Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bishop says reduce poverty; bring about God's Kingdom. See U.S. Catholic Magazine

Reducing poverty will help bring about the kingdom of God, bishop says

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CNS) -- While Jesus said we will "always have the poor" with us, "if each of us stops on his or her own journey to help a neighbor in need, the kingdom of God will come closer to realization each day," said Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, in a pastoral letter on poverty.

Click here for pdf. of full pastoral letter

With his words, Jesus "provides a sad reminder that due to the way we think about and react with each other, we will 'always have the poor' with us," added Bishop Murry.

But Jesus also called upon his followers, he said, "to see and love our neighbors as ourselves."

"There is a sense that we have lost our historic concern for the poor among us. Sometimes we hear language and share attitudes that deride persons living in poverty," said the bishop, who also is secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The pastoral, "Who Is My Neighbor?" was dated January 2012 to coincide with National Poverty Awareness Month.

Poverty "is not a simple problem" because it "involves family dynamics, minimal material resources, missed opportunities, personal fears, complex relationships, cultural norms, geographic locations, isolation and lack of understanding," Bishop Murry said.

"Some who are poor are embarrassed to admit they have lost their jobs, their homes, and sometimes even their identity. Feeling hopeless and abandoned adds to the fear that their lives will never be what they were because they are too old for the job market and possess skills that are out of date," he added.

"Despite all of that complexity and regardless of the causes, the church continues to respond in numerous ways," he said.

"The church alone, however, cannot solve the problem of poverty. To succeed at first reducing and eventually eliminating poverty, everyone must be involved including the private and governmental sectors, along with religious and community agencies, and each one of us individually."

Bishop Murry added, "The church has no specific technical plan of action tailored to this present economic downturn. But what it does have is two thousand years of experience of hat policies and programs offer the best hope and practical means to help families move beyond poverty. That experience is rooted in the Scriptures."

One instance Bishop Murry used was the parable of the good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke, who took a risk and helped a man abandoned on the side of the road. The story, he said, "reminds us of our dual obligation to love God and neighbor."

Poverty in Ohio, lower than that of the United States in 2000, grew at a faster rate than the nation as a whole by 2010. And in almost every instance, the counties and major cities within the Youngstown Diocese have higher poverty rates than Ohio overall, topped by the cities of Youngstown, Canton and Warren, each with poverty rates of 30 percent and up.

"Trade-offs are made each day by families living in poverty: Do they eat, pay rent, buy gas for the car, purchase prescriptions, or buy clothes? Trying to plan and manage a budget on a very limited income is a process that few can master," Bishop Murry said.

"We as the church in northeastern Ohio must remain committed to respond both in charity and in justice to the needs and hopes of those who struggle while living in poverty."

He praised the work of the U.S. bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development, saying it has "helped large numbers of low-income and middle/upper-income persons work in solidarity to find common and just solutions to economic problems and better their lives. The campaign deserves our support."

Bishop Murry also pointed to the seven corporal works of mercy -- feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit those in prison, bury the dead -- as touchstones for dealing with their neighbor.

"We, the church, are given many resources to care for each other. We, therefore, must act with works of charity and works of justice deeply rooted in our faith and life of prayer."


FULL DISCLOSURE. Bishop Murray is/was a Jesuit of the Maryland Province. I too am a Jesuit of the Maryland Province. When a Jesuit is asked to be a Bishop, he technically "leaves" his religious order so he can 1) control property, and 2) not be under a vow of obedience to a Jesuit Superior. Many Bishops "re-enter" their religious communities on retiring from their episcopal responsibilities. - Fr. Rick

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This is an excellent show. We should pray for parents at every Mass the way we pray for bishops and clergy... - Fr. Rick

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INSIDE HIGHER ED: Social Justice on College Campuses

January 31, 2012 - 3:00am

There are still no fair trade shops on the Kalamazoo College campus.

After returning from study abroad trips in Thailand and Kenya and Botswana, a group of Kalamazoo students wanted to open a store that would showcase goods that artisans in those countries made for a living wage.

But before leasing a storefront, the students conducted a study to see whether a fair trade shop would be viable. Their findings suggested it wouldn’t. Instead, they helped convince local businesses to carry fair trade goods.

President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran considers the project part of the pragmatic approach to social justice taught at her campus’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.

The Kalamazoo center is part of a growing trend, particularly at liberal arts colleges, to expand social justice education. While many colleges have for years housed social justice groups and boasted about the commitment of their students and faculty members to social justice, the new programs are more formal and more closely tied to academic missions than most earlier efforts. Often seeking to encourage student leadership and reconnect with an institutional history of activism, at least a half-dozen new or expanded programs have started in recent months and years.

The Arcus Center’s focus, Wilson-Oyelaran said, is in giving all students an idea of how to impact the world. The goal isn't to teach students what to believe, but instead to give them the business and technology savvy for them to turn their passion into a viable social justice enterprise through classes and financial support.

Founded in 2009, the Arcus Center also seeks to integrate social justice topics into courses across campus. A recent $23 million grant, the largest in the history of the Michigan liberal arts college, will expand the center by offering two endowed faculty chairs, scholarships, internships, annual lectures and other programs.

Elsewhere, similar projects are taking root. Whitman College in Washington and Philander Smith College in Arkansas both have new programs on social justice. Brandeis University offers a minor in social justice and social policy. Grinnell College offers an award to young social justice leaders. Lake Forest College in Illinois also offers a minor. Saint Mary’s College of California just announced a new master’s degree concentration in social justice leadership. And the movement isn’t limited to private institutions: Arizona State University introduced a master’s degree in social justice and human rights last fall.

The reason the programs are so common at liberal arts colleges can often be traced back to their founding, Grinnell President Raynard Kington said. Abolitionists founded his college in Iowa, and early civil rights leaders like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth spoke on campus in the early days of Kalamazoo College.

The social justice program at Philander Smith also has roots in the drive for racial equality. In 1957, faculty members at the historically black college tutored nine students barred from attending Little Rock Central High School because of their race. The Little Rock Nine helped integrate the nation’s schools at a time when skin color still dictated which water fountains one could drink out of in the South.

Joseph Jones, director of the college’s new social justice program, said the lessons from the civil rights movement are still relevant today when discussing the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake or food availability in Little Rock. Instead of creating a separate academic program, Jones said the goal of Philander Smith's new center is to promote service learning and inject social justice concepts into different classes.

And with that history, he said, a new generation of Philander Smith students is uniquely positioned to take a look at social justice issues in Arkansas that are often ignored. “It’s meaningful,” he said, “especially for a city like Little Rock that has a lot of issues there that haven’t really been dealt with in a serious way.

“If we can provide a framework, we can get students to think about some of these problems and thinking about doing something to solve them.”

Like Philander Smith's, Grinnell’s social justice emphasis has grown stronger in recent months. The college awarded its first three awards last fall to young people working for social change, with $50,000 going to each winner and another $50,000 to a charity of their choice. Grinnell received 1,200 applications.

The winners –a rabbi connecting Palestinians with American Jews, an activist in Ghana and a pair of young men who helped install a social justice component in Uganda’s national curriculum – spent a week on campus meeting with students and speaking in classes with social justice themes. Two have agreed to come back to teach short courses at Grinnell and two have taken on Grinnell interns at their organizations. Back in Iowa, students are helping with a growing prison education program and managing a local microlending program.

That renewed interest in social justice both at Grinnell and elsewhere, Kington said, might be partially due to the economic downturn. He sees students evaluating whether fortune or good works are more important and looking for concrete ways to improve the world.

“Students are having serious discussions about what they want out of life,” he said. “They may very well die with fewer toys and richer lives and that would be O.K.”

Wilson-Oyelaran, the Kalamazoo leader, attributes the growth of social justice programs in part to the new skill set needed to have an impact. Enthusiasm isn't always enough to create change as an activist or organizer, something her students found out first-hand when trying to open that fair trade store.

"I think it’s very important to link the practicalities with the passion and ideals," she said. "The skills which are needed now are slightly different than the current leaders."

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Sit Back and Enjoy a Beautiful Song.

Thanks Cara Dillion!

Sometimes, I think music is the best "proof" we have of God's existence.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

NY Times Douthat sounds the alarm

Douthat is always worth listening to. I don't agree with all he says here. I don't think what's happening is, "... an intimation of a darker American future, in which our voluntary communities wither away and government becomes the only word we have for the things we do together." But I do agree with a lot of what he says in this op-ed piece. - Fr. Rick

The New York Times

Government and Its Rivals By ROSS DOUTHAT

January 28, 2012


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

In this worldview, the government is just the natural expression of our national community, and the place where we all join hands to pursue the common good. Or to borrow a line attributed to Representative Barney Frank, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

Many conservatives would go this far with Frank: Government is one way we choose to work together, and there are certain things we need to do collectively that only government can do.

But there are trade-offs as well, which liberal communitarians don’t always like to acknowledge. When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good. Unlike most communal organizations, the government has coercive power — the power to regulate, to mandate and to tax. These advantages make it all too easy for the state to gradually crowd out its rivals. The more things we “do together” as a government, in many cases, the fewer things we’re allowed to do together in other spheres.

Sometimes this crowding out happens gradually, subtly, indirectly. Every tax dollar the government takes is a dollar that can’t go to charities and churches. Every program the government runs, from education to health care to the welfare office, can easily become a kind of taxpayer-backed monopoly.

But sometimes the state goes further. Not content with crowding out alternative forms of common effort, it presents its rivals an impossible choice: Play by our rules, even if it means violating the moral ideals that inspired your efforts in the first place, or get out of the community-building business entirely.

This is exactly the choice that the White House has decided to offer a host of religious institutions — hospitals, schools and charities — in the era of Obamacare. The new health care law requires that all employer-provided insurance plans cover contraception, sterilization and the morning-after (or week-after) pill known as ella, which can work as an abortifacient. A number of religious groups, led by the American Catholic bishops, had requested an exemption for plans purchased by their institutions. Instead, the White House has settled on an exemption that only covers religious institutions that primarily serve members of their own faith. A parish would be exempt from the mandate, in other words, but a Catholic hospital would not.

Ponder that for a moment. In effect, the Department of Health and Human Services is telling religious groups that if they don’t want to pay for practices they consider immoral, they should stick to serving their own co-religionists rather than the wider public. Sectarian self-segregation is O.K., but good Samaritanism is not. The rule suggests a preposterous scenario in which a Catholic hospital avoids paying for sterilizations and the morning-after pill by closing its doors to atheists and Muslims, and hanging out a sign saying “no Protestants need apply.”

The regulations are a particularly cruel betrayal of Catholic Democrats, many of whom had defended the health care law as an admirable fulfillment of Catholicism’s emphasis on social justice. Now they find that their government’s communitarianism leaves no room for their church’s communitarianism, and threatens to regulate it out of existence.

Critics of the administration’s policy are framing this as a religious liberty issue, and rightly so. But what’s at stake here is bigger even than religious freedom. The Obama White House’s decision is a threat to any kind of voluntary community that doesn’t share the moral sensibilities of whichever party controls the health care bureaucracy.

The Catholic Church’s position on contraception is not widely appreciated, to put it mildly, and many liberals are inclined to see the White House’s decision as a blow for the progressive cause. They should think again. Once claimed, such powers tend to be used in ways that nobody quite anticipated, and the logic behind these regulations could be applied in equally punitive ways by administrations with very different values from this one.

The more the federal government becomes an instrument of culture war, the greater the incentive for both conservatives and liberals to expand its powers and turn them to ideological ends. It is Catholics hospitals today; it will be someone else tomorrow.

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

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Bus Parking at the March for Life by Tom Gibbons.

This from Busted Halo. Great article.

January 23rd, 2012

Bus Parking at the March For Life

You know, I probably shouldn’t say this, but on this Pro Life weekend, I really didn’t know what to say today. Every time I started to write one thing about the March For Life, two other concerns came to the fore. This was an issue that I used to look at in very black and white terms when I was younger. Then I got to a point where I could only see it in terms in gray. Now I guess I am at a point where I look at it in terms of black and white…and gray.

At first glance it’s a black and white issue, an open and shut case, there’s really not much more to discuss. And I have to say that this past October, I was given the amazing gift of two nieces — each from my two sisters — and I even got to be in the room for the birth of one of them. During Christmas I got to hold each one of them in my arms and during that moment, the sacredness and holiness of each life could not have been more clear.

But then I was on Facebook yesterday…procrastinating from my studies a little bit…and I saw someone make the comment that the Church cares about the unborn but not about the concerns of women. At first I was a little taken aback. The Catholic Church is one of the largest — if not the largest — provided of services to those in need. Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, and endless stream of hospitals and homeless shelters…those things that often get overlooked when the media discusses the Church. But then I thought about…traffic.

Buses at the National Shrine in Washington, D.C.

As some of you might know, I live over in the Northwest part of DC right by Catholic University and the Shrine of the National Basilica on 4th Street Northeast. And every year in late January the street is lined with buses as Catholics come from all over the country in order to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Row vs. Wade. Seminarians, high school students, priests, concerned parents, politicians — young and old — all descend on our nation’s capitol in order to protest and renew the call to outlaw the practice of abortion in the annual March For Life. As you can imagine, the traffic in the streets during those few days can be pretty terrific.

But I cannot ignore that January 22 is the ONLY time of the year when the streets outside of the National Basilica are jammed with buses. I cannot ignore that the streets around the Basilica are clear when bishops try to raise the issue of immigration. I cannot ignore that the streets are clear when bishops try to raise the issue of day care for mothers and families. I cannot ignore that the streets around the Basilica are clear when bishops try to raise the issue of poverty. In other words, the streets outside of the Basilica are empty on the other days of the year when bishops challenge us all to speak out against so many of the reasons many women see abortion as the only viable answer when they are facing crisis. It was then that I began to wonder if that Facebook poster — while I don’t agree entirely with the sentiment—may have also had a point. I began to wonder how many of us in the church are more concerned with proclaiming a moral high ground but not as concerned with bringing about the conditions that actually would support life.


Click here to read the rest of the article http://bustedhalo.com/blogs/bus-parking-in-the-march-for-life

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jennifer Fulwiler: A Sexual Revolution

A Sexual Revolution

One woman's journey from pro-choice atheist to pro-life Catholic
the cover of America, the Catholic magazine

B ack in my pro-choice days, I read that in certain ancient societies it was common for parents to abandon unwanted newborns, leaving them to die of exposure. I found these stories to be as perplexing as they were horrifying. How could this happen? I could never understand how entire cultures could buy into something so obviously terrible, how something that modern society understands to be an unthinkable evil could be widely accepted among large groups of people.

Because of my deep distress at hearing of such crimes against humanity, I found it irritating when pro-lifers would refer to abortion as “killing babies.” Obviously, nobody was in favor of killing babies, and to imply that those of us who were pro-choice would advocate as much was an insult to the babies throughout history who actually were killed by their “insane” societies. We were not in favor of killing anything. We simply felt that a woman had a right to stop the growth process of a fetus if she faced a crisis pregnancy. It was unfortunate, but that was the sacrifice that had to be made to prevent women from becoming victims of unwanted pregnancies.

At that time I was an atheist and had little exposure to religious social circles. As I began to search for God and open my mind to Christianity, however, I could not help but be exposed to pro-life thought more often, and I was put on the defensive about my views. One night I was discussing the topic with my husband, who was re-examining his own pro-choice stance. He made a passing remark that startled me into reconsidering this issue: “It just occurred to me that being pro-life is being pro-other-people’s-life,” he quipped. “Everyone is pro-their-own-life.”

Growing Discomfort

His remark made me realize that my pro-choice viewpoints had put me in the position of deciding whose lives were worth living, and even who was human. Along with doctors, the government and other abortion advocates, I decided where to draw this crucial line. When I would come across Catholic Web sites or books that asserted “Life begins at conception,” I would scoff, as was my habit, yet I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with my defense. I realized that my criteria for determining when human life begins were distressingly vague. I was putting the burden of proof on the fetuses to demonstrate to me that they were human, and I was a tough judge. I found myself looking the other way when I heard about things like the 3-D ultrasounds that showed fetuses touching their faces, smiling and opening their eyes at ages at which I still considered abortion acceptable. As modern technology revealed more and more evidence that fetuses were humans too, I would simply move the bar for what I considered human.

At some point I started to feel I was more determined to remain pro-choice than to analyze honestly who was and was not human. I started to see this phenomenon in others in the pro-choice community as well. As I researched issues like partial-birth abortion, I frequently became stunned to the point of feeling physically ill upon witnessing the level of evil that normal people can support. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read of reasonable, educated professionals calmly justifying infanticide by calling the victims fetuses instead of babies. It was then that I took a mental step back from the entire pro-choice movement. If this is what it meant to be pro-choice, I was not pro-choice.

Yet I still could not quite label myself pro-life.

I recognized that I too had probably told myself lies in order to maintain my support for abortion. Yet there was some tremendous pressure that kept me from objectively looking at the issue. Something deep within me screamed that not to allow women to have abortions, at least in the first trimester, would be unfair in the direst sense of the word. Even as I became religious, I mentally pushed aside thoughts that all humans might have God-given eternal souls worthy of dignity and respect. It became too tricky to figure out when we receive those souls, the most obvious answer being “at conception,” as opposed to some arbitrary point during gestation. It was not until I re-evaluated the societal views of sex that had permeated the consciousness of my peer group that I was able to release that internal pressure I felt and take an unflinching look at abortion.

Sex and Creating Life

Growing up in secular middle-class America, I understood sex as something disconnected from the idea of creating life. During my entire childhood I did not know anyone who had a baby sibling; and to the extent that neighborhood parents ever talked about pregnancy, it was to say they were glad they were “done.” In high school sex education class, we learned not that sex creates babies, but that unprotected sex creates babies. Even recently, before our marriage was blessed in the Catholic Church, my husband and I took a course about building good marriages. It was a video series by a nondenominational Christian group, and the segment called “Good Sex” did not mention children once. In all the talk about bonding and back rubs and intimacy and staying in shape, the closest the videos came to connecting sex to the creation of life was a brief note that couples should discuss the topic of contraception.

All my life, the message I had heard loud and clear was that sex was for pleasure and bonding, that its potential for creating life was purely tangential, almost to the point of being forgotten. This mind-set became the foundation of my views on abortion. Because I saw sex as being by default closed to the possibility of life, I thought of unplanned pregnancies as akin to being struck by lightning while walking down the street—something totally unpredictable and undeserved that happened to people living normal lives.

My pro-choice views (and I imagine those of many others) were motivated by loving concern: I just did not want women to have to suffer, to have to devalue themselves by dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Since it was an inherent part of my worldview that everyone except people with “hang-ups” eventually has sex, and that sex is, under normal circumstances, only about the relationship between the two people involved, I was lured into one of the oldest, biggest, most tempting lies in human history: the enemy is not human. Babies had become the enemy because of their tendency to pop up and ruin everything; and just as societies are tempted to dehumanize their fellow human beings on the other side of the line in wartime, so had I, and we as a society, dehumanized what we saw as the enemy of sex.

As I was reading up on the Catholic Church’s understanding of sex, marriage and contraception, everything changed. I had always assumed that Catholic teachings against birth control were outdated notions, even a thinly disguised attempt to oppress the faithful. What I found, however, was that these teachings expressed a fundamentally different understanding of sex. And once I discovered this, I never saw the world the same way again.

Burdens or Blessings?

The way I had always seen it, the generally accepted view was that babies were burdens, except for a few times in life when everything might be perfect enough for a couple to see new life as a good thing. The Catholic view, I discovered, is that babies are blessings and that while it is fine to attempt to avoid pregnancy for serious reasons, if we go so far as to adopt a “contraceptive mentality”—feeling entitled to the pleasure of sex while loathing (and perhaps trying to forget all about) its life-giving properties—we not only fail to respect this most sacred of acts, but we begin to see new life as the enemy.

I came to see that our culture’s widespread use and acceptance of contraception meant that the “contraceptive mentality” toward sex was now the default attitude. As a society, we had come to take it for granted that we are entitled to the pleasurable and bonding aspects of sex even when we are opposed to the new life it might produce. The option of abstaining from the act that creates babies if we see children as a burden had been removed from our cultural lexicon. Even if it would be a huge crisis to become pregnant, we had a right to have sex anyway. If this were true—if it were morally acceptable for people to have sex even when they believed that a new baby could ruin their lives—then abortion, as I saw things, had to be O.K.

Ideally I would have taken an objective look at when human life begins and based my views on that alone, but the lie was just too tempting. I did not want to hear too much about heartbeats or souls or brain activity. Terminating pregnancies simply had to be acceptable, because carrying a baby to term and becoming a parent is a huge deal, and society had made it very clear that sex was not a huge deal. As long as I accepted the premise that engaging in sex with a contraceptive mentality was morally acceptable, I could not bring myself to consider that abortion might not be acceptable. It seemed inhumane to make women deal with life-altering consequences for an act that was not supposed to have life-altering consequences.

Given my background, the Catholic idea that we are always to treat the sexual act with awe and respect, so much so that we should simply abstain if we are opposed to its life-giving potential, was a revolutionary message. Being able to consider honestly when life begins, to open my heart and mind to the wonder and dignity of even the tiniest of my fellow human beings, was not fully possible for me until I understood the nature of the act that creates these little lives in the first place.

All of these thoughts had been percolating in my brain for a while, and I found myself increasingly in agreement with pro-life positions. Then one night I became officially, unapologetically pro-life. I was reading yet another account of the Greek societies in which newborn babies were abandoned to die, wondering how normal people could do something like that, and I felt a chill rush through me as I thought: I know how they did it.

I realized in that moment that perfectly good, well-meaning people—people like me—can support gravely evil things because of the power of lies. From my own experience, I knew how the Greeks, the Romans and people in every other society could put themselves into a mental state where they could leave a newborn child to die. The very real pressures of life—“we can’t afford another baby,” “we can’t have any more girls,” “he wouldn’t have had a good life”—left them susceptible to the temptation to dehumanize other human beings. Though the circumstances were different, the same process had happened with me, with the pro-choice movement and with anyone else who has ever been tempted to dehumanize inconvenient people.

I suspect that as those Greek parents handed over their infants for someone to take away, they remarked on how very unlike their other children these little creatures were: they couldn’t talk, the couldn’t sit up, and surely those little yawns and smiles were just involuntary reactions. I bet they referred to these babies with different words than they used to refer to the children they kept. Maybe they called them something like “fetuses.”

Jennifer Fulwiler is a Web developer who lives in Austin, Tex., with her husband and three children. She converted to Catholicism from atheism in 2007 and writes about her conversion at http://www.conversiondiary.com/.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

When you're Right you're Right. And When you're Wrong, you're Wrong

President Obama is wrong on this one. He's going to lose a lot of the Catholic vote on this issue. Forcing Catholic institutions to pay for contraception, etc., that we, in principle, cannot pay for.... not good politics. Nor is it right and just.
- Peace, Fr. Rick


When Barack Obama secured his party's nomination for president in 2008, one group of Democrats had special reason to cheer.

These were Democrats who were reliably liberal on policy but horrified by the party's sometimes knee-jerk animosity to faith. The low point may have been the 1992 Democratic convention. There the liberal but pro-life governor of Pennsylvania, Bob Casey Sr., was humiliated when he was denied a speaking slot while a pro-choice Republican activist from his home state was allowed.

With Mr. Obama, all this looked to be in the past. In 2006, the Illinois senator delivered a speech declaring that "secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square." He followed up by appearing at fund-raisers for the anti-abortion Bob Casey Jr. during Mr. Casey's successful run for Sen. Rick Santorum's senate seat.

Sen. Casey went on to co-chair Mr. Obama's National Catholic Advisory Council. Sixteen years after the snub to his dad, he was given a prime-time speaking slot at the 2008 Democratic convention. And Mr. Obama would go on to capture a majority of the Catholic vote.

Now, suddenly, we have headlines about the president's "war on the Catholic Church." Mostly they stem from a Health and Human Services mandate that forces every employer to provide employees with health coverage that not only covers birth control and sterilization, but makes them free. Predictably, the move has drawn fire from the Catholic bishops.

Getty Images

An HHS mandate requires employers to provide health coverage that covers birth control.

Less predictable—and far more interesting—has been the heat from the Catholic left, including many who have in the past given the president vital cover. In a post for the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winter minces few words. Under the headline "J'ACCUSE," he rightly takes the president to the woodshed for the politics of the decision, for the substance, and for how "shamefully" it treats "those Catholics who went out on a limb" for him.

The message Mr. Obama is sending, says Mr. Winters, is "that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our Church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us."

Mr. Winters is not alone. The liberal Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, blogged that he "cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience"—and he urged people to fight it. Another liberal favorite, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., has raised the specter of "civil disobedience" and vowed that he will drop coverage for diocesan workers rather than comply. They are joined in their expressions of discontent by the leaders of Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities, which alone employs 70,000 people.

In the run-up to the ruling, the president of Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins, suggested a modest compromise by which the president could have avoided most of this strife. That would have been by allowing the traditional exemption for religious organizations. That's the same understanding two of the president's own appointees to the Supreme Court just reaffirmed in a 9-0 ruling that recognized a faith-based school's First Amendment right to choose its own ministers without government interference, regardless of antidiscrimination law.

A few years ago Father Jenkins took enormous grief when he invited President Obama to speak at a Notre Dame commencement; now Father Jenkins finds himself publicly disapproving of an "unnecessary government intervention" that puts many organizations such as his in an "untenable position."

Here's just part of what he means by "untenable": Were Notre Dame to drop coverage for its 5,229 employees, the HHS penalty alone would amount to $10 million each year.

The irony, of course, is that the ruling is being imposed by a Catholic Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, working in an administration with a Catholic vice president, Joe Biden. A few years back the voluble Mr. Biden famously threatened to "shove my rosary beads" down the throat of those who dared suggest that his party's positions on social issues put it at odds with people of faith. Does he now mean to include Mr. Winters, Cardinal Mahony and Father Jenkins?

Catholic liberals appreciate that this HHS decision is more than a return to the hostility that sent so many Catholic Democrats fleeing to the Republican Party these past few decades. They understand that if left to stand, this ruling threatens the religious institutions closest to their hearts—those serving Americans in need, such as hospitals, soup kitchens and immigrant services.

Conservatives may enjoy the problems this creates for Mr. Obama this election year. Still, for those who care about issues such as life and marriage and religious liberty that so roil our body politic, we ought to wish Catholic progressives well in their intra-liberal fight. For we shall never arrive at the consensus we hope for if we allow our politics to be divided between a party of faith and a party of animosity to faith.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Really Hard to Believe: PA Kicks 88,000 Kids Off Health Insurance Rolls

Lots of talk these days from some politicians who want to put kids to work. In previous eras, kids worked. Here's a picture of Pennsylvania Breaker Boys, the little boys who worked in the coal mines in NE Pennsylvania, providing the nation's energy in the early 20th century.

Chris Kelly at the
Scranton Times Tribune reveals the ugly truth of our times:

"Despite his serial attacks on the state's most vulnerable citizens, Gov. Tom Corbett's recent call for $160 million in new budget cuts and an asset test for food stamp recipients was breathtaking in its cowardice. Once again, he "stood up" to Pennsylvania's poorest while lying down for out-of-state corporations getting filthy rich at our expense."

"The reaction of Monsignor Joseph P. Kelly, executive director of Catholic Social Services for the Diocese of Scranton, was universal among observers possessed of even an ounce of Christian charity: 'My immediate reaction was, 'Who is advising the governor on this?' " he said. "I mean, this is terrible public policy. Do we really not want to feed people in the United States of America?" ...

"Well, since August, 88,000 kids whose only sin was being born poor in Pennsylvania lost their health insurance while scores of corporations hauled billions in profits out of this state while giving next to nothing in return."

[It's crazier than you can imagine. [ click to read full article] Published: January 22, 2012

Ex-Welfare Department adviser published controversial views on women, sex and Medicaid.

God help the Outcasts. God help us all.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who creates Jobs?

Cartoon from Time Magazine


Can someone explain how all these "one percenters" and other mega rich folks are "job creators" but the lack of jobs (e.g., unemployment rate) is the government's fault? How can all those who want "government out of our lives" (but not out of medicare) demand that government do something about the unemployment rate? Isn't high unemployment the fault of all those "job creators" who aren't creating jobs? Just asking....

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Shame-Less and Grace-Full. Karen McClintock

A beautiful, challenging and thought inspiring reflection. My spiritual director in the novitiate, wise and gruff old Henry, told us. "Comparisons are odious." So true. Don't worry about measuring up to someone else's expectation. Be free and love and follow your deepest truest desires - Peace Fr. Rick


Shame-Less and Grace-Full

by Karen A. McClintock


My parents were graceful dancers. They often went to dance clubs and then returned home to dance a little longer around the living room. I come from a line of elegant people. So I wasn’t surprised when my parents made clear to my older sister and me that we would attend the Jeanne Borsky School of Dance. My parents believed dance was one of my callings. They said that I walked around the living room on the tips of my toes at the age of two, so we all hoped for my future stardom. As soon as my feet were strong enough to be crammed into little satin toe shoes, my mother took me to enroll in class.

In our pink tights and black leotards, fifteen delicate, bouncy girls lined up along the bar to practice our turnout. In walked Jeanne Borsky. She glided along the floor. Her hair was pinned up high on her head, and she wore thick pancake makeup, as if she were still in the spotlight on stage. She was old, yet ageless. I wanted to be graceful like Mrs. Borsky. She was perfectly balanced, flexible, and strong. This must be grace.

This moment quickly faded as we got down to the work of being graceful. The music had a beat that I found I couldn’t keep, Mrs. Borsky’s smile began to fade, and before long I felt as awkward as a young giraffe taking his first steps. I forced my body into stretches and movements that felt more like contortions than beautiful extensions.

I learned that comparison is a form of shame. In ballet training you have to look exactly like the others. We were all mercilessly compared to the best students in the class. We were shamed for not properly executing the steps, for not conveying the right feelings, for not having the right body shape, for anything short of perfection. We soon learned to do each move correctly or else.

Here is what I learned about grace (and shame) at Mrs. Borsky’s. I learned that grace can be achieved only through hard work. I learned that grace is not free: either your parents pay for the lessons or you do. I learned that grace doesn’t come naturally. I learned that I couldn’t become graceful out of my desire to dance; I had to overcome my unworthiness by righteous hard work. Only when I had achieved the perfect line, the perfect form, the perfect leap into the air, then, maybe, I could enjoy the riches of grace.

Forty years later, I am still shaking off the ill effects of the shame I learned at Jeanne Borsky’s School of Dance. And maybe you haven’t shaken off the cultural and church­taught idea that grace must be earned through hard work and self­incrimination.

After years of studying shame and overcoming no small amount of my own, I have come to see shame and grace differently. I also see my old ballet teacher differently. Jeanne Borsky knew a lot about ballet and a lot about shame, but she didn’t really know a thing about grace. Even though her body was flexible, strong, and well-shaped, as a teacher, she was mean spirited and her behaviors were ugly. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking of myself as misshapen and inadequate. This was not the experience I had hoped for or the one my parents had wanted for me.

Jeanne was a shame-­driven leader. I now wonder what experiences led her to such a place of negativity. I wonder if her dreams of stardom had fallen apart at some point in her career. Without greater self-worth, she didn’t know how to build our self­esteem along with strong and competent physiques. She couldn’t make genuine grace happen. What a shame that was!

I can only speculate on the causes of my dance teacher’s pain, but I know she is not unique in carrying and passing along shame. Shame begins in childhood and sneaks up on us during adolescence, and we hear it in the voices of our parents and peers. Sometimes we internalize those voices, and they become our own self-shaming messengers. You must learn that what you say to yourself about yourself matters. You must identify the source or sources of your shame and heal them. Once you’ve done that, you can move beyond cycles of shame that feed strongly into addictive behaviors, codependency, noxious secrets, and problematic relationships. You must also help in liberating others from their shame, be they friends, colleagues, or people in a congregation where you worship and serve.

While readers of this article come from many different theological backgrounds, I ask you to explore the shame-laden messages within your own religious teachings and practices. What we learn in Sunday school or Sabbath school and what we hear from preachers and rabbis shape our core self-esteem. Were you taught that you are a child of God, created in God’s image? Have you been repeatedly told that you have committed unpardonable sins? How you see yourself may be directly connected to religious teachings about your goodness and your shamefulness.

Many faith communities teach the doctrine of shame, often without knowing it. You may have been raised in such a congregation. For example, a core shame message in many Christian congregations is that you must be like Jesus at all times; anything less than that and you have failed. You just don’t measure up. You will never be good enough. These are the messages that people with shame are used to hearing. They feel at home with messages sent out from the pulpit, the newsletter, and worship that reinforce shame. They experience the familiarity of family within such a congregation if their own families of origin perpetuated shame. People with shame find shame-based congregations, because they are accustomed to being preached to, having fingers pointed in their direction, and the judgment of not measuring up.

You are hereby invited to become a shame­less leader in order to assist others in your congregational system to find a life of grace. You can heal the shame you have likely been carrying around for far too long. This shame may be rooted in childhood when you experienced parental disapproval or abuse. It may have come into your life as a result of sexual experimentation in your teens or young adulthood. It may have followed a marriage that ended or a relationship in which you carried secrets. It may be that you have taken responsibility for someone else’s shame and made it your own.

The faith community you participate in needs your help in creating a place of joy and grace. To do this, you must learn to recognize and heal the shame of your own upbringing, to recognize shame in the behavior of other leaders and clergy around you, to reduce shame-reinforcing theology, and to provide alternative messages of hope and healing.

According to the apostle Paul, we have inherited the immeasurable riches of grace. Jesus has pleasurably lavished grace on us (Eph. 1:5–10). While many church growth experts have been trying to fix the problems of declining congregations, weary leaders who spend time and money examining their inadequacies may increase debilitating shame. The longer our list of failures grows, the more we get locked into a core belief that we are incapable of doing anything differently. Very few people have taken the step of looking underneath the rocks for the affect of shame.

In worship one morning, members of the choir, dressed in their beautiful robes, processed into the chancel area, shuffled into place so that everyone could see the director, and after hearing their pitch, began to sing. The women in the front row started singing the melody and the men in the back row came in, but they were obviously not in sync. As they plowed ahead for a few bars, their faces became flushed and distorted, their shoulders drooped, and their breathing grew shallow. The choir director waved her hands to stop the pianist and looked up at them. The choir members all held their breaths like children about to be scolded. What would she say? This could have been a moment for shame. She might have sighed and said, “Let’s try again,” exposing her frustration and their failure. Instead she said, “I want to start over, because I have heard you sing this song beautifully.” They stood up taller, they breathed more deeply, and when they began again, it went off without a hitch. They were singing from a place of grace. They were led by a grace-based leader. You can become one too.

In Shame-less Lives, Grace-full Congregations, author Karen McClintock invites readers to become shame-less, so they can assist others in a congregational system to find a life of joy and grace. With skilled storytelling and gentle humor, McClintock takes readers on a journey in which we learn to recognize the many forms shame takes and explore and heal the shame of our own upbringing, particularly the shame-laden messages within our own religious teachings and practices.

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Newsweek lays out the case for class warfare. The rich are winning

Read it and weep. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/15/niall-ferguson-a-conservative-take-on-america-s-economic-divide.html

Rich America, Poor America. Newsweek Jan 23, 2012.

"Adjusted for inflation, the income of the average American male has essentially flatlined since the 1970s, according to figures from the Census Bureau. The income of the bottom quarter of U.S. families has actually fallen. It’s been a different story for the rich."

Median compensation for CEOs of 500 largest corporation
1970 $1 million
2010 $13 million (1200% increase)

Median income in USA
1975 $12,000
2010 $49,000 (308% increase)

Percentage of income going to the top 1%
1933 24%
1973 09%
2007 24%

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

What/Who Will Make You Happy? From National catholic Reporter


The subjectivity of happiness:

on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 'Flow'

The pursuit of happiness, one of the most popular subjects of contemporary spiritual writing, is also among the most superficially addressed themes in the church's homiletics. From Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) to Rhonda Byrne's The Secret (2006), seekers of the last 60 years have demonstrated an unquenchable interest in the power of spiritual technologies to better their well-being or cure anxieties and depression. ... Click above to read the rest...

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Monday, January 16, 2012

King Had a Dream. Do we?

Freedom and Economic Justice: Rev. Martin Luther King's Unfinished Agenda

Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D.

In October of 1967, Rev. Martin Luther King spoke at St. Joe's in Philadelphia. In that speech, given just six months before he was assassinated, King stated, "Our goal is freedom. And I still have faith that we are going to get to that goal." The freedom King was speaking of that day was not simply racial equality. He was also speaking about economic justice. In his address, King spoke of the relative ease with which lunch counters had been desegregated, while he noted that it was proving much more difficult to eradicate the ghettos of the large Northern cities.

Earlier that year (August 1967) at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, his home church, King delivered a sermon entitled "Where Do We Go from Here?," in which he directly articulates many of the themes of economic justice he would touch upon later in October in his talk. King argued:

"When the constitution was written, a strange formula … declared that the Negro was sixty percent of a person. Today another curious formula seems to declare that he is fifty percent of a person. Of the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those of whites. …half the income… twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites and there are twice as many Negroes dying in Vietnam as whites in proportion to their size in the population."

Note in the above quote, Rev. King putting to good use the methods of analyzing society he learned as an undergraduate Sociology major! What he was talking about near the end of his life was the simple truth that freedom and economic opportunity and equality were more than linked. You cannot have one without the other. Freedom and economic equality mutually condition one another.

Today, almost fifty years since the iconic "I Have a Dream Speech", some progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go. The median net worth of whites is ten times greater than that of African Americans.

Source: Pr
of. G. William Domhoff’s websitee. http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html (accessed Jan 16, 2012)

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that median household income in the USA is $49,445. Median household income of whites ($54,620) is almost one third greater than that of Blacks ($32,068). And despite sincere efforts on so many levels, overt, vile racism is still evident in our society. Go to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website ( http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map) and see the virulent racism that still exists among us.

What would have happened if King's ideas were heeded? In his 1967 Atlanta speech, Rev. King called for the eradication of poverty in our midst. He proposed a Guaranteed National Income, an idea articulated at that time by John Kenneth Gailbraith and even championed by Richard Nixon a few years later. In 1967, it would have cost $20 billion for a Guaranteed National Income, about what we spent to put a man on the moon, and $15 billion less than the $35 billion we were wasting on the War in Vietnam. What would our country and the world look like today if poverty has been systematically eradicated thirty-five years ago?

In Martin Luther King, Jr., God sent us a prophet. The prophet spoke in our midst. And we have not yet heeded his message. The shortest verse in the Gospels is "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). There, Jesus is crying over the death of his friend Lazarus. I wonder what Jesus' reaction is to our society's inability/refusal to enflesh in law the principles of freedom and economic Justice, the principles for which Martin Luther King died at the young age of 39 years? Is Jesus weeping again? Maybe. Or maybe Jesus is calling us to Keep the Dream Alive, and bring to fruition the Dream of Rev. King. On that hot sweltering day in August 1963, King spoke of hope and healing, justice and joy.

“In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note…. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice” (MLK, “I Have a Dream” Speech, 1963)

King had a dream. Do we?

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How much do the top 1% get?

Source: Congressional Budget Office, Average Federal Taxes by Income Group, “Average After-Tax Household Income,” June, 2010. (This graph found at http://inequality.org/income-inequality/)

Today's New York Times article on inequality has numbers much lower than Mother Jones or Inequality.org.

NY Times says family income of $338,001 puts a family in top 1%.

Mother Jones and Inequality.org put the top 1% at well over a $1,000,000 average annual family income. The CBO agrees with Mother Jones and Inequality.org.

Maybe the NYTimes only counts earned income? Many of the Superrich receive little income but live off inheritance and investment income.


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Charles Blow Nails Romney and Paul K Nails the "Greed is Good" insanity


The New York Times
  • January 12, 2012
  • America Isn’t a Corporation

    “And greed — you mark my words — will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.”

    That’s how the fictional Gordon Gekko finished his famous “Greed is good” speech in the 1987 film “Wall Street.” In the movie, Gekko got his comeuppance. But in real life, Gekkoism triumphed, and policy based on the notion that greed is good is a major reason why income has grown so much more rapidly for the richest 1 percent than for the middle class.

    Today, however, let’s focus on the rest of that sentence, which compares America to a corporation. This, too, is an idea that has been widely accepted. And it’s the main plank of Mitt Romney’s case that he should be president: In effect, he is asserting that what we need to fix our ailing economy is someone who has been successful in business.

    In so doing, he has, of course, invited close scrutiny of his business career. And it turns out that there is at least a whiff of Gordon Gekko in his time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm; he was a buyer and seller of businesses, often to the detriment of their employees, rather than someone who ran companies for the long haul. (Also, when will he release his tax returns?) Nor has he helped his credibility by making untenable claims about his role as a “job creator.”

    But there’s a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen — even great businessmen — do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery.

    Why isn’t a national economy like a corporation? For one thing, there’s no simple bottom line. For another, the economy is vastly more complex than even the largest private company.

    Most relevant for our current situation, however, is the point that even giant corporations sell the great bulk of what they produce to other people, not to their own employees — whereas even small countries sell most of what they produce to themselves, and big countries like America are overwhelmingly their own main customers.

    Yes, there’s a global economy. But six out of seven American workers are employed in service industries, which are largely insulated from international competition, and even our manufacturers sell much of their production to the domestic market.

    And the fact that we mostly sell to ourselves makes an enormous difference when you think about policy.

    Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better. Any dollars taken off the cost side of the balance sheet are added to the bottom line.

    But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared, because cuts in government spending mainly hit domestic producers. And, in each case, the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed.

    Now, to be fair, being a career politician isn’t necessarily a better preparation for managing economic policy than being a businessman. But Mr. Romney is the one claiming that his career makes him especially suited for the presidency. Did I mention that the last businessman to live in the White House was a guy named Herbert Hoover? (Unless you count former President George W. Bush.)

    And there’s also the question of whether Mr. Romney understands the difference between running a business and managing an economy.

    Like many observers, I was somewhat startled by his latest defense of his record at Bain — namely, that he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. One might think that Mr. Romney would rather not talk about a highly successful policy that just about everyone in the Republican Party, including him, denounced at the time.

    But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?

    America certainly needs better economic policies than it has right now — and while most of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive, the president has made some important mistakes. But we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc.


    Here's a photo of Mitt Romney and his money buddies.
    Charles Blow blows the whistle on this insanity.


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    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Mitt "Gordon Gekko" Romney Runs for President

    Check out this 28 min video. Gordon Gekko is running for President.


    Paid for by http://www.winningourfuture.com/


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    Chait on Republican Class Warfare in the USA

    Interesting take on Class realities in the USA today.

    ‘Quiet Rooms’ and Republican Class War


    During the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, John McCain opened up a brief violent fissure by assailing George W. Bush’s plan to cut taxes. McCain began by arguing that it was more prudent to use the temporary budget surplus to reduce the national debt, but he soon began making the case in moral terms, citing the widening gap between rich and poor and insisting it was wrong to cut taxes for the rich. Right-wingers were apoplectic, and even McCain’s GOP allies were shaken. Before that moment, McCain had been a largely conventional conservative with a handful of apostasies, and his campaign little more than an irritant. His populist opposition to the Bush tax cuts marked him as a full-fledged heretic and united the party Establishment against him in full fury.

    There is an echo of this episode in the current fight over Bain Capital, the heart of which is this highly effective and even moving half-hour propaganda film detailing the victims and costs of Romney’s business career. It is not exactly the same thing. The fight is over biography, not policy, and, in this case, the Establishment candidate actually has less right-wing policies than the insurgent. (Though Romney’s program is more right-wing than Bush’s was.) But the dynamic is that the underdog insurgents are exploiting a rift between the Republican elite, which is worshipful of the rich, and the Party’s voters, who view the rich far more suspiciously.

    Romney’s official line is that a huge debate over the human impact of his tenure at Bain Capital is a wonderful thing — a debate over free enterprise that he wants to have with Obama and is sure to win. But Republican behavior suggests it’s all a bluff. Even perpetual Republican Pollyanna Fred Barnes expresses his fear today that Gingrich has opened up a deep wound in Romney’s public image. Romney allies are applying intense pressure on Gingrich to ix-nay the ain-Bay.

    The GOP Establishment’s deepest and most recurrent fear is an open debate over economic class. This is not a debate they feel they can win even among Republican voters, a majority of whom actually favor higher taxes on the rich. Romney’s assertion yesterday that economic inequality should not be discussed, or should only be mentioned in “quiet rooms,” is a too-frank expression of the GOP elite’s actual belief that the issue must be kept out of political debate.

    President Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer, who saw class warfare under every rock, was asked at a 2001 press conference if it inherently constituted class warfare to question any aspect of the distribution of Bush’s tax cuts:

    Q: Does he believe that those who don't like the mix of the different tax brackets that he is proposing are engaging in class warfare?

    MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there is a — there is always an endeavor in this town to deny tax relief to people, because they accuse some people of being rich or successful, and therefore they're not entitled to tax relief. And that's just not a view that President Bush holds.

    We shouldn't split people by class. We shouldn't split people on the basis of success or not success. All income taxpayers deserve tax relief, and that's why the President's proposal addresses it for one and all.

    Q: Well, let's say that one of the opponents believes, okay, the size of the tax cut's about right, but I just think — and I'm for the idea of having four brackets as opposed to five, it's fine — but I just don't think the particular levels he's chosen for those four — is he still engaged in class warfare?

    MR. FLEISCHER: I think if someone were to make a rather economic, esoteric, scholarly argument like you just did, that wouldn't be class warfare.

    “Esoteric, scholarly” captures the same idea Romney is attempting to invoke with “quiet rooms.” Republicans believe any discussion of the disparate class impact of regressive policies constitutes an impermissible attack on the rich. If the matter is to be discussed at all, it must be under conditions that insulate it completely from the political debate, so as to avoid waking up the populist demons.

    The irony is that, unlike the Democrats’ line on taxes (rich people are swell but the fiscal trade-off of keeping their taxes low is not worth it), Gingrich’s assault on Romney actually comes pretty close to a plausible definition of class warfare. If you try to define even mild objections to regressive policies as vicious class warfare, you have little room to object when the real thing arrives.

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