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June 2008 Archives

June 4, 2008

Claiming mantle of the Democratic nominee, Obama promises not to use "religion as a wedge"

Democrats reveled Tuesday night in coalescence around one candidate after a long primary battle. For many Catholics and other people of conscience, the political debate centered on the gross immorality of US foreign policy under the Bush Administration and the idea that threatening people around the world was somehow a means to advance the cause of peace.

In his speech Tuesday in Minneapolis, Senator Barack Obama spoke to those who saw in Iraq one of our greatest moral failures as a nation: "I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years, especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored. We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in, but we -- but start leaving we must."

See full text of his speech

June 5, 2008

Cardinal George asks Father Pfleger to take leave from parish post

By Catholic News Service

CHICAGO (CNS) -- A Chicago Catholic priest criticized for a speech in which he mocked Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York has been temporarily removed from his pastoral duties by Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago.

In a statement released late June 3, Cardinal George said though Father Michael Pfleger doesn't agree that he should take a leave of absence from his post as pastor of Chicago's St. Sabina Catholic Church "I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the church's regulations for all Catholic priests."

Father William Vanecko -- pastor of Chicago's St. Kilian Parish -- will serve as temporary administrator of St. Sabina to ensure ministerial services are uninterrupted, the cardinal said.

This was not welcome news to several parishioners of St. Sabina.

"We respectfully request the cardinal immediately reinstate Father Pfleger as full pastor of St. Sabina," the parish council's president, Gerald Stewart, was quoted as saying in the Chicago Sun-Times daily newspaper.

During a June 1 "unity service" at his church, Father Pfleger said that his remarks the week before at Trinity United Church of Christ were about racism, not politics.

"All my life, I have had to deal with the reality of racism," he said. "I have committed myself to tearing down the walls that divide us wherever they stand."

The priest mocked Clinton May 25 at Trinity, the church to which presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois belonged for nearly 20 years. He said Clinton saw Obama as "a black man stealing my show" when the senator entered the race for the Democratic nomination.

"She wasn't the only one crying," added the priest, who is white. "There was a whole lot of white people crying." A video clip of his address circulated on the YouTube Internet site.

Cardinal George has expressed deep regret about these statements and said the leave of absence will give Father Pfleger an opportunity to put the events into perspective.

"I hope that this period will also be a time away from the public spotlight, and for rest and attention to family concerns," he said June 3.

In a May 30 statement the cardinal said that "words can be differently interpreted, but Father Pfleger's remarks about Sen. Clinton are both partisan and amount to a personal attack."

Cardinal George said in that statement that, "while a priest must speak to political issues that are also moral, he may not endorse candidates nor engage in partisan campaigning."

"To avoid months of turmoil in the church, Father Pfleger has promised me that he will not enter into campaigning, will not publicly mention any candidate by name and will abide by the discipline common to all Catholic priests," the statement added.

In his statement June 1, Father Pfleger said the days following the dissemination of the YouTube clip were "the most painful days of my life, even more so than the death of Jarvis, my foster son."

Jarvis was gunned down in gang crossfire not far from St. Sabina in 1998.

"This was a new level, when the world is meeting you for the first time in a minute-and-a-half YouTube clip," he said.

Trinity United Church of Christ formerly was headed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose racially divisive views have been denounced by Obama. The candidate formally resigned his membership in the church after Father Pfleger's appearance.

The clip "in no way defines the sermon or the message that was preached and in no way defined the person or the pastor that I am," Father Pfleger said at St. Sabina.

"It is also grieving to me that a minute-and-a-half YouTube video became the headline when there are earthquakes and cyclones and tornadoes and children being killed right here in our own city because of easy access to guns and those become stories on pages 18, 19, 20, 25 and 30," he added.

Racism is a sin, he said. "It is against the commandment to love and it is against the God who is love."

"On Thursday, I apologized for the words that I chose, I apologized for my dramatization," he added, referring to a statement he issued May 29. "I apologize to anyone who was offended and who thought that it was mockery, especially the candidates and their families. That was never my intention. I am deeply sorry and pray that my apology will be accepted. I am neither a racist nor a sexist."

Since the YouTube clip began to receive wide airplay, Father Pfleger said, he has received 3,000 e-mails, some telling him he should kill himself.

Two guards followed him during the entrance procession for Mass at St. Sabina because, the priest said, he had received death threats, including some that specifically mentioned the June 1 service.

Father Pfleger titled the homily he delivered "Beyond YouTube," and said that if people pay attention only to the short clips on YouTube, or only to the headlines, they miss the rest of the story.


June 8, 2008

Protecting the right to life means helping to feed the hungry, says Pope Benedict

Macroeconomics: A Vatican view on finer points of global food crisis

By John Thavis Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As world leaders were meeting in Rome to work out a response to the global food crisis, the Vatican weighed in on two levels -- morality and macroeconomics.

Pope Benedict XVI laid out the moral principles in a message June 3 to the World Food Security Summit, saying that hunger and malnutrition were unacceptable in a world that has sufficient levels of agricultural production and resources.

The pope said a chief cause of hunger was lack of solidarity with others, and he emphasized that protecting the right to life means helping to feed the hungry.

The pope also spoke of structural changes needed in the global agricultural economy, but he didn't get into particulars.

Those finer points, however, were examined in unusual detail in a little-noticed briefing paper produced by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The document offered the Vatican's take on the mechanisms behind the food crisis headlines. On one of the most hotly debated issues today, it came down squarely against developing biofuels from food crops at a time of global hunger.

The document made several important points:

-- The current food crisis began in 2005, it said, and is extraordinary because the price increases have affected almost all agricultural products, have hit many countries and have endured over a long stretch of time.

-- The text identified circumstantial causes of the food crisis: bad weather in many cereal-producing countries, the rise in energy prices that make production and transportation more costly, and speculation by commodity investors who have bought low and sold high.

Some exporting countries, including Brazil, China and India, have begun stockpiling food and keeping it off the market, apprehensive that they will not be able to satisfy domestic needs. That practice has also helped drive up prices, the document said.

-- It also examined the structural causes of the crisis, and here things get a bit more complicated. The paper pointed to one important shift in developing countries: a lower demand for cereals and a higher demand for protein-rich foods. That has led to more land used to produce animal feed, and less for foods used in direct human consumption.

It said long-standing subsidies to agricultural producers in richer countries have artificially kept down the international price of food products and thus discouraged farming in poorer countries. The result has been large-scale abandonment of local agriculture and increasing urbanization. Today, most poor countries are net importers of food, making them highly vulnerable as prices continue to rise.

-- The effects of the food crisis are not equal: The weakest suffer the most, especially children and the urban poor. The document cited U.N. statistics showing that for every 1 percent increase in food prices, 16 million more people fall into "food insecurity." The way things are going, the number of chronically hungry in the world could rise to 1.2 billion by 2015.

-- The document called for reconsideration of the rush to biofuel development, at least during the current crisis. Governments are called to protect the right to nourishment, and it is "unthinkable" for them to diminish the quantity of food products in favor of nonessential energy needs, it said.

Moreover, it said, the "hijacking" of agricultural land for production of biofuel crops was being subsidized by governments, which represents an interference with the correct functioning of the global food market.

-- Emergency food aid is a necessary short-term measure, it said. But such aid, if continued for long periods of time, can actually aggravate the root problems of the food crisis by weakening local agricultural markets and the food autonomy of beneficiary countries.

-- On the other hand, the current boom in food prices could turn out to be an opportunity for agricultural growth in poorer countries, as long as farmers have the essentials: land, seed, fertilizer, water and access to markets.

While the food crisis seems to have crept up on much of the world, the Vatican has been warning about the hunger problem and market imbalances for years.

In a 1998 document on land reform, for example, the justice and peace council said the trend toward large landholding was strangling the future of local farming in developing countries.

When introducing their comments on the food crisis, the pope and Vatican offices consistently quote the words of Christ: "For I was hungry and you gave me food."

Today, the Vatican is saying that basic task has assumed new dimensions that make it more complex, but far from impossible.

June 10, 2008

Catholic Democrats respond to another Catholic League attack on Obama Catholics

10 June 2008
Press Inquiries: Bill Roth, Communications Director, 408-876-0111

The Catholic League issued a press release yesterday, announcing that they were having trouble navigating the website of Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama. Their President, Bill Donohue, was frustrated at not being able to find information on the Obama campaign's website regarding the inner workings of the Obama National Catholic Advisory Council.

It's not clear why a non-profit organization with a noble mission like that of the Catholic League -- founded to defend Catholics in public life -- would pay someone like Mr Donohue over $340,000 a year to launch repeated partisan attacks that actually smear fellow Catholics. When he's not taking shots at those who don't share his partisan loyalties, Mr Donohue seems to dedicate much of his time to electioneering for John McCain--for instance, by taking it upon himself to absolve the bigotry of anti-Catholics like John Hagee on behalf of all Catholics.

"It's shameful that authentic efforts by the Obama Campaign to reach out to all Catholics should be attacked like this," said Dr Patrick Whelan, President of the Catholic Democrats. "Senator Obama is far and away the best candidate for Catholics of all political stripes. Whether ending the pointless killing in Iraq, addressing the glaring economic disparities and rising gas prices left behind by the Bush Administration, or finding common ground on issues like abortion, Senator Obama is poised to stand up for Catholics and all people of faith in a way that hasn't been seen in the halls of power for years."

"To paraphrase Mark Twain," Dr Whelan added, "the news of the Obama Catholic Advisory Council's demise has been greatly exaggerated."

It may come as a surprise to the Catholic League's president, but the information he's looking for can be found easily in hundreds of newspaper articles and online references to Senator Obama's Catholic Advisory Council, including our own on the Catholic Democrats website. The Obama Campaign itself has a blog with thousands of posted articles and testimonials from Catholics and other people of all faiths who are supporting Senator Obama.

"Bill Donohue's perpetual bullying serves to remind us that he has no official capacity in the Catholic Church," said Dr Whelan. "The crudeness of the criticism he levels every week at the millions of Catholics who support Senator Obama is the starkest illustration of the fact that Bill Donohue really speaks for no one but himself."

June 12, 2008

DOUG KMIEC: Catholic Reasons for Hope in the General Election

By Douglas W. Kmiec
Catholic Online

MALIBU, CA (Catholic Online) - Now that the two major parties have identified their nominees for President, Catholics must undertake the serious task of discerning whether there are faith-based reasons to support one candidate over another.

Deacon Keith Fournier has written that he cannot endorse either Senator Obama or Senator McCain at this point. I have endorsed Senator Obama. The distinguished Catholic politics scholar, Robert George of Princeton, has endorsed Senator McCain.

As a matter of Catholic teaching, who's right? None of us. Who's wrong? Also, none of us. Catholic teaching simply does not supply a single, definitive answer.

The Catholic Church does not presume to tell citizens how to vote, or endorse particular candidates, but it does outline important moral considerations, including the admonition that no Catholic can choose a candidate for the purpose of advancing a moral evil such as abortion or racism. A Catholic without that intent is free to support either Senator Obama or McCain or anyone.

Deacon Keith Fournier observes that even though Senator Obama "has regularly spoken of and demonstrated in his public interest work a concern for the poor," he needs "to expand his message of hope to include giving the hope of birth to our littlest neighbors." From a Catholic perspective, this is sound advice.

Likewise, Deacon Fournier notes in relation to the "support [of] deadly research and experimentation on human embryonic life[,] Senator McCain tries to justify this barbarism with reference to the fact that these human embryos will inevitably die in this unethical research, calling them 'spare embryos'. We need to help him see the error of that position." Amen to that as well.

However, in raising "other considerations," Deacon Fournier comments that "the next occupant of the White House will choose at least one Supreme Court Justice. That choice will, at least in this Constitutional lawyers mind, determine whether the current 'culture of death' hiding under the profane precedent of Roe v Wade will take another generation of our children before they are able to breathe our air and be welcomed into our family."

Those are heart-felt words, but for the reasons discussed below, they assume - mistakenly - what the overturning of Roe would actually mean. Given that abortion is an intrinsic evil without justification, thinking the overturning of Roe "solves" the abortion problem, when it does not, can mislead Catholics into the erroneous conclusion that any candidate unwilling to pledge reversal of Roe is categorically unworthy of support. I suspect that this is why the Deacon "dreads" the beginning of the campaign since both of the major candidates fall short of the Catholic ideal on the issue of the protection of human life.

So let's examine the nettlesome tragedy of abortion and the insufficient approaches of both candidates to date. Senator Obama's position accepts the existing legal regime which leaves the abortion decision with the mother as a "constitutional right." Senator McCain's position would leave the decision with the individual states. Neither position is fully pro-life, both are pro-choice, with the former focused on the individual and the latter focused on the right of the states. Senator McCain's position is sometimes described as pro-life, but in truth, it is merely pro-federalism (states being free under the McCain position to decide to permit or disallow abortion as they see fit).

Independent of my Catholic faith, as a constitutional law teacher, I respectfully disagree with both Senator Obama and Senator McCain since the Constitution was intended as a means to enforce and guarantee the unalienable right to life recited in the Declaration of Independence, where of course it is explicitly traced to our Creator. Since neither candidate presents a position fully compatible with Catholic teaching recognizing abortion for the intrinsic evil that it is, Catholic teaching asks us to work for the reduction of the incidence of abortion through the most prudent way possible.

There is no single answer on the most effective manner to reduce abortion either. My experience, and that of others whom I greatly respect for their tireless efforts in parish work and with Project Rachel and Catholic pregnancy centers, suggest that Senator Obama's emphasis on personal responsibility (conveying especially to young people the need to understand the maturity and commitment needed for sexual intimacy) is the course most likely to make a difference.

I respect the views of my fellow Catholics who would place greater emphasis upon new legal prohibition or restriction, but my experience is that the more effective way to actually protect life is to work directly face to face with someone facing the awful thought of taking an innocent life. This is imperfect I know, but this path calls upon us - personally - to meet as best one is able the social and economic and religious reassurance needed by the individual children of God (mother and unborn child) that touch our lives.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver rightly reminds Catholics that whether we favor personal or legal efforts to reduce abortion or some combination, our efforts must be more than just talk and that Catholics must "keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn"? Again, sound advice. All Catholics regardless of party or preferred candidate are instructed by Evangelium Vitae to work for greater recognition and respect for the culture of life.

Since neither of the major political parties have acceptable positions, lobbying -- and a good deal of prayer -- is required to be directed for them both.

Again, it is my own conclusion that Senator Obama would be more open to these considerations since he is more dedicated toward reducing the partisanship of the past, has very responsibly and very consistently called upon our better natures, and has articulated -- long before he sought the presidency -- a genuine appreciation for the importance of faith in the public square. Others will find greater potential in Senator McCain's personal life experience as an adoptive father. Obama or McCain, Catholics must always give each other the benefit of the doubt that in reaching our conclusion, we stand upon the common ground of deepening the protection of human life.

Which ever candidate ultimately merits our approval, we should break out of the complacency of the past that seems to be inspired by thinking that we are merely one vote away from protecting life if only the right candidate "controls" the composition of the Supreme Court.

First, I think it's wrong to understand court appointments in this fashion as it indulges the pernicious notion of the rule of men rather than the rule of law. But, putting that law teacher's objection to one side, in truth, there is not a single member of the present Court willing to affirm the unalienable right to life from the moment of conception, as opposed to merely reversing a single court decision such as Roe, which, as best as I can tell, would directly save no unborn life.

Thus, we are actually nine votes away from the Catholic position, and that in itself is enough to convince me that change on the Supreme Court, after 20-some long years of working for and praying for such change, cannot be the only way in which respect for life is expressed.

So why then be filled with hope, rather than dread, as the general campaign begins in earnest? Because intelligently informed writing on this site and more widely between pro-life Republicans and pro-life Democrats is occurring at an unprecedented and civilized level.

My unfortunate experience of being denied communion by a well-meaning, but theologically mistaken, college chaplain is the exception, not the rule. The present thoughtful discussion has been inspired most directly by the American Catholic bishops and their very helpful discussion in a "Call for Faithful Citizenship," which is recommended reading for all Catholics in the United States before they exercise the franchise.

This document building upon the teaching of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, reminds us that our obligation as Catholics extends well beyond any single issue, even as there are some, like abortion and racism that we can never accept.

The bishops' discussion reveals that it is possible to understand that there is often more than one way to address, and reduce the incidence of, an intrinsic moral evil without in any way endorsing that evil.

The on-going intelligent and civil discussion also allows us to grasp how no candidate who merely checks a pro-life box in a superficial way should be permitted to blind us from the balance of Catholic social teaching, including the strengthening of the family with a family wage and tax structure that is responsive to the needs of the average family; the ending of an unjust and disproportionate war; the care and stewardship of the human environment; and the structuring of society to look after the most vulnerable among us, including especially the elderly, the poor, and of course those whose voice can only be heard through ours.

May God bless our efforts and our nation, as our founders said in settling this land, "so long as we keep His covenant."

Doug Kmiec, Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University; former Dean and St. Thomas More Professor, The Catholic University of America

June 13, 2008

Supreme Court repudiates Bush cruelty at Guantanamo, and that of 4 Catholic justices who supported him

Four Catholic Supreme Court justices, including the Chief Justice, voted to support the cruel prolongation of imprisonment without trial for 6 Bosnian men seized from their homes and imprisoned for six years with no opportunity to see the evidence against them. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the lone Catholic in the majority, wrote the passionate ruling that condemned President Bush for his short-sightedness and heartlessness in rendering the treatment these prisoners have received. What could more thoroughly violate our Christianity than this total lack of empathy for these men, and the inability to put one's self in another's shoes?

On Thursday the Supreme court ruled 5-4 to allow the inmates at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, access to US courts in order to contest their confinement. They were viewed as being so dangerous that they were placed in solitary confinement, denied access to family or lawyers for years, and in some instances force-fed to keep them alive. Many have been tortured.

Now that federal courts have been opened to them, it is likely that most, if not all, will eventually go free. Coerced confessions cannot be the basis for conviction in a US court, so the Bush strategy of torturing detainees into making various kinds of admissions will turn out to have made the US dramatically less safe. Even the most egregious among them, including the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, may ultimately have to be set free because the evidence he provided will be excluded based on the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Indeed, the Fifth Amendment was written precisely to prevent the kind of torture-ridden interrogations upon which the Bush people have so inhumanely relied. One must assume that if the Administration had convincing evidence of their guilt, the criminal proceedings would have been long-over by now.

Having been so unjustly imprisoned, tortured, isolated and force-fed all these years, would it be any surprise if many of these individuals choose to enlist themselves as combatants against the US once they are ultimately released? It is human nature to return the hatred that has been shown to them. There will be some in Congress who will say, "See, we should have kept them locked up in order to protect ourselves." But the Way of Jesus suggests that had we simply treated them with respect from the beginning, as our Constitution compels us to treat all prisoners in the US, they may well have left US custody with a new respect for Americans--or been rightly convicted of the crimes with which they may have been charged.

"Love your enemies" was the advice that our Lord and Savior gave us, and we ignore it at our own great peril. The Supreme Court has brought a measure of dignity back to the judicial proceedings of our nation, which reflect so directly on each of us. Time will harshly judge these four Catholic Justices who once again abandoned the principles of our Catholic faith out of their personal ideological conviction. 13 June 2008

June 14, 2008

What good is a "Catholic" Supreme Court?

by Raymond Schroth SJ
June 13, 2008

The first Guantanamo trial, which featured arraignment just last week and may be derailed by Thursday's Supreme Court rejection of the Bush administration's policy on the denial of habeas corpus to detainees, was already an occasion for shame on many levels. This is particularly true among lawyers, civilian and military, who cared for the honor of their profession. But also, I would hope, for anyone with a sense of human decency - especially a religious person who wants to see Christian principles applied to public life.

Here is a United States Supreme Court with a Roman Catholic majority. Is there any trace of their religious upbringing in their judicial decisions? Anthony Scalia (Xavier High School and Georgetown U.) and Clarence Thomas (Holy Cross) have Jesuit educations?

The trial of the five alleged participants in planning 9/11 was morally poisoned from the beginning: first because much of the evidence had been extracted through torture, and second because the government asked for the death penalty.

Torture extracts not the truth but submission to the torturers. Khalid Mohammed, for one, confessed to 30 crimes, including the murder of Daniel Pearl, which prosecutors know cannot be true. If the trial continues, and if it is to be perceived by the world as just, no evidence extracted under abuse should be admitted. Nor evidence from unnamed sources who cannot be cross-examined. In May the Pentagon, without explanation, dropped charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, because, according to Slate.com, "what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial." His interrogatin included sexual humiliation, attack dogs, stress positions, and sleep deprivation.

Meanwhile several military lawyers, representing both the defense and prosecution, have resigned in protest, because they don't believe the procedures will guarantee a just trial or because, as Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for the tribunals, says, the system has "become deeply politicized."

Another prisoner, Omar Khadr, is a 21-year-old Canadian scooped up in Afghanistan and incarcerated when he was 15, accused of killing an American in a battle by throwing an grenade.

If the accused prisoners are guilty, who gains by killing these Muslim fanatics? Certainly there would be no deterrent effect; they pine for martyrdom, and martyr wannabes will follow their example. That executions bring "closure" for victims' relatives is a myth. Taking pleasure in the death of another person can be only a morbid, self-destructive gratification. Most likely President Bush imagines that killing more "bad guys" - men he's called "the worst of the worst" and kept incommunicado, many without any charges against them, for seven years - will boost his image as a leader.

Bush received the court's decision in Rome, where he has been visiting the Pope, with a sulking grump. I hope Pope Benedict, while he and Bush strolled in the Vatican gardens, reminded him that the Vatican has again condemned cluster bombs, which Bush clings to, and consistently opposes torture and the death penalty.

What to do with its 270 detainees if Guantanamo is closed? The Guardian (June 6-12) reports that 17 naval vessels around the world are serving as "floating prisons," holding pens for suspects until they are rendered to secret prisons somewhere else.

And what of the justices who do or do not examine their religious consciences before condemning men to endless prison without charges or appeal? Judge Scalia said the majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a Catholic, "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed." Justice Roberts regretted that the "public," by which he meant the president, would lose control of foreign policy. Catholics Clarence Thomas and Anthony Alito both signed the two dissents. Thank God for non-Catholics John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

June 16, 2008

What abortion is to American Catholics, the death penalty is for Italians


I'm in Rome this week, where this morning I took part in an hour-and-a-half radio program on RAI, the Italian state network, along with Cardinal Pio Laghi, the former Apsostolic Nunio in the United States; Gian Maria Vian, director of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper; and Greg Burke of the Fox News Channel. The topic was Pope Benedict XVI's April 15-20 visit to the United States.

Read the full article here.

New Study: Changing Political Preferences Among Religious Voters

On June 9, the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan released a national survey on religion and public life. The study gauged the political attitudes and preferences of mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, evangelicals, and religiously unaffiliated voters. It found that for the first time in polling history, more mainline Protestants identify with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. According to the study, 46 percent of mainline Protestants call themselves Democrats, compared to 37 percent who describe themselves as Republican. Nonetheless, John McCain has an edge with mainline Protestants voters over presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama (44 percent versus 38 percent). Eighteen percent of mainline Protestants say they are undecided.

Read the full article here.

New Study: Little Support for Clergy Endorsing Political Candidates

For Immediate Release
Thomas J. Reese, S.J.,
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center
Georgetown University

Only 28% of Americans agree that “clergy should be permitted to endorse political candidates during worship services,” according to the Calvin College “Religion and 2008 Election” survey. Support among Catholics is even lower (23%). Support for a politically active clergy is highest among Latino and Black Protestants, but even among these groups only 35% agree that clergy should be permitted to endorse political candidates during worship services.

"While members of the clergy, like every American citizen, have a constitutional right to vote and support candidates, their congregations do not want to hear endorsements from the pulpit," says Thomas J. Reese, S.J., senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center. "Endorsements at church services can also get the clergy and their churches in trouble with the IRS."

Catholic Church canon law forbids priests from holding "public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power," but does not forbid priests from endorsing candidates or political parties. However, in the United States it has been the tradition, often enforced by the local bishop, that priests should not endorse candidates. This restriction is beyond any imposed by the Constitution or the IRS.

“Church’s leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote,” states "Faithful Citizenship," the U.S. Catholic bishops' document on political responsibility approved overwhelmingly in November 2007. This prohibition applies both inside and outside church services.

"This is a church imposed restriction that has nothing to do with separation of church and state," said Father Reese. "The American Catholic bishops learned from the mistakes of their European brethren who got too close to particular parties and candidates," said Reese. "Inevitably the church got tainted by the corruption and bad policies of these politicians. Many Protestant ministers have ignored this history and are making the same mistakes today. I wish they would follow the Catholic example."

"It is alright for Catholic priests and bishops to talk about political issues (hunger, homelessness, abortion, war) as moral issues, but they must avoid endorsing parties or candidates," said Reese. "That is why you will not see Catholic clergy listed among 'Catholics for Obama' or 'Catholics for McCain.'"

June 18, 2008

Book Review: A Nation For All by Korzen and Kelley

If you are a Catholic and a progressive, but have not been able to find a way to articulate how your values inform your political, A Nation for All, by Chris Korzen and Alexia Kelley is a great book for you. The book serves as a manual for US-based Catholic progressives who want to put their faith into action. The book is well written, well-structured, and more to the point, seeks to provide solutions to serious problems, without getting preachy.

The book, written by the executive director of Catholics United and the executive director of Catholics in Alliance see to provide a framework for Catholics to engage in the political process by engaging their values. Importantly, they speak to the broad range of the values in Catholic Social Teaching, not just abortion, gay marriage and stem cells. They make heavy use of the US Bishops' document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship to show the full range of the values important to American Catholics.

The book is also well-structured. The first section outlines Korzen and Kelley's vision for the Common Good, and how we might return to a more civil public discourse. The second section is a primer on Catholic Social Teaching, and its breadth and depth. This section is great for anyone looking for an introduction to the history and scope of Catholic Social Teaching. After a brief discussion on the how to navigate the Church/State divide in America, A Nation For All then goes on to discuss the difficulties in being a Catholic Voter and the tough choices that have to be made.

Section 5 is the most interesting in the book. It does what most books like this do not. Rather than a philippic against the ills of society, it actually seeks to provide solutions. These solutions acknowledge that we can not wave a magic wand of legislation and solve difficult problems, but show how Catholic voters several way they they and their elected representatives can take steps in the right direction.

While this was the most satisfying section of the book, I found myself actually wanting more. A decent model for this is James Carville's book We're Right, They're Wrong, where he lists 10 specific government programs that resulted from progressive politics. This book would benefit from not only more values-based solutions, but more details as well.

As a former academic, I would like to see more footnotes and references to source material, but I admit this might be my own bias.

In summary, A Nation For All, by Chris Korzen and Alexia Kelley is the perfect book for Catholic values-based progressive looking to articulate how their values can be put into action in the political arena.

You can get the book here:

June 23, 2008

Catholics Reflect National Trends

For Immediate Release
Thomas J. Reese, S.J.,
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center
Georgetown University

Catholics Reflect National Trends
Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey, Part II

What is most striking about the Catholic responses to the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey is how closely Catholics match the national responses.

On social and political questions like party affiliation, political ideology, abortion, the government's role in protecting morality, environmental protection, and the country's role in world affairs, Catholics are within 2 to 3 percentage points of the national responses.

Only on "size of government" and "views of homosexuality" do Catholics depart from the national statistics by much. On both, Catholics take a more liberal view by 5 percentage points for "bigger government and more services" and by 8 percentage points saying "homosexuality should be accepted by society." Catholics are more liberal on homosexuality than Evangelicals, Mainline Christians, and Black Protestants.

This similarity to the national norm on political and social questions may reflect the fact that Catholics are also similar to the nation demographically. The statistics on Catholics for age, gender, income, and education reflect the national numbers within 2 to 3 percentage points. More Catholics tend to be married (4 percentage points) and have slightly higher numbers of children than the national average. Demographically, the biggest difference between Catholics and America at large is the high percent of Hispanics (29% vs. 12% for the nation).

On matters of belief and practice, Catholic responses are somewhat more positive than the nation as a whole on belief in God, importance of religion in one’s life, church attendance and frequency of prayer. Evangelicals and Black Protestants typically have more positive responses on these questions than Catholics.

Catholics are less likely than the nation to believe that Scripture is the "word of God, literally true, word for word," and more likely see it as the "word of God, but not literally true, word for word" or as a "book written by men, not the word of God."

Catholics are also more likely to say "There is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion" (77% vs. 68% for the nation). Clearly, Catholics find no problem with many voices in their church interpreting their faith in different ways since Vatican II. Only mainline Christians and non-Christians (except Muslims) score higher.

Catholics are also more likely to say "many religions can lead to eternal life" (79% vs. 70% for the nation). This shows the impact of Vatican II and ecumenism on Catholics, who no longer believe that non-Catholics go to hell. It also reflects the contemporary Catholic experience of living and working side by side with non-Catholics outside the Catholic ghetto. They do not believe that their God would consign their friends and colleagues to hell.

June 24, 2008

More on Catholics in the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey, Part II

More on Catholics in the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey, Part II


Here are some more areas where Catholics differ from the national trends shown in the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey.

Catholics are more likely to believe in heaven (82% vs. 74%) than the nation as a whole, but are just as likely to believe in hell (60% vs. 59%).

Catholics are also more likely to believe in evolution (58% vs. 48% for the nation).

Catholics are more likely to be members of a congregation (67% vs. 61%) than the national as a whole, but their participation in congregation activities such as choir, volunteer work, work with children or social activities tend to be lower (31% vs. 37%). This may be partially due to the fact that Catholic congregations tend to be larger.

Catholics still read the scriptures less than typical Americans. Only 21% of Catholics say they read the scriptures daily compared to 35% of the nation. Fifty-seven percent of Catholics say they seldom or never read the scriptures compared to 45% of the nation.

Likewise, only 29% of Catholics say they participate in prayer groups or other religious activities at least once a month, compared to 40% for the nation.

Sixty two percent of Catholics say they seldom or never share their faith with others, compared to 47% for the nation.

Only 36% of Catholics think their church should "preserve its traditions and practices," while 57% think it should "adjust to new circumstances" or "adopt modern beliefs and practices." For the nation, the numbers are 44% and 47%.

Catholics are less likely to think there is a conflict between religion and modern society than the nation (34% vs. 40%).

When given a series of choices, Catholics are less likely to say their religion is what most influences their thinking about government and public affairs (9% vs. 14%) than the nation as a whole.

Catholics like all Americans believe that “good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace,” but by slightly greater margins (64% vs. 59%).

June 25, 2008

More Data: Cara Study on Catholic Voting preferences


Only 21% of Catholics are either strongly or weakly affiliated as a
Republican. This is the lowest number of Catholic Republicans in a long
time, even going back before 2000 when Al Gore won the Catholic vote.
(23% R in ‘06) and (31% R in ‘04).

60% Catholics are D's to 36% Catholics are R's when leaners are

Democrats have an edge of 8 million voter advantage among registered
voters who are Catholics. If Catholics stick to their current party
identification when voting for president, Barack Obama would have a
potential edge over John McCain among Catholics by more than 8 million
(18 million Democrats to 10 million Republicans)

Catholics are also going post-partisan.
19.5 million Catholics who are independents; 41% (pretty much double the
number of Catholic Republicans), A huge increase since 2004 (30%).

Two major issue shifts among Catholics during the Bush administration:
Catholics are more supportive of diplomacy over military overthrow of
governments and the wealthiest in our society should be paying their
fair share. (20 pt. and 13 pt. shifts). (also a small shift in favor
of support for immigrants)

Health Care for all and a Support for working Americans were the highest
issue area agreements among Catholics.

A staggering 78% of Catholics support Health Care for all: Regardless of
cost, the U.S. government should guarantee basic health care for all

And 82% support workers right to a living wage and the right to form a

Weekly attenders are still more likely to be Democrats than anything
else. Thirty-four percent of weekly Mass attending Catholics are
Democrats and an additional 19 percent are not affiliated with a party
but lean toward the Democrats (53 percent identifying or leaning as
Democrats). Twenty eight percent of weekly attenders are Republicans and
an additional 17 percent lean toward being a Republican (43 percent
identifying or leaning as Republicans). Thus, among Catholics attending
Mass once a week or more often, Democrats have a 10 percentage point
edge. Only 5 percent of weekly Mass attenders say they are independent,
apolitical, or identify with a third party. Catholics who attend Mass
less than weekly are even more likely to be a Democrat rather than a

57% to 40% for D’s among non-Hispanic white Catholics. Thirty-two
percent of non-Hispanic white Catholics are Democrats and an additional
25 percent currently lean towards the Democratic Party (57 percent
identifying or leaning as Democrats). By comparison, 23 percent of
non-Hispanic white Catholics are affiliated with the Republican Party
and 17 percent currently lean Republican (40 percent identifying or
leaning as Republicans).

Catholics are more than 47 million potential voters in the U.S.
electorate. (That is not far off the number of Americans without Health

June 27, 2008




Bill Roth,
roth@catholicdemocrats.org [ mailto:roth@catholicdemocrats.org ] (408)-876-0111

SAN JOSE, Calif. — June 25, 2008 — A new study published by Georgetown
University shows that Democrats have a distinct advantage among Catholic
voters in the upcoming November election.

The study, from The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, shows a
number of trends which show bode well for the Democratic Party.

* The study estimates that there are about 47 Million Catholic Voters in the
United States.

* Democrats have an edge of 8 million voter advantage among registered
voters who are Catholics.

* Only 21% of Catholics are either strongly or weakly affiliated as a
Republican. This is the lowest number of Catholic Republicans recorded since
before the 2000 presidential election when Al Gore won the Catholic Vote.

* Republicans have lost nearly a third of the Catholics who identified
themselves with the Party since 2004.

A link to the study can be found at:

[ http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/news/2008/06/more_data_cara_study_on_cathol.php ]http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/news/2008/06/more_data_cara_study_on_cat

Information on Catholic beliefs taken from a Pew Research Study, and
Analysis from Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ, can be found at:

[ http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/news ]http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/news/

This data reinforces the analysis by Catholic Democrats that showed that
nearly 68% of Catholics voted Democratic in the presidential primary.
Information on this analysis can be found at:

[ http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/news/2008/03/analysis_of_catholic_voting_in.php ]http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/news/2008/03/analysis_of_catholic_voting

_About Catholic Democrats _

Catholic Democrats is an association of state based groups representing a
Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and advancing a public
understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its
potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all

Sunday, February 25, 2018

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"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.

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"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."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama

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