Saturday, May 31, 2008

More on Conservative Catholics Voting Obama

Conservative Catholics Have Always Been in Play

Chris Korzen

Douglas Belkin's story in Thursday's Wall Street Journal proclaims that "Conservative Catholics May Be in Play" in November's presidential election. For a mainstream media that long ago bought into the far right's wistful notion that churchgoing Catholics subscribe first and foremost to a narrow conservative agenda, this may seem like a shocker headline. But for those of us who work in the Catholic trenches, it's nothing short of old news. Republicans and Democrats alike take note: Catholics - conservative or otherwise - have always been in play.

In 2004, even as smug Republicans bragged about the coalescence of a new base of "values voters," the numbers were telling a different story. In a poll conducted by Zogby International, the Catholic peace group Pax Christi USA, and others in November 2004, 62% of Catholic respondents named either poverty or greed and materialism as the greatest moral crises facing the United States. Only 31% chose abortion or same-sex marriage. Moreover, the Iraq War topped the list of moral concerns that most affected voters' decisions at the booth. A 2006 poll commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good found similar results.

In all fairness to Belkin, the statistics cited here don't take into consideration the respondents' church attendance or political leanings. But they do paint a very different picture of the Catholic electorate than the conventional wisdom might lead us to believe: however concerned about issues like abortion and same-sex marriage Catholic voters may be, these matters are part of a larger package of moral concerns that bear directly on the common good.

Contrary to popular belief, Bush didn't win Catholics in 2004 because of his positions on life and marriage. He won because of the Kerry campaign's inability to articulate a coherent message to Catholic swing voters, and because of an astoundingly sophisticated media and grassroots operation on the part of the Republican Party and allied "Catholic" organizations. As the party worked the phones and the doors, Catholic League president Donohue peppered Kerry with holier-than-thou invective (a cursory look at the Catholic League's 2004 press release headlines dispels any lingering doubt that the organization has become a front for the GOP), and an obscure group called Catholic Answers somehow found the money to distribute millions voting guides and full page USA Today ads advancing the manufactured theological notion that five "non-negotiable issues" trumped all the others at the polls.

The issues? Abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, human cloning, and euthanasia. Never mind war, poverty, the death penalty, or that whole loving your neighbor thing. Of course, none of these groups have any formal authority to speak on behalf of the Church institution - which, by the way, refused to endorse the right's message. But - with the help of a small handful of renegade or perhaps unsuspecting bishops - these partisan operatives nonetheless managed to fool a sizable bloc of Catholics into thinking that a vote for Kerry meant certain eternal damnation.

Belkin is right in his assertion that things are different now. Both Clinton and Obama have invested heavily in effective strategies to reach Catholics and other people of faith. And the argument that faithful Catholics could in good conscience only back Bush now seems a bit silly given the widespread belief that his presidency was nothing short of a catastrophic moral failure.
This latter fact confirms what many Catholics already understood: that anyone who knows their Gospel knows that the "every man for himself" agenda at the core of the neoconservative plan is generally irreconcilable with an authentic Christian worldview - even for "conservative" or churchgoing Catholics. It's because of this that the Catholic vote is - as it always been - entirely up for grabs.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wall Street Journal Says Conservative Catholics Up for Grabs

Continuing on yesterday's post, the Wall Street Journal (hardly an organ of the 'liberal media') ran a story Thursday on how the conservative Catholic vote is in play for the 2008 presidential election. In 2004, 62% of conservative Catholics backed Bush, which the Journal says are 12 million voters. The Journal finds that they are significantly less likely to vote Republican in this year's presidential election. Ohio seems to be the epicenter of conservative Catholic disgruntlement with the GOP. Catholics have been disproportionately found in those voters switching their party registration from Republican to Democratic.

The war and the economy seem to be important issues driving this switch. Most of these conservative Catholics remain opposed to abortion. But many of these Catholics twice voted for Bush because of his pro-life stance and despite disagreements on many issues only to see abortion as available as before. They have grown weary of Republican claims they will end abortion in American society only to see it continue.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Obama Half Way Home and its Only May

We are five months before the election and half of all Catholics are already prepared to vote for Barack Obama, about the same as the general population, according to a recent poll by Associated Press. The poll shows both Catholics and the electorate in general evenly divided between Senators Obama and McCain.
In analyzing the core data, Pew Forum Senior Fellow John Green says that for the first time since '88, the "observant white Catholic vote might be up for grabs." Green's research shows that "Conservative Catholics are very much in play." Even a "small shift" among Catholic voters in OH, PA and MI "could swing the election." Moreover, conservative Catholics "now appear to be more concerned about the economy and the war in Iraq, and less motivated by abortion." This may be "bad news" for McCain. With McCain having to fight for conservative white Catholics, then Hispanic, African American and progressive Catholics are probably unreachable for him.

Deal Hudson, a leading Republican Catholic, does not deny that the Catholic vote remains up for grabs. Not sugarcoating matters for his candidate McCain, Hudson is saying that "As things stand, I believe Catholics are still in play for McCain, if his campaign conducts a vigorous outreach."

McCain has a difficult but not impossible row to hoe with Catholic voters. McCain needs to preserve his support with moderate and independent voters while actively and publicly soliciting religious conservative voters. A mean trick in itself, he has stumbled in trying to both win the endorsements of evangelical Protestant ministers as well as conservative Catholic voters who take offense at anti-Catholic sermons given by these ministers. When McCain then does "a 180" and rejects the endorsement he once solicited, the evangelical ministers and their followers take offense.

The McCain campaign is also mortified at heavy handedness by a small number of media grabbing Catholic bishops and priests on barring communion to pro-choice politicians or those Catholics who vote for them. Reports of these actions appeal to conservative Catholics already in McCain's corner, but alienate the very undecided Catholics McCain needs to win.

For many Catholics, McCain has a better record on abortion than Obama, but given McCain's support for ESCR, opposition to federal legislation banning abortion, votes to support confirmation of Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and opposition to funding federal programs with proven effectiveness at reducing the number of abortions, they are seriously considering if his moderate stance has any practical impact on the number of abortions or even if it is time to try for a few years a Democratic-led serious effort to develop positive programs to promote life rather than campaigning for restrictive half-measures.

Further, Catholics in the political center are taking seriously the Church's objection to U.S. policy in Iraq and the need to promote economic justice and the common good and Democrats have developed institutional structures to reach out on these issues (unlike past elections). Tricia Louis, a 43-year-old Republican and mother of four, attends Mass every Sunday near her home in Withamsville, Ohio, about 20 minutes from Cincinnati. She twice voted for Mr. Bush because of his stand against abortion. In March, she cast her ballot for Sen. Clinton. "I didn't think the war would go on as long as it has," Mrs. Louis said. "I still think abortion is murder, but I've known two soldiers who've been killed in Iraq. That's murder, too

Deal Hudson suggested that in the wake of the California Court decision on gay marriage, a focus on defending traditional marriage is the GOP's only hope to win Catholic and Protestant votes. However, McCain's admitted adultery, divorce and re-marriage makes him a very flawed spokesman for such an effort.

Obama has challenges as well with the Catholic vote. If he can win over Catholics who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries, he will have a majority of the Catholic vote. Obviously, these voters do not believe they are going to hell for a single vote for a pro-choice candidate. The rhetorical extremism of some Catholic conservatives works in Obama's favor, but a more civil and persuasive case may emerge by Catholics for McCain that could be very effective for the GOP.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Are Catholics Stupid Liberals?

A little break today from any campaign related postings. However, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life did a study on which the above chart is based. I call it (tongue-in-cheek) "Are Catholics Stupid Liberals?"

It compares belief in Biblical literalism with the proportion of members with postgraduate education in various denominations. Catholics (Pew calls us Roman Catholics but I have no reason to think Eastern Catholics were excluded) rank rather strongly to the left (I'm speaking of the graph, but if you want to think of it as the "left" position, go ahead) questioning Biblical literalism. However, unlike other denominations, it seems to be without any correlation to the degree of postgraduate education.

I'm not sure any of this means anything, but I'm amusing myself with the title I've given it. An old gal needs to have a little fun every now and then!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Obama and Catholics

from "Catholic America"

by Anthony Stevens-Arroyo

Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, has a “Catholic problem.” Although I don’t pretend to be a political campaign guru and I don’t endorse candidates, I think

Obama’s problem is that he has not yet addressed Catholics directly – but he could.
The moment calls for a thoughtful speech in a familiar setting, like Loyola University in Chicago. The audience ought to the young and committed like the Jesuit Volunteers, one of many Catholic groups that dedicate themselves during college years to community service.

Obama could tell his life story about transition from university to community organizer, explaining personal motivations and the rewards of service. He wouldn’t be pandering to mention that he was hired by a church coalition based in a Catholic parish, since in fact that is what happened. He has a perfect opening to identify his call to hope with the theme of the papal visit of Pope Benedict XVI. The Pontiff has spoken against the war in Iraq, against the death penalty and in favor of immigration reform that unites families. By listing the so-called “liberal” causes -- which in fact are the teachings of the Catholic Church -- Obama can show himself more in tune with Catholic social justice teachings than the ranting self-righteous Catholic right-wingers.

Obama’s call to unite all Americans around common issues might be compared to the Catholic concept of the natural law. Natural law, after all, reflects common sense: logic will lead people of faith and people of goodwill to the same conclusions. The Senator can describe how faith enters into the public square by animating believers to act for the common good, without requiring that everyone believe in the same way. He should repeat scripture about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and the like because “whatever you do to the least of my brothers (and sisters) you do to me” (Mt. 25:31-46).

Obama must address the issues of abortion and stem cell research. A place to begin is praise for the Catholic Church in holding fast to pro-life principles before they were embraced by today’s right-wing Evangelicals. He could praise the Catholic approach that educates people towards higher respect for life. The changing of hearts and minds (he can use the word “metanoia” here) is in the Catholic tradition that builds consensus. It contrasts mightily with the polemic that divides people into warring camps.

He needs to go beyond repeating the formula that abortions should be “legal, safe and rare.” The nitty-gritty dilemma for someone in public life comes from the need for tolerance for those who do not agree with you because they are of a different faith. What should be done with decisions about life and death like abortion? How can respect for stem cells be reconciled with the opportunity to heal the suffering and cure life-threatening disease? Are these to be left to individual conscience or imposed by government? How can we reconcile legislation for a more perfect society with the competing right to privacy? The Catholic answer to these difficult questions includes the obligation to build a society in which laws are based on a rationally explained social consensus. Saints Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and the documents of the II Vatican Council have said secular law doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of canon law. In a diverse society, Catholic values enter civic life when Catholics get involved. Non-Catholics like himself are not obliged to obey the bishops, he might say, but they are required to listen to fellow citizens.

Obama should close by articulating his political theme repeating the expression, “Mary’s Magnificat,” to highlight his message: “He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.” (Lk. 1:52-53). That’s what I think about Barack Obama and Catholicism.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Communion as a Political Weapon

While widely reported and discussed in many forums, I have refrained from posting about the recent Kmiec matter, because I find it so distasteful and offensive. Professor Kmiec, a strong conservative and active defender of the unborn, was denied the sacrament by a Catholic priest due to Professor Kmiec's stated intention to vote for Senator Obama. I have received similar charges, that as a pro-life Obama supporter, I should be denied the sacraments. I offer this reflection now, because it seems reasoned and thoughtful. Little is more offensive than telling faithful Catholics that they are to be denied the sacraments. Even to stand in silence while others say this is unacceptable. Nothing but rancour and strife can come when one element of the church seeks to spiritually abuse another element. Let us pray that this matter is quickly put behind us.

May 24, 2008


In my religious tradition, the eucharist (or communion or the Lord's Supper, if you prefer) is referred to as one of the 'means of grace.' That's a slightly archaic way of saying that the elements of bread and cup are an open window through which believers may know and receive the love and forgiveness of God.

In previous centuries, Protestant clergy were known to withhold communion from those judged morally unworthy. That practice mercifully has disappeared. For Catholic priests who administer communion — for them a sacrament with a lot more portent — that kind of discipline technically remains an obligation. Only it recently has taken on political dimensions.

In 2004, a minor controversy blew up over whether the Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic, was entitled to receive the eucharist. A few Catholic bishops insisted that Kerry and any politician who supported abortion rights should voluntarily refrain from partaking of communion. Those who presented themselves for the sacrament anyway should be denied it, said the hardliners. There were no reported instances of this, but it made for some lively hypothetical situations.

It seems the eucharist is even being used — in the hands of an isolated few — as as a cattle prod to force Catholic voters into political line.

Such was the experience related by Douglas Kmiec, a professor of law at Pepperdine University in California. Kmiec is a constitutional expert who was a legal counsel to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, so he can scarcely be regarded as a flame-throwing liberal. He is also a traditionalist Catholic who recently endorsed Barack Obama.

In an essay last week on Catholic Online, an independent news and reference Web site, Kmiec first offered his reasons for supporting Obama.He was, he wrote, 'drawn to Senator Obama's remarkable ‘love thy neighbor' style of campaigning, his express aim to transcend partisan divide, and specifically, his appreciation for faith.' He did not expect, he says, 'to be clobbered by co-religionists.' Kmiec said Catholic bloggers told him he had excommunicated himself for supporting Obama. Then, at a Mass before a dinner at which Kmiec was to speak, he said, 'a very angry college chaplain excoriated my Obama-heresy from the pulpit at length and then denied my receipt of communion.' Kmiec went on to offer some thoughts on how Obama might 'unbuild walls' that have been erected on the issue of abortion. He also stated clearly and without rancor why he thought the chaplain was wrong.

He quotes the U.S. Catholic bishops, who have advised their American flock that it would not be permissible to vote for Obama if the intent was to vote in favor of abortion. But Kmiec is convinced that Obama himself is neutral on the question of government's role in abortion, leaving it to a woman's conscience and medical situation. And there may be reasons to support Obama on grounds of Catholic social teaching, he said.'Catholic voters are asked to consider what other social goods Obama represents and whether they can honestly and openly say that they are supporting him for that reason and not his stand on abortion,' he wrote.'[I]t is important to both reaffirm civility and the related principles of religious freedom that refute gleeful crusades, at home or abroad, to single out supposed apostasy where none exists.' That is well said. Four years ago, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington remarked that the communion rail is not the place to hold these discussions. And I think Kmiec himself would say that most bishops and priests would not behave as the chaplain did.

The hand that holds out the bread and cup should not be clenched.

Cary McMullen is religion editor for The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

From the Irish Independent:

Obama to Address Irish Forum?

May 23, 2008
By Cahir O’Doherty

SENATOR Barack Obama may yet attend the 2008 Irish American Presidential Forum, depending on his schedule and whether his likely opponent Senator John McCain also participates.

Obama received the request to attend from former New York State Assemblyman John Dearie, who created the first presidential forum in 1984 and has run the event in every presidential election since.

Asked if McCain will attend the forum, Dearie told the Irish Voice, “I don’t have a fixed date, but it appears as if it will take place in Philadelphia in mid-June, perhaps at one of the colleges there. I’m very hopeful. It’s close to a final decision.”

Dearie added, “It’s going to be McCain and Obama in November there’s no question about that now. We have already submitted the request to both campaigns.

“My sense is that it’s going to be a one-two step — they’re aware that Senator Hillary Clinton has participated in it. They are also aware that there has not been a Republican participant. At the point when — not if — McCain accepts that will be the catalyst for the Obama campaign to seriously evaluate their own participation.”

Given all the recent speculation in the media about where the Catholic vote is this year, Dearie contends that this will be a helpful factor for both campaigns to consider.

“Our prime focus right now is finalizing the details with the McCain campaign. When that happens we’ll turn to the final step of this with Obama,” he said.

The questions the senators will be asked, if they attend, concern America’s role in the Irish peace process. They will be asked if they will send a special American peace envoy to Northern Ireland as both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did.

The forum will ask them to outline their position on immigration reform, if they will continue to host White House Irish trade conferences, and if they would welcome an annual visit and progress report form Northern Irish political leaders. The final question asks the candidates if they will make a presidential visit.

“We have the six point Irish American agenda that we asked Hillary Clinton about. Those questions will remain consistent and be asked of the other candidates too,” Dearie said.

“At the end of the day the goal is that before this election takes place we’ll be in a position to have both candidates participate and to have their positions on these questions summarized. The Irish American community will then be able to make an informed decision in November. “As every commentator has said the Catholic vote in this election is more significant than in the past and we’re a significant portion of that vote. My gut feeling is that they’ll both participate.”

Friday, May 23, 2008

Obama: He's Not Just for Catholics!

Young, evangelical ... for Obama?

By Haley Edwards
Seattle Times staff reporter

Michael Dudley is the son of a preacher man.

He's a born-again Christian with two family members in the military. He grew up in the Bible Belt, where almost everyone he knew was Republican. But this fall, he's breaking a handful of stereotypes: He plans to vote for Democrat Barack Obama.

"I think a lot of Christians are having trouble getting behind everything the Republicans stand for," said Dudley, 20, a sophomore at Seattle Pacific University.

Dudley's disenchantment with the GOP isn't unique among young, devoutly Christian voters. According to a September 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 15 percent of white evangelicals between 18 and 29, a group traditionally a shoo-in for the GOP, say they no longer identify with the Republican Party. Older evangelicals are also questioning their traditional allegiance, but not at the same rate.

But, Howard Dean, don't count your chickens quite yet. College-age and 20-something Christians may be leaving the GOP, but only 5 percent of young evangelicals have joined the Democrats, according to the Pew survey. The other 10 percent are wandering the political wilderness, somewhere between "independent" and "unaffiliated."

Shane Claiborne, a Philadelphia Christian activist and author of "Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals," has a different name for these folks: "political misfits."

Claiborne has traveled around the country the past several years, speaking and preaching mostly to college-age Christians who are "both socially conservative and globally aware." That makes them disenchanted with both major parties, he said.

"It's not about liberal or conservative, or Democrats or Republicans," he said. "I don't think it's a new evangelical left. ... There's a new evangelical stuck-in-the-middle."

UW communications professor David Domke said some young evangelicals are breaking with the GOP for the same reasons many people broke from the party in the 2006 legislative elections — the unpopular war in Iraq; the Bush administration's abysmal approval ratings; or, now, because of the tanking economy.

Others broke from the party when John McCain, who hasn't held much appeal for evangelicals in the past, became the presumptive nominee.

The Arizona senator hasn't been a consistent foe of gay marriage, and he supports federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. James Dobson, head of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, announced in February that if McCain was the GOP nominee, he'd sit out the election.

But students at a recent bipartisan political union meeting at SPU say there's something more going on with young Christians than disenchantment with McCain.

In an informal poll of the political union, the majority supported Obama.

"I think it's a new movement starting," said Amy Archibald, 19, a sophomore at the evangelical school. "Most of us would never blindly follow the old Christian Right anymore. James Dobson has nothing to do with us. A lot of us are taking apart the issues, and thinking, 'OK, well, [none of the candidates] fits what I'm looking for exactly.' But if you're going to vote, you've got to take your pros with your cons."

Eugene Cho, a founder and lead pastor at Seattle's Quest Church, which caters to a predominantly under-35 crowd, urges young Christians to look beyond the two or three issues that have allowed Christians to be "manipulated by those that know the game or use it as their sole agenda."

"While the issue of abortion — the sanctity of life — must always be a hugely important issue, we must juxtapose that with other issues that are also very important," Cho wrote in his blog on faith and politics.

Polls have shown that young Christians aren't any less concerned about the "family values" issues that have traditionally driven Christians to the Republican camp. (In fact, a study by the Barna Group, an evangelical polling organization, shows young Christians are actually more conservative on abortion than their elders.) It's just that they're also concerned about issues such as social justice and immigration, issues traditionally associated with Democrats.
Judy Naegeli, 25, who works at a Christian philanthropy, says easy access to information about the world via social-networking sites, YouTube and blogs is the reason her generation is more concerned with social justice.

"It's changed our perspective. ... Each generation chooses their cause, and ours is AIDs in Africa, or poverty or social justice," she said.

Tyler Braun, 23, a Portland seminary student who opposes abortion and gay rights, said he'll probably vote for Obama because, since he'd would like to see U.S. troops leave Iraq.
Anika Smith, 23, who works for a think tank in Seattle, said she's concerned with the same issues, but she plans to vote for McCain:

"I'm worried about the war and the economy and social-justice issues. But, the abortion issue is still nonnegotiable."

Nathan Johnson, the executive director of the King County Republican Party, says he is skeptical that young, socially conservative Christians will desert the GOP this fall.

He agrees young Christians appear to be looking beyond the two or three issues — abortion, gay rights, stem-cell research — that have made Christian voters loyal in the past. "But that doesn't mean they're no longer Republican.

"Once the primary is over, and we get into a head-to-head contest, Obama's voting record will come to light," said Johnson, 24. "Then there will be a lot of young conservative voters who won't be able to tolerate what he's stood for in terms of abortion and other socially conservative values."

Young evangelicals are more of a swing constituency than they've been for decades, said Andy Crouch, an editor at Christianity Today, a national evangelical magazine.

"This could turn out to be the election where both parties realize that the evangelical vote is so hopelessly split down the middle that it's not worth courting them at all because what parties need are blocs that can be appealed to en masse," Crouch said. "Paradoxically, evangelicals would become less relevant than ever before."

Braun, the seminary student, said he's not totally committed to any candidate yet. "I just keep thinking, if Jesus were alive now, he wouldn't necessarily be voting Republican," he said.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Father Greeley on Obama

Image of Obama the pol misses the point

May 21, 2008 -- Chicago Sun-Times,CST-EDT-greel21.article"


Rev. Wright said it: Barack Obama says what he says because he's a politician.

I am not a politician. I work for God. Many Americans, perhaps, would accept that contrast.
From the point of view of the Catholic social theory to which I subscribe, the contrast is not valid. Both of them -- the politician and the cleric -- work for God, though in different ways.

The cleric presides over the community meal and preaches the good news. He must strain to keep a balance between comforting the frightened and frightening the comfortable. His most serious temptation may be the inclination to frighten everyone, to stand for the wrath of God, and pay little attention to God's love. Challenge is easier than comfort.

While the cleric must exhort his people to generosity and forgiveness and hold up the example of the saints as an ideal to strive toward, the politician must create compromises and coalitions. His goal is to persuade people to settle for the lowest common denominator of what his coalition can live with. The cleric urges the maximum, the politician settles for the minimum. The former holds up the ideals, the latter works to preserve the common good. Both are essential for the good of society.

The paradigmatic narrative for the politician is the story of the brave young idealist who eventually sells out for votes. For the cleric, it might be the fervent prophet who accepts the limitations of the human condition. Both are stories of failure, of loss of nerve, of disillusion. Both paradigms oversimplify the complexities of human behavior. Both the cleric and the politician must go beyond the constraints of disillusion and failure.

The paradigm of the idealist who becomes a crafty politician is being applied freely these days to Obama by both the New York Times and by Time magazine. The senator, it is said, became ambitious and damped down his liberalism. He learned to compromise in the harsh internecine world of Chicago politics.

Both the New York Times and Time articles were carefully researched and well written, but they miss a couple of points. Obama learned in his community work, among the Catholic parishes on the Southeast Side when the mills were closing, that one must expand the borders of one's activity to include as many people as possible.

His insistence on drawing people together -- the basic theme of his campaign -- is the heart of his style of politics. You try to draw to the bandwagon everyone you can possibly attract to it. That's what Machine politics means to many idealistic people -- compromising to get the votes.
Moreover, Obama's voting record surely suggests he is on the liberal side of the political spectrum, but you can't govern with just liberals on your side. And, more dangerously, you must sympathize with both Jews and Palestinians.

Will Obama be able to put together such coalitions, should he be elected?

Will there be movement toward change on peace, health care, energy, immigration, college education, income redistribution in favor of the poor and the middle class against the great wealth of the super-rich corporations and their CEOs? A consensus on peace will be a much easier task than one on immigration, where the level of hatred is still strong in our society.
I do not think that even Michael the Archangel and all his crowd could accomplish these changes.
If Barack Obama should become President Obama, he won't achieve compromises on all issues. The best one can expect is moderate success and painful failures. Such is the lot of the politician in God's service -- and the cleric, too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Remember in Your Prayers

CNN Breaking News-- Doctors say Sen. Edward Kennedy has brain tumor; condition discovered after he had seizure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama Visits Sacred Heart Medical Center:


Sen. Obama stopped at Sacred Heart Medical Center on Hilyard St. in Eugene, a 432-bed full service hospital affiliated with the Catholic Church.

Obama paused before meeting with nurses and doctors, to speak to gathered reporters regarding Sen. Edward Kennedy.

“I know a lot of you are interested in the situation with Senator Kennedy. I have been in contact with the family. Obviously they are in our thoughts and prayers. They I am sure will be releasing some sort of a statement when they have a better assessment of what the situation is. But you know as I have said many times before Senator Kennedy is a giant in American political history. He has done more for the healthcare of others than just about anybody in history. So we are going to be rooting for him. And I insist on being optimistic about how it is going to turn out .”
Campaign said Obama spoke briefly this morning with Sen. Kennedy’s wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy.

Obama met for about 15 minutes in front of the nurse’s station in the hallway of a 3rd floor medical-surgical unit. The gathered nurses, doctors and medical technicians stood in a loose circle around the senator, who spoke from his feet, in the middle of the group. They wore scrubs, some were in white coats, several had stethoscopes draped over their necks.

“We’re going to be talking about healthcare today and I figured that before we had some big town hall meeting on healthcare I should talk to the experts,” he said. “And nobody knows health care better than nurses.”

Obama told the group that when his two daughters were born, and when his mother had cancer, “it was not the doctors I spent most of my time with, it was nurses.” He discussed his familiarity with the national nursing shortage, and asked those gathered to share their concerns and advice about the healthcare system.

“How do we inspire younger people, men and women, to go into a profession that’s very inspiriing?” asked Kitty Schiffer, who is vice president for patient care servces.
The senator discussed the need for more slots in nursing schools and the need to make nursing school more affordable.

After a handful of other comments about the need for more mental health beds and more affordable medication, Sen. Obama was asked about insurance and he shared this story about his nine-year-old daughter Malia’s asthma. Forgive me if you’ve heard it before:
“She was only three when she came into the kitchen and said, ‘Daddy, I’m having trouble breathing,’ which is the worst thing you want to hear from your kids.” Obama said he and Michelle drove Malia to the hospital, which was five minutes away. “While we were there overnight, she was in this room, where there were four or five kids in there, and the doctors told us these kids come in once every week , once every two weeks, for something that should be entirely treatable, but they just didn’t have the coverage to get it. That’s costly for the hospital, and costly for society.”

The other noteworthy encounter occurred as Obama was wrapping up the visit, after posing for photographs with the gathered nurses, including Carol Ann Anderson, 66, a registered Republican, self-described conservative, and 31-year nursing veteran, who said she did not like any of the current candidates, including Sen. McCain, and that she is considering voting for Obama in the fall “given what the choices are.”

As Obama started for the elevators, Ron Spooner, 42, an x-ray technician, and a Republican, called out to the senator. Spooner, dressed in scubs, told Obama he is “torn between you and Sen. McCain.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another Pro-Life Leader for Obama

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), a pro-life Catholic superdelegate endorsed Obama, saying that the Illinois Senator will help the country move "beyond the politics of stalemate and gridlock." Donnelly represents the South Bend area of Indiana including the University of Notre Dame.

Friday, May 16, 2008

3 Items in Ascending Importance

from the Washington Post

Brand on the Run

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Friday, May 16, 2008; A19

Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican elected in the face of the 2006 Democratic sweep, understands the panic that took hold in his party this week following its loss in a ruby-red district.

Corker is familiar with the feeling. His readiness to tell his story says much about the alienation of many Republicans from the national party's stale approach to politics and the limits of negative advertising. It is also a warning to GOP strategists who think that personal attacks on Barack Obama will be sufficient to win the presidency.
# # #

Post-ABC News poll this week gave partial support to this view: While voters gave the Democrats a 21-point advantage over Republicans as the party better equipped to handle the nation's problems, McCain trailed Obama by only seven points.

Yet Obama's still-sizable lead suggests that McCain will have trouble escaping the anti-Republican uprising. Democrats are trying to limit his room to maneuver by linking the presumptive Republican nominee to Bush's policies. Fabrizio argues that McCain's urgent need to run as an independent means that "McCain could win in a landslide, and we still lose the House and Senate significantly."

In this spring of discontent, Republicans are turning on each other because even their best news is bad news. [read more here:]

United Steelworkers Endorse Senator Barack Obama for President
Join John Edwards in Growing Wave of Support

Pittsburgh – The United Steelworkers today issued the following statement of endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President:

For Immediate Release May 15, 2008

“When the presidential primary contests began last year, our Union felt strongly that because of Senator John Edwards’s deep commitment to working people and because of our shared beliefs, he deserved our strong endorsement. His belief that unfair trade policies must be changed, his commitment to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) to restore workers’ rights to freely choose workplace representation, and his proposal for universal health care were widely shared by our members.

“Today, by virtue of a unanimous vote of our International Executive Board, we find ourselves once again in agreement with Senator Edwards, this time with his decision last evening to endorse Senator Barack Obama. And thus today, the United Steelworkers enthusiastically endorses Senator Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States.

“Senator Obama’s call for a significant change of direction amounts to far more than a compelling rallying cry. It is buttressed by his record of consistent support for workers, by his call for sweeping changes to our health care system, by his unflinching support for Employee Free Choice, and by his insistence that America’s trade policies must, first and foremost, serve the interests of America’s working families.

“Senator Obama has shown his commitment to working families by proposing significant investments in the future of American manufacturing, in the revitalization of our nation’s infrastructure, and in 21st century clean energy technologies that will lead to significant growth in domestic jobs. He is clearly the candidate who can best lead our nation out of the dark period of economic decline created by the Bush administration’s allegiance to Wall Street profiteering at the expense of worker prosperity.

“We share Senator Obama’s call for significant changes to these bankrupt policies, just as we earlier shared Senator Edwards’ And all of us, including we hope Senator Clinton for whom we have the utmost respect, must now do everything we can to ensure that Barack Obama is the next President of the United States. Now is the time for contention and division to cease, and for us to unite behind the changes for which Senator Obama and our members are calling.

“America’s workers cannot afford another four years of rehashed Bush administration policies, another four years in which the National Labor Relations Board shills for corporate misconduct, or another four years of a Secretary of the Treasury who considers it his “job” to bail out Wall Street speculators at the expense of hard working families loosing their homes.

“Nor can those of us who are committed to changing the direction of the country afford any more racial profiling of an election, when either Democratic candidate would be far superior to Senator McCain’s lock-step commitment to four more years of the broken Bush economy and the broken Bush foreign policies.

“We are proud and honored to join Senator Edwards in endorsing Senator Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. We commit ourselves to working tirelessly for his election and for a new age of cooperation among Democrats, Independents and thoughtful Republicans alike in which working Americans are restored to a place of dignity in society and in the American economy.”

Baltimore Sun Political Writer Jack Germond on Tomorrow's Preakness:

"Big Brown is just as imposing here as he was in the Derby but with a field of only 13 horses, there is little or no chance for a payoff matching that $141 exacta. I am going to key the big horse over Racecar Rhapsody, Gayego and Hey Byrn in both exactas and triples. If I don't win, I will expose the heretofore secret links between Neville Chamberlain and Barack Obama."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

“The Change You Deserve”

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

Stealing from the Obama campaign’s theme of change (and their own bankruptcy of ideas) the Congressional GOP adopted the slogan “The Change You Deserve” in hopes this phrase will reverse their disastrous performances so far in three special elections held in conservative Republican districts.

I guess when trying to negatively link the Democratic candidate to Barack Obama actually causes him to win MORE votes in conservative, Republican districts, it is smart to reverse the strategy and now sell Republicans by embracing the Obama campaign theme.

One small problem, the phrase “The Change You Deserve” is the trademarked slogan of the drug Effexor XR, which is used to treat depression, anxiety and other disorders the GOP must think the American public is suffering (and with a third Bush term, we very well may be in a depression).

Unfortunately, the Republican cure also causes nausea (I know I feel it when I listen to them), headaches and sexual dysfunction. It is also said to cause memory lapse, which is a good thing for the GOP because if the American people remember what is was like when they ran Congress, they are in deep trouble.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Republican Anti-Obama Campaign Backfires

Pro-Life Democrat Wins Mississippi Special Election

Democrats picked up a northern Mississippi House seat in one of the most conservative-minded districts in the country Tuesday night -- an upset that will reverberate painfully through a House Republican caucus already reeling from losses in special elections in conservative Illinois and Louisiana districts. Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers, a pro-life Democrat, defeated Republican Greg Davis, 54 to 46 percent.

The Republican Party spent nearly $2 million associating Childers with Senator Barack Obama. The result was that Childers picked up votes, rising from 49% of the vote in the first round to 54% yesterday. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recorded automated calls urging voters to support Davis.

Until yesterday, Republicans had been convinced that association with Barack Obama was a negative for Democratic candidates. When this strategy was tried and failed in a heavily Republican Louisiana congressional district, the GOP dismissed its failure as due to local factors and pushed ahead in Mississippi, pulling every old Republican trick short of saying that if you vote Democratic, Senator Obama will marry your daughter.

The victory marks the Democrats’ third straight special election pickup in three months. It will be a serious blow to the Republican Party’s already-flagging morale and will surely prompt a new round of finger-pointing among the already fractured GOP caucus. A GOP House leadership aide said in Politico magazine last week that “if we don’t win in Mississippi, I think you are going to see a lot of people running around here looking for windows to jump out of.” Another GOP operative spoke today on the aftermath of the Mississippi defeat that "The next couple of days are not going to be pretty" in the Republican caucus.

The special election was held to fill the seat of former Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who was appointed to serve out the remainder of Sen. Trent Lott’s term last December. Wicker had never faced a competitive race since first elected in 1994, and the district gave President Bush 62 percent of the vote in 2004.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

from America magazine, a Jesuit publication

In All Things

Abortion Politics Part I – The Paleo-Cons
Michael Sean Winters

If I were ever inclined to become a conservative Republican, I would only have to read the latest press release from Bill Donohue's Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to be dissuaded. Donohue has called for Obama's Catholic Advisory Board to resign en masse because none of them "stand with the Catholic Church on all three major issues: abortion, embryonic stem cell research and school vouchers." School vouchers? How did that become one of the "three major issues" upon which Catholics should base their votes? More importantly, the chair of Obama's advisory board is pro-life Senator Bob Casey. He is joined by pro-life former Congressman Tim Roemer and pro-life Governor Tim Kaine. So, the factual basis for Donohue's demand is shoddy from the start.

It is where Donohue finishes, however, that is most disturbing. He falsely asserts that Obama "led" the effort to deny protection to babies born after a botched abortion. He labels this "a Hitlerian decision." As a general rule, when you find yourself using Nazi analogies for American politics, you have lost the argument. If Donohue really wants to change America's legal tolerance of abortion, then he needs to engage in the hard but noble task of persuading those who currently disagree with him that they are wrong. The adjective "Hitlerian" is not likely to incline their ears or their hearts to his case.

Donohue is a comic figure, but Deal Hudson is more a tragedian. Hudson played a critical role in soothing Catholic sensibilities for then-candidate George W. Bush in 2000 after Bush gave a speech at Bob Jones ("Rome is the Whore of Babylon") University. When Bush "won" the election, Hudson and many Catholic conservatives acted as if the eschaton was at hand, having created a political alliance with conservative evangelicals that they believed would dominate politics for decades, an alliance that has never quite materialized as they wished.

Hudson has entered the current debate to defend Donohue. He argues that Obama's supporters are wrong to suggest the GOP may be right about abortion but wrong about everything else. "Obama's Catholics talk as if a Republican never had a thought about healthcare, immigration, poverty, taxation, and so on," he opines. The problem is that Republicans think wrongly on these issues as far as Catholics are concerned. Even John McCain, who once championed the human dignity of immigrants, has had to abandon his comprehensive immigration reform proposal in order to appease the Republican base. His health care proposal does little to help the poor. And, he flip-flopped on taxes for the wealthy, discarding his once principled stand against huge give-aways to the wealthiest Americans.

The deeper problem with Catholic conservatives is that they have been complicit in the reduction of religion to ethics that was largely responsible for the inability of the Catholic Church to mount a more effective opposition to legalized abortion in the first place. Once abortion became a "moral issue" the pro-life movement was bound to fail. The issue of abortion needed to reach deeper than ethics, into the most fundamental existential questions the human person can ask: Who am I? What is personhood? What are the obligations of the commonwealth to persons? When the Church is reduced to being an ethical authority, it has lost its deepest self-awareness, and can no longer enter a political discussion as the Church. This was a danger the conservatives never perceived because they were too busy giving interviews: allowing yourself to become an ethical authority was a sure-fire way to gain access to the media.

So, this is where the paleo-cons stand in 2008. They will rant. Hopefully, no one will listen. Tomorrow, we will look at what more thoughtful conservatives are saying in this election year.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Best Wishes for the Happy Couple

Catholics for Obama sends best wishes to the President's daughter, Jenna, and her new husband, Henry, on their wedding. The wedding was officiated by the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell. Rev. Caldwell is pastor of the nation's largest United Methodist congregation, located in Houston, TX. Rev. Caldwell has long been a spiritual advisor to President Bush, as well as a political supporter of Mr. Bush in his races for governor and president.

And, continuing in the pattern of spiritual advisors giving heartburn to those they advise, Rev. Caldwell is supporting BARACK OBAMA for president!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Voice from the Pews

Millions of faithful, active Catholics have been drawn to the Obama campaign. It is interesting to hear their stories. Here is the voice of one Catholic supporting Obama, from a letter to the editor of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press:

Informed conscience

The Catholic Church teaches that Catholics have a moral obligation to inform their consciences and participate in political life. The Catholic Church does not tell Catholics for whom to vote nor endorse single issue voting. See "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States."

Leading pro-life Catholics in good standing have endorsed Barack Obama. Among these are Senator Bob Casey, Jr. and professors Douglas Kmiec and Andrew Bacevich. I believe the reasons are twofold.

First, the leadership of the Republican Party has to a large extent been captured by the neoconservatives with their agenda of preemptive, and thereby unjust, war; making the wealthy wealthier at the expense of the poor and the middle classes; and degrading the environment of the earth, the home of the human family.

Second, Obama's orientation of hope, reconciliation, and community is fundamentally consistent with Catholic social teaching over a wide range of values.

In my judgment, sincere single issue voters are liable to cynical manipulation and we are seeing the disastrous results. My conscience tells me that it is critical that we change course. For that reason, I, like millions of good Catholics, support Obama.

-- JACK HOFFMAN/Grand Rapids

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Notre Dame Goes for Obama

Catholics reflect schism in Democratic base

Bloc splitting along age, class, and gender lines

By Brian C. Mooney, Globe Staff
May 5, 2008

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Taking a break from studying for final exams, three dozen Catholic students gathered for a barbecue on a grassy area of an apartment complex near the University of Notre Dame, their cellphones dialed in to a conference call with Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wife of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

She urged them to help turn out the vote in the Indiana Democratic presidential primary tomorrow for Senator Barack Obama, saying the candidate embodies the "Catholic social justice tradition" she was raised to believe in.

For about two months, pundits and analysts have been culling exit poll data from recent primaries to contend that Obama has a problem winning support from Catholic voters in his bruising struggle with Senator Hillary Clinton for the party's nomination.

Last week, a group of former national party chairmen who support Clinton drove home that point in a letter to members of the Democratic National Committee, part of a Clinton effort to stop the steady movement of superdelegates to Obama.

They wrote that Catholics are part of a Clinton electoral base that includes women, Hispanics, seniors, middle- and low-income Americans, and rural, suburban, and urban voters. They called it "a formidable coalition tailor-made for victory in a November general election."
But for both campaigns, the issue of Catholic voters reflects the reality of a Democratic electorate that has split along lines of class, race, gender, and age.
The gathering of Catholics for Obama near Notre Dame last week reinforced a perception that if Obama has a weakness among Catholics, it is with those who fit into other demographic subdivisions: women and older, less educated and lower-income voters, groups that Clinton has attracted.

Conversely, the group that met in South Bend represented Obama's demographic strengths among the more educated, affluent, and, except for a small group of Notre Dame faculty members who attended, younger voters.
After national elections in which the swing voting bloc has been variously identified by pollsters and commentators as the silent majority, Reagan Democrats, soccer moms, or football dads, 2008 is shaping up as the year that Catholics go under the media microscope.
"There is no one such thing as a Catholic voter," said Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of law and theology at Notre Dame, who attended the event in South Bend and is a member of Obama's national steering committee of Catholic advisers.

Catholics, who account for about 18 percent of the population of Indiana and a quarter of the national electorate, are much more diverse in the United States than they are often portrayed, Kaveny said. The challenge for Obama, she said, is to make Catholics more familiar with his message of economic empowerment, equality, and ending the Iraq war.
The South Bend area is a battleground in tomorrow's Democratic showdown, with characteristics favorable to both candidates. The city of about 105,000 is the seat of St. Joseph County, a blue-collar Democratic stronghold in the region known as Michiana along the Michigan-Indiana border. Like the neighboring city of Mishawaka, South Bend is heavily Catholic, with a history of ethnic parishes.

On the West Side, standing less than 100 yards apart are St. Patrick's Church, an Irish parish that celebrated its 150th anniversary on Saturday, and St. Hedwig's, a Polish parish built 19 years later. Not many years ago, congregations of Catholic immigrants from Belgium and Hungary worshiped at separate churches about a block apart in the same working-class neighborhood.

South Bend also has a large black population of about 24 percent, a significant Hispanic population of about 11 percent, according to US Census Bureau estimates, and a large academic community, centered around Notre Dame, the region's largest employer, a branch of Indiana University, and several smaller colleges.

In earlier contests, Obama beat Clinton among Catholics in states such as Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Virginia, and tied in Wisconsin, exit polls showed. But in the later-voting big industrial states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, the data showed Clinton thumping Obama by 27 and 40 percentage points, respectively, among Catholics.
The Obama campaign disputes that those figures indicate a problem generally with Catholic voters, but it is making intensive efforts to reach out to Catholics. Last month it rolled out an advisory committee of about 50 prominent Catholics, including political figures, academics, and activists.
Last week's event in South Bend was one of many "Call to Family" gatherings of Catholics for Obama in Indiana, where supporters met and then phoned family and friends in the state. Emphasizing the importance of South Bend, Mark Linton, the Obama campaign's national Catholic outreach coordinator, attended the Notre Dame event.
Various theories have been offered by political analysts to explain Catholic voting patterns in a Democratic contest between candidates from Protestant traditions - United Methodist for Clinton and a black congregation of the United Church of Christ for Obama. Some are pseudo-psychological, such as older Catholics being comfortable with a female authority figure like Clinton because they were taught by nuns.

But two political scientists who have studied the role of religion in politics said the Catholic vote reflects a distilled version of other demographic trends that have emerged over the long Democratic battle.

"This is not so much about Catholicism as it is about other demographic factors," said John C. Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron and senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "The Catholic vote tends to be older, more working class, and, in Democratic primaries, more female, so part of what may be going on here is less about Catholicism than it is about other social characteristics."

Green also theorized that the contrast between Clinton's stump style of stressing "a laundry list of particular policies" and Obama's "lofty rhetoric" may work to Clinton's benefit among Catholic Democrats, many of whom tend to support public solutions to social welfare problems.
"Not all that long ago, the Catholic community was basically a Democratic monolith, but that began to change in the 1970s and '80s, during the Reagan era," said David Campbell, a professor at Notre Dame who specializes in religion and politics.
Two of Obama's prominent Catholic supporters - Senator Robert Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania and former US representative Tim Roemer, who represented the South Bend area, say the media are oversimplifying the role of Catholics.

"I think it's overanalyzed, and a lot of it is poorly analyzed," said Casey, who like Roemer opposes abortion, breaking with Obama on that issue.
"Time is Barack's friend," Casey said. "The more voters hear him, the more they'll have confidence in him."

"You can't lump all Catholics into a particular box," said Roemer, president of the Center for National Policy, a Washington-based organization that researches national security and intelligence issues. "We have everything in the Catholic community from Opus Dei on the far right to liberation theology Catholics on the left and everything else in between."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


With the Supreme Court's green light to a law passed by Indiana Republicans to take away the right to vote from those who cannot produce a photo ID, 12 Catholic nuns in South Bend were turned away today from a polling place because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph, reports the South Bend Tribune.

The sisters at Saint Mary's Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, all in their 80s or 90s, showed up at their precinct to vote and were told they could not under the Republican law. The law allows for no exception even though pollworkers were willing to testify that the nuns were who they said they where.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bill Donohue is Back, Showing His True Colors

from the blog, "Vox Nova"

I used to keep a close eye on Bill Donohue’s buffoonish tactics at the Catholic League, but grew tired of it. Now I read, courtesy of David Gibson, that Donohue is attacking Catholics who support Obama, calling them “dissidents” (in right-wing Catholic circles, this usually means “disagrees with me” rather than deviate for core Church teaching, as the cafeteria often wide open for these people). For here is Donohue’s chief concern:

“there is not one who agrees with the Catholic Church on all three major public policy issues: abortion, embryonic stem cell research and school vouchers.”

This is bogus on so many levels. First, it is a lie (and that is a sin, Bill, a non-negotiable one). He completely ignores the presence of pro-life Democrats like Bob Casey and Tim Roemer on the list– and I find it hard to know how he can sniff out the position of every single non-political member on the abortion issue.

But, of course, it is worse than this. Donohue is actually claiming that these are the three most important issue for Catholics in the public policy sphere. He picks two intrinsically evil acts, and ignores the rest (such as torture). And he elevates school vouchers to the top tier, while playing down issues like health care, the environment, and McCain’s love of war. Donohue, like Rick Santorum, is a Protestantized Catholic, one who picks and chooses Church teachings based on partisanship, and who then has the gall to use this as a bludgeon against his political opponents.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Louisiana voters elected Donald Cazayoux, a pro-life Catholic Democrat, to fill a vacant seat in Congress than had been in Republican hands for 33 years. (The Republican incumbent resigned mid-term to become a big time lobbyist for Wall Street). Republicans tried to win over white voters by appealing to racial fears but Louisiana voters proved they are above such tactics. The defeated GOP candidate, Woody Jenkins, is known for using voter lists provided by former Klansman David Duke. Republicans spent millions of dollars on racial charged TV ads linking Cazayoux to Barack Obama (the two men have never met) and other African-Americans.

Republicans funded their effort through the National Republican Congressional Committee. Individual Republican members of Congress hesitated from donating fearing their constituents would not look kindly at their involvement in George Wallace/Jesse Helms style campaign tactics.

The Louisiana election give further evidence that harsh attacks on Barack Obama with racial overtones will backfire on Republicans this fall.