Archive for Mitt Romney

A Nobel Peace Prize Won Last Term, A Hope That It Can Be Earned This Term

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This morning I celebrated mass for the religious community in which I live. I am on the schedule as the presider every wednesday, but this particular wednesday brought me back to another early morning liturgy four years ago. While living in Washington, DC, during my Franciscan formation and theology and ministry studies, I happened — by chance — to be assigned to preach at the morning mass the morning after the last election. I remember the headlines of the newspapers, not just in the US, but internationally. Back in 2008 my German was a lot less rusty than it is today and I tried to keep up with at least one paper, in this case, Süddeutsche Zeitung. I recall the big, bold headline that morning after the election: “America — Rises from the Ashes.” The international community celebrated the hope and the promise that came with the election of Barack Obama in the United States. The world was worn and weary after eight years of the Bush administration’s policies, particularly abroad, and billions of the the world’s citizens looked to the US for what was to come.

The fervor and international enthusiasm led to President Obama’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. People were shocked, myself included. While I will readily admit that I too was enthusiastic about the possibilities that laid ahead, while realistic about the likely political battles that ensued (I did live in DC after all), I couldn’t believe that such a significant sign of typically lifelong achievement had been awarded so quickly. I was proud of our president, but more heartened by what I took this symbolic move to mean for the rest of the world.

And then reality set in. Two very painful, violent, and — at least in one case, if not in two — frivolous wars carried on. Mechanisms for injustice — Guantanamo Bay, international detention centers, etc. — remained in status quo; environmental concerns were left unaddressed in any significant way; and drone attacks broadened our violent imperialism internationally.

What had been the international signal of hope and peace, epitomized by the Nobel Prize, became something of an embarrassment, something that could not really be explained or justified.

Granted, the stakes were high and the absolute disregard for dialogue, progress, collaboration, and bipartisanship on the part of the Republicans in Congress, symbolized by Mitch McConnell’s now famous declaration that the GOP’s primary goal would be to make sure President Obama wasn’t reelected (its goal was not the American people by his own omission), certainly explains some of the roadblocks to achieving even more than the very important and valuable health-care reform, repealing of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the financial actions that prevented a reliving of the early 1930s. Nevertheless, President Obama and his administration need to take their share of responsibility for inaction, lack of serious engagement domestically and internationally in peacemaking and climate change, and the implementation of more domestic policies that would guarantee the rights of all people.

As a Franciscan friar, I am particularly haunted by the specter of the Nobel. Violence may be our biggest concern right now. Some will cry “abortion, abortion,” but as legal scholars and moral theologians have replied until they are hoarse and frustrated, the President of the United States has almost no ability to directly or, perhaps with a few very removed exceptions such as court appointments, event indirectly affect that law and effect the change for which anti-abortion protestors clamor. What the President does have absolute control over are executive orders that authorize drone attacks over seas, the covert engagement of elite military attacks that proceed with impunity, and other policies that directly affect domestic concerns of justice and civil rights.

At the beginning of this next term, the admitted last political office the President will pursue, I have some recommendations, perhaps more appropriately admonitions, to offer. These have everything to do with the Nobel Prize won in the last term, it is my hope that in the following four years it might be genuinely earned.

  • End the Drone Strikes — This is one of the worst scars that mar the international and moral face of the United States today. The ethical complexity of these attacks goes without enough consideration and we should end this sort of violent imperialism.
  • Seriously Address Climate Change — In the wake of Hurricane (“superstorm”) Sandy, there is no better time than the present to use the position of the President of the United States to take the lead at home and abroad in addressing the way in which our Sister Mother Earth (as St. Francis would say) is being destroyed and, in turn, is becoming increasingly in habitable for humanity and the rest of creation.
  • Move Beyond Tax-Code Solutions — Yes, the wealthy must pay their fair share, which includes changing the policies that allow the sinful loopholes that allow people who make money simply by having a lot of money to pay unjustly low rates. However, there are other ways this country needs to get its act together in terms of establishing a more equitable and egalitarian society. Can we have a new FDR-like movement? Can we shift the “anti-government at all costs” rhetoric so popular today to remember what it means to be part of a society that is not filled with individuals, but celebrates our interdependence?
  • Put the Poor First — This really follows the previous point and is as self-explanatory as possible. When you have to make a decision, don’t be concerned with what the wealthy, the corporations (which are not people, but juridic fictions), the other politicians, and the plutocrats will think or react — look at your office through the lens of the most disenfranchised, poor, and marginalized. Use your power for good and not the evil that comes with supporting those who benefit from the demise of the populous, which, by the way, is how most politicians in recent history act. Be the change that you encouraged us to believe in!
  • Education, Education, Education — By which I do not mean more standardized tests nor hedgehog policies for science and math alone. We need a citizenry that can think and, as an educator and one who moves in such circles, I can assure you that we are not, as a nation, training our young people to think today. We are training them to be mechanical reproducers of a limited pool of information. Education is both an ethical issue and a concern for national security; let’s treat it appropriately!
  • Don’t Be Afraid, You Have Nothing To Lose Now — Take strength in accomplishing and inaugurating what requires courage and conviction. You have four more years to do what you intimated that you could: so do it! Don’t let this term turn into the worthless second term of President Bush or the fiasco of sideshow politics in the second term of President Clinton. You are in a unique place, at a unique time, in a dire circumstance to make things happen — if only through authentic and inspiring encouragement and empowering of the people.

These are simply a few of the many things I would tell President Obama if, in some alternative universe, he would seek out my opinion. I am hopeful still, but then again I am a Christian and, as such, I live in Easter Hope. I believe President Obama was the right person for this office in this election, but only insofar as he is able to use these four years in ways resembling what I name here. My thoughts and prayers are with you!

Photo: Pool

Cardinal Dolan’s Response to the ‘Al Smith Dinner’ Critiques

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Over on his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age, the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, offers a very well-reasoned reflection on why inviting politicians with whom one does not agree on every issue to the table (literally the dinner table in this case) is an important, necessary, and noble move. He has received an intense amount of criticism from some groups of people for his invitation to President Obama in the wake of the recent scuffle between some bishops (including Cardinal Dolan) and some other Catholic organizations and the US Department of Health and Human Services over implementation of certain laws.

Cardinal Dolan writes:

The Al Smith Dinner has never been without controversy, since, as Carl Anderson reminded us, politics can inspire disdain and negativity as well as patriotism and civility.

This year is surely no exception: I am receiving stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama (and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Governor Romney).

Of course, as the Cardinal rightly notes in his important parenthetical reference to simultaneous protests about Governor Romney’s invite, the GOP candidate is equally guilty of failing the “Catholic moral test” that some wish to levy each election cycle.

It is true: there are many things about President Obama, his executive administration, and the Democratic Party more broadly that Catholics in good conscience must challenge and reject. Among these things are issues of war, especially the proliferation of drone strikes around the world, and attitudes toward abortion, to name two.

Nevertheless, there are many things about Governor Romney, his running mate, and the Republican Party more broadly that Catholics in good conscience must challenge and reject. Among these things are issues of war, torture and capital punishment; attitudes toward gun control; and economic policy and the general preferences for the wealthy over the poor, the working-class, and the middle-class populations.

Cardinal Dolan does an excellent job highlighting four keen reasons for why an event like the Al Smith dinner should include politicians like President Obama and Governor Romney, neither of whom would otherwise rate “endorsement” (something the Cardinal goes to great measures to explain the Church does not do).

So, my correspondents ask, how can you justify inviting the President? Let me try to explain.

For one, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church. It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.

Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

Three, the teaching of the Church, so radiant in the Second Vatican Council, is that the posture of the Church towards culture, society, and government is that of engagementand dialogue. In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one. Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States.  And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences.  What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?

Finally, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom. In fact, one could make the case that anyone attending the dinner, even the two candidates, would, by the vibrant solidarity of the evening, be reminded that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion, assemble on behalf of poor women and their babies, born and unborn, in a spirit of civility and respect.

In conclusion, Cardinal Dolan makes the honest point that Jesus too was the cause of scandal for those he repeatedly welcomed at table.

In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.

But isn’t that what so many people want? To simply eat alone? To insist that their individual perspectives, their agendas, their interests, their worldviews are really Catholic, correct, patriotic, or whatever?

Our culture has become so polarized that, in effect, most people end up “eating alone” because they can’t stand to listen to those whose views differ from their own. Perhaps we all need to be a little more like Cardinal Dolan, who, as he tries to express in his post, is simply trying to eat the way Jesus did — with everyone. 

Let’s not demonize others: we’re no saints either!

Photo: NYT

US Bishops, Nuns Agree: Romney, Ryan Budget ‘Fails Moral Test’

Posted in LCWR, Social Justice with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

The day after the LCWR completes its annual meeting the GOP presumptive nominee for president of the United States, Mitt Romney, announced that he has selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his VP running mate. What is interesting about this announcement is that one of the few things about which the United States Bishops have explicitly agreed with the United States Women Religious in terms of politics and faith is the immoral status of the so-called “Ryan Budget.”

On April 17 the US Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement about the Ryan budget after the professed Roman Catholic legislator claimed that his budget was “inspired by his Catholic faith.” According to a Religion News Service article:

A week after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan claimed his Catholic faith inspired the Republicans’ cost-cutting budget plan, the nation’s Catholic bishops reiterated their demand that the federal budget protect the poor, and said the GOP measure “fails to meet these moral criteria.”

Similarly, Bishop Stephen Blaire of California expressed additional and direct concern over the economic policies proposed by the young congressman and now VP nominee, as the RNS story continues:

Tuesday’s statement from the bishops came the same day as Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., called a proposed cut in benefits for children of immigrants “unjust and wrong.” Blaire, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, also decried any cuts in food stamps while preserving federal subsidies for industrial farming enterprises.

“Congress faces a difficult task to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices,” Blaire wrote to the House Agriculture Committee. “Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.”

During a time so marked by the public disagreement between the Women Religious and the Bishops in the United States following the CDF’s “Doctrinal Assessment” of the LCWR, it is striking to note the unified front on this particular moral issue: both the bishops and nuns have been and continue to be adamantly opposed to the Ryan budget and economic policies.

This unjust economic policy and proposed budget served as the impetus for the now well-known “Nuns on the Bus” campaign launched this Spring by several representatives of American Women Religious communities and sponsored by NETWORK, the Catholic Social-Justice Lobby. In a CNN report, Sister Simone Cambell, executive director of NETWORK, explained:

“It is one thing to have political differences, but to try to hide a budget that will devastate people and claim that it is supported by your faith. It is unacceptable. He is wrong and he needs to be told so.”

This joint resolve to fight for the principles of Catholic Moral Teaching stands as a major obstacle for the GOP. Can Catholics in good conscience vote for a presidential ticket that represents such an immoral and unjust position?

There is, as always, lots of talk by some about the Democratic party’s platform as being “pro-choice” and the moral questions related to voting for candidates with such views. As the Bishops make clear in their voting-guide document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” Roman Catholics are not to be one-issue voters, but people who take into account a wide array of moral issues and vote according to their well-formed consciences.

Additionally, the Canon and Civil Lawyer and former Law-School Dean Nicholas Cafardi recently raised some important questions about what it means to even talk about a “pro-life” candidate and whether the GOP presumptive nominee qualifies: “Which Presidential Candidate is Truly Pro-Life?

The immorality of the Paul Ryan Budget and his economic policies that stand in stark contrast to Catholic Moral teaching — as condemned by both the US Bishops and American Nuns, as well as others — is one of these factors that must also inform one’s decision this Fall.

Photo: AP

Dating God Podcast #05 — Mormon Historian and Catholic Priest

Posted in Dating God Podcast with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This past Sunday, “The Book of Mormon,” the hit broadway musical created by the same guys who brought the world Comedy Central’s “South Park,” took home 9 Tony Awards. It was nominated for 14 in total, making it the most nominated show of the season. This week’s podcast is something of a special “Mormon Episode” featuring a Franciscan Friar, Catholic Priest and Mormon Historian, Fr. Daniel Dwyer, OFM. A 15-year member of the Mormon Historical Association, Dwyer offers us a look into his interest into the Mormon tradition as a man of faith and as a professional historian.  He also discusses some recent Mormon-related events like the success of the Broadway musical, the HBO television program about polygamists, “Big Love,” and Mitt Romney’s possible Presidential Campaign.

Listen to the Podcast Streaming Online: Dating God Podcast #05

Listen to the Podcast or Subscribe on iTunes: Dating God Podcast on iTunes

Photo: Book of Mormon Musical



American Politics and a ‘Call from God’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

On June 1st the Washington Post posted a discussion thread on its “On Faith” blog that asked its contributors to comment on the relationship between political candidates and their decision to run or not run for office and the allegation that God has either called or not called a particular candidate to that mission. This strikes me as a particularly timely discussion given the ramping-up of political campaigns in anticipation of the 2012 Presidential election. Additionally, more and more potential candidates (particularly those affiliated with the GOP) are talking about God in their speeches. Here is the way the discussion was started:

Several of America’s most prominent potential Republican presidential candidates have recently said that they received divine guidance on the decision of whether or not to run for the nation’s highest office. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee announced that he will not run for president, calling his decision “a spiritual one.” Huckabee said, “Being president is a job that takes one to the limit of his or her human capacity. For me, to do it apart from the inner confidence that I was undertaking it without God’s full blessing is simply unthinkable.” On the other hand, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R), told Iowa Public Television that she, too, has prayed about the decision and received an answer:”Yes, I’ve had that calling and that tugging on my heart that [running for president] is the right thing to do.” Does God endorse candidates? Is politics a religious vocation?

Now there are already several responses posted online by a variety of Washington Post commentators (to view the discussion go here). Here I will offer some initial responses to the two questions posed by the “On Faith” blog editors, namely “Does God endorse candidates?” and “Is politics a religious vocation?”

I believe that these two questions need to be asked in opposite order, for the question of one’s vocation — the mission, purpose, exercise of divine-given gifts, etc. — must be addressed prior to discussing whether or not God “ordains” (literally sets apart or selects) this or that candidate for political office. So the first thing that must be asked is what is meant by religious vocation.

To ask whether or not political office is a “religious vocation” seems to presume a certain definition (not explicitly identified in the initial discussion thread) about what a “vocation” is and whether or not there are “non-religious vocations” as indicated by the presence of the qualifier “religious.” From my perspective each person has a vocation, by which I mean the invitation to live a certain way in response to the call (the latin: vocare, the etymological source of “vocation”) from God found as the coextensive feature of one’s “True Self.”

Now, some people will certainly critique my use of “True Self” as if I subscribed to a form of quasi-platonism that identified an ideal to which an imperfect iteration of that ideal (namely the “false self”) could aspire. But the notion of True Self I speak of here has to do with the Scotist principle of individuation, popularly called haecceitas, that is radically unique and incommunicable. It is “who we really are” and it is coextensive or really identical with our very existence. It is absolutely unrepeatable. It is who God intended “me” or “you” or “that other person” to be and it is not universal.

I believe that every iteration, then, of vocation is de facto “religious,” because what it means to speak about vocation — at least from a Franciscan perspective — has little to do with what one does and more to do with how one does it. If you live out your life as you are in God’s eyes, you are living out your vocation and certainly there are some who have the gifts, skills, patience, leadership, and so forth to be a political figure. How one exercises that office is a reflection of who that person is as living his or her vocation more than the office (the what) itself.

So to the first question, “does God endorse candidates?” I think the answer is yes.

Now, that will likely upset some people, but we see in Scripture a clear description of which sort of people — politicians, leaders, etc. — God “endorses” (although the word “endorse” is not entirely helpful). God always takes the side of those who work for justice, who speak out for the poor, abused, marginalized and voiceless. God is the one who empowers people to bring good news (literally, the Gospel) to the afflicted and supports the people who speak Truth to power. We call these folks prophets.

There are very few prophets, I would wager, in the American political system. It is not often that we see those who gain the “endorsement” of God. People like Huckabee, Bachmann, Pawlenty, Romney and others who claim divine support for their particular agendas have not exhibited those qualities that we understand to be representative of those who have “God on their side.” Instead, God is invoked to garner the support of the naïve believers who desire only to hear the evocation of their religious tradition (usually some form of Christianity), even of the most vacuous sort.

Do I believe that there are politicians that are “called by God” to serve the world and society? Sure. But I have not seen any yet. And these folks who so easily let the name of God slip into their political rhetoric are in that sense charlatans of the highest order, because a real prophet could never be elected by Republicans (or Democrats for that matter); the real prophet, like so many before, would likely be stoned or crucified instead.

Photos: Stock; Sojourners
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