Tuesday, April 24, 2018

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Trump's Continuing Michael Cohen Problem

Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenf├╝hrer, continues to blame all of his legal problems on a "horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media."   The problem with that claim, of course as one commentator noted, is that the witch hunt keeps finding witches as evidenced by the growing list of criminal indictments and cooperating witnesses.  Outside of Paul Manafort - who some believe was Trump's conduit to Russia during the 2016 campaign - Trump's biggest problem is his long time personal attorney and"fixer," Michael Cohen.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Trump's behavior and the absence of the behavior of someone with nothing to hide.  Obviously, when one needs a fixer in the first place to clean up sordid affairs and who knows what other unsavory or illegal actions, there is always a risk that they can "flip" and provide very damaging information.  Here are article highlights:

Trump has not been tweeting like a man with nothing to fear.
Over the weekend, he tried to project confidence that his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen — under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations — will not flip to avoid legal trouble. But in doing so, and skipping a denial of wrongdoing, [Trump] the president implied two things.
One is that Cohen would need to strike a deal with prosecutors to avoid charges or prison time. Trump's tweet did not even entertain the idea that the investigation will turn up nothing because Cohen committed no crimes.
The second is that Cohen possesses damaging information about [Trump] the president. Trump said he believes Cohen will keep his mouth shut, not that Cohen can talk all he wants because there is no dirt to dish.
[O]n Monday, Bloomberg's Justin Sink said the president's Twitter thread “prompts two questions: The first is what the president believes his personal attorney might have done to get him in trouble with the government. And, secondly, what [Trump] the president's done that he is worried Michael Cohen could flip about.” “The president's been clear that he hasn't done anything wrong,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied. . . . I don't have anything to add.”
 It is the absence of “anything to add” that is striking. The simple, playing-it-cool response would be that the president encourages Cohen to cooperate fully with an investigation that will surely end in exoneration. But the White House hasn't said anything of the kind. In fact, the White House appears to be leaving open the door to a presidential pardon for Cohen — which, of course, would be necessary only if there were a crime to pardon. Trump seems clearly worried about Cohen, and he and his White House aren't doing anything to change that perception.

Could a Democrat Score an Upset in Arizona?

Democrat challenger Hiral Tipirneni, MD
If nothing else, Donald Trump's election has ignited a fire in many women, especially college educated women, who are horrified by both Trump's election and the reverse Robin Hood and misogynistic agenda of today's  Republican Party. Women have been throwing their hats into the political ring in record numbers and now a Democrat is within potential striking range of scoring an upset in a reliably Republican district in Arizona.  Combined with the ongoing teacher strike in Arizona - Arizona has among the lowest teacher pay in America - Democrat Hiral Tipirneni strong campaign suggests that Arizona may be on its way to joining Virginia in as a purple or even blue state in the near future.  A column in the New York Times looks at the changing scene in Arizona.  Here are column excerpts:
On Tuesday, there’s a special election in Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, which Donald Trump won by 21 percentage points. It’s to replace Trent Franks, the abortion opponent who resigned amid reports that he tried to create his own personal version of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by pressuring female employees to serve as gestational surrogates.
In the past two elections, Democrats didn’t contest the district, which encompasses suburbs northwest of Phoenix. This time, a Democrat named Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room physician and first-time political candidate, is running against a Republican state senator, Debbie Lesko. Though Lesko is expected to win, some polls show the race in a dead heat, and Republicans have spent more than $1 million on the campaign.
On Thursday, public school teachers in Arizona, among the lowest paid in the country, are planning to walk out, following the lead of teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. For 15 years, “we’ve continued to get cut and cut and cut,” Theresa Ratti, who teaches high school in Mesa, told me. “My A.P. government textbook that I teach from, the new president is George W. Bush.” These two events — an unexpectedly competitive Eighth District election and a rare labor action by teachers — are connected. Partly this is because Lesko is a villain to many local champions of public education. . . . . Lesko has been an advocate of vouchers and privatization and pretty much anything she can do to destroy the public school system.” But there’s a deeper link. Both the walkout and the surprising viability of Tipirneni’s campaign are manifestations of the explosive activist energy, particularly among women, set off by the catastrophe of Trump’s election. Since Hillary Clinton’s defeat, “college-educated women have ramped up their political participation en masse,” . . . . women who were once politically disengaged felt demeaned by Trump’s victory. Overcome by a need to do something in response, they’d turned to local politics, which had gradually come to consume their lives.
Save Our Schools, a prominent grass-roots organization supporting the walkout, is an outgrowth of an Arizona group called Stronger Together, which itself is a spinoff of the pro-Hillary Clinton Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. . . . .  before the election, Republicans had more than 3,000 precinct committeemen in the county, and Democrats only 600. Since 2016, he said, the Democrats’ total has grown to 1,700.
Even with this new infrastructure, local activists realize that winning on Tuesday is a long shot. Unlike the pro-Trump district that the Democrat Conor Lamb won in Pennsylvania, Arizona’s Eighth has no Democratic roots. It’s both very white and, because of a high concentration of retirees, very old.
But whatever happens this week, politics in Arizona, which Trump won by a mere 3.5 percentage points and which is key to the Democratic dream of retaking the Senate, is changing fast. Though our national politics remains a horror show, here, among so many indefatigable women, it’s easy to be hopeful.
Even if she [Tipirneni] comes up short, the work she’s done to build up the Democratic Party in her district will have a lasting impact, she said: “It’s going to be incredible to see what Arizona looks like after November.”
I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for a Democrat upset. 

Scalia’s Goal Of Unwinding Voter Rights Becoming A Reality

The late Antonin Scalia - a seeming racist and champion of Christofascist rights.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia embodied much of what is wrong with today's Republican Party and its agenda of special rights for right wing Christian extremists and deference to white supremacist inclinations.  This is especially true when one looks at Scalia's hostility to minority rights.  The irony is that given Scalia's own ethnic and religious background - Italian Catholic - that saw his own ancestors targeted for hate and bigotry, one would think the man might have had some tiny shred of empathy for other despised groups.  Any such assumption, however, sadly would be totally wrong.  Now, the entire GOP seeks to roll back voting rights protections to favor whites and to disenfranchise minority voters as the GOP finds it increasingly difficult to attract voters outside of vulture capitalists, Christian extremists and, of course, white supremacists.  A piece in Talking Points Memo by a law professor looks at the danger that the U.S. Supreme Court may further embrace Scalia's agenda and spread America's slide back towards pre-1964 voting obstacles to minority voting rights.  Here are highlights:
In a Supreme Court term already bursting with election cases, from two partisan gerrymandering disputes to a fight about the permissibility of Ohio’s voter purges to a lawsuit challenging bans on political clothing in Minnesota polling places, it’s easy to overlook yet another significant voting appeal the Court will hear later this month. In Abbott v. Perez, the Court will examine whether the state of Texas violated the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution when it drew congressional and state legislative district lines in ways that hurt Latino and African-American voters. The protracted and difficult litigation involves redistricting plans from way back in 2011 and shows how much was lost when the Supreme Court killed another key provision of the Voting Rights Act in its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case.
We may soon fulfill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s vision of an emasculated Voting Rights Act and much weaker protections for minority voters by the federal courts.
In the pre-Shelby days, the Voting Rights Act offered two main tools to protect minority Voting Rights. Under Section 5, states which had a history of racial discrimination in voting had to get “preclearance” (or pre-approval) from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington, D.C. before making any changes in voting rules and procedures. States had to show the DOJ or the court that any changes would not worsen the condition of minority voters. Under Section 2, the U.S. government or private plaintiffs could bring suit anywhere in the U.S. arguing that a redistricting plan (or other voting rule, like a state voter id law) deprived minority voters of the same opportunity as white voters to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.
The Roberts Court’s record on reading and enforcing the Voting Rights Act has been a disappointing one, which is no surprise given that Chief Justice John Roberts himself was an opponent of a strong Voting Rights Act when he worked in the Reagan Administration to weaken minority voter protections in Section 2.
Even before Roberts became chief justice, the Court already had a relatively weak record enforcing Section 2. . . . . And that’s all aside from non-Voting Rights Act cases cutting back on voting rights such as a 2008 case rejecting challenges to the constitutionality of discriminatory voter identification laws.
The Texas case that the Court will hear this term shows just how hard it is to protect minority voting rights. Texas’ 2011 redistricting plans originally could not be put in place because a federal court had not precleared it under Section 5. A separate lawsuit sought to block parts of the plans under Section 2, and the same federal court issued an interim remedy, which led to Texas passing a similar discriminatory plan in 2013 claiming the re-enactment solved Voting Rights Act problems. The Section 5 lawsuit went away when the Supreme Court decided Shelby County, but the Section 2 lawsuit has dragged on . . .
Since the case started, it is hard to find friends for the Voting Rights Act in any of the three branches of government. The Department of Justice, which came in on the side of minority voters in the Texas litigation, has switched sides now that the Trump Administration has taken over. That means U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco will be arguing in favor of Texas’s position in the case at the Supreme Court.
Congress, meanwhile, has not acted to fix the formula for deciding which states need to get Section 5 preclearance, even though the Court in Shelby County invited Congress to try.
And the Supreme Court is poised to make things worse. With rumors circulating that perennial swing Justice Anthony Kennedy could retire as soon as this term, the Court is likely to lurch to the right. As I argue in my new book, The Justice of Contradictions: Antonin Scalia and the Politics of Disruption, the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia took an even narrower view of Voting Rights than the Court as a whole, and now, after his death, Justice Scalia’s influence is only growing.
Justice Scalia openly expressed disdain for the Act, expressing the view at the Shelby County oral argument that Congress renewed the Act in 2006 by overwhelming majorities because of “a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
The bottom line is that the Court’s mixed record on enforcing the Voting Rights Act could soon get worse if Trump gets another Court appointment. Minority voters, already at a disadvantage in many parts of the country because of enduring racism and the unwillingness of white voters to support minority candidates for office, could soon have tougher political battles ahead. And the scariest part is that, thanks in part to Justice Scalia’s influence, the courts may soon no longer be there as a backstop.

Sadly, the bottom line is that the GOP would love to move the nation back to the Jim Crow era.  Yet another reason why a massive Democrat, moderate and progressive turn out is needed in November to flip the House of Representatives and - ideally - the U.S. Senate to Democrat control.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, April 23, 2018

More Monday Male Beauty

Why Democrats Must Take Control of the House

While many progressive remain hopefully optimistic that a blue wave in the 2018 midterm elections will see control of the House of Representatives shift to Democrat control, a piece in Slate underscores why  this is so important in terms of halting Donald Trump's horrific agenda.  Better yet, it could lead to the Trump/Russia ties and/or money laundering efforts finally see the light of day.  While many often hear the refrain that this is the most important election cycle, this time, it is really true.  Hence why Democrats need to use care and an over the top ground game to get voters to the polls in November.  Here are article highlights:

If President Trump hates Bob Mueller so much, why doesn’t he have him fired?
For most Republicans, the concern over firing Mueller is that it would incite a backlash in the 2018 midterm elections, costing them unified control of Congress and imperiling their policy objectives.
But for [Trump] the president, the concerns are much more personal. A Democratic takeover would be catastrophic. Instantly, the House would be converted into a hive of investigatory bodies. In a Democratic House, the grand Washington battle will no longer be Trump versus Mueller. It will be Trump versus 21 subpoena-wielding House committee chairmen, played out in public on a 24-hour televised loop.
Unlike a legislative agenda, executive oversight can be prosecuted by just one chamber. Taking control of the House would empower Democratic committee chairmen to aggressively pursue every aspect of the president’s personal and political interests.
There are 21 House committees that endow their chairmen with subpoena power. Some require a committee vote and/or consultation with the ranking minority member, but none endow the minority with veto power. The expansive subpoena power of Congress is limited only by countervailing constitutional rights. For example, Congress cannot force a witness to waive her right not to incriminate herself. Otherwise, Congress can compel testimony, and the production of documents, from any government employee or private citizen in America.
A House committee can initiate inquiries into any area within its jurisdiction. This investigative authority, and the subpoena power through which it is advanced, has mostly lain dormant in the 115th Congress. When Republicans have exercised their subpoena power, it has mostly been in the service of defending the president against Mueller’s investigation. But that could change in the blink of an eye, as Trump has surely been advised by some old Washington hand.
When it comes to opportunities for congressional oversight, the Trump administration provides what military strategists call a target-rich environment.
The Ways and Means Committee could sharpen the national discussion around tax fairness by subpoenaing President Trump’s tax returns. As the 2018 elections draw near, that committee could convene hearings to educate the public on how Trump’s sabotage of Obamacare will send consumers’ health insurance premiums soaring.
The Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Maxine Waters, a favorite target of Trump’s invective, could exercise its authority to investigate the phenomenon of foreign oligarchs laundering ill-gotten gains through purchases of luxury condominiums in hot markets, including through Trump-owned buildings in New York and Miami.
Now imagine a pajama-clad President Trump gazing in horror at the trio of TV monitors in the presidential bedroom, one showing Jared Kushner being grilled on his never-ending security-clearance-application corrections and amendments, while the second displays Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin attempting to defend his addiction to first-class flights, and the third presents a tableau of heartland factory workers displaced by the Bush steel tariffs of 2002. Consider the president’s unbridled anger as he watches a cable-news version of This Is Your Life, a procession of Cabinet secretaries, disgraced former White House officials, unpaid construction contractors, disqualified eligible voters, terrified Dreamers, abandoned factory workers, and colorful NDA signatories, all led by Democratic House committee chairs, many of whom Trump has traduced in nasty personal terms.
With that image in mind, you can see why Trump stops short of firing Mueller. If a rash decision to dispatch the special counsel costs Republicans their House majority, the president will subject himself to a ceaseless barrage of charges, confessions, and revelations. For Trump, that’s the nightmare scenario.
Of course, Trump's nightmare scenario would be my dream come true.

What Happened to Responsible Conservatives

Once upon a time conservatives and Republicans put country first and were advocates for science, knowledge and education.   They even believed in the social safety net.  Those days are gone and today's hideous version of the Republican Party and the foul occupant of the White House now seem hell bent to turn America into something resembling a banana republic from the 1950's.  One cannot help but wonder what the hell happened.  In my view, two things: (i) the Christofascist take over of the GOP base, and (ii) the GOP's embrace of white supremacy.  To the Christofascists, science, knowledge and good education are a threat since they run the risk of enlightening would be adherence to a toxic dogma that the entire Christofascist worldview is based on fantasy.  As for the embrace of racism, the party is now obsessed with an us versus them mindset where "winning" requires that others lose, both in terms of civil rights and whose is viewed as a"real American."  As a column in the Washington Post reminds us, things were not always like this:
The past several days underscore why not only political progressives but genuine moderates are at their wit’s end with the Republican Party and what passes for contemporary American conservatism.
If conservatism in the United States has claimed to stand for anything, it is the idea that government authority should be limited. Conservatives regularly argue (especially when Democrats are in the White House) that the executive’s clout should be checked and that legitimate law enforcement authorities deserve our respect, particularly when they are investigating abuses of power.

The behavior of House Republicans in demanding former FBI director James B. Comey’s memos about his conversations with President Trump, which were subsequently leaked to the media, shows a GOP that has abandoned all principle. It is willing to do whatever it takes to protect a president who has no regard for the truth, the law or established norms.

Any doubts that Republicanism and conservatism have given themselves over to one man, his whims and his survival were dispelled by the GOP’s use of the congressional oversight process to undermine a legitimate probe into a hostile power’s interference in our elections.

As it happens, the actual memos are embarrassing to Trump and support Comey’s veracity. And if the Republicans’ obstructionist triumvirate of Reps. Devin Nunes of California, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina had hoped to prove that Comey leaked classified information, the memos reveal exactly the opposite.

It should be stunning that the chairs of the Intelligence, Judiciary and Oversight committees are more interested in doing Trump’s bidding than in figuring out how Vladimir Putin may have helped to elect our current president. It’s possible to imagine that, somewhere, Ronald Reagan is weeping.

The ongoing frustration of many of us who really did respect conservatism once upon a time is not just about the movement’s capitulation to Trump. It is also triggered by the supposedly substantive side of the news: The only thing Republicans in Congress know how to do now that their corporate tax cut has proved to be unpopular is — to propose more tax cuts. There is an emptiness where problem-solving conservatism used to be.

In the period when democracy planted deep roots in Western Europe and was thriving in the United States, conservative parties were led by figures such as Dwight Eisenhower in the United States, Harold Macmillan in Britain, Konrad Adenauerin West Germany and Charles de Gaulle in France.
Applying the insights of this more responsible version of conservatism to our time would lead us to seek the best approaches to the very discontents that helped put Trump in the White House in the first place — for example, growing inequalityA 2016 Congressional Research Service report found that income inequality has been increasing since 1970. And between 2000 and 2015, incomes actually went down for the bottom 60 percent of earners. There are many causes of division and resentment in our country, and this is surely one of them.

We need a politics where the democratic left and right compete over who can most effectively and efficiently excise this social cancer from our body politic. Such a debate could be both instructive and productive.

Alas, except for a small, honorable cadre of writers and think-tankers, the American right has taken itself out of the game. Our politics will remain broken as long as conservatism confines its energies to cutting taxes and defending a reckless president at all costs.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Debating the Crisis in Catholicism

As a former Catholic - 10 years as an altar boy (the first few when the mass was still in Latin), 4th Degree Knight of Columbus - from a family once strongly Catholic, I still watch from afar the unfolding drama of the Church wracked by a never ending sex abuse scandal (dioceses in New York and Pennsylvania are the center of the storm at the moment in America, but the problem remains global) and the effort of "conservatives" to cling to a 12th century understanding of sexuality.  Like many former Catholics, the only times I now darken a Catholic church door is for a wedding or a funeral.  The few in my family who are still churchgoers have now opted for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ("ELCA") which offers a Catholic liturgy without all the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.   Meanwhile, "conservatives" fling arrows at Pope Francis and decry efforts to bring the Church even remotely into the 21st century. Two articles look at the spectacle as highlighted by a new book by New York Times right wing columnist, Ross Douthat - who seemingly would bring back the Crusades and the public burning of heretics and gays if he could.  One is by Andrew Sullivan and somewhat more sympathetic to Douthat in New York Magazine and another in The Atlantic which takes Douthat to task.   Both face the reality that Catholicism and Christianity are in trouble in America.  First, highlights from Sullivan's piece: 
How does anyone remain a Christian in our current modern moment? The moral implosion of American Evangelicalism in the cult of Trump, the rise of casual anti-Christian bigotry in popular culture, the continuing sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, the emergence of a movement for Christian cultural retrenchment in the church (Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option), the revolution in gay rights in the West, and the slow slide of church attendance and religious observance seem to have conspired to bring the matter to a head. And in this fevered and often ill-tempered debate, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by much of Ross Douthat’s new book lambasting Pope Francis as a small-minded heretic. 
I certainly understand his fear that in the perilous shoals of liquid modernity, the ship of the Catholic Magisterium (the authoritative teaching of the church) could run aground. I also understand his grief at what was lost as the church revamped itself in the 1960s and 1970s — the liturgy, the enchantment, the unquestioned papal authority, the reverence, the silences and the darknesses, now wiped away into too many banal ceremonies, in churches lit as if they were a branch of Target. For Ross, as for me, the church in the 1970s seemed to be abandoning the sacred and the sublime for the mundane and the modern.
[B]ut where I have to differ with him [Douthat] is in his view that Pope Francis is somehow making all this much worse — that he is, through intemperance and recklessness, risking outright schism in the church in a way that hasn’t happened for centuries. By Douthat’s account, Francis is to the church what Donald Trump is to American democracy. He’s an existential threat.
How on earth could that be? For Ross, so much seems to come down to the Pope’s willingness to contemplate allowing divorced and remarried Catholics who want to be a part of the church to receive Communion . . . . Francis’s merely airing these questions — as well as the place of homosexuals in the church — represents to him a look into the abyss of doctrinal chaos. The fact that nothing has changed in official church teaching at all is scant comfort. The elaborate, intricate edifice of Catholicism, built and repaired for two millennia, unchanging and authoritative, is endangered. To Ross, Francis’s actions threaten to send the church drifting into a kind of lame “moral therapeutic deism” that has plagued the mainline Protestant denominations — or, more likely, precipitate full-on schism.
Where to start? First off, as Paul Baumann observes in Commonweal, the church has been, er, let us say, flexible about this rule for aeons, starting with the Gospels themselves. Yes, the Gospel of Mark has Jesus barring any divorce, period; but the Gospel of Matthew adds a caveat — with Jesus saying you can divorce if your partner commits adultery. So not quite as definitive. For centuries, moreover, there was no Catholic sacrament for marriage — it was entirely a secular thing, acknowledged by the church. The Orthodox churches — not just the Protestants — have long allowed for divorce. Catholicism itself, especially in America, hands out annulments that operate as de facto divorces like confetti.  . . . Indeed if the formal rules strictly applied, and communion was never allowed except after a full confession, virtually no Catholic in America would be participating in the Eucharist at all.
We’re talking here about caring for people whose marriages have failed and who want to come back to the church and its sacraments. That’s all. We’re not talking about a formal end to the existing doctrine against divorce. We’re not talking about a second marriage in church. We’re talking about pastoral adaptation to an individual’s position and sincerity in wishing to be reconciled with God. We’re talking about not rejecting people looking to follow Christ. And that means gay people as well, people who, despite so many pressures among their peers, despite widespread cultural taboos on being Christian and gay, insist on coming to the Lord’s table.
This stringency on sexual morality — combined with flexibility on so much else — is part of what has rendered the church toxic for so many, especially given its own recent, horrifying sexual standards. When you barely bat an eye at the rape of children and come down hard on someone who left a toxic marriage, you run the risk, to say the least, of seeming somewhat lacking in moral integrity.  . . . . is it really worth creating a schism over a pastoral attempt to include those beached by a bad or toxic marriage?
Is a modern Christianity even possible without the enchantment, mortality, fear, and ignorance of the past? And what we do with the fact that neither Benedict’s retrenchment nor Francis’s outreach seems successful in stopping the slow slide of institutional and cultural decline, and the emptying of the pews, especially among the young?
Part of me wants the simple certainties and mysteries of the past; part of me is profoundly grateful that the world has indelibly changed. Reimagining what faith can be in the context of modernity will not be easy. But exactly the wrong tack to take, it seems to me, is an ever-more intense and bitter internal fight over the legacy of the last 50 years in the Catholic Church.
To me, Douthat - like his evangelical counterparts - desperately needs two things: (i) others to look down upon and condemn, and (ii) a simple checklist that allows him to feel good about himself even if it requires being brain dead.

The second piece in The Atlantic is harsher, and deservedly so.  Here are excerpts:
Across every continent, in every country, Catholics “find themselves divided against one another,” writes the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat in his new book, To Change the Church. On one side stand the orthodox, who see doctrine and tradition as the best antidote to a changing world. On the other stand the liberals, who yearn for a Church that focuses on pastoring rather than enforcing rigid rules. This “widening theological and moral gulf,” Douthat argues, is potentially “wider than the chasm that separated Catholicism from Orthodoxy, and later from Lutheranism and Calvinism.”
That’s a bold claim to make. After all, the schisms of East and West, Catholic and Protestant, were world-shaking, often bloody events. But in today’s Church—and specifically in this pope—Douthat sees the possibility that the Roman Catholic Church will once again break apart.
Ostensibly, his beef is with Pope Francis, whom Douthat paints as an unyielding and stubborn manager who has spent his five years in Rome failing the clean up the Vatican’s messes, hurling insults at conservative clerics, and pushing radical doctrinal changes without buy-in from major wings of the Catholic hierarchy.
His focus is almost always on one topic: the pope’s efforts to address issues related to family. Early in his papacy, Pope Francis convened two meetings of Catholic bishops, called synods. The pope seemed to feel that the Church had not figured out how to serve people whose lives don’t fit the Christian ideal, from single moms to same-sex couples to those who have been civilly divorced and remarried.
While many Church leaders welcomed this pastoral flexibility, others complained that it created ambiguity—“what is sin in Poland is good in Germany,” wrote four conservative cardinals in a letter to the pope—or even directly violated the teachings of the Church.
Douthat was, and is, in the latter camp. He began tossing the word “schism” around. He published a scathing Times column accusing the pope of being the “chief plotter” in the Vatican’s Renaissance-court-style politics. A large group of prominent liberal American clergy and theologians published a response letter, pointing out that Douthat does not have theological credentials, warning him of the seriousness of accusations of heresy, and arguing that his “view of Catholicism [is] unapologetically subject to a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is.”
Francis’s solution is to embrace a flexible, ecumenical spirit, both within Catholicism and without: It’s no coincidence that he has put rapprochement with Roman Catholicism’s closest cousins, the Lutheran and Orthodox churches, high on his priority list over the last five years.
[U]nity matters in the Church—little c or big. Jesus calls on believers to be one flock in community together, and any loss of comity might be interpreted by some as evidence of human failure to make good on that vision. This pope will test whether it’s possible to maintain connectedness among communities of incredible diversity in a time of immense change—or whether the politics of the day inevitably lead to tribal fights among the faithful.

Personally, I believe the Church continues to do immense harm, and not only to the ever growing numbers of sex abuse victims.  Fear and self-hate are not positives and not something that will attract new adherents.  Throw in the hypocrisy and outright meanness of so many Christians , both Catholic and Protestant, and it is easy to see why 36% of those under 30 have walked away from Christianity.  What Douthat wants will only accelerate the exodus.  Francis, for all my criticisms of him, at least is trying to look for a solution.