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Jumping on the Popemobile

pope-obamaCross-posted on the Corner

It’s only fair to wait and see what Pope Francis has to say about the environment and climate change in his forthcoming encyclical, although, on the basis of a number of his comments on the topic so far, I don’t see any particular grounds for optimism.

The Obama administration, however, clearly sees an opportunity.

The Guardian reports:

America’s top environmental official has assured the Vatican that the pope and Barack Obama are singing from the same hymnal when it comes to fighting climate change.

In a visit to the Vatican, Gina McCarthy, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), conveyed a message to the pope that Obama shared his view that fighting climate change was a moral obligation.

“I want him to know that the president is aligned with him on these issues and that we are taking action in the United States,” McCarthy told the National Catholic Reporter ahead of the meeting.

She went so far as to suggest that Obama was “working with the pope” when it came to climate change.

That alliance, between Obama and the pope, followed from the view that leaders have a moral duty to preserve the earth and protect those most at risk from the consequences of climate change, McCarthy said.

“I think the most important thing that we can do, working with the pope, is to try to remind ourselves that this is really about protecting natural resources that human beings rely on, and that those folks that are most vulnerable – that the church has always been focused on, those in poverty and low income – are the first that are going to be hit and impacted by a changing climate,” she said.

EPA officials said McCarthy used the meeting to applaud the pope’s efforts to fight climate change, and to brief the Vatican on Obama’s plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming.

It’s worth noting that it is the administration that is saying that it is working with the pope, rather than the other way around (it doesn’t appear to be a Cuba re-run). Nevertheless the administration is clearly making an effort to capitalize on Francis’s popularity. That’s good politics.

Whether the result will be good policy is an entirely different question.

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The Vatican and Cuba: Some More Background

Benedict XVI & Raul CastroCross-posted on the Corner:

With the latest crackdown in Cuba showing just how Havana has ‘read’ Obama’s policy shift towards the Castro dictatorship, this new Foreign Affairs article by Victor Gaetan giving some background to the Vatican’s involvement in the deal that was eventually struck makes timely reading.

Here’s an extract (my emphasis added):

In Cuba, in other words, the church is still strong. Havana’s Cardinal Archbishop Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino has followed a strategy of reconciliation on the island, avoiding confrontation with the state while winning more independence to carry out the Church’s religious mission. Under Ortega’s 35-year leadership, the Catholic Church, to which about 60 percent of all Cubans belong, has emerged as the only national institution that functions independent of the state.

Still, Ortega was never popular with regime opponents because of his determination to avoid confrontation. While Benedict was in Cuba, Ortega refused to arrange a meeting between the Pope and opposition leaders. Instead, devout Catholic opposition leaders such as Oswaldo Paya found Cuban security surrounding his house to prevent him from attending Benedict’s public Mass. Five months later, Paya was killed in a car accident suspected of being engineered by state agents. No investigation has ever been completed. Although Ortega presided over Paya’s funeral, his family says the cardinal did nothing to protect or promote the democracy movement Paya fostered. Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, the regime opponent’s daughter, wrote an eloquent critique of the U.S.–Cuba deal in The Washington Post. Many other dissidents are similarly disappointed with the news.

But Ortega likely isn’t losing sleep about this criticism. He has a different vision of Cuba’s future: A few days after Francis was elected, the Havana Archdiocese published a document containing 23 proposals produced by a group, Laboratorio Casa Cuba, comprised of “professors and researchers of diverse ideologies (Catholics, critical Marxists, republican–socialists, and anarchists).” It’s a Christian social–democratic program, with an anti-American cherry on top.

And that seems sort of fine with Pope Francis. Fancy that!

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Not Quite So Focused on the Constitution Now

pope-obamaCross-posted on the Corner (under a different title).

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

WASHINGTON—Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, welcomed the news today that the Obama administration will defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants and their families.

Perhaps I’m being unfair, but it seems to me that the bishops now seem rather less focused on the constitution than they were at the time they were objecting to various aspects of Obamacare coverage.

Meanwhile the National Catholic Reporter reports:

Catholic groups across the country have been quick to applaud President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration, but they are equally quick to remind that more work remains to be done before finding a “humane” fix to our country’s immigration system.

The executive order, which the president delivered Thursday in a primetime speech, expands the government’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and provides temporary relief from deportation for more than 4 million undocumented immigrant parents who have lived in the country for more than five years.

“Generally, we are celebrating this announcement,” said Michelle Sardone, legalization program director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC. “It’s going to help close to 5 million people. But we’re definitely still working toward finding a permanent solution.”

“This a temporary fix,” she said. “There’s still more fighting to be done, to make sure that everyone is included.”

Press releases from various Catholic organizations echoed the sentiment….

Ah yes, there’s always “more fighting to be done”.

The ratchet turns.

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Bishops for ‘Executive Action’

pope-obamaWith the US waiting to hear what type of ‘executive action’ Obama will announce with respect to illegal immigrants tomorrow, this item from the National Catholic Reporter is worth noting:

In a little noted letter, two bishops chairing committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have put the Catholic bishops on record supporting executive action on immigration. The letter places the bishops on President Barack Obama’s side in his dispute with congressional Republicans, who are opposed to any executive action on immigration.

The letter, sent on Sept. 9 with little fanfare, was addressed to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, with copies of the letter going to Dennis McDonough, chief of staff to the president, and Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The letter was signed by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chair of the Committee on Migration, and Bishop Kevin Vann, chair of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. The conference issued no press release to publicize the letter and I cannot find it on the USCCB website.

The letter asked for executive action “to protect undocumented individuals and families as soon as possible, within the limits of your executive authority.” “With immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress,” the letter said, “our nation can no longer wait to end the suffering of family separation caused by our broken immigration system.”

The Republican leadership in Congress has said any executive action by the president on immigration would poison future cooperation on any topic.

The bishops urge that some major problems on immigration be dealt with through by executive action. These would not be considered minor items by either the administration or Congress…

Meanwhile the Washington Post reports:

BALTIMORE — The nation’s Catholic bishops are jumping into the increasingly contentious battle over immigration reform by backing President Obama’s pledge to act on his own to fix what one bishop called “this broken and immoral system” before Republicans assume control of Capitol Hill in January.

In an unscheduled address Tuesday (Nov. 11) at the hierarchy’s annual meeting, Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the USCCB would continue to work with both parties to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But, Elizondo said, given the urgency of the immigration crisis and the electoral gains by Republicans who have thwarted earlier reform efforts, “it would be derelict not to support administrative actions … which would provide immigrants and their families legal protection.”

This, of course, is the same church that has been so keen to press for what it sees as its constitutional rights under the guise of what it describes as ‘religious freedom’.

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That’s all Folks

endtimesInclude me in the ranks of those who are skeptical about what the US is trying to do in Syria. This particular analysis, however, forms no part of my thinking:

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) over the weekend accused President Obama of arming al Qaeda militants in Syria and said it was evidence “we’re in God’s end times.”

“This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists,” Bachmann said in a radio interview with Understanding the Times that was first reported by Right Wing Watch. “Now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history.”

“Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice,” she continued. “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, his day is at hand. When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; these days would be as the days of Noah.”

Okey dokey.

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Atheism & Islam

Barack Obama:

“But even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia — that spirit of tolerance that is written into your constitution, symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other; that spirit that is embodied in your people — that still lives on…”

The Economist:

A mob attacked Alexander Aan even before an Indonesian court in June jailed him for two and a half years for “inciting religious hatred”. His crime was to write “God does not exist” on a Facebook group he had founded for atheists in Minang, a province of the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Like most non-believers in Islamic regions, he was brought up as a Muslim. And like many who profess godlessness openly, he has been punished.

And note that the language of PC/neo-blasphemy legislation (“inciting religious hatred”) is what is used to condemn him.

The Economist continues:

In a handful of majority-Muslim countries atheists can live safely, if quietly; Turkey is one example, Lebanon another. None makes atheism a specific crime. But none gives atheists legal protection or recognition. Indonesia, for example, demands that people declare themselves as one of six religions; atheism and agnosticism do not count.

What was it that Obama was saying about “the spirit of tolerance” written into the Indonesian constitution?

But at least that’s better than what Egypt is contemplating:

Egypt’s draft constitution makes room for only three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy—a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences.

The Economist goes on to note that “such penalties are rarely carried out”. Most atheists are prosecuted for blasphemy or for “inciting hatred”.

There we go again.

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Et Tu Obama?

Slate’s Daniel Engber sighs over Rubio’s geology problems, but then gives us this extract from a Q&A with then Senator Obama at the Compassion Forum ( know, I know) at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. on April 13, 2008:

Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?
A: What I’ve said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.

Look at that last sentence, and shake your head. Candidate Obama did not, he says, “presume to know” whether the creation of the Earth happened “exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible”. Good grief.

Yet another profile in courage.

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Icon of the Religious Left

Some hagiography here:

Unclear how that whole “revenge” thing fits in with this, however.

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The Obama Administration has announced the latest desperate twist in the country’s nearly half-century-long evasion regarding the central truth of inner-city dysfunction.  Twenty-one social service organizations, schools, and universities have received $10 million to draw up plans for a cradle-to-grave social service network intended to close the achievement, crime, and civility gap between perpetually impoverished communities and the rest of the country.  This cradle-to-grave concept is modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone, a $77 million-a-year enterprise in a 97-block zone in Harlem that tries to surround black children with an inescapable web of social services and educational support that will accompany them all the way into college. 

The press release from the U.S. Department of Education announcing the so-called Promise Neighborhoods awards is full of the usual boilerplate about “collaboration among agencies” and “investments in children”: 

“As shown in Promise Neighborhoods and HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, transforming distressed neighborhoods into communities of opportunity means connecting housing and development resources to education and access to economic opportunity,” said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan.

“Strong communities start with healthy children who have safe places to live and play and high quality educational opportunities that put them on the road to success,” added Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “Creating these strong communities requires everyone, including the federal government, to work together.”

“Well-coordinated investments and actions at the local level can generate significant change and positively impact opportunities for children,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement. “To build communities of opportunity, residents must feel safe to live, learn and go about their business. We look forward to continuing working with our partners in support of this innovative initiative.

Promise Neighborhoods . . . is closely linked to the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which seeks to align federal housing, education, justice, and health programs with the overarching goal of transforming neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity.

Blah, blah, blah.  Nowhere in the various documents surrounding these initiatives is there a single mention of the only thing that will turn these communities around: marriage.  (more…)




Obama the Muslim (2)

Over in the Corner, I take a look at some smart commentary on the Obama-is-a-Muslim poll findings.


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