Friday, October 05, 2007

A Little Bit of Faith and a Little Bit of Politics...

...but not together. There are two things I wanted to touch on briefly here.

The first concerns the ongoing legal difficulties with the Catholic Archdiocese of Southern California, which has agreed to pay the victims of sexual abuse by priests a total of $660 million. In yesterday's Washington Post, there was an article on page A-3 talking about one of the steps the archdiocese is taking in order to help pay those massive costs: evicting nuns and selling their property. In the piece, entitled "Nuns' Evictions Pose Perception Problem for Catholic Church," staff writer Karl Vick writes:

"Here in Santa Barbara, the sins of the fathers are being visited on the Sisters of Bethany. The three nuns living in a modest building on Nopal Street received an eviction notice last month ordering them to be out by Dec. 31. Earlier 'would be acceptable as well,' the letter said.

"Among those being forced to move is Sister Angela Escalera, 69, who, diabetic and able to get around only with a walker, had hoped to live out her days in the Santa Barbara convent. 'This is how the archdiocese is going about getting the money to pay off the victims,' said her younger sister, Rosemary Escalera Gutierrez, 64, a former nun in the order."

Vick went on to say that Gutierrez was having to speak on behalf of her sister because the church had "slapped a gag order on the nuns."

I haven't been able to find a copy of the complete letter, but needless to say this gives me cause for concern (even though I'm not Catholic). I'm sure there are folks in the archdiocese who are saddened that they are having to "rob Peter to pay Paul," but I would like to think that church officials would have done a better job of trying to better explain this decision. And where are the sisters supposed to go? I didn't see a single mention in the article of trying to assist the three nuns in finding new housing; are they trying to demonstrate that the sisters are expendable -- thanks for your service, now move along? I think that question was partially answered by another former member of the order: "These nuns are precious to us, but there are priests living in fabulous-looking little houses by themselves. You don't see them getting kicked out."

You can read the complete article here.
On the political side, today I attended a conference hosted by Americans for Prosperity, an organization that fights for greater transparency in the appropriations process, the elimination of earmarks and wasteful spending, smaller government -- in essence, conservative values that the Republican Party seems to be abandoning. All of the candidates running for president from both parties were invited; none of the Democrats accepted, while Giuliani, Romney, Paul, Brownback, Thompson, Huckabee, and McCain were all scheduled to speak at various points during the two-day event.

A coworker and I attended the morning session today and heard Giuliani, Huckabee, and several others speak. A few quick thoughts:

  • I liked Giuliani's talk, which ran right around half-an-hour and was focused purely on economic themes. However, it didn't have that assertiveness that a lot of people associate with him in the context of his 9/11 days (which he actually left out of his remarks). He's still a contender for my vote, but I'll need to see a little more passion.

  • Huckabee gave what I thought was the best set of comments (although he was only allowed 7 minutes, as opposed to the larger blocks of time set aside for Giuliani, Thompson, McCain, and Romney), and he spoke without once referring to any written remarks. Having met him twice over the years and having had a chance to chat with him, I think he would make an outstanding nominee -- but he's got huge hurdles in the way of recognition and fundraising that he'll need to overcome.

  • I didn't catch much of Ron Paul's speech, but he and Brownback (like Huckabee) were only given about five minutes to address the crowd. Paul's strict "overbudget-busting" philosophy and remarks fired up what was already a pro-Ron crowd, but I thought the most amusing part was what I have referred to after the fact as his "Oscar moment." In the Oscars, when an award recipient goes over their allotted time, the orchestra starts up and plays them off the stage whether they're finished or not. About five minutes in, the taped music being used throughout the morning started up, and I have expected to see a lovely woman in a long gown come out on stage to escort him off. Paul, however, just talked that much louder -- much to the delight of the crowd -- and eventually was able to finish without musical accompaniment.

Unfortunately, Thompson's schedule was completely changed, and I had to leave over an hour before he ended up taking the stage -- and wasn't able to hear his remarks. It was a fun morning, and certainly gives me a lot more to think about in the coming months (all the time maintaining a certain realistic attitude that -- while I'd like to see us retake the House and Senate and keep the White House -- it's going to be a big swing in the other direction next year).

James Carville, however, in an interview with Politico (a fairly-new D.C. political newspaper), basically said that a lot can happen, and gave a pretty frank assessment of how things can change. Among his statements were these two quotes which I have to admit I enjoyed reading, even if only for a moment:

“We are a little bit of a shellshocked political party. We somehow or another always figure out a way to blow it,” Democratic strategist James Carville said. “Democrats have to talk their way out of winning.” -- and -- “Republicans have just gotten very good at this,” Carville said of presidential politics. “Somehow or another, in the last three elections, they’ve tended to close a little better than we have. No. 3 is that they have a more disciplined and effective echo chamber.”

Time will tell -- although with the nominee for both parties being chosen by mid-February (if things play out like many think they well), things will be here before we know it.


karen said...

For some reason, I've had problems with accessing your blog...I'm finally able now! I've missed it and I have a lot to catch up!

I can't believe the nun situation! That is absolutely unacceptable.

Thanks for the political recap. Have you ever considered editorial writing?

Kansas Bob said...

Sad that nuns are having to suffer for the sins of the fathers. Guess it is business as usual but in a different vein.

I am not sure who will get the republican nod but if Rudy gets it then it may make voting for Hillary a bit easier :)

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Hi, its been awhile since I stopped by but something prompted me today and then I saw your post about the Catholic church kicking out nuns and I am OUTRAGED! How dare them. I am so mad I need to cool off and write on my own blog about this (my aunt is a nun in So. Cal. so this hits close to home literally)

NoVA Dad said...

Karen - Thanks for the compliment, but I don't think I'm really qualified to be an editorial writer. I'm more content just to share my thoughts with my family and friends here:-)

Bob - It's going to be an interesting election; as I mentioned in the post, it's going to be the first time that I've not gone with the popular GOP candidate and instead vote based on applying my beliefs to the opinions of each candidate. For me, having Hillary as the candidate would make it much more easy for me to vote for anyone else:-)

Barbara - Yes, this is very infuriating. I look forward to reading your post.

Lone Grasshopper said...

Nuns comment: Why didn't their bishop just assign them to another convent? He is their boss, right? If he has the power to tell them to leave the property, then he has the power to give them a place in an established convent elsewhere. Moving isn't as bad as homelessness, and if they took a vow of obedience, it seems like they would rather be told exactly where to go.

Politics comment: No wonder the second-tier candidates are second-tier. At an event where they all speak, Rudy gets 30 minutes and Ron gets 5. The organizers of the event are showing the media who to take seriously and who to ignore.