Distinctly Catholic

Who is at War on Religion?


Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics takes note of Newt Gingrich's comments regarding the necessity of preventing sharia law from being recognized by U.S. courts. Silk invites Newt to engage in a thought-experiment: substitute "halakha" for "sharia." Silk might also mention the canon law of the Catholic Church. Civil courts rely on religious laws all the time when called upon to adjudicate a case involving a given religion. How could it be otherwise? Gingrich is simply engaging in anti-Muslim baiting. It is ugly. It is beneath a man of his intellect. But, that doesn't mean it won't be effective.

Anybody But Romney: Is It a Myth?


The always intelligent Nate Silver at the New York Times raises doubts about the theory that Mitt Romney is essentially unacceptable to the vast majority of Republican primary voters, and that his wins in Iowa and New Hampshire were simply the result of the conservative vote being split among Gingrich, Santorum and Perry.

Silver is half-right: Many Republicans will support whoever is the eventual nominee and while they may prefer someone other than Romney, they will climb on board his bandwagon if he continues to rack up victories.

God's Right Hand


Yesterday, my biography of Jerry Falwell – God’s Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right – was published by HarperOne. This is the first real biography of Falwell since 1984 and I encourage everyone to buy the book either at your local independent bookstore or at Amazon. Here is the link.

I don’t want to give away the book, but I thought I would share with you, my regular readers, some of the things I learned that surprised me while working on this project, and not only about Falwell.

TNR Gets It Wrong


The New Republic is, hands down, my favorite magazine. But, every once in awhile, even they publish something that is frightfully wrong.

This morning, they have a post up by Michael Kazin who suggests the Religious Right's influence on national politics is waning. He writes that attitudes on abortion and same-sex marriage are moving away from the positions articulated by the religious right, a claim that is only half-true. Attitudes towards abortion have remained remarkably for the past couple of decades while, in recent years, attitudes about same-sex marriage are decoupling from other social issues as younger evangelicals have become increasingly ambivalent about the issue.

B16 On a Roll


I mentioned in my earlier post this morning about some recent comments by Pope Benedict XVI, but I want to return to them here.

At a meeting with police officers, the Holy Father said, "There is no justice where profit is the number one criterion." Later in the speech, the Pope added, "justice is not a mere human convention. When, in the name of supposed justice, the criteria of utility, profit and material possession come to dominate, the value and dignity of human beings can be trampled underfoot.” Wouldn't you like to know what he thinks of Bain Capital?

Then, the Pope's address for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees was similarly sharp about the need to create humane criterion for assessing the plight of immigrants.

Really, ask yourselves this question: Would such sentiments get the Pope booed were he to participate in a GOP debate?

Latin American Policy


Too much of the presidential debates, both the GOP nominating debates and this coming autumn’s debates between President Obama and the eventual GOP nominee will be consumed with trivia. Large and important issues will be ignored. One such issue is U.S. relations with Latin America but, in this instance, we might be grateful that the candidates will not address the issue because it is doubtful either party would advocate the kind of policies that would warm a Catholic heart.

Fixing the King Memorial


The new national memorial to Dr. King along the Tidal Basin here in Washington has been the subect of a great deal of criticism, in part because of its socialist-realist feel, but mre significantly, because of one of the quotes etched into the stone. It reads, "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness." Dr. King never spoke those words. They are condensed from a longer quote and, as Maya Angelou has pointed out, they make King sound like "an arrogant twit." The Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, has ordered the quote changed, and has ordered the National Park Service to consult with King's family and the memorial foundation that raised the funds for the project, to come up with something more suitable.

I hope they will come up with something that reminds Americans of Dr. King's specifically religious motivations, how we understood his struggles and his triumphs not just in moral terms but in explicitly religious terms. Suggestions?

Joy First; Ethics Second


Father Robert Barron, well known for his documentary "Catholicism," which I still can't quite believe was aired on PBS, has a really great essay over Real Clear Religion.

The key graphs:

When I was coming of age in the Catholic Church -- in the 70s' and 80s' of the last century -- Catholics were utterly preoccupied with law.

What I mean is that they focused relentlessly on ethical matters, especially in the area of sexuality. This was true whether one was on the right or on the left. I think of the endless disputes around the morality of birth control, divorce and re-marriage, pre-marital sex, etc. that ripped the church apart in those days. Mind you, I'm not suggesting for a moment that those issues were unimportant or that the people who staked out positions on both sides were unserious. But I am indeed suggesting that a church battling with itself over ethical law presented a deeply disedifying and unattractive face to the wider world.


Subscribe to Distinctly Catholic


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017