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47 minutes ago – The Roman Catholic Church has a reputation for clubbiness. (A Protestant arrives in heaven and asks St. Peter if he can visit some of his old …
Scripture, Song and Six Grandchildren: Romneys Open Church Doors to Press
By MICHAEL BARBARO and ASHLEY PARKER
Published: August 19, 2012
Evan Vucci/Associated Press
Mitt Romney outside the Mormon church in Wolfeboro, N.H., after attending services with his wife, Anne, far right.
The Caucus: Before the G.O.P. Convention, a Romney To-Do List (August 20, 2012)
He made sure to accept a small piece of white bread and cup of water, representing the flesh and blood of Jesus, from a member of the priesthood who looked like he was about to accidentally pass him by.
And with a knowing nod, he encouraged his wife to leave the pew and join the women’s choir in a rendition of “Because I Have Been Given Much.” (She did.)
On one level, it was a typical Sunday morning for Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and a devoted churchgoer. But on another level, his Sunday observance was an extraordinary moment for a candidate who zealously protects his privacy and rarely talks about his Mormon faith.
On Sunday, for the first time since Mr. Romney became a candidate for president, his aides invited members of the news media to accompany him to church services near his lake house in Wolfeboro, N.H., providing the public with a look into one of the most intimate corners of his life and into the rituals of a religion that is frequently misunderstood.
After a year of studiously avoiding all but the most oblique references to Mr. Romney’s faith on the campaign trail, his advisers said they believe it is time for him to publicly embrace it. They reason that his religious devotion, as well as his leadership within the church, convey qualities that voters will warm to — and outweigh any squeamishness among those who are unfamiliar with or suspicious of Mormonism.
The display of openness inside the church was not entirely spontaneous: Mr. Romney agreed a few weeks ago to allow a small group of reporters, known as a protective pool, to track his every moment by airplane or vehicle, a longstanding tradition in presidential campaigns.
But Mr. Romney’s aides have wide discretion over what events members of the pool may attend, and the campaign’s decision to allow reporters into church was something of a surprise. (His advisers are known to scold reporters whose articles focus on Mr. Romney’s faith.)
Mr. and Mrs. Romney arrived at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wolfeboro at 10 a.m. with their oldest son, Tagg; his wife, Jennifer; and their six children. On their way in, the family was greeted in the parking lot by an older couple. “Welcome back,” a woman said, giving Mr. Romney a hug.
Mr. and Mrs. Romney sang along to hymns and took turns holding their grandchildren during the service, which was attended by about 100 people. At times, Mr. Romney flipped through a picture book with his grandson Johnny.
Mr. Romney, wearing a navy blue suit, listened intently as Ali Marriott, a member of the family that owns the giant hotel chain, delivered a talk about her recent missionary work in Utah and California.
At one point, volunteers were invited to join the women’s choir in song. Mr. Romney glanced at his wife, and gently and wordlessly suggested she do so. Mrs. Romney and her daughter-in-law both stood, walked to the front pulpit and along with about 40 others — nearly all the women in the congregation — began singing “Because I Have Been Given Much,” a popular Mormon hymn about using one’s blessings to help other people. The lyrics include this line: “I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see, who has the need of help from me.”
After the closing prayer, which asked for God’s guidance through the rest of the day, Mr. Romney wiped his eyes. He then headed to Sunday school, which was not open to reporters. Roughly a half-hour before the final class ended, Mr. and Mrs. Romney emerged from church with another woman from the congregation, who seemed startled by the cameras awaiting the Romneys.
“You’re in trouble now,” Mr. Romney said, putting his arm around the woman. “You’re in trouble now.”
His wife joked, “She got caught sneaking out early!”
When auto shutdown loomed, Ryan backed off fiscal hawk stance
By Andy Sullivan
Sun Aug 19, 2012 10:23am EDT
(Reuters) – When General Motors announced in 2008 that it would shut down its assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, local Representative Paul Ryan leaped into action.
The Republican met with company executives to try to change their minds. He lobbied the Obama administration for federal retraining and economic-development funds.
He even broke with his party — and his future presidential running mate Mitt Romney — to vote in Congress for a $15 billion federal bailout for GM and Chrysler as they teetered on the edge of insolvency.
Criticized by President Barack Obama this week as the “ideological leader” of cost-slashing Republicans in Congress, Ryan has veered from his budget-hawk stance at crucial times.
Along with the auto bailout vote, Ryan voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion bank bailout that is anathema to Tea Party conservatives. He opposed Obama’s 2009 stimulus effort, but his office sought to secure funding once it was signed into law.
Supporters say Ryan’s actions during the auto bailout reveal a practical streak that will bode well for him if the Romney-Ryan ticket gets elected, as well as a willingness to take an unpopular stand if he thinks it is needed.
“The reason he’s a vice presidential nominee, and the reason that I like him so much is because he takes a problem, he dissects it fully, and he makes the best possible decision based on what can get done,” said Republican Representative Devin Nunes, a close ally who opposed the auto-bailout vote.
Ryan, whose extended family owns a unionized construction company, has occasionally voted against his party to support some labor union priorities. He backed a law in 2011 that prohibits federal contractors from paying lower-than-average wages, a rule that some economists say inflates the cost of federal projects. Ryan has voted against union interests on other occasions.
When the financial crisis began to bite four years ago, Ryan’s hometown was quick to feel the pinch. The GM plant had been the economic anchor of the community since 1919, and several of Ryan’s friends worked there.
Working with labor and local officials, he promoted a $200 million incentive package to try to convince GM to retool the plant from producing gas-guzzling SUVs to a new line of fuel- efficient sedans.
Ryan was the lone Republican among Wisconsin lawmakers who met with GM officials to make the case.
In Congress, he took the fight even further when GM and Chrysler warned Washington that they could be forced to shut down completely without an infusion of government cash.
On December 10, 2008, Ryan voted to steer $15 billion to the automakers — one of only 32 Republicans in the House of Representatives to do so. One-hundred-and-fifty Republicans voted against.
The money would have come from an existing government fund to help automakers boost energy efficiency. Ryan said that was a better alternative than allocating new money, or diverting money from the $700-billion bailout for banks.
The vote put him at odds with most in his party — as well as Romney, who argued that the automakers should go through the bankruptcy process without government help and who wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times in November 2008 with the infamous headline, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
“At the forefront of my mind are jobs in southern Wisconsin and the retiree commitments to workers that could be placed in jeopardy under certain bankruptcy scenarios,” Ryan said after the vote.
That bailout effort died in the Senate, but then-President George W. Bush opted to tap the bank bailout fund to keep the automakers afloat.
The federal intervention did not save the Janesville plant, where several of Ryan’s childhood friends worked. It was shut down two days before Christmas with the loss of 5,000 jobs.
SAFETY-NET CUTS HURT
Local officials in Janesville give Ryan high marks for working with them to keep the GM plant open. He also helped the “Forward Janesville” chamber of commerce and local officials secure a $445,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department for economic development and worker retraining.
But many in the town of 60,000 say his support for sharp cuts in safety-net spending has hurt their community’s ability to recover from the blow.
“Those people needed help from Paul, and he failed us,” said Brad Dutcher, who as head of the local autoworkers union led the fight to keep the plant open.
Enrollment at the Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville more than doubled in the wake of the GM plant’s closure as workers sought to learn new skills in fields like welding, law enforcement and information technology.
Though Ryan has spoken about the importance of retraining people, he has been less eager to secure funding for the effort.
Democratic Senator Herb Kohl secured $1.95 million for Blackhawk’s retraining efforts in 2009 and 2010, enabling the school to hire more faculty and cope with the sudden influx of new students.
Ryan, meanwhile, renounced the practice of “earmarking,” or securing funds for specific projects, as conservatives came to see the process as an example of wasteful spending.
Ryan’s office hasn’t expressed much interest in getting more money for job training even after the local workforce board’s budget fell by 40 percent when a federal grant expired in June, said Robert Borremans, head of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.
“I think his emphasis on smaller government is negatively impacting workforce services,” Borremans said. Ryan’s campaign declined to comment.
Ryan’s federal budget proposal would scale back federal Pell Grants for college tuition — a move that would hit Blackhawk students especially hard.
“Many of our students are disadvantaged economically, so the Pell Grant is critical to us,” said Blackhawk president Thomas Eckert.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Janesville, Wisconsin and Gabriel Debenedetti in Washington DC; Editing by Anthony Boadle)
In a long investigation published online yesterday, The Economist took a close look at the financial health of the American Catholic Church, and its diagnosis is not good.
The sins involved in its book-keeping are not as vivid or grotesque as those on display in the various sexual-abuse cases that have cost the American church more than $3 billion so far; but the financial mismanagement and questionable business practices would have seen widespread resignations at the top of any other public institution.
Much of the financial skullduggery is linked to the slate of sexual-abuse cases that have cost the church more than $3 billion, driven at least eight dioceses into bankruptcy — including San Diego, which, to decrease its settlement liability, listed the value of a whole downtown city block at just $40,000, what it had paid in the forties. Meanwhile, as the church’s reputation has taken a dive, so have parishioner donations, which are believed to be down as much as 20 percent, to around $13 billion a year.
Then again, the American Catholic Church spends just six percent of its $170 billion annual budget — more than General Electric earns each year — on the upkeep of local parishes. In reality it’s like a large public-private corporation, funding itself increasingly through publicly-held debt, running a hospital system four times larger than the U.S.’s biggest private hospital chain, HCA Holdings, and operating a network of schools four times larger than the New York City Department of Education.
Speaking of New York City (emphasis added):
Timothy Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Cardinal-Archbishop of New York, is believed to be Manhattan’s largest landowner, if one includes the parishes and organisations that come under his jurisdiction. Another source of revenue is local and federal government, which bankroll the Medicare and Medicaid of patients in Catholic hospitals, the cost of educating pupils in Catholic schools and loans to students attending Catholic universities.
And all these assets, despite whatever mismanagement, mean the American Catholic Church remains vastly rich — accounting for 60 percent of the global church’s wealth, yet only six-or-so percent of its members — and by far one of the country’s largest charitable organizations.
…and I am Sid Harth@webworldismyoyster.com