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April 2008 Archives
As we gear up for the 2008 election, Catholics who are engaged in the political process for the common good need to help ensure the integrity of the electoral process.
In the 2004 presidential election, there were many incidents of voter intimidation and suppression, uncounted provisional votes, long waits for few voting machines in inner city neighborhoods, and problems with electronic voting machines. Across the country, it is estimated that 3 million votes were uncounted. A documentary by David Earnhardt entitled Uncounted examines these uncounted votes and "shares well documented stories about the spine-chilling disregard for the right to vote in America."
Denying someone the right to vote is a moral issue and we as Catholic Democrats encourage you to help to ensure that all votes are counted. Be informed; find out your state's policies on voting and get involved in the movement to ensure that every vote is counted in America.
We encourage you to visit the official website of Uncounted. Please visit the link to watch the trailer, order the dvd or see when and where it is being screened in your city: view link here
We've just launched our first fundraising campaign to start building for a larger organization. To view the campaign go here. Its essentially a campaign to support the infrastructure, like the web site, the newsletter, and our interns. The text begins:
Dear Catholic Democrat,
Thank you to all our faithful Catholic Democrats members, who have supported us in building our one-of-a-kind organization over the past four years. Who can forget where we were in 2004 (!): Holy Communion denied to Democratic candidates as a Republican campaign strategy, and Democrats being told they could not speak at Catholic Colleges or churches.
We are writing to you today because we need your help to expand our communications efforts around the country. The good news is that we have now built 15 state groups nationally, and are continuing to garner national publicity for our cause (e.g. in articles that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and the Canton Repository). Of course all this can be costly, and until now a few generous Catholic Democrats members have been funding it out of their own pockets.
Read this entire plea, and if you can help us, please donate today.
John L Allen Jr Weekly Column
Later Tuesday afternoon, I ventured a couple miles down Massachusetts Avenue to visit the Apostolic Nunciature, the embassy of the Holy See to the United States, for an interview with the pope's top man in America: Italian archbishop and veteran papal diplomat Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio (ambassador).
Benedict XVI will be staying at the nunciature in Washington, though Sambi demurred when I asked him to show me the pope's room; apparently the U.S. Secret Service has imposed a gag order on that bit of information. Sambi was happy, however, to show off a few bits of spit-and-polish around the house. For example, a new bank of trees has been installed on the grounds to shield its garden from the busy street outside, in case the pope wants to take a private walk around its small oval path.
Read the entire article here.
We have recently appeared on Democratic TV, a service of the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee, and the California Democratic Party. The interview was done by DNC member and local activist Chris Stampolis, and covered issued from the war to poverty to Faithful Citizenship.
Click here to see the 30 minute segment.
By Rachel Zoll
AP--New York--Organizers of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States next week have taken great pains to keep him out of presidential politics.
But the Roman Catholic teaching he's expected to emphasize -- on abortion, human rights and other issues -- has policy consequences that partisans will inevitably spin for their own ends.
"The pope will probably speak in broad enough and general enough terms that anybody who is determined to read endorsement of his or her political position will find an endorsement there," said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. "But when and if that happens, it is going to be people reading things into the pope's remarks that aren't there."
Catholic leaders don't always avoid politics.
Pope John Paul II's emphasis on human dignity, religious freedom and absolute truth helped bring down communism. During a 1999 visit to St. Louis, John Paul convinced then Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan to spare the life of convicted killer Darrell Mease, who was days away from execution.
However, Catholic beliefs aren't meant to be partisan.
Church teaching doesn't fit neatly into any one political agenda, a hard lesson American presidential candidates have learned as they have courted Catholic voters in recent years. Catholics make up about one-quarter of the electorate nationwide and don't vote as a bloc.
The church opposes abortion and embryonic stem cell research, while supporting immigrant families and aid to the poor. Catholic teaching says marriage should only be the union of one man and one woman. Yet Benedict also supports the U.N. and protecting the environment.
"Catholic teaching, taken in its full integrity, will have something to both please and aggravate Democrats and Republicans," said the Rev. James Heft, professor of religion at the University of Southern California. "Politics is not the first concern of the church. Basic moral issues, issues of justice, are a preoccupation."
Benedict's first trip to the U.S. as pope runs from next Tuesday through April 20 in Washington and New York. His visit ends just two days before the critical state primary in Pennsylvania, where Catholics comprise nearly one-third of voters. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the remaining Democratic contenders, are pressing for the Catholic vote.
It's an inconvenient coincidence for the Vatican, but it could have been worse.
The pope is traveling here partly to address the United Nations on April 18. Heads of state usually speak at the U.N. during its fall General Assembly session, as John Paul did. But that would have put Benedict in the U.S. right before the Nov. 2 general election.
At other events, the pope's public appearances with political figures will be limited.
In Washington, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will host the pontiff Wednesday at the White House, as they do for visiting heads of state. Church leaders expect the event to be bipartisan. The pope doesn't meet with candidates for political office, but the three contenders for the U.S. presidency, all senators, could participate in events that include congressmen or are open to the public.
For the Masses at Nationals Park and Yankee Stadium, any invited politicians will sit in special sections away from the altar, partly for security reasons, according to organizers.
When Benedict visits ground zero, the site of the World Trade Center attack, on April 20, the only public figures invited to accompany him are New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and New York Gov. David Paterson. The site is owned and managed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Despite the extensive Vatican safeguards against partisanship, political activists are already trying to anticipate what the pope will say and how it will benefit or hurt them.
"The Republicans are just hoping and praying he'll say something strong about abortion and gay marriage and the Democrats are dreading it," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a political scientist and senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "But when he goes to the U.N., he's going to say things that are going to be to the left of Hillary and Obama."
One place where the papal visit and policy will mix openly is the fifth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
The April 18 event, which Bush has attended for the last three years, will include a live broadcast of Benedict's U.N. address for the nearly 2,000 people expected.
All members of Congress have been invited to what founder Joseph Cella insists is a bipartisan prayer meeting. However, many of the most prominent organizers are Republican activists, and a Catholic advocacy group that opposes the Iraq war, Catholics United, plans to protest outside.
Senator Barack Obama's campaign announced in a conference call Friday afternoon the formation of a Catholic Advisory Council, composed of prominent Catholics from around the United States. Recognizing that Catholics represent a substantial swing vote in the upcoming election, the Campaign expressed its determination to make the case that the Democrats are best able to represent Catholic priorities when it comes to confronting the myriad domestic and international challenges facing the next President.
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and former Indiana Representative Tim Roemer announced they would serve as co-chairs of the effort. These prominent Catholics sought to begin leveling an electoral playing field that has been dominated the last eight years by the Republicans in their efforts to tar Democrats as being "bad Catholics." A story released by LifeNews.com responded, "The participation and leadership of the two pro-life politicians is an obvious clue that Obama wants to siphon some of the pro-life Catholic vote away from eventual Republican nominee John McCain." Like many conservative outlets, the story began by labeling Sen Obama as "pro-abortion."
The tortured logic of this kind of name-calling belies efforts by both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama to express publicly their determination to decrease the number of abortions nationally. "Is Senator McCain 'pro-divorce' because he has not called for making divorce illegal across the United States?" commented Catholic Democrats Exec Director Patrick Whelan. "It is ridiculous to label any politician as 'pro-abortion' because they refuse to follow the Republican playbook for criminalization, and opt instead for a more Christian approach advocating positive measures to decrease unintended pregnancies in the US."
It is notable that conservatives rarely acknowledge that the national abortion rate has fallen half as fast under President Bush as it did under President Clinton, and that Mr Bush vetoed Democratic abortion reduction legislation last October under the pretense of fiscal responsibility.
As Senators Clinton and Obama work overtime to court Catholics in Pennsylvania, the role that religiously-minded voters are playing nationally as a newly prominent Democratic constituency is standing in stark contrast to the presidential race of only four years ago.
Fr. Tom Reese, S.J. has a great entry in the Washington Post OnFaith blog. It begins:
The arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in the middle of a presidential election is raising hopes among Republicans, fears among Democrats and excitement in the media. Republicans hope that the pope will strongly condemn abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research, while the Democrats fear that he will. The media is looking forward to covering the papal visit through this lens.
The most powerful section is midway in the article:
Let no one misunderstand me. The pope and the bishops are very concerned about abortion and do not consider it just one issue among many. The pope will speak to this issue and the media should cover it. What I object to is the ignoring of everything else of political significance that he will say on Iraq, terrorism, poverty, refugees, disarmament, the environment, third world debt and trade. On these issues he is usually to the left of Democrats.
This crystallizes what much of Catholic Democrats' message has been about. Yes, abortion is a serious issue, but there are others, and we can not loose sight of them.
Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took questions on faith for 45-minutes each Sunday in a "Compassion Forum" held at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Both of them spoke engagingly about their own upbringing, about how their faith informs their thinking about public policy, and about the role that faith should play in the civic debate. While emphasizing their own respective Christian sensibilities, each sought to emphasize their appreciation of religious diversity in America, and of their respect for peoples of other faith around the world.
The candidates addressed questions from two moderators and from a large audience made up of religious figures from around the United States. Sen Clinton appeared first and Sen Obama took her place at the mid-point. The event was sponsored by the nonpartisan group Faith in Public Life . Senator John McCain had been invited to participate, but declined to appear.
Each candidate was asked at the start about comments Sen Obama had made in California last week, addressing a question about his appeal to working class people. Because the working poor face significant economic and other challenges in their lives, he had said, "it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Responding Sunday night, he said it was indisputable that many people, both in cities and small towns, face injustice in their lives that leads to bitterness. He said that it was only right that people depended on their faith and their families in times of difficulty. He intimated that his remarks of a week earlier had awkwardly mixed common sources of solace, like religion, with the darker instincts of human nature, like bigotry or anti-immigrant sentiment. But many people caught up in the trials of their lives had come to feel over the past seven years that the government was not listening to them or doing enough to address their problems.
Each candidate expressed their respect for Catholicism. Sen Clinton mentioned the impending visit of Pope Benedict and acknowledged his public calls for greater striving around the world on behalf of the poor. Sen Obama described having attended a Catholic school as a child, and referred twice to his touring around Pennsylvania with prominent Catholic Senator Bob Casey.
Both candidates were asked whether life begins at conception, and both expressed their belief in the dignity of early life. Sen Clinton responded by saying she had grappled with this question throughout her adulthood, and she said she intended to work creatively to make abortion rare in the US, and specifically cited her work on adoption and foster care. She talked about speaking out at the International Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995 against forced abortion and sterilization as means of enforcing the one-child policy there. She mentioned her experience traveling to Romania, where the government had sought under communism to compel the largest family sizes possible and where abortion had been illegal. They both agreed that common ground was possible in achieving meaningful reductions in the number of abortions.
Neither was critical on this issue of President Bush, who has spoken loudly about abortion while proving substantially less effective than the preceding Democratic Administration in bringing down the national abortion rate. Mr Bush vetoed Democratic abortion reduction legislation without comment in October 2007, under the guise of fiscal responsibility.
The rhetorical high point of the discussion with Sen Obama came when Rev Jim Wallis of Sojourners asked why poverty rates today are identical to the rate 40 years ago when Rev Martin Luther King spoke out about poverty. 1 in 6 American children currently live in poverty. Asked if he would commit himself to a specific goal of cutting poverty in half during his Administration, Sen Obama dramatically agreed that this was a difficult but achievable goal.
Sen Clinton was asked why a just God would allow so much suffering in the world. "I don't know. I can't wait to ask Him!" she said. But then she went on to offer a moving reflection on the mystery of suffering, and suggested that the one thing we know for sure is that we are all called to respond to the suffering of others with the fullest breadth of our abilities.
Pope Benedict XVI, the spiritual leader of a billion-member global church, arrived this week for his first papal visit. And Republicans celebrated in a Washington hotel with an annual event called "the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast," which has in previous years brought together President George Bush, Republican members of Congress, the several Catholic members of the Supreme Court, and a few conservative bishops for an elegant photo opportunity. This year, however, the event has the added significance of having been organized by the same people who are leading a political advocacy effort called "Catholics for McCain."
The event piggybacked on the Papal visit by treating the 2000 attendees to a live broadcast of the Pope's address to the United Nations.
For five years this event has been billed as a spiritual gathering, but is really more of a partisan mixer organized by Republican political insiders who were pivotal in two Bush election campaigns. The board of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Inc., a non-profit charitable organization, is a club of Republican strategists. Joseph Cella, the board president, is a former religious outreach director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign, and now serves on Sen. McCain's Catholic steering committee. The vice president, Austin Ruse, has anointed President Bush "the second Catholic president" and is also on Sen. McCain's Catholic steering committee. Board member Leonard Leo is the national co-chair of Catholic outreach for the Republican National Committee. Not surprisingly, Catholic Democrats are leery of attending an event that has become a valuable photo-op for a smiling President Bush standing shoulder-to-shoulder with members of the Catholic hierarchy.
A gathering that should reflect the political and ideological diversity of Catholicism in public life instead perpetuates the myth that Catholic priorities are the same as Republican priorities. Sadly, this distorted message is often reinforced by a handful of outspoken bishops who have publicly gone after some Catholic politicians as unfit to receive communion, even as they tacitly endorse Republican leaders whose positions on the Iraq war, the death penalty, immigration and the economy contradict Church teachings about building a consistent culture of life that does not stop at protecting the unborn. Even among Republicans there is little cause for celebration on the abortion issue; the recent rise in teen pregnancies and the slowing of progress achieved during the previous Democratic Administration suggests that conservatives don't have a monopoly on virtue when it comes to abortion.
The political and moral challenges America faces in these times will require the prophetic wisdom of the nation's diverse faith traditions. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken eloquently about faith and reason working together in pursuit of a just society. His words before the United Nations about creating a global common good that upholds the inherent dignity of every human person resonate across religious, ethnic and political divides. It's a universal message that stands in stark contrast to the selling out of faith to political agendas.
Pope Benedict arrived in Maryland amidst much fanfare and a presidential greeting at the airport. He met briefly with President Bush in private, and a White House reception is planned for Wednesday. Said spokeswoman Dana Perino at a White House briefing beforehand, "I really don't think that the president is planning to spend a lot of time talking about the issues of Iraq with the pope."
It is funny to imagine all the other topics that Mr Bush would rather not discuss with the Pope. He would prefer not to touch on his role as the most prolific death penalty enforcer among all governors in American history. He hopes to avoid talking about the incongruous stance he has taken on stem cell research, first boasting that he was the first president to fund this research and then vetoing legislation to further fund it--while surrounded by children born by in vitro fertilization, itself an outgrowth of very similar research.
Mr Bush would rather not dwell on the dramatic growth in the number of people without health insurance in the US, particularly after Families USA produced a study this week suggesting that 50 people die every day in the US for lack of health insurance. Projections from the Institutes of Medicine have suggested an excess mortality approaching 165,000 deaths over the course of the Bush Administration, which has twice vetoed expanded health coverage for uninsured children this past year.
On the surface, Mr Bush might enjoy talking with the Pope about abortion, except for the fact that progress against abortion has slowed by more than half since he took office, compared with the previous Clinton Administration. Mr Bush's Republican allies have enjoyed labeling many Democrats as being "pro-abortion" because they oppose making it illegal. But by this logic, Mr Bush is himself strongly "pro-torture," since he opposes making torture illegal. The Catholic Church has taken an emphatic, principled stance against all use of torture, as have most retired intelligence officers and former members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (they say it's both immoral and not effective).
Why is Mr Bush so intent on associating with the Pope? It seems clear that Mr Bush would like to be viewed as being "a member of the club"-- in this case, the Catholic club. He recognizes that Catholics are the nation's most important swing voters, being concentrated in the swing states and somewhat conflicted over the Church's social issues/compassion duality. Mr Bush is willing to overlook most of what Pope Benedict asserts, in the interest of appearing at his side and appealing to many of the Pope's American Catholic friends.
On an oddly-related note, Senator Barack Obama is in trouble for intimating that some people who find themselves in overwhelming economic circumstances may turn to guns or bigotry or religion as sources of solace. Holding a gun, by its nature, makes someone feel more important than the unarmed people around them. Looking down on others because of their race or national origin can be temporarily empowering to some. But perhaps what Sen Obama meant when he unconsciously slipped "religion" into that list was the way that certain people use religion to exalt themselves and to proclaim their own piety, as a means of separating themselves from others. This form of religion has little to do with personal spirituality, or generosity toward the plight of the less fortunate.
Is it moral to join a church because it makes one feel better than others, or because it makes one appear more moral than one's adversaries? Can someone claim to be a disciple of Christ, while ignoring most of what Christ preaches about poverty and war in the Gospels? Should Mr Bush be absolved of the grave moral failings of his presidency because he went to meet the Pope at the airport? The discerning observer will recognize the preening self-aggrandizers in Washington, and not fail to recall that Jesus dismissed their self-absorbed displays of piety (Mark 12:43-44) while praising the poor widow who quietly sacrificed her whole livelihood for the wellbeing of others.
Under normal circumstances, it would be unrealistic to expect truth in labeling standards to apply to a political event. Spin and self-interest are too much part of the mix.
When a church is involved, however, self-policing ought to be tighter. We refer to an event taking place in Washington this month: the fifth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
The nonprofit organization that sponsors this questionable affair contends in its mission statement that it is acting “in response to the call of Pope John Paul the Great for a ‘New Evangelization.’ ” The reality, though, is that the group is a thinly veiled political organization of Republican Catholics whose words and deeds suggest that one, they represent the whole of U.S. Catholicism, and two, that the Republican Party is, in effect, the Catholic Party.
Catholics United, a group that describes itself as a nonpartisan online community of Catholics, points out as much: “This event is organized by operatives of the Republican Party and Republican-affiliated organizations.”
Read the full article here.
The Catholic vote was critical in the last presidential election - as it has been historically - and has justifiably received increasing scrutiny from political analysts. This year it may well prove to be more important than in prior years based on the voting patterns of the presidential primaries to date. Catholic Democrats has analyzed data regarding the importance of the Catholic vote during this year's Democratic primaries, which is available here.
The full spectrum of Catholic support - among Latino, black, and white Catholic voters - will be necessary for a Democrat to be elected president in November. Catholic Democrats is committed to working with all of those constituencies.
However an interesting analysis on the growing defection of white Catholic voters was prepared by Democracy Corps in March 2005 entitled Reclaiming the White Catholic Vote. It shows that in the past three presidential cycles there has been a shift of the white Catholic vote of 20%. See graph. In the 1996 campaign, 48% of white Catholics voted Democratic and 41% Republican. In 2004, white Catholics voting Democratic had dropped to 43% and had increased to 56% for those voting Republican. While new dynamics are in play this year, as they were in the 2006 mid-term elections, the report provides some context for understanding the Catholic vote.
Catholic Democrats has compiled data for the 21 (twenty-one) states that held both Democratic and Republican primaries as of March 4, 2008 for which exit poll data is available.
This year, Catholics have been voting wit more zeal than the general population, turning out in proportionally greater numbers in 20 of 21 states, with Utah being the only exception. See graph of the Relative Catholic Vote Importance by State.
Additionally, while voters have been voting overwhelmingly in the Democratic primaries this year - 64% Democratic vs. 36% Republican, a spread of 28% - Catholic voters have been leaning even further toward the Democratic Party - 68% vs. 32%, a spread of 36%. See Analysis of Total Catholic Vote.
While it has become increasingly difficult to project what moves Catholic voters and to characterize them as a bloc, the data indicates that the Democratic Party is in a strong position to appeal to those Catholics who voted Republican in the last two presidential cycles.
For additional information and commentary from the Catholic Democrats spokespersons, please contact Steve Krueger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pope Benedict XVI has brought a message of healing in a time when 81% of Americans have told pollsters that the country is "on the wrong track." He was apparently gracious with President Bush, despite all the recent events that have conspired to create a collective sense of wariness about the future.
In this context, the Pope spoke Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House about a shared world vision for peace: "On this, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity -- as brothers and sisters dwelling in the same house and around that table which God's bounty has set for all his children."
Later in the day he spoke more specifically about predatory business practices, the plight of the poor and the culture of death that has been created amidst the confluence of war, recession, home foreclosures, torture, slowing in the progress against abortion, and rising crime rates of the last few years. A addressing the nation's bishops, he said, "Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death?"
He made a point of criticizing materialism as an organizing principle in the US, and of the idea that organized religion is principally dedicated to self-enrichment. "In a society which values personal freedom and autonomy, it is easy to lose sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities that we bear towards them," he said.
He urged the bishops to engage in the public sphere, not to promote one particular party, but to elevate the tone of the discussion. He made no reference to Congressional obstruction of legislation to end the war in Iraq, or of President Bush's veto last October of Democratic abortion reduction legislation. He made no reference to torture, and the recent veto of legislation intended to end US participation in it.
He said, "Clearly, the Church's influence on public debate takes place on many different levels. In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality, and the Catholic community, under your guidance, needs to offer a clear and united witness on such matters. Even more important, though, is the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth. Here much remains to be done. Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a "leaven" in society. Yet it cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think in harmony with the Church’s teaching on today’s key ethical questions. Once again, it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life.
Thursday, in his homily to 47,000 people at a new baseball stadium in Washington DC, he delivered a homily focused on the hope found in the Gospels. He said, "We see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of God." He alluded to a reading from Paul's letter to the Romans, a hymn to God's love for humankind that acknowledges human suffering but holds out the prospect of true happiness through adherence to the Gospels. His full sermon follows:
"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:19). With these, the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples, I greet all of you in the joy of this Easter season. Before all else, I thank God for the blessing of being in your midst. I am particularly grateful to Archbishop Wuerl for his kind words of welcome.
Our Mass today brings the Church in the United States back to its roots in nearby Maryland, and commemorates the bicentennial of the first chapter of its remarkable growth - the division by my predecessor, Pope Pius VII, of the original Diocese of Baltimore and the establishment of the Dioceses of Boston, Bardstown (now Louisville), New York and Philadelphia. Two hundred years later, the Church in America can rightfully praise the accomplishment of past generations in bringing together widely differing immigrant groups within the unity of the Catholic faith and in a common commitment to the spread of the Gospel. At the same time, conscious of its rich diversity, the Catholic community in this country has come to appreciate ever more fully the importance of each individual and group offering its own particular gifts to the whole. The Church in the United States is now called to look to the future, firmly grounded in the faith passed on by previous generations, and ready to meet new challenges - challenges no less demanding than those faced by your forebears - with the hope born of God's love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5).
In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle's urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit's gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ.
The readings of today's Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church's expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit's manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim "the great works of God" and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit.
I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom.
The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole? It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of God. The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel.
"Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!" (cf. Ps 104:30). The words of today's Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, "new heavens and a new earth" (cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1), in which God's peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now "groaning" in expectation of that true freedom which is God's gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!
Here I wish to offer a special word of gratitude and encouragment to all those who have taken up the challenge of the Second Vatican Council, so often reiterated by Pope John Paul II, and committed their lives to the new evangelization. I thank my brother Bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, parents, teachers and catechists. The fidelity and courage with which the Church in this country will respond to the challenges raised by an increasingly secular and materialistic culture will depend in large part upon your own fidelity in handing on the treasure of our Catholic faith. Young people need to be helped to discern the path that leads to true freedom: the path of a sincere and generous imitation of Christ, the path of commitment to justice and peace. Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord. The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual "culture", which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith's vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.
Dear friends, my visit to the United States is meant to be a witness to "Christ our Hope."
Americans have always been a people of hope: your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, while the vastness of the unexplored wilderness inspired in them the hope of being able to start completely anew, building a new nation on new foundations. To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope - the hope poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the hope which supernaturally purifies and corrects our aspirations by focusing them on the Lord and his saving plan - that hope has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country.
It is in the context of this hope born of God's love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children - whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure - can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness.
Saint Paul speaks, as we heard in the second reading, of a kind of prayer which arises from the depths of our hearts in sighs too deep for words, in "groanings" (Rom 8:26) inspired by the Spirit. This is a prayer which yearns, in the midst of chastisement, for the fulfillment of God's promises. It is a prayer of unfailing hope, but also one of patient endurance and, often, accompanied by suffering for the truth. Through this prayer, we share in the mystery of Christ's own weakness and suffering, while trusting firmly in the victory of his Cross. With this prayer, may the Church in America embrace ever more fully the way of conversion and fidelity to the demands of the Gospel. And may all Catholics experience the consolation of hope, and the Spirit's gifts of joy and strength.
In today's Gospel, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins. Through the surpassing power of Christ's grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning. Let us trust in the Spirit's power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God's merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.
"In hope we were saved!" (Rom 8:24)." As the Church in the United States gives thanks for the blessings of the past two hundred years, I invite you, your families, and every parish and religious community, to trust in the power of grace to create a future of promise for God's people in this country. I ask you, in the Lord Jesus, to set aside all division and to work with joy to prepare a way for him, in fidelity to his word and in constant conversion to his will. Above all, I urge you to continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society, striving to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to the task of building an ever more just and free world for generations yet to come.
Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke Friday to the United Nations General Assembly, offering a message that uncompromisingly opposed the use of violence to resolve human conflicts. His speech also dealt with the issues of human rights, religious freedom around the world, and using technology to lift all people rather than exploiting them.
He did not name names, offering no specific criticism of the Bush Administration or other sponsors of violence around the world. But he specifically called on the world's diplomats to take the lead in resolving conflicts, stating, "What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation."
He added that this pursuit of the common good should be based on observance of "the golden rule." Citing St Augustine, he said, "Since rights and the resulting duties follow naturally from human interaction, it is easy to forget that they are the fruit of a commonly held sense of justice built primarily upon solidarity among the members of society, and hence valid at all times and for all peoples. This intuition was expressed as early as the fifth century by Augustine of Hippo, one of the masters of our intellectual heritage. He taught that the saying: Do not do to others what you would not want done to you 'cannot in any way vary according to the different understandings that have arisen in the world.'"
At the end of his address, given in French and in English, he offered good wishes to all the people of the world. Speaking in Spanish, then Arabic, Mandarin, and in Russian, he said "Peace and Prosperity with God's help!"
Click here for full text.
Catholic democrats have been busy during the Pope's Visit. Below are press releases and some recent articles. We are in the process of updating the page for a complete list of media pieces that have featured spokespersons from Catholic Democrats.
April 14th: Experts Available on the Reaction of Catholic Democrats to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to New York and Washington
April 16th: Catholic Democrats Welcomes the Pope
April 18th: The Catholic Democrats, a National Advocacy Association, Releases Data Analyses on Catholic Vote
ALSO: See Importance of the Catholic Vote in 2008 for overview and links to new data analysis developed by Catholic Democrats.
April 18th: Kennedy Townsend/O'Neill/Roosevelt articulate Catholic Democratic message that Republicans have no monopoly on Catholic virtue
A follow up to the Kennedy/O'Neill/Roosevelt piece was printed in The Huffington Post: A Real Catholic Message
For Catholic Democrats comment on the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast please see National Republican Prayer Breakfast piggybacks on the Papal pastoral visit.
President Bush's remarks referenced in the press release are here.
We also had an opportunity to appear on The Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio: Link coming soon. A link to our previous appearance on The Catholic Channel is here.
We have recently appeared in the National Catholic Reporter as well. See mention of Catholic Democrats
From America Magazine:
It is now demonstrably clear that the president of the United States has subverted the rule of law in this country. The final confirmation came in April, when George W. Bush at last revealed the extent of his own involvement in approving the torture of our nation's enemies. In an interview with ABC News, the president confirmed that in 2003, his top advisors, including Vice President Dick Cheney, met in the White House to discuss the specific procedures to be used for the interrogation of suspected terrorists. Mr. Bush indicated for the first time that he personally approved the interrogation procedures, which included the now infamous technique known as waterboarding. The president added that he did not think that these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were illegal and that he was "not sure what was so startling about" his admission.
Read the full article here.
Rep Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) was the author of a Congressional resolution on April 9 welcoming Pope Benedict to the United States. In his comments on the House floor related to the resolution, he took special pains to emphasize that the Pope's message was essentially the same as the Republican mantra of personal freedom:
"It was not passion alone that allowed for the founding of our free republic; [the founding fathers] also used their reason to find their way to express how those rights could be guaranteed against government, and how individual citizens could live together with their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is no different than the message that the Holy Father brings today. The Holy Father has said that faith and reason are concomitant blessings from God which allow us to find him not only in ourselves but in each other."
"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.
"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."
Inaugural Address, President Obama