Monday, March 31, 2008

Catholic High School Students for Obama

I want to give a shout-out to all of the AWESOME Catholic High School students who have organized "Students for Obama" Clubs at their schools. You Rock!

Just to name a few:

St. Mary's High School (CA)

Cedar Rapids Xavier HS (IA)

Dowling Catholic HS (IA)

Rosary HS (IL)

St. Joseph HS (IN)

Bishop Brady High School (NH)

St. John's Jesuit HS (OH)
and thank you, Gina, for helping me with some of the 'terminology' in this post!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Commonweal Article on Obama

Having referenced an article in America magazine's blog, I wanted to give equal time to another fine Catholic journal. The following is from the current issue of Commonweal:

Yes He Can
The Case for Obama

Robert N. Bellah

This year’s presidential election is surely one of the most important in recent history. After more than seven years of the most incompetent administration in American history, it is time for a change. The question is, What kind of change?

Before trying to answer that question, let me put my cards on the table: I am highly partisan. I have never voted for a Republican in my sixty years as a voter. I have on rare occasions voted for a third-party candidate, but on the whole, often as the lesser evil, I have voted for Democrats. Although I think I would have done the same wherever I lived, I must also confess that I am conformist in terms of my immediate environment. It is rumored that there are Republicans in Berkeley, but no one knows who they are: they are perhaps a secret society. Voting consistently for Democrats makes one something of a conservative in Berkeley terms. I suspect if I had lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as I did for the first twenty years of my academic life, it wouldn’t have been much different.

I must also confess that I am highly partisan in the present Democratic primary race. I have a high regard for both Clintons and I believe Hillary Clinton is a strong candidate. But Barack Obama has stirred my political hopes like no one since Franklin Roosevelt. Yes, I am old enough to remember Roosevelt. He became president when I was five years old and died when I was eighteen. Even as a child I was partisan and, while too young to know enough to support him in 1932, I did strongly support him in 1936, 1940, and 1944, though I was not yet old enough to vote.

Hearing Obama give the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was one of the most electrifying experiences of my political life. “Who is this person?” I thought. How is it possible for anyone today to formulate the very best of the American tradition in such eloquent terms? (Needless to say, with a sense of the centrality of rhetoric to the Western political tradition from Aristotle and Cicero to Jefferson and Lincoln, I have never accepted the derogatory use of the word. I believe that speaking well and thinking well usually go together, and vice versa, as the incumbent president so vividly illustrates. It will be easier for John McCain to attack Obama’s “rhetoric” than to equal it.) Recently going over my 2007 checkbooks for tax purposes, I noted that I wrote a check to Obama for America on February 10, 2007, which was the very day he announced his candidacy. What impressed me during the last long year of campaigning was not so much his stand on particular issues (I generally agree with him, though on health care I think Clinton’s plan may be slightly better); it was the way Obama framed where we are today and how we can move to a better place. In other words, what I first heard in 2004 has only become clearer in the past year: Obama, like no one I have heard in a very long time, understands our political tradition, how it has been distorted in recent years, and how we can return to it at its best. I know Obama talks a lot about hope, but that is what he has given me: hope, when I had begun to believe that the situation in my country was hopeless.

I believe both Clintons have read Habits of the Heart and The Good Society, because they have told me that they have, and I believe Hillary Clinton would try to put into practice some of the things that I and my coauthors were talking about in those books. I have no reason to believe that Obama has read the books, yet he has caught their spirit in a most remarkable way and expressed it more eloquently than anyone in living memory. In Habits of the Heart I and my coauthors described four traditions that are powerful in America today. We called our primary moral language “utilitarian individualism,” the calculating concern for self-interest that is natural in our kind of economy, and a language that all candidates, Republicans and Democrats, must often use as they appeal to various interest groups to support them. But we have three secondary moral languages that give a greater richness and moral adequacy to our discourse (even as they are often shunted aside by the dominance of the language of self-interest), expressive individualism, biblical language, and the language of civic republicanism. All candidates use the language of expressive individualism when they try to show us their human side, tell their individual stories and the stories of those who support them. But the substantial alternatives to the language of utilitarian individualism are biblical and civic republican. Biblical language, like all the others, comes in several forms, but here I am referring to the language of Martin Luther King Jr. and William Sloane Coffin—that is, a language that expresses the dominant biblical concern for those most in need, a language that reminds us of our solidarity with all human beings. When Obama says “we are our brothers’ keepers; we are our sisters’ keepers,” when he suggests, as he does in so many ways, that we all need one another, all depend on one another, he is using that biblical language at its most appropriate. And in his emphasis on public participation at every level, in his refusal to take money from lobbyists and political action committees, he is reviving the spirit of civic republicanism, of voters as citizens responsible for the common good, not political consumers concerned only with themselves.

The probable Republican nominee, John McCain, seems to be a better human being than his Republican rivals, more human and more moral. But to the degree that he relies on the politics of fear—apparently the Republicans’ only hope—and demonizes Islam in the process, he would lead us to follow our worst instincts and continue a policy that has the gravest consequences for the world and the place of America in the world. That leaves the only real choice (I’m writing this in late February) as that between Clinton and Obama. I am not sure Obama can deliver on what he promises—he will surely face fanatical and powerful opposition to anything he tries to do. And I am not sure he can resist the temptations of our political culture to compromise—not to compromise for the sake of doing what is realistically possible, but to compromise principles. And I believe Hillary Clinton is probably better prepared to deal with the realities of the presidency from “day one,” as she has said. But there is a grandeur and a hope in Obama that makes me want to give him the chance to lead our country.

Should Clinton be the nominee, I would strongly support her. I hope that Obama’s example would encourage her best instincts, as Edwards’s example has encouraged both Obama and Clinton. But if Obama is not the nominee, and if he is never elected president, I am sure that, God willing, he will long be a political presence that will forever be calling us to heed “the better angels of our nature.”

I am not as confident as many that the Democratic nominee will win in November. Americans of late have been very vulnerable to the politics of fear, as have many nations in the past. I am reasonably sure that the Democrats will have a significant majority in both houses of Congress, that if McCain wins it will be a personal victory with very short coattails. That means a great deal of conflict and gridlock in a period when we can ill afford it. If we have, as expected, a Democratic president next year, the road will still not be easy. Both Democratic candidates have promised what amounts to universal health care, but opposition to that is enormously well financed and it will be a struggle to keep even a significant Democratic majority sufficiently together to pass it. Every significant issue, domestic and foreign, will be contested, will require both presidential leadership of a high quality and public pressure on the Congress to do the right thing. We may be confident that, whoever is elected, things cannot be as bad as under George W. Bush. Yet that is a very low standard. I cannot say I am very optimistic that the standard will be significantly lifted. Still, hope is a theological virtue; it is something required of us. Whatever we may fear, we must keep hope alive.


Robert N. Bellah is professor of sociology emeritus, University of California, Berkeley. Among his many books, he is coauthor of Habits of the Heart (University of California Press).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

From AMERICA Magazine's blog

Obama, Catholics and Social Justice

Michael Sean Winters
March 19, 2008

The New Deal Coalition drew the adherence of Catholics because it overlapped so obviously with the dominant themes in Catholic teachings about social justice. Msgr. John A Ryan, who headed the Social Action Department of the Bishops' Conference, was so devoted to FDR and his programs that he earned the sobriquet "Right Reverend New Dealer." Parts of the New Deal bore a remarkable resemblance to the kinds of social policies advocated in papal encyclicals, especially Pope Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno, published in 1931.

Democrats lost their way in the 1970s, when they became obsessed with identity politics and a view of political rights unmoored from moral considerations, summed up in the offensive pro-abortion chant, "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries." Concern for the economic hardships faced by the middle and lower classes took a back seat to debates about abortion and racial set asides. Thus was born the "Reagan Democrat," a voter, usually a white, ethnic Catholic living in the Rust Belt, who was fed up with a Democratic Party that seemed not to care that he was having trouble supporting his family.

Yesterday, in his speech about race, Obama tried to move the Democratic Party past identity politics. Indeed, his entire campaign has been about trying to move the nation's political agenda past the now stale debates of the 70s, 80s and 90s that divided Americans and prevented progress on the pocketbook issues at the heart of the New Deal.

Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to rekindle the social justice flame that was the heart and soul of the New Deal Coalition. I say unique because more than any politician since FDR, Obama knows how to employ words to political effect. He can invoke phrases like "human dignity" and "the Common Good" without them sounding pedestrian. He rarely uses that most clunky construction of which Democrats are fond - "working families" – which forgets that families exist to love not to work. He is unafraid to employ a vigorously moral language when he discusses the need for parents to turn of the television sets and work with their children on their homework, or makes the case for the "Dream Act" which helps the children of undocumented workers go to college.

The task of reaching Catholics requires more than the insertion of a catch phrase here and there. Obama needs to connect the moral dots to the policy dots explicitly. One of the key differences between classic liberal thought and Catholic social thought is that Catholics insist on the word "person" rather than "individual," correctly noting that a person can be an individual but and individual can too easily become an individual part of someone else's de-humanizing machinery.

Obama will get a boost heading into the Pennsylvania primary from the fact that Pope Benedict XVI's speeches will be filled with explicit discussions about the moral necessity of creating a more just social order. The growing gap in income inequality in America is a moral scandal, the result of Republican policies that can best be described as social Darwinism. Benedict will not be shy about calling laissez-faire economics sinful. Will Obama?

'America' magazine is one of the most respected and widely read Catholic journals, published by the Society Of Jesus.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama Reaches Out to PA Catholics; Wins Endorsement from Senator Casey

Senator Barack Obama is making a strong outreach to Catholics in Pennsylvania. There is a "Catholics for Obama" organization in each diocese in the state (maybe the first time voters have been organized by diocese rather than civil jurisdiction). Senator Obama plans small round-table meetings and "listening sessions" with Catholic voters in Pennsylvania's urban and rural areas, as well as e-mails and phone banks targeting Catholics.

Also, former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer has been reaching out to fellow Catholics on the campaign's behalf in Pennsylvania.

The AP reports that:

"Since last year's election, the number of Democrats in Pennsylvania has increased by more than 161,000. The defectors include Catholics like Chris Molitoris, 22, who was a registered Republican but switched his party registration so he can vote in the Democratic primary for Obama.

Molitoris, who is from Plains near Scranton and is the student president at the University of Scranton, a Catholic Jesuit university, interned for Santorum's campaign two years ago. Like his Catholic parents, he says he's opposed to abortion, but he says he's more willing to consider a candidate who is not. He says he thinks Obama would best represent the United States on the world stage.

'I'm pro-life, but I don't want to look at just the pro-life issue alone to determine the quality of the candidate. I've taken more of, I guess, a holistic approach in looking at the whole entire package,' Molitoris said.

Christina Drogalis, 21, from Old Forge, is a Catholic and student at the same university. She supports Obama too.

'I think Hillary Clinton might have too much of a legacy. It sort of feels to me too much of the same old thing,' Drogalis said."


The biggest news among Pennsylvania Catholics is today's endorsement by Senator Bob Casey, Jr. The endorsement will come in Pittsburgh during a rally at the Soldiers and Sailors Military Museum and Memorial. Casey will then join Obama on part of a six day bus tour.

Other Pennsylvania supporters of Senator Obama include Roman Catholic Rep. Patrick Murphy and former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, a Byzantine Catholic.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Casey sees Obama as an "underdog" in the campaign who sacrificed at the beginning of his career to be a community organizer "in the shadows of the closed steel mills in Chicago," said a source close to Casey who is familiar with the endorsement decision but was not authorized to speak publicly about it.

The source, reached by The Inquirer yesterday, said that Casey was also impressed with how Obama had stood up to the pressures of the campaign, including recent attacks over the racially incendiary remarks of his former pastor.

Prior to today's endorsement, Senator Casey commented about the campaign that "Those so-called Casey Democrats will be looking for a broad agenda on social justice, economic justice and a recognition by the candidate, by our nominee that he or she will be someone who can talk about their faith, but more important than that, can listen to them, listen to what their concerns are and also listen to them about their faith and their point of view."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

McCain Names Abortion Rights Activist to Lead Republican Convention

Bob Novak reports that "John McCain's team that is taking over the Republican Party has decided on Bobbie Greene Kilberg", a pro-abortion rights Republican from Virginia "long detested by conservatives, to run the party's national convention." Kilberg is a former leader of the pro-abortion rights National Women's Political Caucus, ran as a pro-choice candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia and had differences with social conservatives while serving in the first Bush White House. She is very close to big business and the Republican Establishment.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More from Kmiec

From The Legal Times Blog:

March 25, 2008

Conservative Lawyer Explains His Support for Obama
By Tony Mauro

Not long ago, Douglas Kmiec was an active campaigner for Mitt Romney for President — a plausible fit for the conservative Pepperdine law professor who once served in the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

But on Sunday, the former dean of Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law made a surprising switch. He wrote in Slate that he had switched to none other than Sen. Barack Obama.
Kmiec says he is not abandoning his conservative principles. He recited his continued support for traditional marriage and his opposition to abortion, big government, judicial activism and excessive separation of church and state. Kmiec wrote, “I am convinced, based upon his public pronouncements and his personal writing, that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view and, as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them.”

We caught up with Kmiec to explore his decision more fully, and he answered questions about it by e-mail:

BLT: How did you come to this decision? Was there a triggering event — such as Obama’s speech on race last week?

Kmiec: “It was a long period of prayer and discernment. I was of course impressed by the race speech, and I've been using it in class as we have made our way through Brown v Board of Education and subsequent cases on school desegregation, affirmative action and the equal protection clause.

“But it was more than that. Even before Senator Obama began his quest for the presidency in earnest, it came to my attention that he had spoken with considerable sensitivity to the issues of church and state. Obama called for ‘a sense of proportion to guide those who police the boundaries between church and state.’ And he specifically called for an end of the politics of division where Republicans would allege that Democrats have nothing but hostility for people of faith and Democrats would understate the importance of faith in America's history and in the life of everyday Americans. He seems to grasp that not every mention of God in public is a breach of the wall of separation — that context matters. Most of all, he understood that ‘people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool to attack and belittle and divide.’”

BLT: How do you square this decision with your past support for President Reagan and your opposition to abortion, for example?

Kmiec: “The search for common ground, to build bridges, and to lift us up to our better nature is very much in the vein of Ronald Reagan as I remember him. Obama has indicated that he says a prayer each day for America that our profound disagreements ‘will not prevent us from living with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.’

“Well, I do have profound disagreements with Senator Obama, most notably on abortion — a practice that I cannot characterize as anything other than a grave moral evil. He is tolerant of the practice, though importantly, not approving of it. Quite the contrary, as he has stated, ‘there's a moral component to prevention [of pregnancy outside of marriage]. And we shouldn't be shy about acknowledging it. As parents, as family members, we need to encourage young people to show reverence towards sexuality and intimacy. We need to teach that not just to the young girls, we need to teach it to those young boys.’

“Obama conveyed that message of responsibility to Planned Parenthood. Most Democrats would’ve just played to the crowd. That's not enough to satisfy my Catholic concerns, but it is a beginning, and the focus on reducing abortion by family teaching seems to me to be far more prudent and effective than trying to change matters by force of law by forever seeking the elusive vote to overturn Roe [v. Wade.]

“In addition, Senator Obama’s approach to many other issues readily coincide with Catholic social teaching: most notably, his opposition to the war in Iraq and his recognition of how much this mistake has cost us in terms of life, international standing, and the public debt that has aggravated the woes of our national economy.”

BLT: How have your colleagues and students reacted to your decision?

Kmiec: “The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive among my students who are quite inspired by the Senator. Among my former Republican colleagues and friends, the story is a bit different. But as I tell them, at a time when the nation's interests are seriously challenged, blind partisanship is still blind.

“Interestingly, a few prominent Republicans have indicated to me that they also had wanted to announce their support for the Senator but feared criticism.

“Those who raise objections mostly do so in reasoned argumentation, but there is also some name-calling. I try my best to answer as many reasoned concerns as I can and to charitably overlook the epithets.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kmiec Endorses Obama

Endorsing Obama

Today I endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States. I believe him to be a person of integrity, intelligence, and genuine good will. I take him at his word that he wants to move the nation beyond its religious and racial divides and that he wants to return the United States to that company of nations committed to human rights. I do not know if his earlier life experience is sufficient for the challenges of the presidency that lie ahead. I doubt we know this about any of the men or women we might select. It likely depends upon the serendipity of the events that cannot be foreseen. I do have confidence that the senator will cast his net widely in search of men and women of diverse, open-minded views and of superior intellectual qualities to assist him in the wide range of responsibilities that he must superintend.

This endorsement may be of little note or consequence, except perhaps that it comes from an unlikely source: namely, a former constitutional legal counsel to two Republican presidents. The endorsement will likely supply no strategic advantage equivalent to that represented by the very helpful accolades the senator has received from many of high stature and accomplishment, including most recently, from Gov. Bill Richardson. Nevertheless, it is important to be said publicly in a public forum in order that it be understood. It is not arrived at without careful thought and some difficulty.

As a Republican, I strongly wish to preserve traditional marriage not as a suspicion or denigration of my homosexual friends but as recognition of the significance of the procreative family as a building block of society. As a Republican and as a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception, and it is important for every life to be given sustenance and encouragement. As a Republican, I strongly believe that the Supreme Court of the United States must be fully dedicated to the rule of law and to the employ of a consistent method of interpretation that keeps the court within its limited judicial role. As a Republican, I believe problems are best resolved closest to their source and that we should never arrogate to a higher level of government that which can be more effectively and efficiently resolved below. As a Republican and a constitutional lawyer, I believe religious freedom does not mean religious separation or mindless exclusion from the public square.

In various ways, Sen. Barack Obama and I may disagree on aspects of these important fundamentals, but I am convinced, based upon his public pronouncements and his personal writing, that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view and, as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them.

No doubt some of my friends will see this as a matter of party or intellectual treachery. I regret that, and I respect their disagreement. But they will readily agree that as Republicans, we are first Americans. As Americans, we must voice our concerns for the well-being of our nation without partisanship when decisions that have been made endanger the body politic. Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or a clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen. In pursuit of these fatally flawed purposes, the office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend in public office formally, has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment. Today, I do no more than raise the defense of that important office anew, but as private citizen.

Sept. 11 and the radical Islamic ideology that it represents is a continuing threat to our safety, and the next president must have the honesty to recognize that it, as author Paul Berman has written, "draws on totalitarian inspirations from 20th-century Europe and with its double roots, religious and modern, perversely intertwined. ... wields a lot more power, intellectually speaking, then naïve observers might suppose." Sen. Obama needs to address this extremist movement with the same clarity and honesty with which he has addressed the topic of race in America. Effective criticism of the incumbent for diverting us from this task is a good start, but it is incomplete without a forthright outline of a commitment to undertake, with international partners, the formation of a worldwide entity that will track, detain, prosecute, convict, punish, and thereby stem radical Islam's threat to civil order. I await Sen. Obama's more extended thinking upon this vital subject as he accepts the nomination of his party and engages Sen. McCain in the general campaign discussion to come.

March 23, 2008 by Doug Kmiec

About Doug Kmiec

Douglas W. Kmiec is Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University. He served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (U.S. Assistant Attorney General) for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Former Dean of the law school at The Catholic University of America, Professor Kmiec was a member of the law faculty for nearly two decades at the University of Notre Dame.
N.B. My dear friends. This is very big news for Catholics supporting Senator Obama. Professor Kmiec is a very significant figure and theorist within conservative Catholics circles. We appreciate the tremendous courage of his action and we welcome him to the community of members of the Cathlolic faith supporting Obama. We look to him for continued leadership and wish him all the blessings of Easter.


Critics off base with 'Obama Commandment'

By Chuck Goudie
Chicago Daily Herald

On Easter morning, Chicago churches would have been as empty as Christ's tomb if everyone were expected to live by "the Obama Commandment."

Ever since it was revealed that Barack Obama's South Side Chicago pastor said some things that certain white commentators have labeled as racist and seditious, the candidate has been crucified for his association with that church.

According to critics, he was supposed to have followed what is best described as the Obama Commandment: Thou shall not remain in a church pew when nasty ideas are presented, especially when those ideas are being shouted in a very scary voice.

The Obama Commandment (OC) requires that you immediately leave your church and never return when your pastor says or does something outrageous. If you are a public person, then the OC requires an exorcism-like ritual of spiritual cleansing followed by a network TV appearance to explain it all.

Of course, anyone who regularly attends a church, synagogue, country revival, girl's night out or men's smoker hears things that make them cringe. Politically incorrect ideas are sometimes expressed; unsavory language might be used; there might even be blasphemy or treasonous speech.

As Vice-President Dick Cheney likes to say in response to challenging questions, "So what?"
If Barack Obama is so sponge-headed that he might become hypnotized by a sermon, how could he possibly handle a crisis conversation with Iranian madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
"I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy" said Sen. Obama while reciting his race manifesto for the ages last week. "For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed."
Most Chicago-area Catholics know the feeling. For years, we have had to figure out how to disconnect our faith from the actions of some of our faith leaders, including certain priests and bishops, as they sexually abused, assaulted and mentally disfigured boys and young men, enabled by bishops who responded by just transferring the priest-rapists.
Last week on the heels of Sen. Obama's speech, there was another clergyman in the news.
Pedophile Catholic priest Fred Lenczycki became the first man of the cloth to be indefinitely imprisoned as a danger to society. Lenczycki will remain behind bars even though he finished his sentence for molesting altar boys in the early 1980s in the rectory at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Hinsdale.

The Bishop of the Joliet Diocese at the time, Joseph Imesch, arranged "treatment" for Lenczycki and then sent him to St. Louis to be a hospital chaplain -- until they found out he was a pedophile.

Lenczynski's boss at the time of the Hinsdale abuse, St Isaac Jogues pastor Rev. Donald Kocher, later had his own problems. Kocher left the priesthood after being sued by a married woman who claimed she was fired from a church job after breaking off an affair with him. During a deposition, Kocher admitted affairs with a dozen women during two decades.

I knew Don Kocher. He was my pastor. Should his despicable behavior disqualify me from following my personal beliefs which have no room for such conduct?

Some Catholics are unable to separate what they see happening from what they believe, and they end up leaving their church. Under the Obama Commandment, it would be mandatory to disavow our church and find one that doesn't just preach good behavior but lives it.
Here's what it comes down to: If you have mature beliefs, you understand that racist views, combustible words or even pedophile conduct are all the sins of men and women.
Not the failings of a faith.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama's Pastor to Preach At Catholic Church for Good Friday Service

St. Sabina Catholic Church has invited Senator Obama's Pastor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, to give a reflection on the Last Words of Christ at the Parish's Good Friday Service. The service will begin at 7:00 pm and there will be a live audio webcast from the parish website:

May I offer my own reflection on the matter of Senator Obama's former pastor, Rev. Wright? In Washington, DC, Catholics, including Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity and the intentional community of "A Simple House" ( have made the Christian discernment to live and be a presence in some of the most hopeless, drug-invested, impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods in the city. Maybe some people who have kept themselves safely ensconced in their suburban, Republican voting, gated communities might imagine "how nice of these nuns (or lay faithful). The poor folk they serve must be so extremely grateful."

Nothing could be further from the truth. The people in these neighborhoods are not just of material want. They are often of spiritual want as well. The Sisters and the people of A Simple House live among despair and bitterness. They meet people, even community leaders, making many of the same comments as the four or so controversial statements culled from Rev. Wright's 4,000 sermons. They daily encounter people full of hate, anger and resentment.

Yet, for them, this response is not a reason to get up and leave but a reason to stay. Among people with no hope, and full of anger and despair, they still see the face of Christ.

What ever we think of the heroic actions of the Sisters and A Simple House, we might think the same of a young man, an Ivy League school graduate destined for Harvard Law School and Editor of the Law Review, who, without regard to all of the advantages his education offered him, elected to move to the South Side of Chicago, in the neighborhood of Trinity Congregationalist Church and St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church, to give his life as a community organizer among the materially and spiritually poor.

This community organizer did not say "I am out of here" the first or even the second or third or greater time he saw anger and bitterness and despair. Like so many times before in history, he came to help those who he thought had nothing yet from them found everything in the person of Jesus Christ. In their imperfections, he found his own imperfections. In seeing the glimmer of hope amid despair, he found hope. This young man who came to save the people of this neighborhood found salvation through the people of this neighborhood.

May all who come here be spiritually rewarded by their devotions during the Holy Tridium. Pray for Peace.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Speech and the Healing of the Nation

And some responses:

Obama's Speech Echoes Kennedy's 1960 Address on Religion

By Indira Lakshmanan and Heidi Przybyla

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama tried to do for race what John F. Kennedy did for religion.

The Democratic presidential hopeful yesterday attempted in Philadelphia to quell a firestorm set off by incendiary sermons made in past years by his former pastor and adviser, and to challenge Americans to transcend racial prejudices.

While the speech Obama delivered is unlikely to win over those who oppose his candidacy because of his race, it may serve a similar purpose as Kennedy's address to Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960 -- dispelling concerns among some voters about his core beliefs, analysts and historians said.

Obama's speech ``made clear that his own views differed'' from those expressed by his longtime pastor, just as Kennedy made clear that a Catholic president would not answer to the Vatican, said Ted Sorensen, 79, an Obama supporter who helped Kennedy write the Houston speech that was a turning point in his race for the White House.

``The parallels with Kennedy instantly came to mind,'' said political scientist Stephen Hess of the Washington-based Brookings Institution who was a speechwriter for President Dwight Eisenhower.

Tommy Christopher writes:

The hysteria over Barack's church seemed false to me at first, an absurd "Helter Skelter", Charles Manson-esque fever dream conjured up to give people an excuse to back away from Obama. I have since come to understand that, for a great many people, it is a real fear that stems from estrangement from black people.

This is the heart of this misunderstanding about so-called "black racism." Obama's church is committed to "black values" in the same way that Greek Orthodox churches hew to the Greek culture, but to an America steeped in Willie Horton and OJ Simpson and fears about the Black Panthers, and knowing of the terrible resentment that must be present in black Americans for things that modern day whites feel no responsibility for, they see an equivalence there to white supremacists and their ilk.
Connecticut Post's Urban writes:
Obama urged Americans to find "a common stake we all have in one another" rather than "accept politics that breed division." Obama "issued a major challenge to America that may go down in history as a turning point in the nation" (3/19).
Dallas Morning News' Slater writes:
Obama "took a bold step -- rather than play down the conflict he embraced it. In a 37-minute speech that pulled no punches about attitudes among both blacks and whites, he challenged the country to have a serious dialogue about race." The speech "seemed to be an opportunity" to put "the issue behind him, much as John F. Kennedy dispelled some concerns over his Catholicism in a historical speech" during his '60 campaign (3/19).
Charlotte Observer editorializes:
"It was a message our nation sorely needs to hear, and one he is uncommonly qualified to deliver" (3/19).
Contra Costa Times' Grady and Maher writes:
Obama's speech "could go down as one of those speeches that schoolchildren as asked to repeat." It could "provoke Congress to address race in America,"
Washington Post's Robinson writes:
"Once again, the conventional wisdom proved stunningly unwise ... Instead of running away, Obama issued a challenge to those who would exploit the issue of race: Bring it on" (3/19).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Irish Catholics for O'BAMA!

Obama claims luck, blood, nomenclature of the Irish

by Sasha Issenberg

March 17, 2008

SCRANTON, Pa. -- It is hard to imagine a less friendly room than the one Barack Obama entered here Monday night: a tribal gathering of Irish-Catholic women with a dais full of Hillary Clinton supporters in a a place she claims as a hometown.

"He’s going to go right into the heart of Hillary country and the core of her demographic," Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O'Brien, an Obama supporter, said hours before the bagpipers arrived at the Society of Irish Women’s St. Patrick's Day banquet.

O'Brien's description was based on exit polls and confirmed by the meager, isolated applause that welcomed Obama into the room. But in the august tradition of ethnic dinners, Obama didn’t make the demographic come to him as much as go to the demographic.

"My family story is familiar to Irish-Americans: a distant homeland, a journey across an ocean in search of opportunity, determination to grab hold of hope and the American dream," the half-Kenyan/half-Kansan man wearing the green tie said before reminding his crowd that St. Patrick was a former slave.

"Another reason why the story might be familiar is it turns out I have Irish heritage," Obama went on.

"Of course!" a woman blurted out.

"One of my earliest American ancestors came here from a tiny village in Ireland," Obama said. "It never hurts to be a little Irish when you’re running for the presidency."

He didn’t seem ready to stop at "a little Irish," pointing out that his campaign had produced green signs and lapel stickers that render his last name as "O'Bama." "I also want you to know Bah-RAACCHH is an old Celtic name," he continued. "I hopefully can earn the honor of the apostrophe in 'O'Bama.'"

Monday, March 17, 2008

Conservative Writes on Obama's Character

March 17, 2008

Greenberg: the lost art of the apology

by Paul Greenberg

Barack Obama faces a test of character in this unending race for the Democratic presidential nomination: Does he continue to take the high road, saying he aims to unite rather than divide the country, or does he respond in kind when his opponent throws every low thing she can at him?It's not a test Hillary Clinton is likely to face. By now surely no one doubts her ability to plumb the political depths. A veteran of many a political campaign, hers is not the politics of unity but of the war room. To sum up her guiding philosophy: Attack, attack, attack. And one more thing - take no prisoners. She's not about to apologize for some of the stunts her campaign has pulled in this campaign, whether it's distributing a picture of her opponent in Somali dress, accusing him of plagiarism or hubby's trying to dismiss Barack Obama as just another black candidate a la Jesse Jackson.All those tactics backfired, which is the good news. The bad news is that, on the basis of such tactics, her fans continue to praise Clinton femme as a "fighter," even if it's a dirty fighter. For Americans in the Vince Lombardi tradition, it's not how you play the game but whether you win or lose. And of late - see Texas and Ohio - Hillary has had some big wins. And winning means never having to apologize.

It's all in accord with the macho American tradition. "Never apologize," said John Wayne, perhaps the macho American hero. "It's a sign of weakness." Or to quote the title of Jim Belushi's book back in 2006, "Real Men Don't Apologize."To some of us, making a proper apology when we've wronged another, or just screwed up, is a sign of strength, not weakness. It demonstrates an ability to overcome false pride. One of the many lessons I learned - or was supposed to learn - in that graduate school of conduct called the U.S. Army is never, never try to weasel out of a mistake.

The best response when called on the carpet is a simple "No excuse, sir." Not "I'm sorry but ..." or any other attempt to evade responsibility. An honest confession of fault clears the air and doesn't let the wrong fester. It's an effective course in civilian life, too. And, more important, an honorable one.When one of Barack Obama's close advisers, Samantha Power, described Hillary Clinton as a monster who'd stoop to anything to win this election, Power was obliged to resign her post. Fair enough. Accountable enough. A resignation remains the most sincere from of apology in public life. And there aren't nearly enough of them.Note the contrast with Hillary Clinton's reaction when her flack-in-chief, Howard Wolfson, compared Barack Obama to the Clintonistas' idea of a monster - Kenneth Starr, the prosecutor who pursued Bill Clinton in the late unpleasantness known as L'affaire Lewinsky.

Instead of demanding her spokesman's resignation, Sen. Clinton explained that Wolfson wasn't making "an ad hominem attack" but only an "historical reference." And what's more, she agreed with him. As an apology, that's more like another attack.For an example of how to apologize, allow me a little local pride in the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock. It seems the diocese had discouraged support this year for the Susan B. Komen Foundation, which sponsors the Race for the Cure against breast cancer. Why, for heaven's sake? Because of the foundation's supposed ties to Planned Parenthood and abortion providers.

As it turns out, no funds raised by the Race for the Cure in Arkansas are used to finance abortions through Planned Parenthood, and Monsignor J. Gaston Hebert, who currently heads the diocese, minced no words when he apologized for the church's earlier statement:"To let that statement stand would be an act of injustice," said the monsignor. "With apologies to Komen, to those fighting breast cancer and to the survivors, to the Catholic clergy and faithful who were embarrassed by the mistaken policy, I rescind the position statement in its entirety."Now that's an apology. No excuses, no "explanations," no weasel words. Just a cleansing act. Result: Trust is restored. Sherrye McBride of the Komen Foundation in Arkansas responded in kind, saying of the monsignor: "He realized he had made a mistake, and he was a big enough person and a fine enough man to say so." Which is how making a proper apology respects and reconciles all concerned. It's an old rule, mathematical in its elegance: Forgiveness is the reciprocal of repentance.

Here's hoping the monsignor's example spreads far beyond Arkansas. It needs to, for apologizing seems largely a forgotten art in our times. Just how forgotten? Nick Smith, a professor of philosophy at the University of New Hampshire, begins his absorbing new book ("I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies") by noting that the most recent philosophical inquiry devoted to the art and practice of apologies might be Maimonides' treatise "Laws of Repentance," which dates back to circa 1170-1180.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Pope: Enough With Slaughters in Iraq

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI issued one of his strongest appeals for peace in Iraq on Sunday, days after the body of the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop was found near the northern city of Mosul.

The pope also denounced the 5-year-long Iraq war, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of Iraqi civilian life.

"Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!" Benedict said to applause at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.
On Thursday, the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found near Mosul. He had been abducted on Feb. 29.

Benedict has called Rahho's death an "inhuman act of violence" that offended human dignity.
On Sunday, Benedict praised Rahho for his loyalty to Christ and his refusal to abandon his flock despite many threats and difficulties.

He recalled Rahho's death as the Catholic Church opens Holy Week, the most solemn week in the liturgical calendar in which the faithful recall the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
Benedict said Rahho's dedication to the Catholic Church and his death compelled him to "raise a strong and sorrowful cry" to denounce the violence in Iraq spawned by the war that began five years ago this week.

"At the same time, I make an appeal to the Iraqi people, who for the past five years have borne the consequences of a war that provoked the breakup of their civil and social life," Benedict said.
He urged them to raise their heads and reconstruct their life through "reconciliation, forgiveness, justice and coexistence among tribal, ethnic and religious groups."

The Vatican strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In its aftermath, Benedict has frequently criticized attacks against Iraqi Christians by Islamic extremists. Last year, he urged President Bush to keep the safety of Iraqi Christians in mind.

Benedict is due to preside over a memorial service at the Vatican on Monday in honor of Rahho. Typically, the pope only presides over such services when a cardinal dies.

The pontiff's appeal for peace came at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass, which opens the Church's busy Holy Week celebrations. They include the Good Friday re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion and death and the celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday.

At the start of Mass, Benedict blessed palms and olive branches with holy water and then processed through St. Peter's Square, wearing intricate, red- and gold-brocaded vestments and clutching a woven palm frond.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

+Chiara Lubich, Founder of Focolare

For the second day, we pause from any campaign related posting to pay tribute to the calling to heavenly glory of another witness for Christ. Chiara Lubich, founder of Focolare, a papally approved Movement centered on lay spirituality and social action and analysis.
Chiara Lubich has concluded her earthly journey
in a serene and sacred atmosphere

On 14 March 2008, at 2 o’clock, Chiara Lubich at 88 years of age, has concluded her earthly journey in a serene and sacred atmosphere. She passed away in her home at Rocca di Papa (Rome), where she had returned after having been discharged from the Gemelli hospital the night before. This had been her desire during the last days of hospitalization.

All day long, in the concluding hours of her life, hundreds of people - relatives, close collaborators and her spiritual sons and daughters – paid their last farewell in her room, and then stopped for a moment of meditation in the adjacent chapel. It was a constant and spontaneous prayerful procession. Afterwards, they lingered on around her house in recollection. Some of these people Chiara was able to recognize despite her extreme weakness.

There is now an incoming flow of messages from all over the world expressing participation and sharing on behalf of religious, political, academic and civil leaders. These messages of love and unity are coming especially from her many spiritual children present in all continents.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho

No campaign related posting today. We honor the new martyr for the faith and victim of the sad situation in Iraq, Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho (Arabic: بولص فرج رحو‎) once Archbishop of Mosul for the Chaldeans. Now, in glory, wearing his crown. Memory Eternal!

Bid to him that through his intercession, we may have peace in Iraq.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Catholic University in Pennsylvania Hosts Michelle Obama

Rally with Michelle Obama in Villanova

Villanova University Athletics Jake Nevin Fieldhouse

800 East Lancaster Avenue

Villanova, PA
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Doors open: 5:00 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.

Space is limited, and admission is first-come, first-served.
For security reasons, do not bring bags.
Michelle Obama visits Villanova

Wife of presidential hopeful makes a stop on campus during her tour of Pennsylvania
By: Meredith Davisson

Today at 6pm, the Democratic Party made its first official appearance at Villanova in the form of Michelle Obama, wife to presidential hopeful, Barack Obama and potential first lady. Mrs. Obama made three stops in Pennsylvania on Thursday: St. George's Church in Ardmore and Abington High School in Abington before her last stop at the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse. She delivered an hour-long speech to the 2500-member audience, which was composed of both Villanova students and area residents. Dozens of volunteers swarmed the site, offering to register people to vote before they entered the gymnasium.
In her speech, Mrs. Obama, a Princeton graduate, spoke a lot about her personal upbringing as well as her husband's, highlighting the fact that they both come from working-class families. "I am the product of a blue collar family from the Southside of Chicago. I am a product of public education. I am the product of hard-working people and parents who care."
Among her most notable points in her speech were universal healthcare, student debt, and the war in Iraq. She also related the difficulties that her husband faced obtaining his Senate seat to the opposition that he is receiving now in the presidential race and the qualities that he will bring to the office. "Just close your eyes and imagine a president who can respect other cultures and traditions without fear. We haven't seen that in a leader in a long time."
The turnout was much higher than anticipated by both the Obama campaign as well as Villanova administration. The student reaction inside the building to Mrs. Obama's appearance was also overwhelmingly positive. "The rally was a wonderful experience. I can relate to Michelle Obama's background, so she really spoke to my situation. I think she represented her husband and his campaign very well," said sophomore Richard Riley after the rally. "I was glad that she addressed No Child Left Behind, a specific policy issue," said senior Madeline Dorger. "I was happy to hear her mention student loans and the way that they affect the career decisions of recent gradates," said senior Amy Knop-Narbutis. There was, however, some opposition to the Obama campaign before the rally. A few protesters, including Christians against Obama made their presence known outside the Fieldhouse while students filed in.
Villanova Students for Barack Obama, a recently formed chapter of the national campaign, only had this week to plan the rally. Student members, Oscar Abello and Cait Taylor introduced Mrs. Obama before her speech. The three presidential nominees have been campaigning heavily in Pennsylvania recently in anticipation for the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, which will award 158 delegates to its winner. As Mrs. Obama noted in her speech, "The only thing that really counts now is this state."
On Thursday, John McCain was also in Philadelphia fundraising. As Mrs. Obama noted, the first step is registration. If you haven't yet voted in your home state's primary, students can vote in Pennsylvania, however you must to register with the Democratic Party in order to do so. Students will be on campus for the next few weeks registering voters.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Letter & Invitation to Catholics

Dear Fellow Catholics:

We are writing to invite you to join us and thousands of engaged Catholics and people of other faiths in supporting Barack Obama's campaign for a new kind of politics in America.

As public servants and practicing Catholics who have fought to promote social justice and the common good, we believe that the basic moral test of our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst.

That is why we are standing for change and supporting Barack Obama.

As committed people of faith who have attempted to live out our values, we know the real article when we see it.

Through Barack's work as a United States Senator – and before that as an Illinois State Senator and as an organizer on the streets of the South Side of Chicago – he has shown a profound understanding and commitment to the dignity and worth of people everywhere. Whether fighting mortgage fraud and protecting American consumers, combating veterans' homelessness, or expanding access to health care for low income families in the Illinois General Assembly, Barack has walked the walk. He also demonstrated wisdom and judgment by opposing the war in Iraq that should never have been authorized.

Many families have felt the pinch from corporate outsourcing, shrinking paychecks, and rising costs – at the grocery store, at the gas pump, and at the doctor's office. Barack Obama knows that these are not only technical problems – they are also moral issues.

Click here to read more on how Barack will create jobs and offer relief for working families. <>

As public servants, as parents, as lay members of a proud faith tradition, we share Barack's hunger for a politics that reflects that Gospel mandate to be our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper.

We hope you will join us in achieving this new kind of politics by supporting Barack Obama.

To receive more information about upcoming events across the state and to get involved with other people of faith and Catholics for Obama, simply contact Barack's faith outreach team by sending an e-mail to, or sign up at the following website:

We look forward to meeting you and working with you in the days and weeks ahead.


Tim Kaine
Governor of Virginia

Tim Roemer
Former Member of Congress

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Prayer and Politics

HAGEE & McCAIN: Anti-Catholic Minister Rev. John Hagee Shares the Podium with Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain at a McCain Campaign Event.

Faith-based political endorsements can carry risk

Saturday, March 8, 2008


In 2000 and 2004, Catholic and evangelical Protestant "values voters" banded in support of President George W. Bush. Now, some Catholics are bristling over an endorsement of Sen. John McCain by the Rev. John Hagee, claiming the Texas televangelist is a virulent anti-Catholic.

In video clips, Hagee, a staunch proponent of Israel, describes an "apostate" church and a "false cult system" that all but abetted the Nazi Holocaust. He denies being anti-Catholic.

Is an endorsement from a religious leader worth the risk?

Calling the nation's 66 million Catholics "the last swing" vote, Bill Roth of Catholic Democrats said Hagee's endorsement could harm McCain. "I was surprised by Hagee's comments, because I thought this sort of bias went out in 1960," he said. "It's not 1928 when Al Smith ran. It must be said that Hagee by no means targets specifically Catholics. Women, Muslims and gays are also frequent targets.

It's especially damaging in Ohio. If 100,000 Catholics in Ohio had voted Democratic in 2004, this would be a re-election campaign for President Kerry. That's how important Catholics are." "When it comes to endorsements by religious leaders, the risk is just what you would think," said Jarrod Tudor, assistant professor of political science at Kent State University's Stark Campus. "While you make yourself open to the votes of one group, you risk offending other groups."


The Rev. Knute Larson, pastor of The Chapel in Akron and Green, said he makes a concerted effort to stay neutral. "I like to deal with higher issues," he said with a chuckle. "I like to have people in the audience who are on various sides. There are moral questions in both parties, of course. "I would rather the church stay with the higher issues and allow people the freedom of choice, though they have that freedom in every church. We constantly bring up moral issues, but we do not take sides in any candidate or even hint toward one party — but we don't judge churches that do."

McCain, who has responded by saying he doesn't agree with everything Hagee espouses, needs evangelicals — who remain wary of him — to have a chance in November. Hagee, who has a 19,000-member church, is one way to bridge that gap.

Tudor said it's further evidence of the power of "values" voters. "They realized (in 2000) they had power and were able to mobilize their bases," he said. "These groups now know they have power. They know they can get politicians to listen."

Lisa Schare, chairwoman of Catholic Democrats Ohio, said she doesn't believe McCain is anti-Catholic, but "I don't think it's going to blow over. There's no question, he (Hagee) was a photo opportunity. McCain stood there and accepted his endorsement. As a Christian, I'm always shocked that there's hatred amongst Christians. ... It says in the Gospel we should love our neighbors as ourselves."

Though it claims to be the party of inclusion, Tudor said faith-based endorsements hold risks for Democrats, too. In a recent debate, Sen. Hillary Clinton challenged Sen. Barack Obama to "reject and denounce" Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has publicly praised Obama, but not formally endorsed him. "It's one of those ugly things we don't like to admit," he said.


"I think it's dangerous any time a church aligns itself with a political party," said the Rev. John Hampton, an evangelical and senior pastor of First Christian Church in Canton. "It's proven throughout history when that happens, the partisanship becomes to a point where it's more important than the key articles of faith. Personally, from my experience, there's been enough disappointment on both sides ... for all of us. No party has all the answers." Hampton said that people of faith do have a civic responsibility. "We talk about the stewardship of citizenship," he said. "We encourage people to be involved in the process, but in terms of selecting a candidate, I've never publicly endorsed a single candidate."

Larson agrees: "We urge people to run for office and to be careful as they vote and to study the issues. We've had a number of people who have run for office. We can't even endorse them." Toth said Hagee's endorsement matters. "He is by no means a minor figure, as evidenced by fact that he was on stage with John McCain. Let's be clear: Our organization has respect for McCain; his kids went to Catholic school. We are by no means calling him anti-Catholic, but when you associate with these kinds of people, it damages the level of discourse." To see videos of the Rev. John Hagee, visit

Monday, March 10, 2008

Holy See Speaks to Social Sins

Vatican lists "new sins," including pollution
By Philip Pullella
Mon Mar 10, 2008

The Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of 'new' sins such as causing environmental blight.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Thou shall not pollute the Earth. Thou shall beware genetic manipulation. Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight.

The guidance came at the weekend when Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the Vatican's number two man in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance, spoke of modern evils.
Asked what he believed were today's "new sins," he told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the greatest danger zone for the modern soul was the largely uncharted world of bioethics.

"(Within bioethics) there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation whose outcome is difficult to predict and control," he said.

The Vatican opposes stem cell research that involves destruction of embryos and has warned against the prospect of human cloning.

Girotti, in an interview headlined "New Forms of Social Sin," also listed "ecological" offences as modern evils.

In recent months, Pope Benedict has made several strong appeals for the protection of the environment, saying issues such as climate change had become gravely important for the entire human race.

Under Benedict and his predecessor John Paul, the Vatican has become progressively "green."
It has installed photovoltaic cells on buildings to produce electricity and hosted a scientific conference to discuss the ramifications of global warming and climate change, widely blamed on human use of fossil fuels.

Girotti, who is number two in the Vatican "Apostolic Penitentiary," which deals with matter of conscience, also listed drug trafficking and social and economic injustices as modern sins.
But Girotti also bemoaned that fewer and fewer Catholics go to confession at all.

He pointed to a study by Milan's Catholic University that showed that up to 60 percent of Catholic faithful in Italy stopped going to confession.

In the sacrament of Penance, Catholics confess their sins to a priest who absolves them in God's name.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

McCain Looks at Ridge for V-P

Ridge for veep?
By Robert Novak
Sunday, March 9, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Vice presidential support has arisen for former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, as it did eight years ago, and again has caused consternation in the pro-life movement and among conservative Catholics.

Speculation about Ridge, a pro-choice Catholic, for vice president in 2000 caused a furor.

Ridge is a supporter and friend of McCain and, like him, is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran. His value on the national ticket would be trying to dislodge Pennsylvania from the Democrat [sic] grasp.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hugh Carey Endorses Obama

Hugh Carey, a pro-life Catholic who served as Governor of New York, beloved by many Catholics for his advocacy for the disabled, his opposition to the death penalty and his key role in promoting peace in Northern Ireland, has endorsed Barack Obama.

Carey Likes Clinton, Too, but Backs Obama


Hugh L. Carey, the former two-term governor of New York who was instrumental in rescuing the city and state from insolvency in the 1970s, has endorsed Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Either choice would be a measurable improvement over where we are,” Mr. Carey said in an interview on Friday, “but I have a preference based on the measures I make: a basic capacity to deal with crisis and to think globally for our security, the fact that he has talked of coalition and reaching across the aisle, and the way he has conducted his campaign.”

“It’s my opinion the way you conduct a campaign is some indication of how you might govern,” added Mr. Carey, who was also a congressman from Brooklyn. “It’s also important that we talk to our enemies as well as our friends.”

In rejecting, in effect, his home state senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Carey said: “My ties to the Clintons are, I hope, stronger than ever. But when my country’s security and future are at stake, I’m determined to make a personal judgment. I think she is professional enough and competent enough to know well that some members of my family are very close to her, and mine is an individual assessment.”

“This is a Democratic year,” he said. “Win or lose, we still have Mrs. Clinton as our senator, and there could be another day for her.”

Mrs. Clinton has been endorsed by the vast majority of Democratic elected officials in New York and won the state’s presidential primary Feb. 5 with about 57 percent of the vote.

The official results have not yet been certified, but the final count appears unlikely to materially affect the number of delegates awarded by Congressional districts on the basis of the primary vote: 139 for Mrs. Clinton and 93 for Mr. Obama.

New York will also send 49 superdelegates to the national convention, mostly present and former party and elected officials. Mr. Carey is not one of them.

Mr. Carey, who will be 89 next month, said he was heartened by the “enormous participation” in the primaries that Mr. Obama’s candidacy had spurred and was not at all concerned by critics who say he lacks experience.

“I had more military experience than political experience when I first ran,” said Mr. Carey, who was an Army major before getting his law degree and being elected to Congress in 1960.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

More from Conservative Catholic leader Doug Kmiec

'A Prayer From Barack Obama'
By Douglas W. Kmiec
Legal Times

That “we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.”

LOS ANGELES - In the Feb. 26 Democratic debate, Tim Russert asked Sen. Barack Obama what he thought of minister Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement of him. Obama said he denounced it, which was good enough for everybody but Sen. Hillary Clinton, who demanded that Obama also reject it.

Obama, with bemused annoyance, complied, but I thought, uh-oh, here we go, will Republicans dissatisfied with their default nominee be the next potential votes denounced and rejected? Russert didn’t ask, and Obama said he welcomed support from a wide range of people including Republicans and independents. What a relief! In an essay for Slate magazine (“Reaganites for Obama?” Feb. 13), I suggested that two groups I know well — Reaganites and Catholics — might be happier with Barack Obama than Sen. John McCain. The essay stirred up a ruckus among my former Reagan administration colleagues (who thought I was abusing some substance, like a few other Malibuites who succumbed to their “last temptations” in recent years) and in church communities across the country (which just said they would pray for me).

My reasons for writing so provocatively were a combination of skepticism toward McCain (full disclosure: I was a legal adviser to Mitt Romney, so skepticism came naturally) and a fascination with Obama. Unless you gave up TV for the duration of the writers’ strike or something shorter, such as Lent, the Ronald Reagan comparison is obvious. Obama’s eloquence and inspiration is inescapable.

The Catholic doubts about McCain are more subtle, but my point — which actually has implications for many faiths — is that signing on to the McCain campaign by default slights a large body of religious teaching in opposition to Iraq and strongly in favor of immigrants, the environment, and the family wage.

So with the innocence of someone who teaches Sunday school in a laid-back beach community, I suggested that believers had a moral obligation to inquire further.


The suggestion gathered some support, but also abundant amounts of personal vilification insinuating that I had sold my soul for a prospective Supreme Court appointment in an Obama administration (which has the entire People for the American Way in stitches) or damning me for eternity.

Ordinarily this would not prompt me to write more, but now that the epithets have temporarily subsided (Muqtada al-Sadr’s cease-fire or perhaps the surge is working), herewith a few additional thoughts in mitigation (or aggravation as the case may be). Well before Obama entered the national consciousness by means of presidential primary, he addressed what he called “the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America.”

In a speech entitled “Call to Renewal,” given in Washington in the summer of 2006 (at a poverty conference of the same name), Obama noted that during his Senate campaign, he was challenged on his abortion views. Obama gave the standard liberal response: It is impermissible to impose his religious views upon another. He was running for “U.S. senator of Illinois and not the minister of Illinois,” he quipped.

Had Obama left it at that, he could easily be written off by conservatives as just another secular, anti-religious, and, likely, big-government liberal. But the insufficiency of that answer nagged at him. He realized — and this epiphany explains his successful campaign, I believe — that the greatest division in America today is “not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called red states and those who reside in blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don’t.”

He also recognized that some conservative leaders “exploit this gap” by reminding evangelical Christians how much Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church. Truth hurts, but, of course, pointing fingers at Pat Robertson or Karl Rove would still not have merited positive conservative or Catholic notice — if Obama hadn’t kept talking. He didn’t just criticize those on the right who used religion as a wedge issue; he directed a healthy amount of criticism at his own party. Democrats, he said, avoid engaging the substance of religious values by falsely claiming the Constitution bars the subject. Even worse, some far-left liberals paint religious Americans as “fanatical,” rather than as people of faith. Now that got my attention. Here was a Democrat who got it. Indeed, why say “Democrat”?

Here was a public figure who actually understood that, for millions of Americans, faith “speaks to a hunger that’s deeper than... any particular issue or cause” — his words, lest Hillary and the copyright police get on my case. Obama reflected on how neither of his parents were actively religious, and yet he found himself drawn to the church. He could engage in community organizing for the poor, but without faith he would always remain “apart and alone.” Faith did not mean no doubt, said Obama, but it did mean hearing God’s spirit beckoning. After joining an African-American church, he found himself employing the language of faith—well, OK, maybe he did hear it first from Deval Patrick—and ever since his work has been electrified. Xeroxed or not, those references to Abra­ham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and “the judgments of the Lord” or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s embrace of “all of God’s children” inspire and call upon our better selves.


Obama is frequently chastised these days by Mrs. C for being all words and no substance (or something about hats and cattle that is funny only in Texas), but that criticism is falling flat. Much earlier, Obama himself noted that there is nothing more transparent than “inauthentic expressions of faith.”

Showing that occasional dry wit, he likened it to politicians who “come and clap — off rhythm — to the choir.” So while the number of recent primaries won by Clinton can be counted on one hand clapping, Obama receives thunderous applause whenever he challenges secularism and those who would urge that religion be banished from the public square.

Calling as his faith witnesses Lincoln, King, Frederick Douglass, and Dorothy Day, Obama tells his audiences that it is an “absurdity” to insist that morality be kept separate from public policy.

Having urged liberals to see how much of American life is grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Obama does have a request for conservatives — namely, try to fully understand the liberal perspective on the separation of church and state. Not the infamous “wall of separation” that bizarrely mandates affirmative secularity disguised as neutrality, but the perspective, according to Obama, that separation more readily protects church from state than the opposite.

This sentiment, unlike the exclusionary view invented by the late Justice Hugo Black in the late 1940s, is as old and wise as Alexis de Tocqueville, who cautioned churches against aligning too closely with the state for fear of sacrificing “the future for the present.” “By gaining a power to which it has no claim,” Tocqueville observed, “[the church] risks its legitimate authority.”

There is nothing in that assessment of church-state separation objectionable to conservatives. Indeed, Obama’s thoughts could have been seamlessly added to Romney’s “Faith in America” speech without changing its meaning.


Nevertheless, part of Obama’s message remains difficult for conservatives, especially Catholics. Committed to the protection of human life in the womb, Catholics are urged (some of my critics say “mandated,” but with respect, they are mistaken) to vote only for candidates who oppose abortion.

In truth — and here let me quote the bishops directly so they can share in the mail — “a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.” But voters should not use a candidate’s opposition to abortion “to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity” — such as, say, the invasion of a foreign nation leading to the sacrifice of the lives of our own troops and of thousands of others.

A digression? I don’t think so, but here’s the question: Does Obama’s thoughtful appreciation of faith mean that he would work toward the protection of life in all contexts even if that protection cannot be achieved in a single step?

I’m inclined to think so, though it’s at this juncture that large numbers of my Republican friends will say, “Kmiec, get real, just think who Obama will appoint to the Supreme Court?” That suggests at least two things: First, they really weren’t at all serious about my prospects for the top bench, and second, isn’t it time for both sides to stop treating the Court like a political sinecure?

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has done an able job of lowering the Court’s profile. Even when the Roberts Court takes on big issues—such as “partial-birth” abortion and racial tie-breakers—it has knack of writing small, preferring the “as applied” to the “facial” challenge.

With that condo in Florida and his active tennis game, there’s no reason to think Justice John Paul Stevens won’t reach a Biblical age, and hey, if he hangs on long enough, maybe both sides will have decided so many jurisdictional, tax, and sentencing guideline cases that they won’t remember the Court’s previous, more activist history.


OK, that was a digression. Returning to religious conservatives, like me, who have faith-related, ethical concerns, Obama argues that there must be, in this life, a distinction between the uncompromising commitments that religion calls us to make and the public policy that we can realistically expect. This is a dose of political pragmatism, and reasonable on virtually any issue not involving a grave moral evil. It’s not an easy answer. But frankly, that’s a problem not just for Obama, but for all of us.

As he writes, “I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

To his credit, Obama neither offers up a glib, unsatisfying solution nor reverts to the standard liberal line that objective moral values have no place in the public discussion. Our problems are not mere technical dilemmas “in search of the perfect 10-point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness — in the imperfections of man.”

If liberals and conservatives would stop shouting at each other (and most especially at me), more people might see abortion as a product of societal indifference and individual callousness: the former exemplified by economic conditions ranging from inadequate wages to evictions traceable to the subprime fraud; the latter typified by a self-centeredness that sees children as competitors or enemies to personal fulfillment. A person who understands the significance of faith as well as Obama does is likely to have a better chance of understanding and addressing both causes. Why? Because when the seemingly insoluble intrudes upon life as it inevitably does, the religious person has the humility to pray. Obama concluded his own religious reflections a few years back with what he described as “a prayer I still say for America today.” The prayer? That despite our profound disagreements, “we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.”

This is as much a Catholic prayer as a Jewish or Protestant or Mormon or Muslim one, which is why barring the completely unexpected, Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States — with or without my vote. Douglas W. Kmiec holds the Caruso chair in constitutional law at Pepperdine University. He previously served as the dean and St. Thomas More professor of law at the Catholic University of America and as head of the Office of Legal Counsel under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Monday, March 3, 2008

From Slate Magazine:

Reaganites for Obama?
Sorry, McCain. Barack Obama is a natural for the Catholic vote.

By Douglas W. Kmiec

My dear late mother would say: "Steer clear of mixing religion and politics in public discussions." Sorry, Mom, but the mix is unavoidable. Religion shapes us, and politics is our addictive national reality show. In any event, my faith, Catholicism, teaches that pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religions talk to one another.

Apparently, we're pretty persuasive. Catholics have been on the side of the top vote-getter (who, as we know from playing hanging chad, is not always the winner) in the last nine presidential elections. The Electoral College and the Supreme Court threw us a curve in 2000, but many Catholics probably put their choice of Al Gore in the "you can't blame us" department. Unlike our Jewish brothers and sisters who trend Democratic, and our Protestant friends who regularly populate Republican ranks, we're the ultimate flip-floppers, picking Republicans five times and Democrats four since 1972. Naturally, this led me straight to supporting Mitt Romney, whom McCain once snidely called "the real candidate of change," claiming that the governor changed positions more often than the rest of them (which from where I sit is a bit like asserting the Atlantic is wetter than the Pacific).

As a Catholic legal scholar chairing Romney's Committee on the Constitution, I worked to help him overcome a form of religious prejudice that had previously plagued John F. Kennedy, who needed to promise Protestant ministers in 1960 that his Oval Office would not have a hotline to the Vatican. Romney was pressed to assure voters that there wouldn't be a Mormon prophet lingering behind the West Wing curtains. Had anyone actually listened, Romney's "Faith in America" address was a tour de force in defense of the best traditions of religious liberty. But his eloquence—unfortunately and unfairly—was not reciprocated with faith in him.

But now that Romney's out, whom might Catholics turn to? Since I served at one time as Reagan's constitutional lawyer, it would be natural for me to fall in line behind John McCain. Don't worry about his conservative lapses, says President Bush, the foremost expert on lapsed conservativism. There is no gainsaying that McCain is a military hero deserving of salute. But McCain seems fixated on just taking the next hill in Iraq. His Iraqi military objective is laudable, but it assumes good reasons to be there in the first place. It also ignores that Catholics are looking to bless the peacemakers.

Now, don't think me daft, but when Obama gave his victory remarks in Iowa calling upon America to "choose hope over fear and to choose unity over division," he was standing squarely in the shoes of the "Great Communicator." Notwithstanding all of Bill Clinton's self-possessed heckling to the contrary, Obama was right—Reagan was a "transformative" president. Reagan liked to tell us he was proudest of his ability to make America feel good about itself. He did. Catholic sensibility tells me Obama wants it to deserve that feeling.

Much of the Catholic primary vote has been in the Democratic column, going at first to Hillary Clinton over Obama, as in New Hampshire, where she won 44 percent to 27 percent. But lately, Obama has been narrowing the gap, using the Catholic vote to vault to victory. In the Illinois primary, where Obama bested Clinton 65 percent to 33 percent, he attracted 48 percent of the Catholic vote. When Obama's share of the Catholic vote drops, the races tighten: In still-undecided New Mexico, only 39 percent of Catholic voters went for Obama.

Clinton lost Tuesday to Obama in Maryland, the first Catholic settlement in America, but also in Virginia, where the number of Catholic households in the burgeoning northern section of the commonwealth is up more than 67 percent over the last decade. However hard-working, intelligent, and policy savvy she may be (and she is), Clinton seldom inspires even the so-called "social justice" Catholics or reveals that rare gift of empathy that defined Reagan and that one glimpses in Obama. Say what you will about not preferring style over substance, modern leadership requires both, especially now when the international community—whose help we need to arrest terrorism—seldom gives us the benefit of the doubt.

But the primary statistics do not tell the full story. For the general election, it's important to peer deeper into the Catholic mind.

Catholics shed their Republican wardrobe in the 2006 midterm election, favoring Democrats 55 percent to 45 percent—a reversal of their 52 percent to 47 percent support for Bush over Kerry in 2004. Because Democratic and Catholic dogmas collide over the polarizing issue of abortion, Catholics do have to navigate some difficult ethical waters to contemplate voting blue. McCain and Huckabee—unlike either of the Democrats—join in the Catholic prayer for the unborn, but Republican promises have often left those prayers unanswered. While no papal instruction will ever condone the "right to choose," the church does ask for a consistent and realistic defense of life that actually takes steps to reduce the incidence of the practice, not just condemns it. Catholics will note that McCain and Huckabee's pro-life postures collapse when it comes to the death penalty. Even if the Supreme Court decides later this spring that lethal injection is not "cruel and unusual" under our Constitution, capital sentencing is often erratic and erroneous in light of the modern availability and reliability of DNA evidence. It is Catholic instruction that there are better ways to deter violent crime.

Beyond life issues, an audaciously hope-filled Democrat like Obama is a Catholic natural. Anyone seeking "liberty and justice for all" really can't be satisfied with racially segregated public schools that don't teach. And there's something deeply hypocritical about being a nation of immigrants that won't welcome any more of them. And that creation that God saw as good in Genesis? Well, even without seeing Al Gore melt those glaciers over and over again, Catholics chose Al to better steward a world beset with unnatural disasters. Climate change is driven by mindless consumption that devotes more ingenuity to securing golden parachutes than energy independence.

Of course, marriage and family are indispensable as well, and until now, Catholics saw the Republicans as having a lock on the family issue. But if either Clinton or Obama would acknowledge the myriad problems associated with a declining population in the developed world and affirm the importance of both having and raising children (and not just punting these duties over to Hillary's "village"), Catholics could well contemplate a Democratic adoption.
Sorry to tell you this, Sen. McCain, but a good number of the Catholics I know are not certain to light candles at the Republican political altar. Some of us who rode McCain's Straight Talk Express before the Republican commitment to a balanced budget put us on track toward a $400 billion deficit appreciate his confessed desire to redeem himself as a faithful conservative. But there are suspicions. After all, hanging out with Joe Lieberman and Russ Feingold comes well within the Latin canon: Similes similibus gaudent. Pares cum paribus facile congregantur—birds of a feather flock together. So instead, some Catholics may be hoping for a Huckabee miracle. Southern Baptists and Catholics haven't always gotten along, but there is something just downright Knights of Columbus-friendly about the guy—squirrel-roasting aside. Huck's delegate math will need to cash in more than a few chits with St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, but hey, in theology, if you can make do with five loaves and fishes, what's the big deal about delegates?

So, here's the thing: John McCain will have many Catholics in the pews a little while longer, but more than a few of us are thinking of giving him up for Lent. Reagan used to say that he didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left him. The launch of "Reaganites for Obama" might not be far behind. We might not be there yet, but we're getting close.

Douglas W. Kmiec, the former dean of the Catholic University of America School of Law, is presently the chair of constitutional law at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.