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James Martin, S.J.June 20, 2012

Last night on Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show "The Last Word," we discussed Nuns on the Bus, Catholic social teaching and Jesus's invitation to care for the poor in a five-minute interview.  That segment can be found here.  After the show, we continued our conversation on his "Very Last Word" segment, recorded in the hallway with a hand-held camera.  The Boston-born O'Donnell, a proud product of Catholic school education (taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, Mass.) invited me into a wide-ranging conversation that touched upon development of a mature personal faith life, the contribution of women religious to the church, the workings of the Holy Spirit in the magisterium and in the People of God, and a great many other topics, which you can see below.

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Joshua DeCuir
10 years 3 months ago
I guess there's always next time, Fr. Martin.
David Pasinski
10 years 3 months ago
Loved this segment! O'Donneel is a quieter Chris Mathews andless bombastic than his TV persona, but still "holds forth" in gratitude to the religious and an appreciation of Catholic tradition. Fr. martin's fine also although I'm not sure the math analogy works. Those first few grades with the fundamentals of arithmetic will serve you a lot better in life than geometry, trigonometry, and calculus in most professions!
Who made you?
Why did God make you?
Answering these and developing these are a lifelong journey... much more than questions that came about created and uncreated grace, the sarx-logos controversies, and the ex opere operato/operantis insights that I've rarely been called on to share.
Jeanne Linconnue
10 years 3 months ago
I have to reserve judgment on the TV segment, no time to watch it. But, the rhetoric is escalating, so I'm sure it will be interesting. When a poster accuses a man who is devoting his life to the priesthood of ''spitting'' in Christ's face, it seems some might be in need of thinking about what ''scandal'' really is.

But at least there is a pleasant change of ''gospels''. Instead of the gospel according to John Harden, S.J. it's the gospel according to Chesterton (someone quoted him on another current thread also I believe). 

Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, nor did he mention women's ordination. Maybe that's because he was a Jewish man who never ordained anyone, much less ordain anyone to be a Roman Catholic priest.

 He did talk a lot about love though.

Maybe some reading of the original gospels would shine some light?
Beth Cioffoletti
10 years 3 months ago
Great job, Fr. Jim! I too especially like the hallway interview. O'Donnell's experience with growing into a more adult faith mirrors my own and will resonate with a great many frustrated Catholics.

I like seeing Fr. Martin making his way into the mainstream media channels.  Finally, a conversation that is thoughtful and mature, and avoiding the hype and cliches.
Kevin Murphy
10 years 3 months ago
On the February 6, 2012 edition of The Last Word, Mr. O'Donnell gushed over Planned Parenthood's president Cecile Richards, stating ''your artful diplomacy and how you have handled youself in this relationship with your former partner who is now again your partner, the Komen foundation, has been something to behold.'' He had earlier informed Ms. Richards that ''you now have my nomination for America's ambassador to the United Nations'' He'd also informed her that ''everybody I was talking to outside of the show - friends of Planned Parenthood and the Komen foundation - were absolutley outraged by this,'' i.e. Komen's attempt to separate themselves from Planned Parenthood and its abortion services. As we all know, Komen was crushed by the pro-choice forces and forced to reconsider. Mr. O'Donnell has previously spoken highly of Planned Parenthood, which from just 2006 to 2010 faciliated well over one million abortions.

Is this support part of ''the adult faith,'' ''beyond the rules,'' that Mr. O'Donnell and Father Martin speak of? It is not my adult faith. It amazes me how Paul Ryan infuriates those Catholics who claim they are for the poor, but haven't the slightest pangs of conscience about supporting a group like Planned Parenthood. Father Martin is quite comfortable with those who reflect this strain of ''progressive Catholicism.'' He states that we will be judged on how we treat the poor and vulnerable. I agree, and I also believe there is nothing more vulnerable than a child in the womb.
David Pasinski
10 years 3 months ago
Just watched the clip... very good remarks, Father Jim.

BUT DON'T GET CO-OPTED INTO 'CHAPLAINCY' ROLE!!! It's one thing to be the so-caled chaplain of the "Colbert nation," since that is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but I'd still be cautious about that!

My sympathies are largely with O'Donell's POV, but I think it's a mistake to get over-exposed or so designated- even if it seems humorous. Right now you have a great credibility that could land you on O'Reilly as well O'Donnell, I'd imagine (at least in a stretch!), but too much exposure or identification there is dangerous for your
"fair broker" role.

On asidde note, I think the tiing of the Nuns Tour is exquisite blunting the news of the phony, hybrid "Fortnight"! Although Sandusky and Philly decisions will be in the news and compared however they come out, this juxtaposition should have some intersting coverage also during these next two weeks!

Vince Killoran
10 years 3 months ago
Cosgrove asks for "a little more detail and a little more accuracy is needed before we can decide whether the Ryan Budget is in sync with Catholic Social Teaching."  That's a strange request since Ryan's buget is out there in all of its detail (but here's the criticism of it again:http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/paul-ryans-budget-hurts-the-poor/2012/03/20/gIQAX73LQS_story.html). What's happened is people took a little time to examine the lame proposals and saw past the "aw shucks" faux brilliance of warmed over Reganomics.

Josh is downright wrong that Social Security is an example of "fiscal instability."  The current program is fiscally sound until 2041, at which time it will cover 80% of promised benefits. Some tweaking is in order but, give me a break-this is one of the soundest, most successful government programs.  Thank God Bush 43 failed in his effort to privitize it.

I do agree that other Republicans and even some Democrats have jumped on the austerity bandwagon. This has been unfortunate. Much important policy and ethical ground was lost a long time ago when moderate Democrats conceded the faulty argument that all deficits were bad.

Finally, I agree w/Dave (#3) about the "Fortnight" debacle.  Our pastor has announced a range of political rallies to occur, some at Mass.  I hope this proves to be the colossal blunder that it is.  BTW, who came up with the unAmerican sounding "fortnight" label?!  That sounds silly, especially on Independence Day.
10 years 3 months ago
THIS IS A DARNED FINE VIDEO. I can see it being used for RCIA groups, inquiry groups and for outreach to any questioning groups and individuals.
Vince Killoran
10 years 3 months ago
"We will have to wait and see."

Why would "we" do that?  Ryan has set forth what he would do and it isn't good, i.e., deep tax cuts, especially to the top tier w/cuts to important programs.

It's confusing to write that "There is nothing specific in the article cited comparing what will be in Ryan's budget compared to what has been provided in past years." Here's what the WP author wrote: "Ryan would cut spending on such programs by $5.3 trillion, much of which currently goes to the have-nots. He would then give that money to America’s haves: some $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, compared with current policies."  That seems to very much to your point.

Could you cite evidence that Social Security is "in the red"? It has a surplus that will reach $4.3 trillion by 2023.
Joshua DeCuir
10 years 3 months ago
Too bad you didn't discuss civility and charity in public discourse - and accurately portraying the arguments of others instead of demagoguing.  Or maybe urge him to have a diversity of opinion represented on his show.  Or maybe not twist people's words to make points they aren't actually making.

I'm with Michael Sean Winters: http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/shame-lawrence-odonnell
10 years 3 months ago
In the post-show segment, I really enjoyed how the bloviating O'Donnell associates his knee-jerk, anti-authority positions with sophisticated thought and associates those who believe in orthodoxy with childishness.

This is really the arrogance and group-think typical of the far left, isn't it? If you are a relativist like O'Donnell and his clique, you are intelligent (challenge authority/tradition) - otherwise you are a bumpkin with out proper "education."

As Chesterton would say, complete nonsense! He writes:

We often read nowadays of the valor or audacity with which some rebel attacks a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. He cares as little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for what ought to be.
JR Cosgrove
10 years 3 months ago
Rather than get into all the discussion that took place in the hallway, I would rather have Fr. Martin, who has a background in finance, specify just how the Ryan Budget is short changing the poor.  We need real numbers and not just a supposed budget cut next year or beyond but a comparison over the years to see just how draconian the Ryan Budget is.  A lot of rhetoric but no specifics.

Also there were distortions if not lies in the segment about the tax cuts.  The Ryan taxes are supposed to be revenue neutral at worse and revenue positive because of the incentives on how people would use their money.  Now we can debate the efficacy of this but that is what is currently proposed by Ryan.  I think a little honesty is called for by O'Donnell.

So a little more detail and a little more accuracy is needed before we can decide whether the Ryan Budget is in sync with Catholic Social Teaching.  And all those who support past government social programs have got to look at how they created more poor and devastated those who were already poor and not helped them so that maybe the way to help the poor is to get the government out of it as much as possible and not expand it as Fr. Martin seems to be advocating.
Joshua DeCuir
10 years 3 months ago
It is my understanding that what the Ryan budget is proposing to "cut" are future spending outlays passed in previous budgets but that have not yet come in to effect.  In other words, he is proposing to cut future spending levels, and NOT what is actually being spent now.  Michael Gerson said in a column a few months ago (which I can't at present locate) that even if Ryan's cuts were enacted, the amount of discretionary spending left in would be something like 20% ABOVE the last budget introduced by Pres. Bush.  Of course, since the Senate has not passed a budget in 3 years, the entire conversation is at present illusory.

It should be noted that Pres. Obama does the exact same thing, namely, BOTH budgets cut discretionary spending on the shared fundamental premise that less spending will be required as the economy recovers and begins to grow.  The present political debate is how best to jumpstart that fundamental premise.

As a Catholic, I certainly share Jesus's call to serve the poor - as pointed out both by Fr. Martin and the Nuns on the Bus tour, and am uncomfortable with some of Ryan's targeted cuts.  But, I also find it frustrating that these discussions of Ryan's budget - and this is exemplified by the Nuns on the Bus's Priorities for a Faithful Budget - completely ignore the heart of the budget crisis - the fiscal instability of long-term entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Ryan's proposal contains many elements of the Bowles-Simpson plans to fix these entitlement programs, such as means-testing benefits.  To entirely dismiss his proposals as being inconsistent with Catholic social teaching seems, to me at least, to dismiss a host of ideas that have been suggested by both Republicans and Democrats to fix these programs, and to forestall meaningful dialogue on these issues.
Carlos Orozco
10 years 3 months ago
Isn't Lawrence O'Donnell the guy that cried on air because the eugenic Planned Parenthood was being cut blood money, by many states? I really can't take him less seriously.
10 years 3 months ago
Fr. Jim, Thanks so much (and Lawrence O'Donnell, too) for the "shout out" to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield.  In the midts of these very trying times for all sisters in the U.S., it is heartening to hear such a ringing endoresement of our work and of our life.  Sr. Mary Kate
JR Cosgrove
10 years 3 months ago
''Cosgrove asks for ''a little more detail and a little more accuracy is needed before we can decide whether the Ryan Budget is in sync with Catholic Social Teaching.''

There is nothing specific in the article cited comparing what will be in Ryan's budget compared to what has been provided in past years.  The reasons there is never anything specific is because the actual numbers have not been determined or estimated and when they will be it will be because the numbers in the Ryan budget will probably be substantially higher than they were in past years.  We will have to wait and see.

This article also repeats the lie about tax cuts.  Do Washington Post journalists such as Ezra Klein and Dana Millbank have a problem with quoting Ryan correctly.  It looks that way. 

As far as social security is concerned I believe it went into the red for the first time this year and since there is no actual trust fund to fund it, future payments will be a drain on the economy from now on unless something is changed. In other words the government has to borrow money to pay social security obligations.

How difficult is it to understand that this is not a good situation. 
Joshua DeCuir
10 years 3 months ago
"Josh is downright wrong that Social Security is an example of "fiscal instability." "


You are partially correct.  As of now, Social Security is on much sounder financial grounding than Medicare.  As the Medicare Trustee's Report released in April states, unless there are changes to Medicare, it will be insolvent as early as 2016.  By contrast, Social Security is much healther in the long term.

BUT, the Trustees also note that just because there is not a crisis NOW in Social Security doesn't mean that there are not problems that need to be addressed.  EVERYONE (even the President) agrees on this.  THus, the Bowles-Simpson plan (the PRESDIENT'S deficit commission) contained some small changes to Social Security (like slowly increasing the benefits age) that would extend its long-term solvency. 

As I said, there is scant mention of these issues, however, either by the Nuns on the Bus or their "Priorities for a Faithful Budget."  And, as the President himself has said, unless a plan addresses these systemic fundamental issues, it cannot be taken seriously.  So I'm happy to hear the Sisters point out their concerns, but unless they can point me to a proposal that encompasses their "priorities" and addresses the entitlement spending knots, I'm not convinced by their bus tour.  Debt IS a social justice issue.
Vince Killoran
10 years 3 months ago
I'll stop with these final notes:

1. "[J]ust because there is not a crisis NOW in Social Security doesn't mean that there are not problems that need to be addressed."  Sure, but it seems more ideologically driven-especially when you go after a program that won't hit a bump in the road for 20+ years.  The solution to a shortfall that is way, way down the road is to raise SS taxes on the upper income tier.  That simple tweaking has been pointed out many times but conservatives, under the guise of marker populism won't hear of it. 

2. The sisters do address "entitlement spending knots"-the "entitlements" of the wealthy.  Please read their website where they offer detailed analyses and links to policy papers (go to the "Issues" tab on their website).

3. Finally, as for Medicare & Medicaid, the problems there go to the fundatmental problem with our for-profit health care system and the Obama Administration's lame health insurance reform.  Far too little, far too narrow a reform.
JR Cosgrove
10 years 3 months ago
''Ryan would cut spending on such programs by $5.3 trillion, much of which currently goes to the have-nots.''

Again there are no specifics to compare.  We will need line items to compare to past years not some cuts from a series of large increases in the future or overly large increases in the last few years.  As of now there are no line item numbers and when they are estimated I bet they will be generous compared to past years.

Also you repeat the lie about tax cuts in Ryan's current plan.  He is on record several times saying that there will not be any reduction in tax revenues.  That does not say there will be or will not be whenever the details are finally agreed on and if implemented, the actual tax revenues generated.  He is proposing a lower tax rate but also proposing a reduction in deductions to offset this.  If you want to debate something, that is what is to be debated, not the lies that Ezra Klein spit out while on with Fr. Martin or what Dana Millbank said in this article.  It is all spin to make Ryan look bad and people should be embarrassed to repeat it.

The current state of social security is not hard to find.  Here is a wikipedia article and something I wrote about it on America a couple months ago if anyone is really interested.


Joshua DeCuir
10 years 3 months ago
1. "Sure, but it seems more ideologically driven-especially when you go after a program that won't hit a bump in the road for 20+ years."
- I just don't see how it can be ideologically driven if both the President and Paul Ryan, Bowles-Simpson and Rivlin-Domenici all agree that changes are needed.  Why wait till the crisis is here?

2. I have read in detail their entire "Priorities for a Faithful Budget."  Surprisingly, there was much in there I agreed with.  For example, I agree with their call for a tax system that "Works simply and practicably so that taxpayers, tax administrators, and legislators can all understand the rules and confidently apply them or comply with them."  As a Republican, I support a tax plan that is simple, and truly progressive in that it requires more people to pay their taxes.  But I'm confused about why they dismiss all of Ryan's proposals if they support a simpler tax code.  I also agree with their criticisms of the ridiculous spending increases for Defense, which is a massive source of waste, fraud and abuse.  Nonetheless, their document contains no mention of the various detailed calls to reform Medicare, a problem which dwarfs every other spending program by a long shot.  It therefore cannot be taken very seriously as an effort to reform the budget without addressing Medicare.
Michael Barberi
10 years 3 months ago
I am an independent and agree with some aspects of the democratic and republican strategies. However, I find several things unacceptable about the policies of the current administration and the republicans. Based on my 30 + years  of experience as a senior vice president of a major heatlthcare corporation, and as a senior partner in a world-wide consulting firm, I offer my humble opinion.

1. As typical of politics and government work, the CBO has under-estimated the costs and over-estimated the savings of ObamaCare. The CBO has already determined recently that this law will cost another 1 Trillion dollars more than estimated. Frankly, that is the tip of the iceberg. I am all for healthcare reform, but not the way it is being designed. We will all suffer from the overwhelming cost that will emerge.

2. The handling of the Fast and Furious problem is disgraceful, especially since a US borader patrol agent was killed as a result of guns given to drug dealers and murders without any adequate oversight and managed outcome. Holder will be held in contempt of Congress and Obama's executive privilege will fail in a court of law. The upshot will be exposure of how the administration is covering up the truth.

3. Each party is playing the blame game and the ones who are suffering are the people. The Ryan budget is complex and no one knows what Romney's strategy is except for talking points. On the other hand, Obama's plan is nothing more than 4 more years of his policies that have not produced much of anything. Foreign powers disrepect the president (mostly they ignore him), however he gets a lot of points for the drone attacks and killing Bin laden. There are no details about fixing Social security, medicare and medicaid or the tax code, as well as providing adequate solutions to our unemployment problem. Obama thinks taxing the rich will help get us out of the hole we are in and provide the funds for his social agenda. We will all have to wait until the presidential debates to decide who has an accepable plan that will work. 

All of this non-sense distracts from the article in question. I liked it very much and agreed with both Fr. Martin and O'Donnell. There is something to be said about the fact that we live in a divided church and in a crisis of truth. There is some truth in both the far left and far right ends of the Church, but the winds of the Holy Spirit may be telling us something. Unfortunately, change will not occur in this papacy. What will happen is more demonstrations like the Austrian Priest's Initiative and the rejection of CDF condemnations by the LCWR. This is a sign of the times and I look at it as a symbol of hope for the Church.

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