Distinctly Catholic

+Dolan at the GOP Convention


The fallout over the news that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will give the benediction on the final night of the Republican Party Convention continues. It should not surprise Catholics that a symbol should take on such enormous meaning but, ask yourself: Can you name the priest or pastor who gave the benediction at the 2008 conventions? I can’t. So, why is this year different?

The nation’s politics could scarcely be more polarized. You have to go back many years, to 1800 and 1860 and 1932, to find a campaign in which the two competing parties are so divided on core principles and so willing to turn disagreements about policy into a meta-narrative in which the charge of “un-Americanism” so easily falls from the lips of our politicians. President Obama is not a European socialist who hates America. Paul Ryan is not an ogre. But, there are many people who think these things and their thoughts are nourished nightly on cable news.

Interesting Polling Numbers on White RCs


Faith in Public Life Action Fund has a new poll out that they commissioned that focuses specifically on white Catholic voters in the Midwest. These voters back Romney by eight points, 48% to 40% but they are also responsive to religiously inflected critiques of the Romney-Ryan budget plans and they do not believe that President Obama is hostile to religion.

Of course, a case can be made that the Democratic Party seems hell bent on making itself appear hostile to religion, cf. reaction to news that Cardinal Dolan is going to pray at GOP National Convention.

Cardinal Dolan & GOP Nat'l Convention


The news that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will give the benediction at the Republican National Convention has sent shivers up the spines of some of my leftie Catholic friends. They need to relax.

First, Dolan said he would be happy to give a benediction at the Democratic National Convention as well. Will he be asked? If asked, would he be greeted respectfully? I suspect the Democratic National Committee decided to give Ms. Sandra Fluke and Ms. Cecile Richards a turn at the podium because they will fire up the crowd. Is it likely that same crowd can be expected to even be polite to the Archbishop of New York?

Second, there is precedent. Going back to the days before Congress barred non-profits from partisan political activity, Msgr. John A. Ryan gave a famous radio speech in 1936, paid for by the Democratic National Committee, in which he expicitly endorsed Franklin Roosevelt's re-election campaign, something Cardinal Dolan will not do. Cardinal John Krol twice gave the benediction at Republican National Conventions held in cities other than his own.

Contra William McGurn on Ryan


William McGurn, writing on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, is the latest conservative Catholic to rush to the defense of Congressman Paul Ryan. In making his defense, he calls especial attention to the column I wrote the day Ryan was announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate in which I labeled Ryan a “Champion of Dissent.” Consequently, it is both a pleasure and an obligation to respond.

Obama: Culture Warrior?


Over at The New Republic, Nate Cohn looks at the ways the culture warrior model works for Obama in this election. I am not sure Cohn is right, but I fear he is, and that the long term conseqeunces for the Democratic Party are grim indeed. I have said it before and will say it again: The historic vocation of the Democratic Party is to fight for the interests of the working class. If it abandons that vocation to become a policy defined around preferences in the culture wars, I, for one, will no longer be interested in the Democratic Party.

Essays on Cath Social Teaching at CMT


Two essays at CatholicMoralTheology.com deal with the renewed attention on Catholic Social Teaching in the wake of Cong. Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate.

Jana Bennett examines "How Not to Talk About Catholic Social Teaching."

David Cloutier looks at "Bishops, Budgets and Getting Catholic Moral Theology Right."

Both essays are worth a read.

Cong. Akin & the Pro-Life Cause


Congressman Todd Akin’s comments about rape and his position on abortion have dominated the news cycle for 48 hours. They clearly struck a chord within the political world, but the note struck goes deeper than mere politics. If this was just about politics, Republicans would be defending one of their own rather than running from him and asking him to step aside in his bid for the Senate seat in Missouri. And, this reaction contains, I believe, important lessons for anyone in the pro-life movement.

More on Catholic Conversation Project


Beth Haile has a post up at CatholicMoralTheology.com about the recent meeting of the Catholic Conversation Project. One of the benefits of this meeting is that I get to meet people like Beth with whom I have corresponded before, but never met in person. As she notes, it is a time not only to meet each other, but we celebrate the Eucharist together. There, in the Sacrament, in the Scriptures, and in the Creed, we are reminded that what binds us together as Catholics is something way, way deeper than whatever separates us as thinkers.

Haile's comments - in their precision and thoughtfulness - show why I have such confidence in these young theologians. They are not afraid to admit they are still working through issues, and that they don't have all the answers, but they also evidence the fact that we Catholics do have The Answer, the encounter with the Crucified Who Lives.

R & P on Ryan


Our friend at the online academic journal "Religion & Politics," from the Danforth Center at St. Louis University, has a regular feature, "The Table" in which they assemble a group of experts to discuss a given topic. This week, they focus on Paul Ryan and the Catholic Vote. You can read the essays here, one of which is by yours truly.


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In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017