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December 20, 2014


Gotta hand it to him: He’s consistent

Let’s tip our hats to the oft-infuriating Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky: He is a true, government-keep-your-mitts-off Libertarian. Thus he supports re-opening US relations with Cuba, which puts him at odds with many of his GOP colleagues. He and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are now throwing barbs on Twitter and Facebook.

Some snippets from his Time op-ed: “Even the supporters of the embargo agree that it has not worked. A policy of isolationism with Cuba and engagement with China and Vietnam does not make any sense. Communism can’t survive the captivating allure of capitalism. Let’s overwhelm the Castro regime with iPhones, iPads, American cars, and American ingenuity.” … “The supporters of the embargo against Cuba speak with heated passion but fall strangely silent when asked how trade with Cuba is so different than trade with Russia or China or Vietnam” … “Those who love freedom and want to see a free Cuba should continue to demand nothing less than a democratic republic that defends the rights of the individual. After 50 years of embargo and no evidence of tyranny losing its grip, maybe it’s time for a new approach.” See the rest here.

Paul’s argument may surprise many with a Tea Party image of Libertarians, but he actually lines up with his tribe’s heritage. Libertarianism stands closer to Anarchism (Merriam Webster’s: “a belief that government and laws are not necessary”) than to traditional Conservativism (a “belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society”). They’ve been pro-choice on abortion and against any regulation of pornography, drugs, prostitution, worker safety, and pollution.

Evangelical Christians, beware.

This makes for strange bedfellows. Paul stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Catholic Church hierarchy on the Cuban issue, which — contrary to popular belief — is progressive on economic issues. Popes have been pushing the two nations together for years. The Senator is far more attuned to practical reality than the editors of the Washington Post, who decried the recent policy change. Their opening paragraph:

On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regime everything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide Havana with a fresh source of desperately needed hard currency and eliminate U.S. leverage for political reforms.

Much can be said in reply (like, haven’t we heard this for fifty years?), but maybe we should leave it to Luke Brinker of Salon:

… a lack of human rights hasn’t hindered the U.S. from maintaining ties with such regimes as those in China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Would the Post have the U.S. review its relations with those countries, too? Nor did egregious human rights violations stop the U.S. from propping up right-wing authoritarian regimes during the Cold War. Ah, but those murderous regimes were anti-Communist, which, for the Post’s purposes, merited U.S. support.

Take the Post editorial board’s reaction to the 2006 death of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, whose regime murdered or disappeared an estimated 3,216 people and subjected more than 38,000 political prisoners to confinement and torture. Sure, the Post acknowledged, Pinochet committed some “evil” deeds, but the paper lauded him for his pro-corporate policies. (Memo to the Post editorial board: iron rule combined with corporatism typically goes by the name “fascism.”)

“To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle,” the Post gushed.

The Post credited Pinochet’s free market policies for Chile’s eventual transformation into a democracy — which makes all the more puzzling the Post’s opposition to a policy that would more fully integrate Cuba into the global economy.

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December 13, 2014


Catholic Bishops: End Fossil Fuel Addiction

Roman Catholic bishops from around the world have called for a binding international agreement that would wean humanity from fossil fuels, citing protection of the poor as a major reason.  Here is their statement:

Catholic Bishops͛ statement in Lima on the road to Paris
Introduction – from COP20 to COP21

We Catholic Bishops from all continents have come together in Lima on the occasion of COP20 to join the efforts of world leaders as they work towards signing a just and legally binding climate agreement in Paris in 2015.

Following the evangelical option for the poor, we work closely with the most vulnerable communities and the excluded and as such are closely attuned to how the problem of climate change is affecting them. Our message to political leaders and all people of good will is rooted in the experience and suffering of these poor communities.

Humankind on the Planet Earth is ordained to live in equity, justice and dignity, peace and harmony in the midst of the order of Creation. Humankind is ordered to treat respectfully Creation, which has a value in itself. We Catholic Bishops recognize the atmosphere, rainforests, oceans and agricultural land as common good that require our care.

Climate Change and Climate Justice today
We recognize that much good has happened on Earth through the rightful and responsible intelligence, technology and industry of humankind under God͛s loving care. And yet in recent decades many grave adversities such as climate change, with its devastating impact on Nature itself, on food security, health and migration, led to a great number of suffering people worldwide.

We express an answer to what is considered God͛s appeal to take action on the urgent and damaging situation of global climate warming. The main responsibility for this situation lies with the dominant global economic system, which is a human creation. In viewing objectively the destructive
effects of a financial and economic order based on the primacy of the market and profit, which has failed to put the human being and the common good at the heart of the economy, one must recognize the systemic failures of this order and the need for a new financial and economic order.

We note with appreciation that, in our times, States, Religions and Groups of Civil Society and individuals at all levels are recognizing more and more the natural as well as the ethical concerns of this matter. We wish to see
therefore a deepening of the discourse at the COP20 in Lima, to ensure concrete decisions are taken at COP21 to overcome the climate challenge and to set us on new sustainable pathways.

We recognize that in line with truly democratic principles the poor and the poorer nations, who are many and are more affected by climate change impacts, are also agents in the development of nations and human life on earth. They also give us a voice and a sense of hope in our times as we face
crises such as climate change. We hope their gentle, meaningful and active participation will encourage decision makers to develop more mixed systems instead of “one size fits all” modern technological-industrial approaches.

We as Bishops call on all parties
1. to keep in mind not only the technical but particularly the ethical and moral dimensions of climate change as indicated in Article 3 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

2. To adopt a fair and legally binding global agreement based on the universal human rights applicable to all in Paris in 2015.

3. to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degree Celsius, relative to preRindustrial levels, in order to protect frontline  communities suffering from the impacts of climate change, such as those in the Pacific Islands and in the coastal regions.

4. to build new models of development and lifestyles that are both climate compatible and bring people out of poverty. Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing
in 100% renewables with sustainable energy access for all.

5. to ensure that the 2015 agreement delivers an adaptation approach that adequately responds to the immediate needs of the most vulnerable communities and builds on local alternatives. They should ensure that 50% of public funds go to meeting their adaptation needs.

6. to recognize that adaptation needs are contingent on the success of mitigation measures taken. Those responsible for climate change have responsibilities to assist the most vulnerable in adapting and managing loss and damage and to share the necessary technology and knowhow.

7. to adopt clear roadmaps on how countries will meet predictable and additional finance commitments and establish robust and transparent accounting methodologies.

Our commitment
We Catholic Bishops believe that Creation is life offered, is a gift for one another and that all will have the needed ͞daily bread͟, providing sustainable food security and nutrition.

We Catholic Bishops commit ourselves to developing the sense of gratuitousness͛ to contribute to a lifestyle which frees us from a desire of appropriation and enables us to be respectful of the dignity of the person and the harmony of creation.

We Bishops want to accompany the political process and seek dialogue to bring the voices of the poor to the table of decisionmakers;

We are convinced that everyone has a capacity to contribute to overcome climate change and to choose sustainable lifestyles.

We Bishops call on all Catholics and people of good will to engage on the road to Paris as a starting point for a new life in harmony with Creation respecting planetary boundaries.

Monsignor Salvador Piñeiro GarcíaRCalderón, Archbishop of Ayacucho, Peru. President of the Bishops’ Conference of Peru.

Monsignor Pedro Barreto Jimeno, Archbishop of Huancayo, Peru. President of the Justice and Solidarity Department of the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM)

Monsignor Sithembele Antón Sipuka, Bishop of Umtata, South Africa.Representative of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)

Monsignor Theotonius Gomes, Auxiliary Bishop of Dhaka (Emeritus), Bangladesh. Representative of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC)

Monsignor Marc Stenger, Bishop of Troyes, Representative of the Episcopal Conference of France

Monsignor Zanoni Demettino Castro, Archbishop of Feira de Santana, Conference of Brazil

Monsignor Richard Alarcón Urrutia, Bishop of Tarma, President of Caritas Peru

Monsignor Jaime Rodríguez, Bishop of Huánuco, Perú

Monsignor Alfredo Vizcarra, Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Francisco Javier de Jaén, Perú

Written in collaboration with our Catholic agencies CEAS (Peru), CIDSE, Caritas Internationalis, CAFOD (UK), CCFD-Terre Solidaire (France), Development and Peace (Canada), MISEREOR (Germany) and Secours Catholique (France), Trócaire (Ireland).

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December 8, 2014


Catholic Theologians’ statement on racial justice

Almost 200 Catholic theologians signed on to a “statement of commitment to racial justice.” It is posted on the Catholic Moral Theology” web site and it speaks for itself.  Here’s a paragraph, followed by a link: The season of Advent is meant to be a time when Christians remember the birth of Jesus Christ, when God […]

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December 8, 2014


Wisdom from the Jesuits: Climate change signals a vapid spirituality

Jamie Today, S.J., displayed Ignatian Spirituality at its finest in his November 15th piece at Ecojesuit, “Healing a broken world from our communities: Thinking and praying on the gift of creation.”

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December 6, 2014


Evangelical Response to Eric Garner Decision: The System Failed

Once again, the popular image of a Rush Limbaugh faith crumbles. Christianity Today surveyed postings from Evangelical advocates after a grand jury declined to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose choke hold evidently contributed Eric Garner’s death. Almost all the leaders were disheartened.

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November 30, 2014


Ferguson and complexity

I have thoughts about events in Ferguson — but they’re based on hearsay and semi-impressions from thousands of miles away. They wouldn’t be worth much if I articulated them on a blog. However, Mark Shields and David Brooks explored the incident’s complexity and pointed out that not all was obvious.  I found that they spoke […]

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November 24, 2014


Nap time is over

My lament over the 2014 mid-term elections doesn’t always harmonize with the nation-wide liberal blues. Perhaps that’s because I’m an old-style, New Deal political liberal with a traditional theology and time-honored family values, at once more progressive and conservative than today’s cultural reformer. I mourn of hidden elephants, orphaned Democrats, and a ghettoized intelligentsia. My […]

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September 30, 2014


ISIS Sex Trafficking

Haleh Esfandiari is the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She describes how the so-called “Islamic State” fills its coffers by sex trafficking, among other things.

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September 29, 2014


Two items

A shout-out to all prowling the Northeastern United States in October …

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September 19, 2014


A dinna unnerstan! (I don’t understand!)

Personally, I’m glad the United Kingdom will remain “united,” but I couldn’t resist this re-posting:

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