assertion that Mohammed alone can provide intercession on the day when the Muslim community is resurrected.

That is on the outside of the Dome. On the inside, there is a further long inscription, which mentions Jesus and Mary by name; states that Jesus was an envoy of Allah; that the religion of Allah is Islam; and that Allah will reckon with those who dissent.

Nearly 14 centuries have passed since this challenge to the existence of Christianity was made; and indeed, we are living in the fallout of certain manifestations of it today.

Yet we have today, at least in the more progressive and nominal Christians of North America and Europe -- most certainly including Catholics -- the curious notion that Christianity is compatible with Islam. That it is likewise compatible with all other religions. That it is compatible with a Darwinian cosmology, and therefore with atheist materialism. That it is part of "diversity"; and so on...

Read the whole article.

The Trick

How to convince middle-class Americans that Obamacare won’t cost them a thing.

by Michael G. Franc

President Obama has painted himself into a very tight corner with his promises on health-care reform.

First, he has vowed repeatedly and unambiguously that no one with an annual family income of $250,000 or less will face a tax increase. He renewed the pledge in his September 9 speech before the joint session of Congress. “The middle-class,” he vowed, “will realize greater security [under his health-care reform plan], not higher taxes.”

Translation: No matter how much new tax revenue Obamacare may require, rest assured that every penny will come (with apologies to former senator Bob Dole) not from you, not from me, but from those 4 million “wealthy” American households behind that tree. If you live in one of the 130 million or so non-rich households, you can just sit back and watch your rich neighbors fight the tax man...

Read the whole article.

GOP Soul Check

by Larry Thornberry

TAMPA -- Conservative Marco Rubio enjoyed a good September in his race against popular, liberal Florida Governor Charlie Crist for the 2010 Republican nomination for the Florida U.S. Senate recently vacated by Mel Martinez.

Though he's trailed Crist by double figures in polls of Florida Republicans, when it comes to the people active in the Florida Party, Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House, has wowed them with speeches full of values such as fiscal restraint, social conservatism, strength abroad, and opposition to massive government intrusions into the economy such as cap and trade, which Crist fancies. In straw votes among eight county Republican executive committees, Rubio has swamped Crist 358 to 32. In Hernando County, just one county away from Crist's home county of Pinellas, Rubio pitched a 46-0 shutout...

Read the whole article.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mostar bishop reiterates rules for Medjugorje parish

MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNS) -- Confirming young people from the parish in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno asked them not to behave as if the alleged Marian apparitions reported in the parish were real.

In late September, the bishop posted on his diocesan Web site an Italian translation of his homily from the June confirmation Mass, as well as letters to the Franciscan pastor of the Medjugorje parish and to another priest serving there.

Bishop Peric had told the young people that, during a visit to the Vatican early in the year, the top officials at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican Secretariat of State confirmed they were telling anyone who asked that the Catholic Church has never recognized the alleged apparitions as authentic...

Read the whole article.

Catholic Martyrs of the Holocaust

by Matthew Bunson

By 1939, more than 10,000 Catholic schools had been closed and the Catholic boys and girls sent to Nazi public schools for indoctrination.

Catholics are constantly confronted with the claims that Pope Pius XII was complicit in the Holocaust, that vast numbers of Catholics collaborated with Hitler's diabolical regime, and that Catholic priests, nuns, and bishops were ardent members of the Nazi Party and supporters of its policies. It is true that many Catholics turned a blind eye to the Holocaust, and others remained silent out of fear for their lives and the safety of their families. There were certainly many ex-Catholic members of the ruling Nazi circles, just as there were Catholics in some numbers who supported the Nazis out of a twisted sense of nationalism, anti-Semitic beliefs, or for pure personal advancement in a corrupt and evil state.

But what many people don't know is that the Church itself was a target of the Nazis. On June 6, 1941, Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, private secretary to Adolf Hitler, and one of the most powerful figures in the Third Reich, issued a secret decree for all Gauleiters (or regional party leaders) of the Reich regarding the true intentions of the Nazi regime toward the Christian churches...

Read the whole article.

Obama's Too-Big-to-Fail Plan Is Too Dumb to Pass

The administration's financial reform proposal is back in the news after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's testimony on Capitol Hill last week. A closer look at Geithner's proposal and the perspective of Barney Fran's amended plan reveals how inept Obama's economic policy has become.

by Kevin A. Hassett

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's appearance in Congress last week to explain how President Barack Obama would overhaul financial regulation elicited the most striking sign yet that the wheels have come off the administration's economic-policy team.

The White House had proposed, and Geithner was ready to defend, such a radical expansion of government power that even Barney Frank, the ultra-liberal congressman from Massachusetts, felt compelled to object that it went too far.

When Barney Frank thinks that you are too liberal, you better check your medications...

Read the whole article.

House Remodeling

Can the GOP take back the House? Yes, if its candidates do their job.

by Jim Geraghty

So how good could 2010 be for Republicans running for the House of Representatives?

A phenomenal year is now in the cards, which is obviously not the same as saying that it will be a phenomenal year. In any off-year, discussion of the following year’s House races usually frames the battle for control of the chamber as a reflection of national mood. But even after elections that brought dramatic swings in the two parties’ fortunes — 1994, 2006 — the ascending party wonders if it let winnable seats slip through its fingers. In the end, control of the House comes down to 435 unique races taking place in a national climate favoring one party or the other.

“Environment matters, but you have to have all your ships in the sea, with their sails up, and pointed in the right direction,” says Brian Walsh, political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

In other words, if you want to have victories driven by the national mood, you have to have good candidates; you can’t have lazy campaigners or guys from the wrong part of their district, and your candidates have to talk about the right issues. One Capitol Hill Republican mused that the party hopes to have 60 good, competitive races next fall in districts currently held by Democrats, and to face the delightful dilemma of where to spend limited resources; another argued that the number really ought to be 80. This is not to say that either of these Republicans thinks the party will win that many seats, but they do believe that each of these is a potentially winnable race under the right circumstances...

Read the whole article.

Mont St. Michel: Magnificence on a Mudflat

by Rick Steves

I love to scamper, at low tide, shoes in my hands, far from shore, across the mudflat in the vast Bay of Mont St. Michel. Splashing across black sand and through little puddles, I head for a dramatic abbey reaching to heaven from a rock surrounded by a vast and muddy solitude.

For more than a thousand years, the distant silhouette of this island abbey sent pilgrims' spirits soaring. Today, it does the same for tourists. Mont St. Michel, among the top four pilgrimage sites in Christendom through the ages, floats like a mirage on the horizon — though it does show up on film. Today, 3.5 million visitors — far more tourists than pilgrims — flood the single street of the tiny island each year.

Since the sixth century, hermit monks in search of solitude lived here. Location, location, location. The word "hermit" comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "desert." The next best thing to a desert in this part of Europe was the sea.

Imagine the "desert" this bay provided as the first monk climbed the rock to get close to God. Mix in the mythic tide, which sends the surf speeding eight miles in and out with each tide cycle...

Read the whole article.

Catholic public figures who scandalize faithful must repent publicly, Archbishop Burke says

Washington D.C., Sep 29, 2009 / 06:11 am (CNA).- Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, delivered a speech on September 8 discussing how to advance the culture of life in the U.S. and how to rectify the “scandal” of publicly known Catholics who confuse and distort Church teaching.

At the 14th Annual Partnership Dinner of InsideCatholic.com, Archbishop Burke said that those who have publicly espoused and cooperated in gravely sinful acts lead people into confusion and error about “fundamental questions.” Just as their dissent was public, their repentance must also be public.

“The person in question bears a heavy responsibility for the grave scandal which he has caused. The responsibility is especially heavy for political leaders,” the archbishop added.

Repairing the damage done by such scandal “begins with the public acknowledgment of his own error and the public declaration of his adherence to the moral law. The soul which recognizes the gravity of what he has done will, in fact, understand immediately the need to make public reparation,” Archbishop Burke said.

Particular harm is done by those who profess Christianity but promote policies and laws which “permit the destruction of innocent and defenseless human life” and “violate the integrity of marriage in the family,” he said.

The result of these actions is that citizens are confused and “led into error” about basic moral tenets...

Read the whole article.

The Campaign is Over, Mr. President

by Richard Cohen

Sooner or later it is going to occur to Barack Obama that he is the president of the United States. As of yet, though, he does not act that way, appearing promiscuously on television and granting interviews like the presidential candidate he no longer is. The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on. The candidate has yet to become commander in chief.

Take last week's G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh. There, the candidate-in-full commandeered the television networks and the leaders of Britain and France to give the Iranians a dramatic warning. Yet another of their secret nuclear facilities had been revealed and Obama, as anyone could see, was determined to do something about it -- just don't ask what...

Read the whole article.

Without Bush, media lose interest in war caskets

by Byron York

Remember the controversy over the Pentagon policy of not allowing the press to take pictures of the flag-draped caskets of American war dead as they arrived in the United States? Critics accused President Bush of trying to hide the terrible human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"These young men and women are heroes," Vice President Biden said in 2004, when he was senator from Delaware. "The idea that they are essentially snuck back into the country under the cover of night so no one can see that their casket has arrived, I just think is wrong."

In April of this year, the Obama administration lifted the press ban, which had been in place since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Media outlets rushed to cover the first arrival of a fallen U.S. serviceman, and many photographers came back for the second arrival, and then the third.

But after that, the impassioned advocates of showing the true human cost of war grew tired of the story. Fewer and fewer photographers showed up. "It's really fallen off," says Lt. Joe Winter, spokesman for the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where all war dead are received. "The flurry of interest has subsided."

That's an understatement...

Read the whole article.

In De-Christianized Europe, Ratzinger Focuses on the "Creative Minorities"

The complete transcript of the interview with Benedict XVI during the flight from Rome to Prague, the morning of September 26. Freedom, truth, dialogue. And a look ahead at the second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth"

Q: Your Holiness, as you said at the Angelus last Sunday, the Czech Republic is located not only geographically, but also historically in the heart of Europe. Could you explain better what you mean by "historically," and tell us how and why you think that this visit can be significant for the continent as a whole, in its cultural, spiritual, and eventually also its political journey, in constructing the European Union?

A: Down through the centuries, the Czech Republic, the territory of the Czech Republic has been a place of cultural exchange. Let's begin in the ninth century: on the one hand, in Moravia, we have the great mission of the brothers Cyril and Methodius, who brought Byzantine culture from Byzantium, but created a Slavic culture, with Cyrillic characters and a liturgy in the Slavic language; on the other hand, in Bohemia, there were the dioceses bordering on Regensburg and Passau, which brought the Gospel in the Latin language, and this connection with Roman-Latin culture led to an encounter of the two cultures. Every encounter is difficult, but also fruitful. This could easily be demonstrated with this example...

Read the whole interview.

The Brainy Bunch

by Thomas Sowell

Many people, including some conservatives, have been very impressed with how brainy the president and his advisers are. But that is not quite as reassuring as it might seem.

It was, after all, Franklin D. Roosevelt's brilliant "brains trust" advisers whose policies are now increasingly recognized as having prolonged the Great Depression of the 1930s, while claiming credit for ending it. The Great Depression ended only when the Second World War put an end to many New Deal policies.

FDR himself said that "Dr. New Deal" had been replaced by "Dr. Win-the-War." But those today who are for big spending like to credit wartime big spending for bringing the Great Depression to an end. They never ask the question as to why previous depressions had always ended on their own, much faster than the one under FDR, and without government intervention or massive government spending.

Read the whole article.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Even in Capitalists’ Bad Times, Europe’s Socialists Suffer

by Steven Erlanger

PARIS — A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of Socialism’s slow collapse.

Even in the midst of one of the greatest challenges to capitalism in 75 years, involving a breakdown of the financial system due to “irrational exuberance,” greed and the weakness of regulatory systems, European Socialist parties and their left-wing cousins have not found a compelling response, let alone taken advantage of the right’s failures.

German voters clobbered the Social Democratic Party on Sunday, giving it only 23 percent of the vote, its worst performance since World War II.

Voters also punished left-leaning candidates in the summer’s European Parliament elections and trounced French Socialists in 2007. Where the left holds power, as in Spain and Britain, it is under attack. Where it is out, as in France, Italy and now Germany, it is divided and listless...

Read the whole article.

Death Be Not Proud

Slouching toward a culture of death.

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Earlier this summer, former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was criticized for deploying hyperbole in her opposition to health-care-reform legislation. Palin warned of “death panels,” and in doing so she convinced certain lawmakers to withdraw proposals for “end-of-life counseling” boards that would parcel out advice in a government-controlled health-care system.

She could have been more sober in her choice of language. But these are alarming times, and Palin’s attention-grabbing language highlighted some of the life-and-death issues being debated on Capitol Hill. Considering that, under the Democrats’ proposed legislation, vital health-care decisions will very possibly be made in closed-door conference committee, perhaps the more people hear, the better...

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Why Medical Malpractice Is Off Limits

A few thousand trial lawyers have a lock on Democrats, who refuse to consider any legal reform.

by Philip K. Howard

Eliminating defensive medicine could save upwards of $200 billion in health-care costs annually, according to estimates by the American Medical Association and others. The cure is a reliable medical malpractice system that patients, doctors and the general public can trust.

But this is the one reform Washington will not seriously consider. That's because the trial lawyers, among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party, thrive on the unreliable justice system we have now.

Almost all the other groups with a stake in health reform—including patient safety experts, physicians, the AARP, the Chamber of Commerce, schools of public health—support pilot projects such as special health courts that would move beyond today's hyper-adversarial malpractice lawsuit system to a court that would quickly and reliably distinguish between good and bad care. The support for some kind of reform reflects a growing awareness among these groups that managing health care sensibly, including containing costs, is almost impossible when doctors go through the day thinking about how to protect themselves from lawsuits...

Read the whole article.

Democrats try to pack the courts

by the Editors

Democrats aren't satisfied with the one-party state in which they control Congress and the White House and can politicize the Justice Department and take over the banking and automotive industries. Now liberal Democrats are pushing a court-packing scheme as well.

A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the proposed Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 (S. 1653), which would create positions for 63 new federal judges - 51 in federal district courts and 12 in appeals courts. This proposal is nothing less than a sneaky equivalent of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried with his infamous court-packing power grab on the Supreme Court in 1937. The only slight difference is that this attempt is more under the radar...

Read the whole article.

There Are Only Two Choices Left on Iran

An Israeli or U.S. military strike now, or a nuclear Tehran soon.

by Eliot A. Cohen

Unless you are a connoisseur of small pictures of bearded, brooding fanatical clerics there is not much reason to collect Iranian currency. But I kept one bill on my desk at the State Department because of its watermark—an atom superimposed on the part of that country that harbors the Natanz nuclear site. Only the terminally innocent should have been surprised to learn that there is at least one other covert site, whose only purpose could be the production of highly enriched uranium for atom bombs.

Pressure, be it gentle or severe, will not erase that nuclear program. The choices are now what they ever were: an American or an Israeli strike, which would probably cause a substantial war, or living in a world with Iranian nuclear weapons, which may also result in war, perhaps nuclear, over a longer period of time.

Understandably, the U.S. government has hoped for a middle course of sanctions, negotiations and bargaining that would remove the problem without the ugly consequences. This is self-delusion. Yes, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy stood side by side with President Barack Obama in Pittsburgh and talked sternly about lines in the sand; and yes, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev hinted that some kind of sanctions might, conceivably, be needed. They said the same things to, and with, President George W. Bush...

Read the whole article.

Outsourcing Hate

The burdens of conservatism in the Obama age.

by P.J. O'Rourke

Whew, I'm pooped. Jimmy Carter has got me run ragged with all the hating I'm supposed to do. Jimmy says I'm a racist because I oppose President Obama's health care reform program. Even Jimmy Carter can't be wrong all the time. And since Jimmy Carter has been wrong about every single thing for the past 44 years, maybe--just as a matter of statistical probability--he's right this time.

I hadn't noticed I was a racist, but that was no doubt because I was too busy being a homophobe. Nancy Pelosi says the angry opposition to health care reform is like the angry opposition to gay rights that led to Harvey Milk being shot. Since I do not want America to suffer another Sean Penn movie, I will accept that I'm a homophobe, too. And I'm a male chauvinist due to the fact that I think Nancy Pelosi is blowing smoke--excuse me, carbon neutral, biodegradable airborne particulate matter--out her pantsuit...

Read the whole article.

You Mislead!

Fact-checking Obama.

by Michael F. Cannon and Ramesh Ponnuru

It is a good thing that other congressmen did not follow Rep. Joe Wilson’s lead. If they yelled out every time President Obama said something untrue about health care, they would quickly find themselves growing hoarse.

By our count, the president made more than 20 inaccurate claims in his speech to Congress. We have excluded several comments that are deeply misleading but not outright false. (For example: Obama pledged not to tap the Medicare trust fund to pay for reform. But there is no money in that “trust fund,” anyway, so the pledge is meaningless.) Even so, we may have missed one or more false statements by the president. Our failure to include one of his comments in the following list should not be taken to constitute an endorsement of its accuracy, let alone wisdom...

Read the whole article.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Voice of Twentieth-Century Catholicism

by Christopher J. Scalia

Since the death of J. F. Powers in 1999, admiring reviewers (all of his reviewers have been admiring) have mourned not only his death, but the general obscurity of his novels and stories. Although his first novel, Morte D'Urban, won the 1963 National Book Award -- over the more familiar names of John Updike, Katherine Anne Porter, and Vladimir Nabokov -- and his work was praised by such major figures as Evelyn Waugh and Flannery O'Connor (more on her later), he is not very well known, even among Catholics whose Church and priests he wrote about with such skill, insight, heart, and humor.

Joseph Bottum attributes this oversight to the fact that the Catholicism of Powers's stories was so distinctly of the 20th century. "He really was the finest American Catholic writer of the twentieth century," Bottum declares, before adding an epitaph: "And that century is over." Perhaps. But I hope the strength of Powers's writing helps his stories transcend a single period of the Catholic Church in America.

Rather than describe and recommend all of his stories and both of his novels, I'd like to consider three short stories that are particularly moving and fascinating: "Prince of Darkness," "Death of a Favorite," and "Defection of a Favorite." All of these concern Father Ernest Burner, a frustrated and spiritually lazy diocesan priest in Minnesota. While he is a difficult character to like, the stories present very different visions of the priest, culminating in a surprisingly hopeful, though ambiguous, ending. Meanwhile, the purity of Powers's prose, his wonderful turns of phrase and observations, make the stories a joy to read...

Read the whole article.

Pope urges Europe to remember Christian heritage

by Victor L. Simpson

BRNO, Czech Republic — Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that all of Europe — and not only this ex-communist country — must acknowledge its Christian heritage as it copes with rising immigration from other cultures and religions.

The second day of Benedict's pilgrimage to this highly secular country was marked by a joyous open-air Mass that drew tens of thousands of pilgrims and a sober message for the entire continent.

"History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions," Benedict said.

Church organizers estimated that 120,000 people packed a field beside an airport in the southern city of Brno for what was expected to be the biggest turnout of his trip. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said it was the largest turnout for a Mass in the history of the Czech Republic...

Read the whole article.

Unanswered questions from the NEA

The White House and NEA continue to stonewall about scandal

by the Editors

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman and the White House finally responded to a controversial effort by political appointees of both the White House and the NEA to "leverage" government funding of the arts into cultural support for the administration's legislative agenda.

This is the short version of the Obama administration's position: Nothing bad happened. The rogue employee who didn't do anything bad has been relieved of his duties (and has now resigned). In an effort to make sure that the same "nothing bad" never happens again, the administration has distributed a memo and provided some new training on how not to do "nothing bad."

The facts are simple and public. During the transition, President Obama's top arts adviser made it clear that his ambition was for the arts to become an integral part of the West Wing. After the inauguration, meetings of artists and political activists at the White House explicitly discussed how to keep the arts community in campaign mode to back Mr. Obama's legislative agenda. An NEA grants official, Mario Garcia Durham, was at one such meeting for which the attendee list is public...

Read the whole article.

Of Blight and Men

A property rights victory in New Jersey, of all places.

by the Editors

Last week saw a major victory for property rights, as besieged homeowners in New Jersey claimed victory against politicians and developers trying to seize their land. This continues the nationwide grassroots effort to stop government abuse of eminent domain power since the Supreme Court's misguided 2005 Kelo ruling.

This story began back in the mid 1990s, when the city of Long Branch marked the well-kept neighborhoods of a cottagy beach community "in need of redevelopment." Residents were told that their homes and property were "blighted" and were to be handed over to real-estate developers for a more than $100 million condo project. The families, represented by the Institute for Justice, protested but the confiscation was initially allowed to proceed by state judge Lawrence Lawson. In August 2008, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division unanimously reversed and remanded that decision, saying that the city did not have enough evidence to declare the area blighted. And last Tuesday the city of Long Branch agreed to drop their eminent domain claims...

Read the whole article.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Judge not. . .

by Paul Mirengoff

Thanks to President Obama, the odds that effective action will be taken against Iran's nuclear weapons program have increased in recent months, and perhaps significantly. Not action by the U.S. of course; Obama intends to fiddle and diddle indefinitely. But Obama's conduct has made it more likely that Israel will attack Iran.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who reportedly had Obama pegged as the next U.S. president back in 2007, has now had plenty of occasion to size up Obama as president. It's inconceivable that Netanyahu has any respect for Obama, much less that he believes Obama will do anything to assist Israel in dealing with the Iranian threat.

Read the whole article.

Iran’s Not-So-Secret Secret

by the Editors

The main thing to remember about Friday’s revelation that Iran has a secret uranium-enrichment facility is that it is not a revelation.

Sure, the facts are new. They are these: In addition to a uranium-enrichment site at Natanz that international inspectors have monitored for years, Iran has been constructing a facility inside a mountain near the city of Qom. This facility is under the control of the Revolutionary Guards, the elite corps under the “Supreme Leader’s” orders and imbued with that pious zeal for which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is celebrated. It appears to be too small to be useful in enriching uranium for large-scale energy production, but would be suited to enriching it for atomic warheads. It also appears to have been designed with an eye toward avoiding detection. The IAEA has now requested access to the facility. If granted, this would be of some marginal value, but would probably achieve little more than endless procedural wrangling between inspectors and Iranian officials who specialize in hiding evidence from inspectors...

Read the whole article.

The Trouble with Obama

He only seemed to be all things to all people.

by Noemie Emery

For a talented man who ran a textbook campaign and was declared a great president before he even took office, Barack Obama has been having a rather hard time. The Midas Touch of 2008 has seemed to desert him. The famed oratory has not made a difference. The uniting president has turned into the ultra-divider. The music has died.

It's less that McCain voters oppose his proposals than that his own voters are turning against him: His approval ratings, above 70 percent when he first took office, now are near or less than 50 percent as independents, who gave him his win last November, give him negative ratings, and are dropping away. Presidents tend to drift down to earth as good will is ground down in the process of governing, but Obama's decline has been sudden and swift. Democrats predictably blame this on race, as if the strain of feigning enlightenment had become too much all at once for millions of people, but this seems unlikely in the case of a figure who only a few months ago was so widely adored...

Read the whole article.

Eugenio Zolli’s Path to Rome

by Stephen Sparrow

It’s little wonder that biographer Judith Cabaud considers Eugenio Zolli one of the most remarkable men of the twentieth century.

Born in 1881 in Ukraine, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Zolli's baby boy was given the first name Israel. Sixty years later he was chief Rabbi of Rome. In 1944, while in the synagogue celebrating Yom Kippur, Zolli experienced a mystical vision of Jesus Christ. Within a year he was baptized a Catholic at which time he changed his first name from Israel to Eugenio, the same Christian name as Pope Pius XII. He did this to honor the Pope for the help he gave Jews trying to escape the Nazi's extermination program during World War II...

Read the whole article.

The Runaway Abbot

by G. K. Chesterton

Some miles from the monastery of Monte Cassino stood a great crag or cliff, standing up like a pillar of the Apennines. It was crowned with a castle that bore the name of The Dry Rock, and was the eyrie in which the eaglets of the Aquino branch of the Imperial family were nursed to fly. Here lived Count Landulf of Aquino, who was the father of Thomas Aquinas and some seven other sons. In military affairs he doubtless rode with his family, in the feudal manner; and apparently had something to do with the destruction of the monastery. But it was typical of the tangle of the time, that Count Landulf seems afterwards to have thought that it would be a tactful and delicate act to put in his son Thomas as Abbot of the monastery. This would be of the nature of a graceful apology to the Church, and also, it would appear, the solution of a family difficulty.

For it had been long apparent to Count Landulf that nothing could be done with his seventh son Thomas, except to make him an Abbot or something of that kind. Born in 1226, he had from childhood a mysterious objection to becoming a predatory eagle, or even to taking an ordinary interest in falconry or tilting or any other gentlemanly pursuits. He was a large and heavy and quiet boy, and phenomenally silent, scarcely opening his mouth except to say suddenly to his schoolmaster in an explosive manner, "What is God?" The answer is not recorded but it is probable that the asker went on worrying out answers for himself. The only place for a person of this kind was the Church and presumably the cloister; and so far as that went, there was no particular difficulty. It was easy enough for a man in Count Landulf's position to arrange with some monastery for his son to be received there; and in this particular case he thought it would be a good idea if he were received in some official capacity, that would be worthy of his worldly rank. So everything was smoothly arranged for Thomas Aquinas becoming a monk, which would seem to be what he himself wanted; and sooner or later becoming Abbot of Monte Cassino. And then the curious thing happened...

Read the whole article.

Afterthoughts from the U.N. Address

A progressive version of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

by Jonah Goldberg

It was the most Obamaesque address to date.

“For those who question the character and cause of my nation,” the president pronounced Wednesday, “I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months.”

America is 233 years old. Some think that there are ample accomplishments speaking to our character and cause that predate Obama’s ascension to the presidency.

Feh, Obama seems to be saying. Look instead to our new greatness, for we have elected a man like him!

Having anointed himself America’s vindicator and redeemer, Obama’s real purpose seems to be to become the leader not of the free world but, simply, the world...

Read the whole article.

Congress Needs a 72-Hour Waiting Period

Voters want enough time to debate bills. Nancy Pelosi doesn't.

by John Fund

Polls show overwhelming agreement outside the Beltway that it's more important for Congress to get health-care reform done right than done quickly. A Polling Company survey conducted last month found 95% agreeing that members of Congress shouldn't vote on any bill they haven't read in full.

That's why the bipartisan duo of Rep. Brian Baird, a Washington Democrat, and Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, came up with the "72-hour resolution," which would require all non-emergency legislation to be posted online, in final form, for at least 72 hours prior to a floor vote. "Members of Congress are too often asked to make decisions on bills that can be longer than telephone books and are only given a few hours to actually read them," says Rep. Baird. "Both parties are guilty, and both should stop doing it."

Although Barack Obama campaigned last year for transparency and openness in government, their idea has languished in committee since June. It has 67 Republican and 31 Democratic co-sponsors—a rare show of bipartisanship. Normally, bills can't be considered for a floor vote until House leadership schedules them. That's why Messrs. Baird and Walden filed a discharge petition to dislodge their bill from committee this week. If a majority of members (218) sign it, their proposal can be voted on over the objections of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi...

Read the whole article.

Obama's Iran Formula

Speak timidly and don't carry a stick.

by Stephen F. Hayes

When Barack Obama strode on stage to scold Iran for its failure to disclose the existence of a second uranium-enrichment facility in the country, his message was timid and at times almost apologetic. When the tough language came, it was because French president Nicolas Sarkozy had taken the podium. Sarkozy excoriated the Iranians for their deception, saying that the revelations have caused "a very severe confidence crisis" and issued a time-specific warning about oft-threatened (but never implemented) sanctions. "We cannot let the Iranian leaders gain time while the centrifuges are spinning," he declared. "If by December there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be imposed."

In fact, it was the third time in a week that Sarkozy had been tougher than the U.S. president on nuclear issues. Earlier in the week, the French president had insisted that the United States strengthen language in a non-proliferation resolution before the U.N. Security Council and admonished other world leaders for addressing nuclear issues without focusing their discussion on Iran and North Korea...

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Sorry, but U.S. and Libya are different

It's a toss-up as to whether President Obama's transnational mush or Gadhafi's ramblings was a more unreal moment at the U.N.

by Mark Steyn

Half a decade or so back, I wrote: "It's a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice cream and a quart of dog feces and mix 'em together, the result will taste more like the latter than the former. That's the problem with the U.N."

Absolutely right, if I do say so myself. When you make the free nations and the thug states members of the same club, the danger isn't that they'll meet each other half-way but that the free world winds up going three-quarters, seven-eighths of the way. That's what happened in New York last week. Barack Obama is not to blame for whichever vagary of United Nations protocol resulted in the president of the United States being the warm-up act for the Lunatic-for-Life in charge of Libya. But it is a pitiful reflection upon the state of the last superpower that, when it comes to the transnational mush drooled by the leader of the free world or the conspiracist ramblings of a terrorist pseudo-Bedouin running a one-man psycho-cult of a basket-case state, it's more or less a toss-up as to which of them is more unreal. To be sure, Col. Moammar Gadhafi peddled his thoughts on the laboratory origins of swine flu and the Zionist plot behind the Kennedy assassination.

But, on the other hand, President Obama said: "No nation can or should try to dominate another nation."

Pardon me? Did a professional speechwriter write that? Or did you outsource it to a starry-eyed runner-up in the Miss America pageant? Whether or not any nation "should try" to dominate another, they certainly "can," and do so with effortless ease, all over the planet and throughout human history...

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Critics Call for Defunding the Catholic Campaign for Human Development

The CCHD is under heavy fire due to serious breaches of their funding guidelines. For many concerned Catholics, the only solution is to pull the plug.

by Randy Sly

A cry is coming from Catholics across the country to defund the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the social justice arm for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The annual campaign for funding by Catholic parishes, held each November, may be in serious jeopardy based on new revelations concerning the group’s actions.

The outcry is based on a recent report on funding practices by the Bellarmine Veritas Ministry (BVM). BVM, who describe themselves as “a Catholic grass-roots organizing ministry dedicated to truth and action,” dove deeper into CCHD practices and launched a national campaign aimed at addressing deeper problems within the organization...

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The Kennedys' Senator

by W. James Antle, III

Michael Dukakis has lost again. The only man in American politics who could make the avuncular George H.W. Bush seem like a decisive political leader and larger-than-life Texan had his eyes on the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat. But Mr. Dukakis won't be coming to Washington.

Yesterday Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced he was choosing former Democratic National Committee chairman and longtime Kennedy family confidante Paul G. Kirk. Jr. to hold the seat until the Jan. 19 special election. The selection works out well for everyone: the Bay State Democrats currently running in the special election, who don't have to worry about Kirk deciding to compete with them, the national Democrats who reclaim their 60th Senate vote, and an Obama administration in need of another loyal party apparatchik to rubber stamp its legislative agenda...

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Senate Cloaks Obamacare

by Ernest Istook

You can’t read the bill because they refuse to put it in writing. And you’d better not oppose it because the government will try to muzzle you. President Obama has consistently refused to put his details into legislative language, and now the U.S. Senate is doing the same thing. Rather than respecting public demands for transparency, they’re figuratively spitting in the public’s face.

The “Baucus bill” is being rushed through the Senate based on an outline provided by Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). The 564 amendments being considered are no better...

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama's Time Warp: The U.S. Is Still the Bad Guy

by Michael Barone

In the early 1980s, while planning a vacation in Latin America, I went to bookstores to look for histories of the region. All I could find were Marxist tracts arguing that "the people" were exploited by greedy corporations and military dictators, all propped up by the United States.

Available literature on Latin America today includes much more sensible accounts. But some people, including Barack Obama, whose college thesis written in those years has never been made public, seem stuck in a time warp in which the United States is the bad guy.

That, at least, seems to explain Obama's latest foreign policy moves, starting with Honduras, where the president was ousted by the country's supreme court for violating a constitutional provision that forbids any moves to seek a second term. (Other Latin countries, notably Mexico, have similar constitutional prohibitions.)

The White House immediately interpreted this as a military coup and decided that, this time, the United States would come out on the side of "the people." In fact, we find ourselves siding with a friend of the Iranian mullahs, Hugo Chavez, who swept aside similar constitutional limits in Venezuela, and opposing the elected congress, courts and civil society of Honduras...

Read the whole article.

From Our Lady’s Dowry

by Zsolt Aradi

The England of the eleventh and twelfth centuries shared with the other parts of Europe in veneration of Our Lady, and early in this period a famous shrine in her honor sprung up in the calm and lovely countryside near Norfolk, three miles from the sea. Its origins are obscure, but according to the legend a noble widow, Richeldis de Favershes, said that in a vision the Mother of God had led her in spirit to the little house of the holy family in Nazareth, bidding her to build a replica of it in England in honor of the Annunciation. This little house was built and is said to have endured for four hundred years; paneled with wood, its darkness was lit with tapers and, as time went on and many pilgrims came with gifts, it gleamed with gold, silver and precious stones. And from a seal preserved from the thirteenth century we know that it contained a figure of Our Lady enthroned with the Child in her left arm. This is one of the most beautiful medieval representations of Mary, "The Seat of Wisdom."

In time the small house built by Lady Richeldis was enshrined in a splendid Lady Chapel and in the thirteenth century, during the reign of Edward the Conqueror, a great Priory Church was erected beside it for the Augustinian Canons who were made the guardians of the shrine. Walsingham was not the only place of pilgrimage to Our Lady in England, but it became the most famous of them all...

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Obama's Health Care Bait and Switch

by David Catron

During the first nine months of his Presidency, Barack Obama has accomplished the seemingly impossible: he has proven that a politician can be even less trustworthy than Bill Clinton. The broken promises of the latter were relatively conventional by Democrat standards. Clinton ran on a middle class tax cut, for example, and promptly raised taxes. Dishonest, of course, but not terribly surprising. Obama's policy pirouettes, however, have taken us to an entirely new level of presidential perfidy. The man has reversed himself on virtually every position he espoused during last year's campaign. And nowhere have these reversals been more brazen than in the case of health care. On a host of reform issues, including insurance mandates, taxing health benefits and patient choice, Obama has demonstrated that his campaign rhetoric was utterly disingenuous...

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vatican Official: Church Erred in Holding Kennedy Funeral

by David Gibson

The tug-of-war over Ted Kennedy's soul seems to be eternal.

In a speech last Friday night to a gathering of Catholic conservatives at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, an outspoken American archbishop now heading the Vatican version of the church's Supreme Court said that politicians who support gay marriage or abortion rights cannot receive sacraments without publicly repenting their ways: "It is not possible to be a practicing Catholic and to conduct oneself in this manner," said Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, whom the pope transferred to Rome in 2008 after Burke's often-stormy tenure as archbishop of St. Louis...

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On Waffling, Tradition, and the Magisterium

by Dr. Jeff Mirus

Over the past week or two, I’ve had a fascinating yet frustrating exchange with a priest on the question of whether CatholicCulture.org is “waffling” on Church affairs when it is willing to criticize prudential decisions and strategies of modern popes and bishops while fully accepting the modern Magisterium. By modern, I mean of course the Magisterium from the Second Vatican Council to the present.

There is no question that this priest is concerned about our good and the good of the Church. He was responding to my fund-raising messages, and he was simply making clear that he could not support us unless we quit “waffling”. In his mind, we “waffled” when we failed to admit that the Magisterium of the Church has contradicted itself in modern times, and that when this happens, Tradition must be our guide to the truth. “Tradition”, he maintained, “is God’s gift to keep us on track.”

I replied repeatedly but in vain that his position was not Catholic...

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Obama and the Politics of Concession

Iran and Russia put Obama to the test last week, and he blinked twice.

by Mark Helprin

During last year's campaign, Sen. Joe Biden famously remarked that, if his ticket won, it wouldn't be long before "the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy" on foreign affairs. Last week, President Obama, brilliantly wielding the powers of his office, managed to fail that test not just once but twice, buckling in the face of Russian pressure and taking a giant wooden nickel from Iran.

With both a collapsing economy and natural gas reserves sufficient to produce 270 years of electricity, the surplus of which it exports, Iran does not need nuclear electrical generation at a cost many times that of its gas-fired plants. It does, however, have every reason, according to its own lights, to seek nuclear weapons—to deter American intervention; to insure against a resurgent Iraq; to provide some offset to nearby nuclear powers Pakistan, Russia and Israel; to move toward hegemony in the Persian Gulf and address the embarrassment of a more militarily capable Saudi Arabia; to rid the Islamic world of Western domination; to neutralize Israel's nuclear capacity while simultaneously creating the opportunity to destroy it with one shot; and, pertinent to last week's events, by nuclear intimidation to turn Europe entirely against American interests in the Middle East...

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Barack Obama, College Administrator

Our commander-in-chief seems to think he’s president of the University of America.

by Victor Davis Hanson

If you are confused by the first nine months of the Obama administration, take solace that there is at least a pattern. The president, you see, thinks America is a university and that he is our campus president. Keep that in mind, and almost everything else makes sense.

Obama went to Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard without much of a break, taught at the University of Chicago, and then surrounded himself with academics, first in his stint at community organizing and then when he went into politics. It shows. In his limited experience, those who went to Yale or Harvard are special people, and the Ivy League environment has been replicated in the culture of the White House.

Note how baffled the administration is by sinking polls, tea parties, town halls, and, in general, “them” — the vast middle class, which, as we learned during the campaign, clings to guns and Bibles, and which has now been written off as blinkered, racist, and xenophobic. The earlier characterization of rural Pennsylvania has been expanded to include all of Middle America...

Read the whole article.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Argument from Conscience

by Dr. Jeff Mirus

In his Grammar of Assent, John Henry Cardinal Newman attempts to explain how human persons come to assent to both ideas and realities, including both the idea and the reality of God. In the course of his study he persuasively explains the significance of the faculty we call “conscience”, and in so doing articulates an important argument which has largely fallen into disuse.

Newman points out that the operations of the conscience point strongly to the existence of a supreme judge, that is, to the existence of God. While all human faculties can be more or less developed depending on personality and circumstances, Newman rightly notices that it is the overwhelming experience of human persons to feel a strong sense of right and wrong, and to be thrown into various emotional and psychological states depending on whether they have acted rightly or wrongly. Newman sees this at work beginning in very young children, though he acknowledges that this sense of right and wrong, and its corresponding emotions, can be strengthened or weakened based on circumstances, including habitual virtues or vices...

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Hillary's Honduras Obsession

The U.S. is trying to force the country to violate its constitution.

by Mary Anastasia O'Grady

"The Supreme Court of Honduras has constitutional and statutory authority to hear cases against the President of the Republic and many other high officers of the State, to adjudicate and enforce judgments, and to request the assistance of the public forces to enforce its rulings."

—Congressional Research Service, August 2009

Ever since Manuel Zelaya was removed from the Honduran presidency by that country's Supreme Court and Congress on June 28 for violations of the constitution, the Obama administration has insisted, without any legal basis, that the incident amounts to a "coup d'état" and must be reversed. President Obama has dealt harshly with Honduras, and Americans have been asked to trust their president's proclamations.

Now a report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides what the administration has not offered, a serious legal review of the facts. "Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system," writes CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez in her report...

Read the whole article.

Obama's Befuddling Afghan Policy

Why is the president hesitating on more troops to fight his 'war of necessity'?

by Leslie H. Gelb

I'm lost on President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy—along with most of Congress and the U.S. military. Not quite eight months ago, Mr. Obama pledged to "defeat" al Qaeda in Afghanistan by transforming that country's political and economic infrastructure, training Afghan forces and adding 21,000 U.S. forces for starters. He proclaimed Afghanistan's strategic centrality to prevent Muslim extremism from taking over Pakistan—an even more vital nation because of its nuclear weapons. And a mere three weeks ago, he punctuated his commitments by proclaiming that Afghanistan is a "war of necessity," not one of choice. White House spokesmen reinforced this by promising that the president would "fully resource" the war.

Yet less than one week ago, Mr. Obama said the following about troop increases: "I'm going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions. There is no immediate decision pending on resources, because one of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make a determination about resources." He repeated that on Sunday's talk shows...

Read the whole article.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Art of Corruption

The National Endowment for the Arts violates its founding principle.

by Andrew Klavan

There are all kinds of corruption. Some are pretty easy to identify. You can’t miss it when a congressman sells the public’s vote for money, say, or a husband sets his personal promises at nothing in order to score some extracurricular sex. But the slow rot that enters the soul of individuals when the tendrils of the state overcreep the life of a society—that’s a little tougher to define. It may just be the toadying deference that steals into your behavior with the guard who searches you at the airport. Or it could be the baksheesh you pay the safety inspector to keep your business from being shut down. But as subtle as the effects may be, the rule is ironclad: the more areas of life are funded and regulated by government, the less free you are, and the more corrupt and servile you ultimately become...

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Upon This Rock

by G. K. Chesterton

To a Roman Catholic the Roman Catholic Church is simply the Christian religion; the gift of Christ to St. Peter and his successors of a right to answer at all times all questions about what it really is; a thing surrounded at the edge of its own wide domain by various severed fragments of its own substance; consisting of people who for different reasons deny that right to affirm what it really is, and who therefore differ among themselves, indefinitely and increasingly, about what it really is. It may be added that they differ not only about the nature of the ideal Christianity that ought to be substituted, but even about the nature of the Roman Catholicism that is to be defied. To some it is Antichrist; to some it is one branch of the Church of Christ, having authority in certain provinces but not in England or Russia; to some it is a corrupt perversion of Truth from which religion was rescued; to others a necessary historic phase through which religion had to pass; and so on. But it may be noted by the curious that though there is so much difference in the reasons given, there is something common to most of the emotions felt. The reactions to Rome are all reactions to something odd. It is a thousand things, but all things with a sort of thrill in them; a mystery, a bete noire, a strange survival, a public scandal, a private embarrassment, an open secret, a tactless topic, a sly joke, a last refuge or a leap in the dark: everything except anything that is like anything else.

To a Roman Catholic there is no particular difference between those parts of the religion which Protestants and others accept and those parts which they reject. The dogmas have, of course, their intrinsic theological proportions; but in his feeling they are all one thing. The Mass is as Christian as the Gospel. The Gospel is as Catholic as the Mass. This, I fancy, is the fact which the Protestant world has found it most difficult to understand and about which some of the most unfortunate forms of ill-feeling have appeared. Yet it arises quite naturally from the actual history of the Church, which has had to contend incessantly with quite other and quite opposite heresies. She has not only had to defeat these sects to defend these doctrines, but to defeat other sects to defend other doctrines including the doctrines which these sects rightly hold so dear. It was only the Roman Catholic Church that saved the Protestant truths. It may be right to rest on the Bible, but there would be no Bible if the Gnostics had proved that the Old Testament was written by the Devil, or had littered the world with Apocryphal Gospels. It may be right to say that Jesus alone saves from sin, but nobody would be saying it if a Pelagian movement had altered the whole notion of sin. Even the very selection of dogmas which the reformers decided to preserve had only been preserved for them by the authority which they denied...

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The U.N. and Double Standards

by Joseph Klein

The United Nations Human Rights Council heard an update on September 15th from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on what she regarded as the salient human rights issues of the day. Mentioned were the recent “marred” election in Afghanistan and her claim – shared by the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Obama Administration – that “constitutional order had been subverted and democratic space undermined” in Honduras. But somehow the fraudulent presidential election in Iran, and the murder and rape of political dissidents that followed, escaped the Human Rights Commissioner’s attention.

Shortly before Pillay addressed the Human Rights Council, the Council’s president upheld the barring of the Permanent Representative of Honduras in Geneva from participating in the Human Rights Council sessions, as is the right of every UN member state, because he was not the “accredited representative of President Zelaya’s Government”. The fact that Manuel Zelaya had been replaced by the current interim president pursuant to Honduras’ constitutional processes and with the full support of its elected legislative body and its civilian high court, was completely ignored. The United States has sided with the opponents of Honduras’ constitutional processes and in support of Zelaya, who had tried to pull a trick out of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez’s playbook and end-run the Honduras constitution in order to give himself another term in office.

Meanwhile, Iran’s illegitimate government was not challenged...

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Our Missile-Defense Race Against Iran

The Bush-era plan was the best of the realistic alternatives.

by Ilan Berman

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Obama administration's decision last Thursday to scrap missile-defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic is that it was so long in coming.

The handwriting has been on the wall since February, when President Barack Obama sent Russian President Dmitry Medvedev a secret letter proffering a quid pro quo of sorts to the Kremlin. The deal was simple: Washington would walk away from its plans to deploy antimissile capabilities in Eastern Europe in exchange for greater Russian cooperation on Iran.

The missive, promptly leaked by the Kremlin, became something of a self-fulfilling prophesy. Without signs of commitment from Washington, the governments in Warsaw and Prague found it impossible to promote the controversial effort to their own citizens. And so the idea of a European missile-defense shield faltered, progressively mothballed as a political agenda item in both countries. The administration's announcement last week put the final nail in the coffin...

Read the whole article.

Strangers to Dissent, Liberals Try to Stifle It

by Michael Barone

It is an interesting phenomenon that the response of the left half of our political spectrum to criticism and argument is often to try to shut it down. Thus President Obama in his Sept. 9 speech to a joint session of Congress told us to stop "bickering," as if principled objections to major changes in public policy were just childish obstinacy, and chastised his critics for telling "lies," employing "scare tactics" and playing "games." Unlike his predecessor, he sought to use the prestige of his office to shut criticism down.

Read the whole article.

Splitting social and life issues? Can't do it.

by Dr. Jeff Mirus

Have you noticed that those who are pro-abortion always attempt to seize the moral high ground when it comes to social issues? They may favor widespread contraception, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia, but that doesn’t prevent them from presenting themselves as more compassionate than others, because they really care about the poor and about economic disparity in general. The proof is that they favor Federal programs that attempt to implement distributive justice by redistributing wealth.

Now I have no quarrel with distributive justice. I’m a Catholic, not a libertarian. Truly, there is a large, long-standing and debilitating quarrel between left and right about the role of distributive justice, but I want to reserve a Catholic analysis of that issue for another time. Today I’m interested in that other false dichotomy between left and right, the one that says you can support the culture of death while still being right on social issues. This dichotomy presents life issues and social issues as disconnected.

Read the whole article.

The Truth That Tells a Lie

When Obama speaks about health care, he omits crucial details.

by Alex Castellanos

Let’s agree that the U.S. House of Representatives is not the place to use the word “lie” to demean your political opponents. Joe Wilson’s outburst was shameful and uncivil. Just when you think no one could drag political discourse down any lower than it is, along comes Congressman Wilson to shout an insult at our president. The Democratic majority has censured him for that breach.

Should they now censure President Obama for his more composed delivery of the same term? A few moments before Congressman Wilson lost his cool, President Obama said, “Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.”

Whether the president’s charge is true is a separate but important issue we will take up in a moment. First is the issue of fairness. Is it inappropriate for all of our political leaders to call members of the opposing party liars on the floor of the House of Representatives? Or is there a separate standard for President Obama and the members of his party? Joe Wilson’s remark was unplanned. Our president came to Congress pleading for bipartisanship but intending to demean his opponents with the same expression. What standard are we to observe?

Read the whole article.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On American Morals

by G. K. Chesterton

America is sometimes offered to us, even by Americans (who ought to know better), as a moral example. There are indeed very real American virtues; but this virtuous attitude is hardly one of them. And if anyone wants to know what a welter of weakness and inconsequence the moral mind of America can sometimes be, he may be advised to look, not so much to the Crime Wave or the Charleston, as to the serious idealistic essays by highbrows and cultural critics, such as one by Miss Avis D. Carlson on `Wanted: A Substitute for Righteousness.' By righteousness she means, of course, the narrow New England taboos; but she does not know it. For the inference she draws is that we should recognize frankly that `the standard abstract right and wrong is moribund.' This statement will seem less insane if we consider, somewhat curiously, what the standard abstract right and wrong seems to mean -- at least in her section of the States. It is a glimpse of an incredible world.

She takes the case of a young man brought up `in a home where there was an attempt to make dogmatic cleavage of right and wrong.' And what was the dogmatic cleavage? Ah, what indeed! His elders told him that some things were right and some wrong; and for some time he accepted this strange assertion. But when he leaves home he finds that, `apparently perfectly nice people do the things he has been taught to think evil.' Then follows a revelation. `The flowerlike girl he envelops in a mist of romantic idealization smokes like an imp from the lower regions and pets like a movie vamp. The chum his heart yearns towards cultivates a hip-flask, etc.' And this is what the writer calls a dogmatic cleavage between right and wrong!

Read the whole article.

C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain

The existence of suffering in a world created by a good and almighty God—“the problem of pain”—is a fundamental theological dilemma, and perhaps the most serious objection to the Christian religion.

by Jacek Bacz

Known to his readers as a philosopher, a Christian apologist, a science fiction writer, an author of children's stories and a literary critic, C. S. Lewis has also been introduced to the general public as a romantic sufferer. In Shadowlands, movie audiences around the world watch a refined, upper-middle aged Oxford fellow theorize on pain, fall in late love with a witty, slightly annoying American divorcee with two children, and go through the agony of grief after her death. Whatever it takes to speculate on pain, it takes a lot more, it seems, to live it. And it takes C. S. Lewis to write competently on both.

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898, of an Irish mother and a Welsh father, Clive Staples Lewis served as a Fellow and Tutor at Magdalen College, Oxford for more than thirty years. Yet, the Oxford establishment was slow to catch up with the fame of the author of "that Christian stuff", and, in 1954, Lewis accepted a Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, where he worked until his death on 22nd November 1963.

Read the whole article.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

ACORN and the Catholic Church

A Legacy of Big Hearts and Small Brains

by Ryan Ellis

Jesus told the first generation of bishops, the apostles, to be as wise as serpents and simple as doves. Up until very recently, this generation of bishops got it backwards when it came to ACORN.

There’s obviously been a lot of media attention this week on ACORN’s well-deserved meltdown. One aspect of this sad tale that should not be forgotten is the shameful way the Catholic Church has been played the fool over the years by ACORN.

First, some stipulations. I am a very faithful Roman Catholic who regularly attends Mass at my parish in Alexandria, VA with my family. I even go to Mass during the week in downtown Washington, DC. Just for fun, I pray the older breviary in Latin, and am taking an ecclesiastical Latin class on Saturday afternoons. Suffice it to say, I love the Church and only want to prevent her further embarassment.

Many in the Church have big hearts and small brains. The Catholic Church is the largest and oldest social welfare organization in the word. We practically or actually invented hospitals, soup kitchens, schools, shelters, etc. As such, the “social teaching” of the Church has always been a very high priority, and the execution of the corporal works of mercy is a necessity to salvation. The people working on this day-to-day, though, are often naive fools.

And they were suckered by ACORN.

Read the whole article.

Capitalism After the Crisis

by Luigi Zingales

The economic crisis of the past year, centered as it has been in the financial sector that lies at the heart of American capitalism, is bound to leave some lasting marks. Financial regulation, the role of large banks, and the relationships between the government and key players in the market will never be the same.

More important, however, are the ways in which public attitudes about our system might change. The nature of the crisis, and of the government's response, now threaten to undermine the public's sense of the fairness, justice, and legitimacy of democratic capitalism. By allowing the conditions that made the crisis possible (particularly the concentration of power in a few large institutions), and by responding to the crisis as we have (especially with massive government bailouts of banks and large corporations), the United States today risks moving in the direction of European corporatism and the crony capitalism of more statist regimes. This, in turn, endangers America's unique brand of capitalism, which has thus far avoided becoming associated in the public mind with entrenched corruption, and has therefore kept this country relatively free of populist anti-capitalist sentiment.

Are such changes now beginning? And if so, will they mark only a temporary reaction to an extreme economic downturn, or a deeper and more damaging shift in American attitudes? Some early indications are not encouraging.

Read the whole article.

The Long Retreat

Our security will now depend on the kindness of strangers.

by Mark Steyn

Was it only April? There was President Obama, speaking (as is his wont) in Prague, about the Iranian nuclear program and ballistic-missile capability, and saluting America’s plucky allies: “The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles,” he declared. “As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile-defense system that is cost-effective and proven.”

On Thursday, the administration scrapped its missile-defense plans for Eastern Europe. The “courageous” Czechs and Poles will have to take their chances. Did the “threat from Iran” go away? Not so’s you’d notice. The dawn of the nuclear ayatollahs is perhaps only months away, and, just in case the Zionists or (please, no tittering) the formerly Great Satan is minded to take ’em out, Tehran will shortly be taking delivery of a bunch of S-300 anti-aircraft batteries from (ta-da!) Russia. Fancy that.

Read the whole article.

Caritas in Veritate, Abridged

by Pope Benedict XVI, abridged version by Dr. John A. Gueguen

In view of the problem of development presented today as compared with forty years ago, a fresh reading of Populorum Progressio within the context of Paul VI’s magisterium, its connection with the Second Vatican Council, and the Church’s social doctrine, recalls that the Church is at the service of the world in terms of love and truth. According to Paul, the whole Church is engaged in promoting authentic development of the whole person: Integral human development is a vocation involving responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. Without a transcendent vision of the person; without God, man ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development.

Read the whole article here.

Read the original document "Caritas in Veritate" here.

Lawsuit Firesale

Get yours while the getting is still good.

Here and there across America, good news does happen. Take Oklahoma, where the looming prospect of legal reform is causing a run on lawsuits.

Earlier this year the state legislature passed a reform abolishing joint and several liability and imposing a $400,000 cap on noneconomic damages, among other medical malpractice changes. The law will soon take effect, and this month one of Oklahoma's leading plaintiffs firms, Merritt and Associates, sent an all points legal email bulletin to potential clients: "DANGER! TORT REFORM LEGISLATION EFFECTIVE NOVEMBER 1ST. FILE YOUR LAWSUITS NOW!"

You have to admire the subtlety of the salesmanship.

Read the whole article.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fort Sam Houston - Mother-in-law of the Army

The U.S. Army has maintained a presence in the Alamo City since 1845. During that time, the installation has performed five distinct and important roles: that of a headquarters, logistical base, mobilization and training site, garrison and provider of medical support.

At first, the Army leased facilities in the San Antonio, including the Alamo. In fact, the Army repaired the Alamo structure and added a roof so it could be used as a headquarters. However, in the 1870's the construction of Fort Sam Houston began under the supervision of the military commander of the Department of Texas, Major General Edward Ord, a West Point-trained army engineer.

By 1876, upon completion of the Quadrangle, the Army began to move its facilities to the new site. As it expanded, additional facilities were built to meet the Army's needs. The headquarters and garrison have always constituted one of the Army's most important commands. Prior to the Civil War, the headquarters controlled 25 percent of the Army's forces.

From 1910 until World War II, Fort Sam Houston was the largest Army post in the continental United States. Many of the most distinguished American soldiers have served here, including no less than 13 Army Chiefs of Staff and two United States presidents.

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Ancient Churches in the Holy Land

by Yoram Tsafrir

More ancient churches have been found in the Holy Land than in any area of comparable size in the world. About 330 different sites with ancient church remains have been identified in modern Israel, the West Bank and the Golan Heights east of the Sea of Galilee. At many of these sites, more than one ancient church stood. At Madaba in Transjordan (not included in our survey area), 14 turned up. In Jerusalem there were several dozen churches and chapels. In all, about 390 ancient churches at these 330 sites have been discovered.

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Hunt for priests in Xiwanzi diocese

Rome (AsiaNews) – The Patriotic Association (PA) has launched a violent campaign against underground Catholics in Xiwanzi. This was denounced in an appeal from some faithful that reached AsiaNews. Prompted by the local authorities, the police are on a manhunt, with door-to-door searches for underground priests to make them inscribe to the PA. Believers who refuse to collaborate and to act as spies are arrested or left without work. Those with shops are forced to shut down. The auxiliary bishop of the diocese, Mgr Yao Liang, has been missing in police custody since 30 July. There are also 20 believers and two priests in prison. The appeal that reached AsiaNews ended with a plea: “Brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the Christian faith in China may be truly free!”

The diocese of Xiwanzi (Hebei) is a diocese of the underground Church, with 15,000 members, around 260km north of Beijing, nearly at the border with Inner Mongolia.

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New Guide Recommends Faithful Catholic Colleges

Entire Contents of Guide Available as a Free Online Resource for Catholic Families

Today The Cardinal Newman Society published a new, second edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, a free online resource for parents and students seeking a faithful Catholic education.

This comprehensive Guide recommends 21 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States plus eight international, online and unique programs based on the strength of their Catholic identity. In addition, the Guide includes several essays to help families better understand the search for a strong Catholic college.

The culmination of four years of research and hundreds of interviews, this edition of The Newman Guide builds substantially on the successful first edition which was published on All Saints Day in 2007. All told more than 8,000 copies of that edition were distributed to Catholic leaders and families.

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Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Columnist?

by Alicia Colon

Many concerned Americans breathed a sigh of relief when the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Anthony "Van" Jones, resigned. The idea of an avowed communist as the president's "Green Jobs Czar" was not only alarming; it prompted the question of how carefully he was vetted. Is there no longer a requirement that personnel at the White House obtain a security clearance? After viewing the videos of Mr. Jones's radical speeches, however, I was more alarmed at the audience cheering them. How clever are the fifth columnists and how dumb are we that we didn't recognize the enemy?

When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed, we idealistically assumed that this meant we had defeated communism. The disciples of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, however, who were firmly entrenched in Hollywood, the mainstream media, and academia, cleverly adapted to an agenda that appealed to the naïve.

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Why Are the Christians Leaving the Holy Land?

by Deal W. Hudson

Catholics in the United States have been slow to grasp the problems facing Christians living in the Holy Land. Many Catholics don't even know they are there, or that they are Arab Christians. Most Americans equate Arabs with Muslims, in spite of the fact that Arabs were Christians long before they were Muslims.

Arab Christian communities have existed in the Middle East since the second century a.d. and perhaps earlier. These were Christians whose language was Arabic and who would leave a vast and rich literature of Christian thought and spirituality in their native language. Before the rise of Mohammed in the seventh century, Arab Christians constituted 95 percent of the population in West Asia and Egypt, numbering more than 15 million (9.1 million in Iraq, 4 million in Syria, and 2.5 million in Egypt).

But in Palestine today, the Arab Christian communities are slowly dwindling. The land of Jesus Christ and His first Church are in danger of becoming merely a tourist attraction for visiting Christians from other parts of the world.

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Race to the Bottom

by George Neumayr

Last year Geraldine Ferraro called Barack Obama's race an advantage. "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she said to a California newspaper, the Daily Breeze. "He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept." Now Jimmy Carter says his race is a disadvantage. Which is it?

Bill Clinton cast Obama's early primary success in the South as a Jesse Jackson-style fluke. Now the same liberals who defended Clinton against race-baiting charges attribute Obama's lack of success to racism in the South.

Carter says Americans don't think Obama is qualified to lead. So did Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. So did her feminist supporters. Gloria Steinem said Obama enjoyed an unfair racial and gender advantage over Hillary: Black males, she noted acidly, got the vote before women. George McGovern agreed, saying "I have a feeling that in this country where we're at today in our thinking, it's going to be harder to elect a woman than to elect a black man."

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Hi-Ho, the Derry-O

by Dana Milbank

Let's say you're preparing dinner and you realize with dismay that you don't have any certified organic Tuscan kale. What to do?

Here's how Michelle Obama handled this very predicament Thursday afternoon:

The Secret Service and the D.C. police brought in three dozen vehicles and shut down H Street, Vermont Avenue, two lanes of I Street and an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro station. They swept the area, in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs, with bomb-sniffing dogs and installed magnetometers in the middle of the street, put up barricades to keep pedestrians out, and took positions with binoculars atop trucks. Though the produce stand was only a block or so from the White House, the first lady hopped into her armored limousine and pulled into the market amid the wail of sirens.

Then, and only then, could Obama purchase her leafy greens. "Now it's time to buy some food," she told several hundred people who came to watch. "Let's shop!"

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Santa Fe: Celebrating 400 Years of Holy Faith

New Mexico’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis is rooted in faith and colorful tales of the Wild West.

by Marion Amberg

WHEN BISHOP JEAN-BAPTISTE LAMY, the first bishop and later archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, ran out of money while building the city’s cathedral in the early 1870s, one of his French priests decided to use his talents for God. He took his parish’s Confirmation stipend for the bishop, gambled with the soldiers at Fort Union near Las Vegas, New Mexico, and won $2,000!

“That would be the equivalent of $200,000 or more now,” laughs Msgr. Jerome J. Martínez y Alire, rector of Santa Fe’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. “The priest had been a professional gambler before entering God’s service!”

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All in the Family

Christians, Jews, and God

by Michael Forrest and David Palm

At the Second Vatican Council, the Council fathers renewed the Church’s traditional teaching on her divine and universal mission in the context of the modern world. In so doing, they addressed themselves "not only to the sons of the Church. . . but to the whole of humanity"(Gaudium et Spes, no. 2). They were especially interested in the Church’s relationship to non-Christian religions and began to consider more deeply "what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship" (Nostra Aetate, no. 1).

Particularly in regard to the Jewish people, the Council fathers exhorted the faithful to pursue fraternal dialogue and collaboration in order to overcome centuries of mutual ignorance and confrontation.[1] The resultant dialogue and collaboration has led to many positive developments, such as a significantly improved rapport among Catholics and Jews. At the same time, certain difficulties have also developed. One such area of difficulty involves our understanding of the relationship among Christians, Jews, and God.

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Jared Monti’s soldiers watched him give his life, and it changed theirs

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Across just a few deadly yards of rocky terrain, the private’s cries grew weaker.

Even though bullets came pouring in like hail, Staff Sgt. Jared Monti made a break for it. The enemy was strong — maybe 50, to the 16 Americans. But Pvt. Brian Bradbury was Monti’s guy. He was isolated and bleeding badly on this grim mountain ridge in northeastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.

Monti didn’t get far. A barrage of fire cut down the 30-year-old moments before air cover he’d requested arrived.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Stimulus Didn't Work

The data show government transfers and rebates have not increased consumption at all.

by John F. Cogan, John B. Taylor and Volker Wieland

Is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 working? At the time of the act's passage last February, this question was hotly debated. Administration economists cited Keynesian models that predicted that the $787 billion stimulus package would increase GDP by enough to create 3.6 million jobs. Our own research showed that more modern macroeconomic models predicted only one-sixth of that GDP impact. Estimates by economist Robert Barro of Harvard predicted the impact would not be significantly different from zero.

Now, six months after the act's passage, we no longer have to rely solely on the predictions of models. We can look and see what actually happened.

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The Money Pit

‘Property tax’ is well-nigh a synonym for ‘education tax.’

by John Derbyshire

Where I live, in New York’s Suffolk County, we are pretty well protected from law-breakers. In the opinion of some county residents, in fact, we are too well protected. Suffolk county cops are the envy of our region. New York City cops call them “the money boys.” An officer with the NYPD has a salary of around $60,000 after five years service; our lads are at $98,000 by that point. They also get more than a hundred paid days off a year even outside their normal schedules, so a Suffolk cop works an average of 181 days a year. He’s off-duty more days than he’s on. He can retire on half pay after 20 years’ service, cashing in unused days off (average payout $134,000). Benefits are extravagant. I tell you, people come from all over to take our police exam. There are lines round the block near County Police HQ at exam time.

I’m therefore not very surprised to find, scrutinizing my current property tax statement, that a big chunk of my tax bill goes to the county police district: $765 this year. Library services ($443), garbage collection ($369), and highways ($264) are some way behind.

My total property tax bill is $6,545, though, so the police tab, over the top as it surely is, amounts to less than 12 percent of the total. Police, libraries, garbage, and highways all together only add up to 28 percent. Obviously there’s a big-ticket item I haven’t mentioned.

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Apologetics for the Scripturally Challenged

by John S. Martignon

Whenever Catholics talk about our faith with Protestants, the most frequently asked question is "Where is that in the Bible?" We are told over and over that this or that teaching of our faith isn’t in the Bible. These folks don’t care what the Pope says or what the Catechism says or what Vatican II says: They want to know what the Bible says—period. So if you as a Catholic are not prepared to answer the question "Where is that in the Bible?" you may not get very far when it comes to religious dialogue.

From my experience, many a Catholic holds the mistaken notion that nearly every Protestant knows the Bible better than he does. Protestants may have memorized more passages than you, but that is not the same thing as knowing the Bible better. Catholics are more familiar with the Bible than they might think they are, because they have heard it throughout countless Masses without necessarily realizing that they were hearing Scripture.

As Catholics, we have the magisterium of the Church as our guide when we open the Bible. Non-Catholic Christians have no such authentic guide for interpreting Scripture. They have their own personal, fallible interpretations to rely on. They have no authority, other than their own imagination, within which to interpret Scripture properly.

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Anti-Americanism: Alive and Well in the Age of Obama

Islamic countries distrust the United States under the leadership of President Obama about as much as they did under President George W. Bush. What's going on?

by Joseph Loconte

Throughout the Bush presidency, opinion polling from the Pew Research Center trumpeted America’s “abysmal” approval ratings across the globe. The problem, pollsters suggested with numbing regularity, was that a “cowboy president” had inflamed the Muslim world—and America’s European allies—with his “unilateral” war on terrorism. The remedy, of course, was a new administration with a fresh approach: a president committed to multilateralism, smart diplomacy, and American soft power. Right on cue, a Pew report hailed Barack Obama’s election for inspiring “global confidence” in U.S. leadership and rescuing America’s reputation from eternal perdition.

This hagiographic storyline, however, is evaporating like a morning mist. A newer Pew survey suggests that most Islamic countries distrust the United States under the leadership of President Obama about as much as they did under President George W. Bush. Yes, majorities of the Muslim populations interviewed still believe that America plays a mostly destructive role in the world. Most view the United States as “an enemy” and “a military threat” to their own country. Most disapprove of the American-led effort to combat terrorism. Large numbers, in fact, voice strong support for terrorism and Osama bin Laden. Western Europeans, though expressing positive personal views of Obama, show little enthusiasm for key U.S. foreign policy objectives. In other words, anti-Americanism is alive and well in the age of Obama.

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The Other Catholic Higher Education

Since most Catholic colleges won’t do their job, bring the faith to secular schools.

by Gerard V. Bradley

There are about 225 Catholic colleges and universities listed in The Official Catholic Directory. More than a hundred others have gone out of business over the last generation. I am confident that scores more will disappear — close their doors, merge, or officially declare themselves to be secular — over the next couple of decades. And even among today’s 225 institutions, most are no more than nominally Catholic. That will not change in the coming years.

This remarkable institutional meltdown is mightily affecting the Church. At precisely the time of life when young people are shedding their childlike faith and need to develop a mature, more critical, but more profound adult commitment, they leave home and encounter a brave new world of ideas and experiences untethered to Catholicism.

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Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.