Can a priest say “repent” in confession?

Chapel courtyard JPGWe seem to be nearing the end of the Vatican trial-balloon marathon about its document on the future of seminarians who disagree with the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality.

Please notice that I did not say that this story is about the future of gay seminarians. Hold on to that thought for a minute because we have lots of ground to cover.

Yesterday’s stories were more trial balloons that did not look like trial balloons. It does seem that someone has leaked a copy of the Vatican document. Here is a typical posting on the World Wide Web. However, it is crucial to note that the official document is still not out, as far as the church is concerned. Also, there may be translation issues. Some Catholic bloggers are also raising some questions about authenticity.

Anyway, let’s say that this is the document. If so, I thought the Los Angeles Times had the most arresting first-day money quote, in the hard-news story — “Vatican Issues a Qualified Ban on Gays in Priesthood” — by Tracy Wilkinson and Maria De Cristofaro.

The document was quickly criticized by some gay rights sympathizers, who say the church does not understand homosexuality. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said the instructions would have little, if any, effect on how seminaries in the Los Angeles area admit candidates.

In other words: Business as usual. No problems.

This is interesting, because this story comes not that long after a stunning Times report by Paul Pringle about life at St. John’s Catholic Seminary (pictured) in Camarillo, Calif. On one level, this story — “Trail of Abuse Leads to Seminary” — is about sex. Truth is, this is a story about seminary life and, thus, about doctrine.

The 66-year-old institution has trained hundreds of clerics for the archdiocese and smaller jurisdictions across Southern California and beyond. It is the alma mater of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Diocese of Orange Bishop Tod Brown and other prominent prelates. Former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, now the Vatican’s chief enforcer of doctrine, taught at the school.

But St. John’s, the only seminary operated by the archdiocese, also has produced a disproportionate number of alleged sexual abusers as it prepared men for a life of ministry and celibacy, records show.

About 10% of St. John’s graduates reported to have been ordained in the Los Angeles Archdiocese since 1950 — 65 of roughly 625 — have been accused of molesting minors, according to a review of ordination announcements, lawsuits, published reports and the archdiocese’s 2004 list of alleged abusers. In two classes — 1966 and 1972 — a third of the graduates were later accused of molestation.

You can read the details. The key is that former seminary students insist that their professors had little interest in teaching or defending the Catholic faith’s doctrines on sexuality. Thus, they also had little interest in enforcing policies on sexuality. They did not see what they did not want to see.

Several former students recall a licentious atmosphere at St. John’s that might have accommodated a range of sexual behavior, especially in the years before the 1990s. They say that many classmates routinely broke their celibacy vows, that emotionally troubled students were allowed to drift though the seminary, and that administrators either were ignorant about sex on campus or turned a blind eye to it. Some told of seminarians having sex in St. John’s dormitories, bathrooms and orange groves.

There are many more details, but we need to move on. The key, as I noted in a column for Scripps Howard, is that this Vatican document on homosexuality is being released just as teams of Catholic examiners begin a wave of confidential “Apostolic Visitations” at the 229 U.S. seminaries. If you read the seminary document, you will see that this 12-page text has lots to say about the practice of celibacy and not much to say about homosexuality.

This brings us to today’s coverage of the “Vatican crackdown” on gay seminarians.

This is a day when the many liberal Catholics who work in the U.S. Catholic establishment wish that there were not so many liberal Catholic insiders and activists with telephone numbers locked in the speed-dials of so many reporters in the U.S. journalistic establishment. Progressive Catholics who wield power need quiet, right now, and they may not get it. Meanwhile, many conservative Catholics will stew in silence or take their critiques into the blogosphere.

You see, the question remains the same: Will anyone in Catholic seminaries teach, defend and enforce the church’s teachings on homosexuality (or, come to think of it, sexuality in general)? This question leads to even tougher questions, such as: “Will anyone openly discuss the fact that most cases of clergy sex abuse have been rooted in “ephebophilia” (sex with under-aged young people, almost always boys in this case) instead of “pedophilia” (sex with prepubescent children)?

MSM coverage continues to focus on the prevention of “pedophilia,” even though such cases are very rare and there is little or no evidence that gays are more likely to be pedophiles than are straights. Pedophilia is actually the safe subject, because most of the clergy scandals involve “ephebophilia.”

The Vatican documents seem to be stepping into a different minefield — gay sex and the moral defense of the same. This is where the going gets tough.

Here is the bottom line: The Vatican is trying to find men who will teach that sex outside of marriage is sin. cassromanfl 01

Note the word “sin.” Sin is supposed to lead to another word — “repentance.” This is, in Catholic tradition, supposedto be linked to another word — “confession.”

Thus, Laurie Goodstein has nailed the heart of this story (terrible headline, by the way) in the New York Times. It seems that the Vatican is suggesting that spiritual directors at it seminaries might want — in the context of confession — to suggest that gay seminarians, well, repent of any sinful acts or convictions and, well, consider leaving the seminary.

This makes total sense, if you believe the Catholic Church’s teachings are the truth. It makes no sense at all if you do not. There’s the rub. Many Catholics oppose the teachings of their church, including many in clerical collars and some in bishop’s vestments. They think it is time for doctrine to progress.

Some priests who talked to the New York Times said this policy would:

… (Turn) the confessional and spiritual counseling sessions, which seminarians previously regarded as private and supportive meetings, into a tool for weeding gay men out of seminaries.

“The relationship between a seminarian and his confessor or his spiritual director should not be about enforcing church documents, but to serve as spiritual guides,” said the Rev. Michael Herman, a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago who has recently publicly identified himself as gay in order to speak out against the Vatican’s action. …

His reaction to the document was echoed by other priests and Roman Catholic organizations, who said that the church’s decree was discriminatory and hurtful to faithful chaste gay priests and would only exacerbate an already dire shortage of Catholic clergymen. But that was only one reaction to a Vatican directive that church experts say is intentionally sprinkled with undefined terms and left open to interpretation.

However, insiders are already saying that there is nothing in this document that will actually change what is happening at Catholic seminaries, unless the leaders of those seminaries want to make changes. Do these Catholic leaders — some, or even many, of them gay — want to make changes? Can the Vatican force them to make changes?

That’s the story, here. As the always candid Catholic progressive Father Donald Cozzens told the Washington Post:

“The first thought that comes to my mind is that this document is going to cause a good deal of human suffering,” said the Rev. Donald Cozzens, a former seminary rector and a professor at John Carroll University in Cleveland.

“Gay, committed, celibate priests and seminarians, and bishops, too, that happen to be gay, are going to find this instruction a source of spiritual pain,” Cozzens said.

Yes they will and many will want to fight back. Quietly. Silently. Without speaking to reporters. There is the heart of the story.

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New round of GetReligion ch-ch-ch-changes

printingpress 01We are creeping up on an interesting landmark here at GetReligion — Feb. 1 is the second anniversary of the birth of this blog. On one level this is not all that surprising, seeing as how we have already hit 1200-plus posts and more than 8,000 comments (and that’s just counting Michael, Stephen A. and Avram).

GetReligion started out with Doug LeBlanc and myself, and we were soon joined by young master Jeremy Lott. That honorary title was eventually handed over to Daniel Pulliam.

In the beginning, Doug was the guru of technology and did almost all of our start-up work. Over time, his work load has increased elsewhere and he has been writing less for the blog. Now he needs to take another step back, in part due to loads of international travel in the near future. Doug is not leaving the blog and will try, in particular, to keep sending us missives every now and then about the state of religion news in major magazines.

Thus, we face another round of changes as we approach that Feb. 1 signpost. We hope, for example, to rearrange and consolidate a few of the features on our left sidebar to help readers navigate more quickly within the growing contents of the blog. We’ll be asking readers for some feedback on that in the near future.

And with Doug writing less, we are excited to be adding the voice of another mainstream journalist to GetReligion.

Mollie Ziegler is a reporter in Washington, D.C., for the Federal Times, a Gannett newspaper that covers the ins and outs of the federal government. A second-career journalist, she began her reporting career in 2002 with a stint at Radio & Records. She began venturing into religion writing came a few months later with her first Houses of Worship column in the Wall Street Journal.

In 2004 she won a year-long Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship which enabled her to write a book about religion and politics in America, with a special emphasis on the changing language of faith in the public square. She stresses that GetReligion readers will be expected to buy multiple copies when it is published. Her work also has appeared in The New York Sun, Confessio Augustana, Higher Things and Doublethink.

Mollie’s undergraduate degree in economics was obtained at the University of Colorado, located in the alternative universe known as Boulder, Colo. She is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Va., and serves on the Board for Communication Services of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Mollie — who lacks a GetReligion nickname at this time — will begin writing on or about Dec. 1st, but I hope she will write her own “what you need to know about me” post in the next few days. We all roam around the Godbeat a bit, but Mollie will pay special attention to religion writing outside the axis of the elite East and West Coast newspapers. Believe me, we know that we need to do more in this area.

Is is, at times, hard to find the work of religion reporters at newspapers that do not provide logical links and specialty pages on their websites. I have barked about this in the past and urged GetReligion readers to help us find more stories to praise and dissect. Mollie will be trying to crack some of these tough cyber-cases. We will also create, in the left sidebar index, an “All-Stars” category to salute fine religion writing wherever we find it, in markets large and small.

So welcome Mollie to the blog. She’s a live wire.

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Read this and weep (honest)

nk schoolchildrens palace kimilsungWhile in Orange County, Calif., last week, I had a chance to read the following story about North Korea and religious persecution in an actual dead-tree-pulp edition of the Los Angeles Times. I thought that reporter Barbara Demick did a good job of handling the brutal details without letting things get out of control.

I did, however, wonder if the basic “rice evangelism” anecdote was the most powerful lead for this story.

SEOUL — A few years ago, an astonishing rumor spread among the teenagers of Musan, a sad, hungry mining town hugging the North Korean side of the border with China. If you slipped over and looked for a house with a cross, the people inside would give you a lecture on Christianity and a bowl of rice.

Choi Hwa knew this was dangerous stuff. Back when she was an impressionable 12-year-old, she and her classmates had been called
out to watch the execution of a young woman and her father who were caught with a Bible. But Choi knew as well that the pangs in her stomach meant she might soon succumb to the starvation that had killed dozens of neighbors. The girl followed her stomach. Through it, she found her way to faith.

After all, this story also included some hellish accounts of persecution and martyrdom, as believers struggled to express their faith while living in the shadows of the allegedly divine Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il. I especially liked the detail from Demick that the North Korean PR writers have a special distaste for Christian faith because they have plagiarized certain sacred details to flesh out their own stories. For example, “doctrine has it that Kim Jong Il’s birth was heralded by a bright star in the sky.”

I also flinched while reading this account about the deaths of five middle-aged men accused of running an underground church.

They were forced to lie on the ground and were crushed by a steamroller, said a 30-year-old North Korean defector, who added that he witnessed the incident while he was in the army. “At the time, I thought they got what they deserved,” said the defector, who related his story to The Times. Now a theology student in South Korea, he asked to be identified only by his English first name, Stephen.

Days later, a friend (hat tip to Rod Dreher) sent me a slightly different account of the same event. This is the rare case in which the writing in a bookish journal of theology and culture — the weblog of First Things, actually — is more gripping than the reporting in a world-class newspaper. This account is taken directly from the printed reports of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, based on eyewitness accounts.

You be the judge. Which is the more memorable? Does the First Things version go too far?

… (In) the building of a highway near Pyongyang, a house was demolished and a Bible was discovered hidden between bricks. Along with it was a list identifying a Christian pastor, two assistant pastors, two elders, and 20 members of the congregation. All were rounded up and the five Christian leaders were told they could avoid death if they denied their faith and swore to serve only Kim Jong Il and his father, Kim Il Sung. …

Refusing to do so, they were forced to lie down and a steamroller used in the highway construction was driven over them. The report continues, “Fellow parishioners who had been assembled to watch the execution cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller.”

I think I need to get a copy of that report. Ditto for other journalists who care about basic human rights.

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Wanted: A Muslim voice for sanity

Blog Madrid BombingHere is one of the most terrifying stories I have read this year, a feature by Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times that ran under the headline “From Tapes, a Chilling Voice of Islamic Radicalism in Europe.”

There is no ghost in this story. The raw religious fervor of the alleged terrorist profiled is pushed right out front for all to see.

That is, in fact, the point of this story linked to the aftermath of the 3/11 Madrid bombings (photo). Sciolino opens with Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed screaming “Go to hell, enemy of God!” while watching the beheading of Nicholas Berg and things stay pretty raw after that.

An Italian police report on Ahmed’s activities:

… (Charges) that he used cassette tapes, cellphones, CD’s and computers as recruitment tools, highlighting how the Internet potentially can transform any living room into a radical madrasa. The report says he downloaded hundreds of audio and video files of sermons, communiqués, poetry, songs, martyrs’ testimony, Koranic readings and scenes of battle and suicide bombings from Chechnya, Afghanistan, the Israeli-occupied territories, Lebanon, Bosnia, Kashmir and Iraq.

A onetime house painter who was able to take on new identities, hopscotch across Europe and dodge the police who had him on their watch lists, Mr. Ahmed is believed to have links to radicals in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Saudi Arabia. The police report calls him a recruiter of suicide bombers for Iraq and at least one other terrorist operation, probably in Europe. For the Italians, Mr. Ahmed is emblematic of the new enemy in their midst.

There are fits of the rawest anti-Semitism you can imagine, and guest appearances online by a Saudi sheik: “In one question-and-answer session with a Saudi sheik who is asked what suicide operations against Jews are allowed under Islamic law, the sheik responds that Jews are ‘vile and despicable beings, full of defects and wickedness.’ God, he added, ‘has ordered us to wage war against them.’”

OK, so what is wrong with the story? The religion angle is there, after all.

I honestly wanted to hear this material discussed by voices on the other side of the Muslim world, as well as by the European experts and prosecutors. This is a case where the story offers a blunt, one-sided presentation of the most radical version possible of Islam and there is no real attempt to show this vile poison in any other context.

I think moderate Muslims have a right to be heard in a story of this kind. The Islamists are blowing up moderate Muslims as well as Jews and Christians. I wanted to hear a centrist Muslim expert or two have a chance to tear apart this rhetoric.

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Meet C.S. Lewis, pedantic horndog

AdamGopnikEarlier this week, Daniel touched on some newspapers’ breathless “C.S. Lewis had premarital sex” exposes. Some of the comments on his post have mentioned the critique of Lewis in the Nov. 21 New Yorker.

Adam Gopnik’s essay offers the depth of detail readers would expect from The New Yorker, but dwells at tiresome length on Lewis’ sex life. In describing Lewis’ relationships with Janie King Moore and Joy Davidman, Gopnik leaves the impression that they were both married women still living with their husbands when they took to bed with Lewis. (We know that Davidman did. Contrary to Gopnik, we cannot be certain that Lewis and Moore “had a long affair.”)

Gopnik (pictured) does not mention that Lewis was fulfilling a promise to a World War I buddy to look after his widowed mother. (Whether Lewis and Moore ever engaged in a bit of the old non-marital rumpy pumpy is, as some comments on Daniel’s post indicate, not of great interest to Lewis admirers who understand that Lewis did many things before his conversion that he would not have done after it.)

Joy Davidman, in turn, was separated from her husband when she met Lewis, and Lewis left no impression that he was, in Gopnik’s words, “seduced by a married woman” by the time they were wed in a civil ceremony.

But enough about sex, as some of us are at least descended from the British.

Besides, Gopnik also is annoyed by Lewis’s brand of Christian faith. Gopnik depicts Lewis as a victim of that infamous Catholic soul-stalker, J.R.R. Tolkien:

It was through the intervention of the secretive and personally troubled Tolkien, however, that Lewis finally made the turn toward orthodox Christianity. In company with another friend, they took a long, and now famous, walk, on an autumn night in 1931, pacing and arguing from early evening to early morning. Tolkien was a genuinely eccentric character — in college, the inventor of Lothlorien played the part of the humorless pedant — who had been ready to convert Lewis for several years. Lewis was certainly ripe to be converted. The liberal humanism in which he had been raised as a thinker had come to seem far too narrowly Philistine and materialist to account for the intimations of transcendence that came to him on country walks and in pages of poetry. Tolkien, seizing on this vulnerability, said that the obvious-seeming distinction that Lewis made between myth and fact — between intimations of timeless joy and belief in a historically based religion — was a false one.

And so on. (This exceptionally long rant ends with Lewis on the brink of becoming a churchgoer, as if his conversion consisted primarily of faithful pew-warming at the nearest Anglican chapel.)

For Gopnik, Lewis commits the unpardonable modern sin of insisting that there’s such a thing as objective religious truth (and not merely subjective individual religious preference). On this point, Gopnik manages to make the postwar University of Oxford sound like a center of conformist Anglican piety:

Lewis insists that the Anglican creed isn’t one spiritual path among others but the single cosmic truth that extends from the farthest reach of the universe to the house next door. He is never troubled by the funny coincidence that this one staggering cosmic truth also happens to be the established religion of his own tribe, supported by every institution of the state, and reinforced by the university he works in, the “God-fearing and God-sustaining University of Oxford,” as Gladstone called it. But perhaps his leap from myth to Christian faith wasn’t a leap at all, more of a standing hop in place.

Most tellingly, while criticizing Lewis for his allegories, Gopnik shows a breathtaking literalism:

The trouble was that though he could encompass his obsessions, he could not entirely surrender to his imagination. The emotional power of the book, as every sensitive child has known, diminishes as the religious part intensifies. The most explicitly religious part of his myth is the most strenuously, and the least successfully, allegorized. Aslan the lion, the Christ symbol, who has exasperated generations of freethinking parents and delighted generations of worried Anglicans, is, after all, a very weird symbol for that famous carpenter’s son — not just an un-Christian but in many ways an anti-Christian figure.

So much for the Lion of Judah.

Memo to the legendary fact-checkers of The New Yorker: Lewis wrote A Grief Observed, not A Grief Portrayed.

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Yet another festival of Roman balloons

hot air balloons in sandiego DI am still on the road in the Los Angeles area and struggling to catch up, while also enjoying reading — for better and for worse — the Los Angeles Times each morning on dead tree pulp. I have many stories backed up to mention and will do what I can to keep posting this week.

Meanwhile, let me once again spotlight one of the — to me — most fascinating stories out there, especially if you are interested in watching the press try to handle on organization that has mastered the art of, yes, the trial balloon.

Check out these phrases, drawn from yet another MSM attempt to figure out what the Vatican is up to with its still mysterious document on the ordination of homosexual men to the priesthood. This report by Tracy Wilkinson had another one of those dry yet yearning headlines: “Vatican to Define Its Policy on Gay Seminarians.” Yes, we know. Someday the Vatican will do that, but as for now we are left with:

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is preparing to release a document, years in the making, that will bolster the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine against admitting gay men into the priesthood.

“Is preparing to…” Yes, we know that.

Despite an acute shortage of Catholic priests in many parts of the world, church leaders under Pope Benedict XVI are advocating a more careful screening of aspiring clerics to keep out homosexuals. However, rather than an absolute ban feared in some circles, the pope is expected to adopt a somewhat more nuanced approach in the final document.

“A more careful screening … the pope is expected to … a somewhat more nuanced … in the final document.” What can you say? How many balloons can one put in a single sentence? But wait! It’s time for a full-scape riot of balloons (to mangle a metaphor), an almost “we don’t have the story, but lots of people are telling us lots of things” festival of second- and third-tier attributions. This is long and I will mark (with italics) most of the fun parts:

The new instructions, expected to be issued with Benedict’s approval this month, will update a 1961 prohibition on gays entering seminaries. That ban declared that men of “homosexual tendency” were “not fit” to be ordained.

But indications are that the new document, which will set out more specific guidelines intended to enforce a rule that everyone agrees has often been ignored, also will leave a small degree of flexibility or discretion.

The final document has not been made public, and the clerics who drafted it have not spoken publicly on its contents, following the Vatican practice of avoiding comment until the pope has formally published any new instructions. Consequently, the precise language remains unknown, and in Vatican documents even the most minor inflections of language can make a world of difference.

Still, the most reliable reports suggest the following strictures will be included: Men who have been celibate for at least three years, regardless of their sexual orientation, would be eligible to be admitted to seminaries. In addition to celibacy, they should not participate in a “gay lifestyle,” including the use of books, movies and Internet sites with gay content or themes. Nor should they join related political activities, such as pride marches.

Bravo! I think we get the picture. There are still major problems with the document. Bishops in the chilly West are almost certainly divided and some simply plan to ignore the document anyway. Rome is getting pounded on by the leaders of major religious orders and seminaries. You get the picture, kind of.

Yes, I still think there are more balloons ahead. We’re getting closer to the vague document that is ahead. Maybe.

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Raising Kaine in the Democratic Party

MosesWithout a doubt, the most interesting religion plot in last week’s election coverage was the victory of Democrat Timothy Kaine in the Virginia gubernatorial race over Republican Jerry Kilgore. Democrats haven’t been this fired up about God-talk and values since the early years of The West Wing.

The faith element in Kaine’s daring campaign — he even bought time for ads on Christian radio stations — was highlighted in The Washington Post early and often this week. Kaine was presented as a kind of moderate Moses, poised to lead his party back into the promised land of Middle America.

This language in an early A-1 piece by reporter Robert Barnes captures the tone, with a crucial quote from George Mason University professor Mark J. Rozell:

Kaine defended himself against Kilgore’s attack … by saying that it is his beliefs as a deeply religious Catholic that lead him to oppose the death penalty and abortion. But he also said he would follow the law on capital punishment and advocate laws that protect the right to abortion.

“The elite never really got that argument,” said David Eichenbaum, one of Kaine’s media advisers, referring to columnists and others who wondered how Kaine could be, in his words, “morally” opposed and yet pledge not to try to change the law. “But people who heard him got it.”

“I think this is an interesting test case for Democrats to see if you can run a faith-based campaign focused on values and do so as a progressive candidate in a Southern state,” Rozell said. It worked … because of Kaine’s frequent reference to his service as a missionary in Honduras while in law school and his familiarity with the language of religion. “It did not come off as calculated,” he said.

In effect, Kaine played what could be called the “Mario Cuomo” card, saying that he held conservative beliefs but that he could not force them on the public square.

Conservative pundit Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard was not all that impressed. Here is how he described the Kaine gambit, in an op-ed page piece that he published in The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Kaine took the unusual step for a Democrat of talking about his Catholic faith. “The Bible teaches we can accomplish great things when we work together,” he said in a radio ad. He attributed his opposition to capital punishment to his deep faith. But his faith wasn’t so deep, Mr. Kaine assured voters, that it would keep him from carrying out the death penalty as governor.

Establishment Democrats cheered, since Kaine did not — as Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter had done decades years before — show signs that his conservative, yet privatized, religious beliefs might lead to actual compromises on social issues. He talked conservative, while promising to act liberal, without hinting that he would seek compromises somewhere in the middle.

This is the part of the story, in my opinion, that journalists would be wise to watch.

The religious left is beginning to get its rhetorical act together, but there are no signs of actual changes on what the Democratic Party might support in terms of compromise legislation on the hot-button religious, moral and cultural issues. What is changing are the words and the images, not the political ideas and actions.

SheenWestWingWords will almost certainly not be enough to attract believers caught up in the faith-based battles that have dominated recent elections, noted Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks. Religious conservatives, in both political parties, want more than words.

Democrats should be wary of jumping to conclusions in the wake of Democrat Timothy Kaine’s Virginia gubernatorial victory. … (Imagining) that red-state voters will turn blue if only Democrats talk more about faith misunderstands the role of conservative evangelical Christianity in American politics. Conservative evangelical churches played a big role in delivering voters for George W. Bush in 2004 — but neither that nor Kaine’s victory prove that red-state voters are simply hungry for “religion” and will reward whichever candidate speaks most convincingly about his or her personal faith.

In conclusion, journalists who are interested in the Democratic Party’s attempts to get religion would do well to read a fascinating essay titled “Goodbye Catholics” by Mark Stricherz in the current issue of Commonweal magazine. It describes the work of the late Fred Dutton, whose work as a Democratic Party strategist on the left set the stage for today’s politics of the pew gap.

Here is a crucial statement of this essay’s thesis:

(Nothing) Dutton did was as influential and far-reaching as his work on a Democratic commission that ran from 1969 to 1972. Better known as the McGovern Commission, for its chairman, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, the twenty-eight-member panel became the vehicle by which a handful of antiwar liberals revolutionized the Democratic Party.

Of this group, Dutton emerged as the chief designer and builder. His goal was nothing less than to end the New Deal coalition, the electoral alliance that had supported the party since 1932 around a broad working-class agenda. In its place, Dutton sought to build a “loose peace constituency,” a collection of groups opposed to the Vietnam War and more generally the military-industrial complex. To this end, Dutton recognized that Democrats would need to appeal to three new constituencies — young people, college-educated suburbanites, and feminists — while ceasing to woo two old ones — Catholics and working-class whites.

So there’s the rub for those who want to raise up Kaine as a political prophet.

How does the post-Sexual Revolution Democratic Party continue to draw enthusiastic support from the its strongest supporters in abortion-rights groups and university faculty lounges, while also seeking to reach out to the now politically incorrect elements of the old New Deal coalition? Can Democrats please traditional Catholics and Bible Belt populists with words, while pleasing activists on the left with deeds?

Stay tuned. The Democrats hope to take this story line into the West Wing.

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Latest CT bucket o’ links

We have not done much — spread out as we are traveling — with coverage of several important and ongoing stories. But the new edition of the Christianity Today weblog has lots of update links on the U.S. Supreme Court story, the Intelligent Design wars, the U.S. Senate and military prayers and oodles of other stuff. Check it out. Am I the only one who sees some early signs that skilled MSM reporters are growing weary of locking everyone who does not believe that creation was “random” and “impersonal” inside the same “creationism” style box?

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