Monday, November 29, 2010

Moral leadership from the pope?

Big, big news, right? All of a sudden, Ratzinger has said in a new book that there might be some morality in condom use.

In "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Sign of the Times," Benedict condones the use of condoms in some instances.

The pope said that to prevent infection with HIV, for instance in the case of a male prostitute, a condom can be the first step in assuming moral responsibility.

So good news, right? At last, the Catholic Church has decided to begin to participate in moral debate in the world. At least, that was the buzz when the book first came out, with different observers parsing his words, trying to figure out if he was only talking about male prostitutes, or whether the same reasoning applies to female prostitutes, or male prostitutes in relationships with women, or whether it applies to husbands and wives who want to avoid infecting each other.

I guess the answer is, not so fast. For instance, here's what the spokesman for the Vatican said in trying to explain the moral calculus involved in this new position:

But let me give you a pretty simple example. Let's suppose we've got a bunch of muggers who like to use steel pipes when they mug people. But some muggers say, gosh, you know, we don't need to hurt them that badly to rob them. Let's put foam pads on our pipes. Then we'll just stun them for a while, rob them and go away. So if the pope then said, well, yes, I think that using padded pipes is actually a little step in a moral direction there, that doesn't mean he's justifying using padded pipes to mug people. He's just saying, well, they did something terrible, but while they were doing that, they had a little flicker of conscience there that led them in the right direction. That may grow further, so they stop mugging people completely.

I could hardly believe it when I heard this. In the view of this guy, who has made a vow to abstain from sex for his entire life, having the kind of sex that he and other sworn celibates don't approve of is equivalent to beating people with steel pipes and robbing them.

Does this sound like someone who is qualified to engage in any kind of debate about morality?

And if you're still undecided, just a reminder about the moral values of the Vicar of Christ, the anointed representative of God on Earth:

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Anything happen today?

It was kind of an unusual day today because I watched one network news broadcast from beginning to end.

Just in case you're wondering, here are some stories I didn't learn about tonight on the NBC News:

Washington (CNN) -- The GOP caucus in the Senate agreed Tuesday night to ban earmarks, a policy House Republicans already have in place and are expected to keep in the new Congress.

NEW YORK ( -- U.S. stocks tumbled Tuesday, with all three major indexes down nearly 2%, as investors cast a worried eye at economic developments in Europe and China.

SAN FRANCISCO ( -- A number of Facebook users found themselves abruptly cut off from the site Tuesday, after a glitch in site's system to detect fake accounts inadvertently disabled legitimate ones.

Cap Haitien, Haiti (CNN) -- Haiti's government appeared Tuesday to have lost control of Cap Haitien, where demonstrators angry over what they see as the United Nations' role in starting the ongoing cholera epidemic controlled many of the streets for a second consecutive day.

CNN) -- Iran has charged two German journalists who interviewed the son and lawyer of a woman condemned to die by stoning with espionage, Iranian media reported Tuesday.

Instead, here's the list of stories NBC showed tonight:

Top of the broadcast--English prince announces engagement.
followup--interview with the kid's father, who is also an English prince.
Charles Rangel convicted of ethics violations.
Airport screening provokes passenger protests.
The award of the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Salvatore Giunta.
The Beatles catalogue is now available on iTunes.
President Obama has a new children's book out.
A retrospective story on the last big wedding of an English prince.

Yes, that's the sum and substance of the broadcast. At least one third was devoted to English royalty.

Good thing nothing happened today.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanks, Josh!

Back when I started blogging I was hoping to do what Josh Marshall does: mostly take a lot of news and information that's already out there, combine it with analysis and other information, some of which might come from my unique perspective, and see what meaning I can gather.

In those early years I was also amazed that Josh seemed to keep the same kind of hours that I keep, putting up great posts late at night.

Fortunately for the world, Josh is better at it than I am. He's also done a tremendous amount of original reporting, and made and kept alive stories that never would have gone anywhere without him. Among the chief examples are his work on the long-running Duke Cunningham bribery scandal, Bush's plans to kill off Social Security (including the umbrage the Bushies took when critics started using the term, privatization, that the Bushies had started out with), and the Bush administration's purge of inconvenient U.S. Attorneys.

Talking Points Memo just celebrated its tenth anniversary in operation. I don't know exactly when I started reading it, but it was almost immediately that I concluded that it was essential reading to understand politics and public life in the United States.

Congratulations, Josh, and thanks!

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