'U.S. bishops damaging rich Catholic faith tradition'


The Catholic church has a problem on its hands. Just weeks before the presidential election, a few bishops and prelates have come dangerously close to making implicit political endorsements by telling Catholics that abortion trumps all other moral issues and lashing out against the Democratic Party.

For those who support an essential role for faith in public life, this is a disturbing trend for both religion and democracy.

Group hits parishes in key states with anti-abortion brochure


Kansas City, Mo.

An antiabortion brochure that claims voting for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, “flagrantly violates Catholic teaching,” is being distributed to parishioners at Catholic churches across nine battleground states and beyond.

The method of distributing the flier, titled “Faithful Catholic Citizenship Based Upon the Gospel of Life,” includes placing brochures on cars parked outside of parishes, handing them out before or after Mass and distributing them online. No Catholic dioceses have sanctioned the brochure or its distribution methods and one archdiocese told NCR they strongly disagree with the methods of disseminating the material. Several persons distributing the gospel of lief brochures who refused to leave church properties have been arrested for trespassing.

A real kick in the Fannie


A few years back, at a Catholic high school in suburban Washington, the students were sprung from the last class of the day. They gathered on the track and strolled around the football field twice. For this the kids were credited with 10 of their mandatory 20 annual “service hours,” an attractive T-shirt (real booty for the teen set), and the knowledge that somehow (though how was never entirely clear) their “walkathon” would help the homeless.

In other words, the kids got something -- 45 minutes of freedom from the rigors of geometry or chemistry, colorful clothing, the camaraderie of friends on a fine fall afternoon, a soothed conscience -- for nothing. The event’s patrons took something good, the youthful inclination toward service and the instinct to help the unfortunate, and turned it tawdry and transactional.

In 1964, a candidate emerges from the Catholic imagination


Pope Pius XI (1922-39) provided the inspiration that resulted in the Democratic Party’s selecting a youthful and eloquent African American, said by his opponents to lack the experience necessary for the Oval Office, as their standard-bearer.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama? No, New York Gov. Timothy Pettigrew.

Obama, if current polling proves accurate, is on the verge of a very real and historic victory. The fictitious Pettigrew, meanwhile, was the creation of Berry Reece, a Yazoo City, Miss., native and Notre Dame graduate, and New York-based cartoonist Joe Sinnott. The six-part “Pettigrew for President” series ran in the January-June 1964 issues of Treasure Chest, the Catholic educational system’s response to the violence and vapidity of such comic book heroes as Superman and Batman, but also part of a broader effort commissioned by Pius XI to instill civic virtue in U.S. parochial school students.

Wuerl: 'Conceptually possible' not to support Roe v Wade ban


In the following interview by NCR senior correspondent John Allen with Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the question at hand was whether a Catholic, in good conscience, could vote for a candidate not committed to overturning Roe v. Wade?

Allen spoke to Wuerl in Rome, where he is attending the Synod of Bishops on the Bible. The complete interview, with links to more synod coverage, is Interview with Archbishop Donald Wuerl.

NCR: Speaking of engaging the issues of the day, as you and I speak we’re 25 days away from election day in the United States. What should pastors across the country be saying in the pulpits?

Obama aligned to U.S. bishops on health care


In declaring that health care “should be a right for every American,” Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has squarely aligned himself with a teaching of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Now an organization of lay Catholics within the Democratic Party is challenging Sen. John McCain to switch his stance and do the same. “Catholic Democrats is calling on the McCain campaign to acknowledge the fundamental right to health care, especially for the most vulnerable of our population,” the group said in a written statement Wednesday.

If the Catholic notion of the ‘common good’ really means anything, it surely motivates us to help keep all Americans healthy through an insurance system that covers everyone,” said Dr. Patrick Whelan of Boston, a pediatric specialist who serves as the group’s president.

The McCain campaign did not respond to a request for its reaction.

The American bishops’ 2007 statement on Faithful Citizenship, while endorsing no political party, calls health care a “fundamental human right” and an “urgent national priority.”

Cafardi resigns as Franciscan University trustee


WASHINGTON -- Following his public endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, a Catholic legal scholar has resigned from the board of trustees at Ohio's Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Nicholas P. Cafardi submitted his letter of resignation Oct. 6, which was accepted by the school's president, Franciscan Father Terrance Henry, on behalf of the board, according to a statement issued by the Catholic university Oct. 7.

The resignation came a week after Cafardi, dean emeritus and a professor of law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, wrote a column for Religion News Service endorsing Obama, in spite of Obama's support for legal abortion. He wrote, "We have lost the abortion battle -- permanently." The column was published online by National Catholic Reporter.

Cafardi, an expert in civil and canon law, told Religion News Service that he quit the school's board voluntarily.

Young Catholics more progressive than older ones, poll finds


Young Catholics are more progressive than older Catholics across a range of issues and on a number of topics are more progressive than their peers in other religious groups, according to a newly released survey by the group Faith in Public Life.

Young Catholics, 18 to 34 years, constituted one group in a survey titled “The Young and the Faithful,” designed and conducted by Public Religion Research. Faith in Public Life is one of a number of religious groups organized following the 2004 election with the intent of broadening the public debate on religious and social issues.

“This is not the culture war generation,” said Robert P. Jones, president of Public Religion Research, in drawing a broad conclusion from the study during a conference call. “From gay rights to the role of Americans around the world to working for the common good,” the young people surveyed represent a group that “kind of works past the ideological divides” that have characterized the political debate of recent years.

Lay voices reshaping conversation on abortion


News analysis

The every-four-year national skirmish among Catholics over abortion politics is as predictable as a politician’s smile. But this year a few “game changers,” in the phrase of the season, have altered the conversation within the Catholic community and for the wider culture.

For the first time since the abortion issue began to dominate the Catholic political discussion 35 years ago, groups have organized and high-profile Catholics have gone public to insist that Catholic teaching does not prohibit a vote for a pro-choice politician.

Much to the contrary, in fact, groups like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United note that the teaching explicitly prohibits bishops from endorsing or opposing specific candidates, from instructing Catholics on how to vote or from arguing that Catholics need consider only one issue in determining how to vote.

Theologian says one-issue bishops violate their own teaching


Kansas City, Mo.

Bishops who make a case for one-issue politics or openly oppose a political candidate are in violation of the guidelines set out repeatedly in their own documents on political responsibility, said noted theologian Fr. Richard McBrien in a recent talk here.

McBrien of Notre Dame University, author of a number of major works on Catholicism, including the recently published The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism, was speaking to an overflow, mostly Catholic audience of several hundred at a Unitarian Church in Kansas City, Mo. His talk was hosted by a group of lay Catholics who run a speaking forum called “Topics to Go.”

NCR's Tom Fox interviewed Fr. McBrien earlier this month about his new book, The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism. Listen the interview by clicking on the red type: Audio interview with Fr. Richard McBrien



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June 16-29, 2017