Kansas, Rick Santorum, and Purity Catholics

By: Saturday March 10, 2012 9:04 am

Rick Santorum — a pious Roman Catholic — has gotten knocked for losing the Catholic vote to the Mormon Mitt Romney, but those who note this generally take a simplistic view of “the Catholic vote.” They confuse the positions taken by the bishops with the positions embraced by rank and file Catholics, and wonder why Santorum doesn’t get more Catholic votes. Hint: maybe it’s because lots of Catholics disagree with their bishops. See “contraception” and “divorce and remarriage.”

That said, Rick Santorum is poised to win the Kansas caucuses today, and if he does, it will be because of the support of the conservative “purity Catholics” that are more numerous in Kansas than other parts of the US church. And in a caucus state, you can be sure that they’ll turn out.

 

Choosing Between Two Visions of Institutional Loyalty at Penn State

By: Saturday November 12, 2011 9:00 am

Institutions faced with allegations of criminal misconduct like the rape of children have a choice. The president of Penn State, following the model used by the bishops of the Roman Catholic church, backed his athletic director and VP for finance unconditionally when they were indicted. But the Board of Trustees took a different path, demanding openness to wherever the investigations by prosecutors takes them. That kind of institutional loyalty will, in the long run, help Penn State come to grips with what has happened in their midst — much more so than attempts to cover up, make excuses, and otherwise keep silent.

I’ve been a campus pastor, and my heart goes out to the campus pastors at Penn State. But one of them has a much tougher assignment than the others: Father Matthew Laffey. The Roman Catholic church in Philadelphia is facing a remarkably similar criminal indictment of Monsignor William Lynn, the former assistant to the former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Lynn faces trial next March on charges that he protected priests he knew to be pedophiles, with the knowledge and support of his boss, the Cardinal. It doesn’t help matters for Father Matthew that Penn State’s Catholic campus ministry is in the middle of constructing the Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center. (That’s Mrs. JoPa.)

Good luck with all that, Father Matthew.

Benedict’s Choice for New Philly Archbishop Signals Increased Church vs. State Battles Ahead

By: Saturday July 23, 2011 10:00 am

This past week, Pope Benedict XVI named Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to succeed Cardinal Justin Rigali as head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. While this is an in-house decision of the Roman Catholic church, it will have major implications far beyond Philly, and reaches deeply into the broader political discussions in the US and beyond. Chaput is a leading conservative voice on church and state, and a strong defender of the church in general, and he’s stepping into the biggest church vs. state battle going on right now outside of Ireland.

Naming Chaput to head up the Philadelphia Archdiocese put one of Benedict’s most articulate and powerful voices front and center in those battles, and also changes the secular political calculus for 2012 in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Church vs State, Illinois Edition

By: Saturday December 4, 2010 9:45 am

In 2008, the Roman Catholic church was instrumental in two major battles against marriage equality — Maine’s Prop 1 and California’s Prop 8. Leading the fight nationally for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was Louisville’s Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. Last month, Kurtz was elected Vice President of the USCCB, after giving a powerful address on the USCCB ad-hoc committee’s work to defend marriage (a committee he chairs).

By elevating Kurtz to the #2 position at the USCCB, the bishops signaled their determination not simply to stand against marriage equality, but to work just as hard against anything that might lead to it as they work against anything that might possibly lead to thinking about considering something that might be akin to abortion.

This past week, two Roman Catholics in Illinois — Governor Pat Quinn and state House Speaker Michael Madigan — worked hard to get a civil unions bill passed the Illinois Legislature, much to the chagrin of the local bishop.

Welcome to the opening round of the 2012 culture wars, featuring the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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