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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mosul: Christian buildings attacked, Church of Saint Ephrem levelled

At present, there is no information about casualties. Attackers carried out their action in broad daylight without any opposition. The methods used are like those used in the attack against the Bishop’s Palace in 2004. Christian sources say the “attack was like a Mafia warning”, a message to Christians “to leave the city.” The faithful are left with anger, disappointment and fear.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – Explosive devices were detonated this morning at two Christian sites in Mosul, the Church of Saint Ephrem and the Mother House of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine. At present, there are no reports about casualties but the church was entirely destroyed. The convent also suffered damages but it is not known how much. Christian sources in Mosul told AsiaNews that the “attack was like a Mafia warning”, a message to Christians “to get out of the city.”

At around 10 am, a commando of about ten gunmen stormed the Church of Saint Ephrem in the al-Jadida neighbourhood, in a new section of the city. Attackers told everyone inside to leave and then calmly proceeded to place explosives around the building. When they were set off the whole structure was levelled. The same thing happened to the Bishop’s Palace in December 2004...  Read the whole article.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kill the Bills. Do Health Reform Right.

The bill is irredeemable.

by Charles Krauthammer

The United States has the best health care in the world — but because of its inefficiencies, also the most expensive. The fundamental problem with the 2,074-page Senate health-care bill (as with its 2,014-page House counterpart) is that it wildly compounds the complexity by adding hundreds of new provisions, regulations, mandates, committees, and other arbitrary bureaucratic inventions.

Worse, they are packed into a monstrous package without any regard to each other. The only thing linking these changes — such as the 118 new boards, commissions, and programs — is political expediency. Each must be able to garner just enough votes to pass. There is not even a pretense of a unifying vision or conceptual harmony.

The result is an overregulated, overbureaucratized system of surpassing arbitrariness and inefficiency. Throw a dart at the Senate tome:

You’ll find mandates with financial penalties — the amounts picked out of a hat.

You’ll find insurance companies (who live and die by their actuarial skills) told exactly what weight to give risk factors, such as age. Currently, insurance premiums for 20-somethings are about one-sixth the premiums for 60-somethings. The House bill dictates the young shall now pay at minimum one-half; the Senate bill, one-third — numbers picked out of a hat.

You’ll find sliding scales for health-insurance subsidies — percentages picked out of a hat — that will radically raise marginal income tax rates for middle-class recipients, among other crazy unintended consequences.

The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool...  Read the whole article.

CRU’s Tree-Ring Circus

Who peer-reviews the peer-reviewers?

by Mark Steyn

My favorite moment in the Climategate/Climaquiddick scandal currently roiling the “climate change” racket was Stuart Varney’s interview on Fox News with the actor Ed Begley Jr. — star of the 1980s medical drama St. Elsewhere but latterly better known, as is the fashion with members of the thespian community, as an “activist.” He’s currently in a competition with Bill Nye (“the Science Guy”) to see who can have the lowest “carbon footprint.” Pistols at dawn would seem the quickest way of resolving that one, but presumably you couldn’t get a reality series out of it. Anyway, Ed was relaxed about the mountain of documents recently leaked from Britain’s Climate Research Unit in which the world’s leading climate-change warm-mongers e-mail each other back and forth on how to “hide the decline” and other interesting matters.

Nothing to worry about, folks. “We’ll go down the path and see what happens in peer-reviewed studies,” said Ed airily. “Those are the key words here, Stuart. ‘Peer-reviewed studies.’"

Hang on. Could you say that again more slowly so I can write it down? Not to worry. Ed said it every 12 seconds, as if it were the magic charm that could make all the bad publicity go away. He wore an open-necked shirt, and, although I don’t have a 76” inch HDTV, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a talismanic peer-reviewed amulet nestling in his chest hair for additional protection. “If these scientists have done something wrong, it will be found out and their peers will determine it,” insisted Ed. “Don’t get your information from me, folks, or any newscaster. Get it from people with Ph.D. after their names. ‘Peer-reviewed studies is the key words. And if it comes out in peer-reviewed studies . . . ”

Got it: Pier-reviewed studies. You stand on the pier and you notice the tide seems to be coming in a little higher than it used to and you wonder if it’s something to do with incandescent light bulbs killing the polar bears? Is that how it works?

No, no, peer-reviewed studies. “Peer-reviewed studies. Go to Science magazine, folks. Go to Nature,” babbled Ed. “Read peer-reviewed studies. That’s all you need to do. Don’t get it from you or me.”

Look for the peer-reviewed label! And then just believe whatever it is they tell you!

The trouble with outsourcing your marbles to the peer-reviewed set is that, if you take away one single thing from the leaked documents, it’s that the global warm-mongers have wholly corrupted the “peer-review” process. When it comes to promoting the impending ecopalypse, the Climate Research Unit is the nerve-center of the operation. The “science” of the CRU dominates the “science” behind the UN’s IPCC, which dominates the “science” behind the Congressional cap-and-trade boondoggle, the upcoming Copenhagen shakindownen of the developed world, and the now routine phenomenon of leaders of advanced, prosperous societies talking like gibbering madmen escaped from the padded cell, whether it’s President Obama promising to end the rise of the oceans or the Prince of Wales saying we only have 96 months left to save the planet...  Read the whole article.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The $698,000 mistake

In real estate boom, one mother took a chance on the American dream -- and lost big

by Donna St. George

The motel room seemed to shrink as days wore on, and their belongings bulged from its one dresser and closet. Papers. Clothes. Hair accessories. Room 267 had become a cramped way station for a family of four, far from what Daverena White had in mind when she decided to buy a house.

Back then, in 2006, before the country's housing bust and mortgage crisis, before the recession hit and jobs fell away, White settled on a four-bedroom colonial along the rolling landscape of Clarksburg, in Washington's outer suburbs. She imagined her three youngest children growing up there. It was the first house that White had ever owned.

But this was where that decision had led: to a bleak winter of foreclosure and homelessness and finally this crowded motel room where White had lost count of how many days she and her children had awakened there, hoping for something better.

Now, on a sunny afternoon this past May, White answered her cellphone. The children had climbed off their school bus 20 minutes earlier, and the motel television flashed with cartoons. Suddenly the sound of her voice filled the room.

"Thank you so much," she said. "Thank you so much!"

She hung up. "Yes!" she yelled. "Yes! Yes!"

Her teenage daughter started to cry.

It was her youngest who pressed her. "Are we moving?" he asked. The 5-year-old was serious, almost urgent. "I want to go now."

As the recession shows signs of easing and the economy begins to recover, the families most affected by it, such as Daverena White's, are starting to recover, too.

But recovering is not the same as recovered. As White has come to understand, it can take years -- whether it's an economy, a bank or a single mother of four who wanted a house. Now she knows that. But as all of this began in the heady days of the mortgage boom, she didn't. She only knew that there seemed to be possibilities, even to those with little means such as herself, which is how a woman who had never paid more than $700 a month in rent and who had relied in recent years on Section 8 housing vouchers suddenly owned a house.

A four-bedroom house.

With 3 1/2 bathrooms. And walk-in closets, black granite countertops and a fireplace.

And a sale price of $698,000.

How White was able to buy this house -- and the havoc that doing so wrought -- is the story of a moment in time when all of the old rules about home-buying suddenly disappeared. It happened even though smart people knew better. It happened in White's case even though the college-educated day-care provider knew deep down that she was not ready. In the expansiveness of the boom, it was easy to believe. And tens of thousands of people did...  Read the whole article.

The Bad Business of Planned Parenthood

by Mauricio Roman

Despite profits of $85 million in 2008, Planned Parenthood is facing serious financial difficulties. According to a recent Harvard Business School case study, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is structured as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with multiple affiliates, each of which is also a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The national entity lobbies on national policy, sets affiliation standards, and leases its "Planned Parenthood" brand to affiliates, each of which has its own independent board and management structure, and so enjoys independence in its day-to-day operations.

Internally, Planned Parenthood's difficulties stem from the uneven strength of its affiliates, and President Cecile Richards is worried. According to the Harvard case, her organization faces "tough economic times, a hostile political environment, and limited ability to raise philanthropic dollars in a resource constrained area of the country."

What does a "hostile political environment" entail? For one thing, past government funding of crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence-only sex education programs. No industry likes a product that can become a substitute for the one it sells. From this perspective, abstinence is a substitute for contraception, and adoption is a substitute for abortion. Unable to grasp that these are morally superior options to abortion, Planned Parenthood sees them only as threats to their established position. It's not difficult to understand why: Young women seeking contraception account for 60 percent of Planned Parenthood's total clientele, while abortion is provided to 10 percent of its female customers. Even allowing for overlap, that's 60 to 70 percent of Planned Parenthood's customer base.

Happily, in some regions, Planned Parenthood is failing badly at its goal of countering the "hostile political environment." The Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates (FAPPA) laments that "while we worked hard this session to zero-fund the $2 million appropriation for so-called crisis pregnancy centers in Florida, we were not successful in its defunding."

Difficulties such as these are driving down the number of Planned Parenthood affiliates, from 163 15 years ago to 91 in late 2009. And according to the Harvard case study, this consolidation is expected to continue with several of the remaining affiliates discussing mergers... Read the whole article.

A Danger in Dubai

Debt and lack of transparency in the affairs of the emirate have shaken investors’ confidence. It is important that the Gulf states continue on the path of free markets

There will be a trace of schadenfreude in Western financial capitals about Dubai’s financial woes this week. During the economic downturn, it has been easy for businesses in the Gulf, buoyed by petrodollars, to buy Western assets cheaply. Sovereign wealth funds have in effect acted as private banks, with minimal disclosure, for the oil-rich to go on a corporate shopping spree in Europe and the US.

But any mild satisfaction at Dubai’s misfortune would be seriously misplaced. Amid the financial market ructions, one message should be stressed by policymakers: it is important that Dubai succeed. The liberal economic order of open markets and free trade is the most effective means of repairing the economic damage wreaked by awesome financial mismanagement.

The world was alerted to Dubai’s problems by a brief statement about the corporate restructuring of Dubai World. It sparked convulsion on world stock markets. The state-owned company, one of the biggest in the United Arab Emirates, is having difficulty in repaying $60 billion in debt. The story is bigger than Dubai. In 2007-08 the Western financial system all but collapsed under a cascade of bad debts. Investors are apprehensive that the debt problems of Dubai and the exposure of Western banks might mark a new stage in the global financial crisis.

After the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September last year, when a credit squeeze turned to a full-blown financial panic, policymakers responded swiftly. They bailed out the banks, slashed interest rates and launched huge public spending programmes. Stock markets stabilised in March and have since recovered strongly. Investors have bet that the risk of economic catastrophe has receded and that the banks are now secure. They must now ask whether the signs of recovery were a false dawn... Read the whole article.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day

October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience


Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire’s sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes—from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.


We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions...  Read the whole thing.

Happy Franksgiving

How FDR tried, and failed, to change a national holiday.

by Melanie Kirkpatrick

Last I checked, Thanksgiving is still scheduled to take place tomorrow. The economic news may be gloomy, but unlike President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, President Barack Obama has not tinkered with the date of the holiday.

In 1939, FDR decided to move Thanksgiving Day forward by a week. Rather than take place on its traditional date, the last Thursday of November, he decreed that the annual holiday would instead be celebrated a week earlier.

The reason was economic. There were five Thursdays in November that year, which meant that Thanksgiving would fall on the 30th. That left just 20 shopping days till Christmas. By moving the holiday up a week to Nov. 23, the president hoped to give the economy a lift by allowing shoppers more time to make their purchases and—so his theory went—spend more money.

Roosevelt made his decision in part on advice from Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins, who was in turn influenced by Lew Hahn, general manager of the Retail Dry Goods Association. Hahn had warned Hopkins that the late Thanksgiving, Nov. 30, might have an "adverse effect" on the sale of "holiday goods."

In an informal news conference in August announcing his decision, FDR offered a little tutorial on the history of the holiday. Thanksgiving was not a national holiday, he noted, meaning that it was not set by federal law. According to custom, it was up to the president to pick the date every year.

It was not until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln ordered Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November, that that date became generally accepted, Roosevelt explained. To make sure that reporters got his point, he added that there was nothing sacred about the date.

Nothing sacred? Roosevelt might as well have commanded that roast beef henceforth would replace turkey as the star of the holiday meal, or that cranberries would be banned from the Thanksgiving table. The president badly misread public opinion. His announcement was front-page news the next day, and the public outcry was swift and loud...  Read the whole article.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Catholics set up a task force for huge Anglican exodus

by Simon Caldwell

The Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have set up a task force to help the possible exodus of tens of thousands of disaffected Anglicans into their church.

The move was announced as Anglican leader Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, protested to the Pope in the Vatican over its plans to receive Anglican converts en masse.

Pope Benedict XVI was last month accused of attempting to poach Anglicans unhappy about decisions taken in their church to ordain women and sexually-active homosexuals as priests and bishops.

In response to requests from about 30 Anglican bishops around the world for 'corporate reunion' with the Catholic Church, he has permitted vicars and their entire congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many of their Anglican traditions - including married priests.

In a 20-minute meeting on Saturday, Dr Williams complained to the Pope about the 'lack of consultation' over the move, saying it had left him in an 'awkward position'. But the pair failed to issue a joint statement... Read the whole article.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kennedy says RI bishop banned him from Communion

by Ray Henry

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin has banned Rep. Patrick Kennedy from receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, in Rhode Island because of the congressman's support for abortion rights, Kennedy said in a newspaper interview published Sunday.

The decision by the outspoken prelate, reported on The Providence Journal's Web site, significantly escalates a bitter dispute between Tobin, an ultra orthodox bishop, and Kennedy, a son of the nation's most famous Roman Catholic family.

"The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion," Kennedy told the paper in an interview conducted Friday.

Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty by telling him "that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I've taken as a public official," particularly on abortion...  Read the whole article.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Saturday Night Fever

GOP senators preview the weekend’s cloture debate for NRO.

by Robert Costa

In the 2008 presidential race, John McCain often dueled with Barack Obama over health care. Over a year later, Obama is in the White House and McCain finds himself back on Capitol Hill. The battle, however, continues.

With the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) making a final push to pass Obamacare in the upper chamber, McCain tells NRO that it is crucial for Senate Republicans to make every effort to defeat Reid’s 2,074-page blueprint, which is expected to come to a cloture vote on Saturday night. That vote will determine whether the bill can move to the Senate floor for a final debate. Reid, who leads a caucus of 58 Democrats and two independents, needs to secure 60 votes in order to proceed.

Democrats, says McCain, “are trying to fundamentally change health care in America.” Reid’s bill, he adds, is “like a big fish in the sun: After a short period of time out there, it really begins to stink.” McCain’s concerns are numerous: the bill’s spending, its new taxes, its Medicare cuts, its abortion language, its public option, its employer mandates, and its lack of medical-malpractice reform. The last item really irks the Arizona senator. “The total absence of meaningful malpractice reform just shows you the incredible influence of the trial lawyers of America,” says McCain. “It’s just blatant.”

The Congressional Budget Office’s recent score of Reid’s bill puts the cost at $848 billion over ten years. McCain says that number is misleading. Unlike the House and Senate Finance Committee health-care bills, whose reforms were set to start in 2013, Reid’s bill pushes back the implementation date to 2014. McCain calls the move “outrageous.”

“People will start paying taxes right away, but now the benefits won’t kick in until years later,” says McCain. “It’s like buying a house and starting mortgage payments only to be told that you have to wait five years to move into your home. And when you look at the actual cost of implementation, once the taxes come into effect, the ten-year cost is $2.5 trillion.”

Beyond the CBO numbers, “this bill is an atrocity, it’s awful,” says Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), an orthopedic surgeon. “The overall costs are hidden. A huge part of Medicare that seniors depend on is going to be cut, and the bill includes major new taxes.”

Also worrisome, says Barrasso, is that rationing is on the horizon: “The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government panel, just came out with an astonishing report on mammograms that [encourages the government to step] between people and their doctors. It’s amazing that the government and the Democrats would show their hand this soon. This report is clearly the first step toward rationing and a glimpse into the future of health care in America.”

Knowing that the public is growing increasingly uneasy about Obamacare, the Senate GOP is more than ready to raise objections at every turn, says McCain...  Read the whole article. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Archbishop tells Pope: there will be no turning back on women priests

by Ruth Gledhill and Richard Owen

The Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday made his most outspoken challenge to the Roman Catholic Church since the Pope invited disaffected Anglicans to switch to Rome.

Speaking before he meets Benedict XVI tomorrow, Dr Rowan Williams told a conference in Rome that the Catholic Church’s refusal to ordain women was a bar to Christian unity.

“For many Anglicans, not ordaining women has a possible unwelcome implication about the difference between baptised men and baptised women,” he said.

The Anglican provinces that ordain women had retained rather than lost their Catholic holiness and sacramentalism, he said.

Addressing an ecumenical conference at the Gregorian Pontifical University, the Archbishop said that the way Anglican leaders dealt with internal arguments offered lessons for senior Catholics.

“Is it nonsense to think that holding on to a limited but real common life might be worth working for within the Anglican family? And if it can be managed within the Anglican family, is this a possible model for the wider ecumenical scene?”

The ordination of women priests — and the prospect of women bishops — is one of the main reasons why disaffected Anglicans may take up the Pope’s offer of a “Church within a Church” that would enable them to retain traditional Anglican practices within the Catholic faith.

But yesterday the Archbishop made clear that there would be no turning back the clock on women priests in order to appease critics. He dismissed the Pope’s offer to disaffected Anglicans as barely more than a “pastoral response”, which broke little new ground in relations between the two Churches...  Read the whole article. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bishops discuss authority over Catholic colleges

by Rachel Zoll

BALTIMORE — Fallout continues from the summer controversy over the University of Notre Dame awarding an honorary degree to President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops went behind closed doors at their fall meeting Wednesday to discuss, among other issues, what action they should take to increase oversight of the nation's more than 200 Roman Catholic colleges and universities.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of the bishops' conference, revealed this week that he had formed a task force charged with reviewing the issue. Its research included a look at what church law says about bishops' authority over the schools.

The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities has planned a similar discussion of canon law and bishops' authority at the group's annual meeting, set to begin Jan. 30 in Washington.

"Can bishops just pull the plug on us? It's not that simple," said Richard Yanikoski, president of the Catholic college association. He attended a meeting of the bishops' education committee last Sunday that briefly touched on higher education. He expected the bishops' would more fully examine the issue in their executive session.

The decision by Notre Dame, the nation's flagship Catholic university, to honor Obama at its May commencement caused an uproar within the church and drew protests from around the country and on the school campus by anti-abortion groups.

More than 70 U.S. bishops spoke out against the university's decision, a remarkable reaction given that it is customary for only a local bishop to comment. Notre Dame said Obama was honored as an inspiring leader who broke a historic racial barrier as the nation's first African-American president — not for his positions on abortion or embryonic stem cell research.

Leaders of other Catholic schools worried that anger over Notre Dame's action would spill over to all colleges and cause long-standing damage to their relations with bishops... Read the whole article.

Obama’s Prissy America

Why does Obama’s tolerant, apologetic America seem so very self-centered?

by Victor Davis Hanson

The liberal writ was that a strutting “bring ’em on” George W. Bush for eight years did what he pleased on the international scene. His “unilateral” America supposedly did not consult with either allies or international organizations, as he rammed through democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush’s “my way or the highway” personal credo resulted in an America alone.

Obama, of course, was hailed as the multifaceted antidote to all that. The new nontraditional America would reach out to the world. We would now listen rather than lecture. This was a welcome reflection of Barack Obama’s own cool and tolerant approach to politics, learned as a seasoned community organizer in Chicago.

But things have not quite worked out as planned. Barack Obama to all appearances is certainly more relaxed than Bush. And he resonates abroad as a nontraditional American. Indeed, Obama is now the paradigm of America’s ongoing metamorphosis into something more like the rest of the planet.

Yet in his own way Obama projects a far more prissy, self-indulgent America than we had under Bush. And that self-centeredness seems a logical extension of the new commander-in-chief himself.

How can that be, given Obama’s well-known apologies — for everything from slavery and our treatment of Native Americans to being imperious toward Europeans and Muslims? In obsequious fashion, we have sought to assure the Russians that we won’t deploy anti-ballistic missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama has reminded the Chinese that they enjoy sovereignty over Taiwan. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, the Castro brothers, Hugo Chávez, and assorted other old enemies of the United States are suddenly considered either neutrals or friends.

It seems counterintuitive, then, to suggest that Obama’s America is increasingly self-absorbed...  Read the whole article.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good news: Obama creates 30 new jobs in one congressional district. Bad news: No such district

by Andrew Malcolm

Chicago politics, where voting is such a revered civic duty that people do it even after they're dead, cold, stiff, stuffed, boxed and buried beneath the permafrost for years, has now come to D.C. with the Obama administration.

This afternoon comes the most encouraging economic news, courtesy of our keen-eyed buddy Rick Klein over at ABC, that the Obama administration's $787-billion economic stimulus has, for example, thankfully created 30 new jobs in a little-known rural corner of Arizona at a cost to American taxpayers of only $761,420.

That works out to only $25,380.67 spent to create each individual job.

Seems like a lot per slot, but those 30 folks must be happy to be employed again and paying taxes.

This will be a real feather in the cap of Vice President Joe Biden, who's been left behind and assigned by the ever-campaigning president to monitor the stimulus plan, its spending and effectiveness moving into the crucial midterm elections of 2010. Might the Democrats snatch that House seat?

So the people of that 15th Congressional District in staunchly Republican Arizona should be pretty happy about this.

Trouble is, there is no 15th Congressional District in Arizona. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. Doesn't exist...  Read the whole article.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Bishops at the Cliff: Tobin's Challenge

by Dr. Jeff Mirus

I see three challenges in Bishop Thomas Tobin's public rebuke of Congressman Patrick Kennedy in an open letter on November 12th. With respect to his pro-abortion stance, Kennedy had asserted that “the fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Bishop Tobin replied, point blank, that this simply is not true. The three challenges I see in this are for Kennedy, Bishop Tobin himself, and the American bishops as a body...  Read the whole article.

Archbishop of Canterbury claims higher taxes would be good for society

Higher levels of tax would be good for society, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

by Martin Beckford

Dr Rowan Williams said that taxation should not be seen as a way of stifling business or redistributing wealth but helping to make the world a better place in which to live.

He called for new levies to be introduced on financial transactions and carbon emissions, and an end to the idea that unlimited economic growth is desirable.

The archbishop also claimed reality television gives us “alarming glimpses” of what the world would look like were everyone to be governed by self-interest.

Dr Williams, the most senior cleric in the Church of England and a self-confessed “hairy lefty”, has made a series of critical statements since last year’s banking crisis on the excesses of the financial sector and Labour’s attempt to spend its way out of recession.

In his latest comments, delivered to the TUC Economics Conference on Monday, he pointed out that the term “economics” derives from a Greek word meaning “housekeeping” and should be about “creating a habitat that we can actually live in”.

However he said that over the past few decades, the market has been treated as an “independent authority”, creating social disruption around the world and the “extraordinary phenomena” of debt trading... Read the whole article.

The Rationing Commission

Meet the unelected body that will dictate future medical decisions.

As usual, the most dangerous parts of ObamaCare aren't receiving the scrutiny they deserve—and one of the least examined is a new commission to tell Congress how to control health spending. Democrats are quietly attempting to impose a "global budget" on Medicare, with radical implications for U.S. medicine.

Like most of Europe, the various health bills stipulate that Congress will arbitrarily decide how much to spend on health care for seniors every year—and then invest an unelected board with extraordinary powers to dictate what is covered and how it will be paid for. White House budget director Peter Orszag calls this Medicare commission "critical to our fiscal future" and "one of the most potent reforms."

On that last score, he's right. Prominent health economist Alain Enthoven has likened a global budget to "bombing from 35,000 feet, where you don't see the faces of the people you kill."

As envisioned by the Senate Finance Committee, the commission—all 15 members appointed by the President—would have to meet certain budget targets each year. Starting in 2015, Medicare could not grow more rapidly on a per capita basis than by a measure of inflation. After 2019, it could only grow at the same rate as GDP, plus one percentage point.

The theory is to let technocrats set Medicare payments free from political pressure, as with the military base closing commissions. But that process presented recommendations to Congress for an up-or-down vote. Here, the commission's decisions would go into effect automatically if Congress couldn't agree within six months on different cuts that met the same target. The board's decisions would not be subject to ordinary notice-and-comment rule-making, or even judicial review... Read the whole article.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Cardinal and the Constitution

by Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Cardinal Rodriguez says Manuel Zelaya was removed from power constitutionally.


It's a good 30 minutes by car from here to the Catholic retreat center where I traveled to meet Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga last week. The brick compound sits just off a dirt road on a hillside in a forest of tall pines. When I arrived the sun was going down, and in the stillness of the early evening the world seemed serene.

Yet for the cardinal, life lately has been anything but peaceful. Ever since then-president Manuel Zelaya began preparing to overthrow the constitution earlier this year so that he could remain in power past his term limit, Honduras has been in turmoil. And the Catholic Church has found itself necessarily involved.

The hard left has argued that the decision to depose Mr. Zelaya was driven by elite antipathy toward his activism on behalf of the poor. But the cardinal, who is an outspoken advocate for the downtrodden and a longtime critic of Central American income disparities, does not share that view. He has supported the removal of Mr. Zelaya. I wanted to hear more about that...  Read the whole article.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pope Benedict Putting Church On Path To Unity

by James G. Wiles

By coincidence, when word came of Pope Benedict’s initiative towards the Anglicans, I was re-reading Father Basset’s history of the English Jesuits.

The day before, I had viewed "A Man for All Seasons" and recalled the paintings in the London Oratory. One of my prized possessions is a beautifully printed account of the English martyrs of the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem Hospitaler, a gift of Professor William Tighe of Muhlenberg University. When I took my wife to Ireland for the first time in 1994, we spent more time wandering through ruined abbeys than we did in the pubs.

For someone with that kind of personal background, it was impossible not to think of Psalm 126: “When the Lord turned against the captivity of Sion, then were we like unto them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter.” The music of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd played in my head.

Like the falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the possibility that the Catholic church of the English might finally come home to Rome in my lifetime was paralyzing. I was struck by the notion that, like the Soviets and their allies who’d sought to kill Pope John Paul II, instead had seen their Communist empire collapse around them, the shades of Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII might now be watching from hell as the Archbishop of Canterbury sat with the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and listened to His Eminence announce the Holy See’s terms upon which Anglicans could return en masse to the Catholic fold. Somewhere, William Shakespeare, that recusant Catholic, was smiling... Read the whole article.


About Me

My photo
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.