Small, quiet pro-life events (sssssshhhhh)

As I keep reading the waves of media coverage of the University of Notre Dame rites honoring President Barack Obama (click here for a flashback), I continue to be impressed with two facts.

The coverage of what happened inside the building was pretty standard stuff, in terms of analyzing what the president had to say, as he openly and enthusiastically inserted himself (and the power of his office) into this era’s wars inside Catholic higher education. Many readers, especially those who read follow-up commentaries on left and right, had a chance to learn the basics about what Obama had to say.

The coverage of what happened outside the building was a travesty, focusing roughly 100 times more attention on the loud, professional demonstrators who visited the campus to make noise and provide photo ops, while almost completely avoiding coverage of the quiet, constructive and even diverse rites that were organized, for the most part, by members of the university’s pro-life community.

So far, I have found one major-media sidebar about these prayer rites and the Mass held on campus, from the Chicago Tribune. Here is a good chunk of that short report:

It was always intended to be a day of celebration. For the 26 University of Notre Dame graduates and their families who chose to skip the traditional pomp and circumstance on Sunday, it still was.

Instead of marching in with 2,900 other classmates, Michele Sagala and her fiance Andrew Chronister spent time in prayer and reflection with their families, celebrating the gift of life.

“There’s such a sense of joy I can’t imagine being duplicated,” said Sagala, 22, after reciting the rosary and turning her tassel at a service in the Grotto, a Marian shrine at the corner of campus. “Our hope is that it showed the outside world there’s a lot of good here at the university.”

From a mass and rally in the university’s South Quad to the vigil at the Grotto, graduates, their families, faculty and supporters demonstrated their opposition to abortion rights with a mostly peaceful show of solidarity on Sunday — a contrast to protests by activists earlier in the week that included fake blood-spattered props, acts of civil disobedience and arrests.

“The heroes are the young people on campus and the students in the great tradition of John Paul and Pope Benedict,” said Bishop John D’Arcy of the diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, whose jurisdiction includes Notre Dame. The bishop has said he opposes the university awarding Obama an honorary doctorate of laws degree. “Their protest was carried out with love, prayer, dignity and respect.”

Students made it clear that they were not protesting the president by not going to the graduation. They were offended by the university’s decision to ignore the bishops’ instruction against inviting Obama to speak and giving him an honorary degree.

Several questions leap to mind:

* We are told
that the participants in these worship services — families, faculty and supporters — “demonstrated their opposition to abortion rights with a mostly peaceful show of solidarity on Sunday.” Uh, “mostly peaceful”? What did they do that was violent or non-peaceful? This label is pinned on them, but left hanging. There was “non-peaceful” activity in the Grotto? In the Mass?

* What is the number that you remember at the end of this story? For me, it’s 26. That is a small and essential number. Yet, might it also be important that — according to some biased witnesses — the Mass drew 2,000? That the Grotto event drew 1,000 or so, or at the very least “several hundred”? Were these events small, in relationship to the 100 or so at the loud protests by outsiders that drew police and major media attention? Might we seek some verification?

* I am especially interested in the fact that 50 or so Notre Dame faculty, in full regalia, attended the rally. Who were they? Were they linked to any particular organizations or departments within Notre Dame? Why were they there? Has anyone interviewed them?

Just asking. Again.

Print Friendly

Missing the key fact — again (updated)

goldendomendbasicWhen diplomats want to make a specific point or argument, they tend to speak in very precise language in an attempt to prevent misunderstandings. This is especially true when their statements address issues linked to major world powers or leaders — such as the president of the United States.

Thus, it isn’t very surprising that Harvard professor Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, made it very clear why she decided not to accept the 2009 Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame, which would have been granted in the same ceremony in which President Barack Obama received his honorary doctor of laws degree from America’s most prestigious Catholic institution. The letter she posted online stated:

… (As) a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

However, in a Los Angeles Times report on this event, here is the context in which Glendon’s action was explained to readers:

Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, praised Obama for accepting the school’s invitation, despite knowledge that his views differed from many of those taught by the Roman Catholic Church.

“Others might have avoided this venue for that reason,” Jenkins said. “But President Obama is not someone who stops talking with those who differ with him.”

Obviously, one of the narrow-minded leaders who declined this chance for symbolic dialogue was Father Jenkins’ own shepherd, Bishop John D’Arcy of the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend.

Bishop D’Arcy boycotted the ceremony and suggested the university had “chosen prestige over truth.” Also missing from the ceremony were Mary Ann Glendon, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, who turned down a prestigious Notre Dame medal because she did not agree with the university’s decision to honor Obama.

My question is simple: Is that final sentence accurate?

Did Glendon refuse the Laetare Medal because “she did not agree with the university’s decision to honor Obama,” or did she refuse it because she opposed the university’s decision to violate the 2004 policy statement by the U.S. Catholic bishops?

What’s the difference, you say? Glendon would insist that the difference is crucial. At best, this statement of her motive is incomplete. It makes it sound like she was acting alone, based on her own private opinion. It removes the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference (hardly a right-wing organization) from the picture altogether. This, in a Catholic dispute, tosses away a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Which is precisely what happened in the mainstream coverage of this event, at least the coverage that I have seen so far. Has anyone seen a major, mainstream media report that quotes the 2004 policy statement by the U.S. bishops?

But I shouldn’t be too hard on the Los Angeles Times. At least its early coverage included content from the larger, official protests at Notre Dame, as opposed to an exclusive focus on the loud, often rude, in-your-face demonstrations by outsiders.

Bishop John D’Arcy of the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, whose jurisdiction includes Notre Dame, spoke at an opposition rally held before Obama’s arrival.

“John D’Arcy is not important. The office of bishop is very important,” he said. “It must always be like Pope John Paul II, to [stand] for life everywhere with no exception.”

D’Arcy said he had not intended to be on campus Sunday, but wanted to support the student opposition. “The heroes are the young people on campus and the students in the great tradition of John Paul and Pope Benedict,” he said. “Their protest was carried out with love, prayer, dignity and respect.”

Dozens knelt in prayer and lighted candles at the Grotto, a popular place for reflection on campus.

usccb300pxIt even mentioned another quieter, reflective event for those opposed to the granting of this honor to Obama, whose rejection of all limitations on abortion has, so far, been absolute.

At a Mass on the university’s South Quad, the Rev. Kevin Rousseau, a Holy Cross priest on the university faculty, praised the students’ spiritual response to the “debate, confusion and mixed emotions” since the invitation to Obama was announced.

“There is an instinct cultivated here at Notre Dame,” he said. “Our student body instinctively came to the Lord … with rosaries, masses and prayer services as responses to the culture of death.” He added, “We have gathered today to give voice to the vulnerable in society.”

If you compare and contrast numbers quoted in the mainstream stories today, it appears that there were about 100 screaming outsiders on or near the campus, the people who ended up getting arrested and, thus, drawing most of the coverage. Meanwhile, it seems that “several hundred” people attended the prayer services and mainstream rallies.

It would be nice to know more about those events, which represented the actual pro-life community at Notre Dame. I guess those people didn’t make enough noise, saying their prayers and all that. They didn’t fit the template for the day, since they lacked key symbols — such as “baby carriages with dolls covered in fake blood.”

It is clear that the vast majority of students present supported the president in this showdown of symbolic gestures. These students were backed — it appears — by most members of the Notre Dame community at large. Then again, this should not be a big surprise.

After all, as shown in a Washington Post report, larger numbers of people turned out to protest Republican presidents when they appeared on campus to speak.

Obama is not the first president to be met by protesters at Notre Dame’s commencement. About 400 gathered to oppose Ronald Reagan’s stand on capital punishment and Central American policy in 1981 and hundreds expressed their anger about George W. Bush’s support for the death penalty two decades later.

In 1992, Bishop John D’Arcy boycotted the commencement speech by George H. W. Bush because the university awarded a top medal to Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an ardent supporter of abortion rights.

Might that “top medal” given to Moynihan be the Laetare Medal that Glendon declined? Yes, it was.

You see, Obama had home-court advantage when he came to offer praises for Notre Dame and its heritage of progressive Catholicism (full speech transcript here). That’s the point. That’s the heart of the story and the heart of the conflict between Notre Dame’s leadership and the mainstream pro-life movement on the campus and across the nation.

UPDATE: Just talked to a Notre Dame faculty member who estimated that about 1,000 people attended the prayer service at the grotto and another 2,000 the public Mass held as a counter-point rite to the commencement events.

From a journalistic perspective, the lack of coverage of those events — contrasted with the omnipresent coverage of the much smaller Randall Terry-Alan Keyes events for outsiders, with all of the blunt language and visuals — appears to be the MSM content issue of the day.

UPDATE II: Lots of opinion, but lots of factual observations in this post by Catholic blogger Erin Manning about the mainstream rallies at Notre Dame. Note especially the reference to 50 faculty members at the counter rally.

This raises a question: Were there three pro-life events linked to the NDResponse.com efforts? A rally, a prayer service at the Grotto and the actual Mass? Or was the Grotto prayer event the same thing as the “rally”?

Print Friendly

Girls at the altar

687494590_c1b2f03a26It’s just three little paragraphs in today’s Independent under the headline “Women May Join Papal Swiss Guard,” but it contains so many mistakes, both when it comes to religion and when it comes to journalism.

The problems begin with the very first words:

Women may be as far as ever from gaining the right to become priests or even altar girls in the Catholic Church, but the Vatican’s gates creaked open a chink this week when the new head of the Pontifical Swiss Guard said that female soldiers could join its ranks.

True, women cannot serve as Catholic priests but, as our reader Hugo Mendez points out, altar girls have been allowed since 1994. The reporter for the Independent could have checked his newspaper’s own files to learn of the Vatican ruling that year. If not, he could have just asked any church-going Catholic girl. To her, altar girls are just part of life.

The journalistic error was using an ambiguous phrase like “female soldiers could join.” That can be read as either “they now have permission to” or “someday they might be allowed to.”

If you read on, you’ll find it is the latter. In fact, the whole story hinges on this quote from the commander of the guards: “It could be possible. I can imagine them having one role or another.”

In other words, there’s nothing here but speculation.

It is also curious why anyone would associate the Swiss Guard, who have a ceremonial function in Vatican City, with the liturgical function of serving at the altar. But then it was just three little graphs in the Independent, and I’ve already written double that number, so I will end.

Print Friendly

May LeBron be with you

LIFEembedDrawGallery(26202);

Pastors sometimes rebuke congregations by comparing their subdued worship style to the more exuberant displays among sports fans. “The Chosen One,” a report this week on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, reinforces the notion that nobody worships quite like a person sitting in a sports venue. (For whatever reason, the ESPN video is no longer accessible. The video is on this page if ESPN ever brings it back by cultic demand.)

“Every sports town needs a savior,” says the Outline the Lines report on LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz backs up this quasi-theological statement with multiple quotes from giddy residents of greater Cleveland. The story is largely a well-reported tribute to James as a “one-man urban renewal program,” filled with shots of James’ gorgeous slam dunks.

But my oh my is the religious language ever out of control here. One shot shows a fan holding a sign: “The King Lives in Cleveland.”

A beaming Pastor R.A. Vernon of The Word Church plays along. “I think I can say unequivocally, as a pastor, that after Jesus Christ, then comes LeBron,” Vernon says. “This city needs LeBron James to win a championship.”

“Here’s a guy coming out of our neck of the woods who has a chance to lead us to the Promised Land — in a city like Cleveland, which is a blue-collar, you know, get out and dig for a day’s pay type of town,” says Joe Tait, the longtime voice of the Cavaliers.

But there’s trouble in Paradise: James becomes a free agent next year, and he has already committed the blasphemy of wearing a Yankees cap during a baseball playoff game. What sort of fickle redeemer is this guy?

“For him to leave, I believe that the spiritual morale would drop, the emotional morale,” Vernon says. “He could go to an established team and get the ring, but to take a team that desperately needs a champion, a city — oh my goodness, I would have to be careful as a pastor, because people might start praising him, like he is God.”

“If he leaves us, it’s gonna take our hearts, like so many before him. But if he stays, it kind of reinforces our belief that, gee, God is good and he gave us LeBron,” says Nick Costas, who owns a club in downtown Cleveland.

James says, as clearly as one could expect, that he has no plans to leave Cleveland. I hope that’s true, lest Cleveland suddenly register a surge of newfound atheism sometime in 2010 and wreak terrible havoc on those important reports from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Hat tip: physics geek jesus freak, via email.

Print Friendly

Praise without a “preyer”?

495px-constitution_pg1of4_ac2
In my denomination, as in most other mainline Protestant ones and the Roman Catholic Church, among others, clergy and lay volunteers are required to undergo anti-sex abuse training, which includes a criminal background check.

Given the wariness about sex abuse in the wake of decades of scandal and some highly publicized crimes, how would clergy or congregants feel if a freed sex offender showed up for worship? How do laws differ state to state? Have they been challenged? What’s constitutional and what’s not? Are there alternative ways to minister to released sex offenders?

These were a few of the questions that went through my mind when reading an article on the topic of sex-offender laws in North Carolina from the Citizen-Times.com sent to by Lee, a GR reader. Only a few of them were addressed in the story, which discussed the implications of North Carolina laws that keep sex offenders away from places with youngsters.

Props to writer Jordan Schrader for covering the issue at all — it’s not one I’ve seen examined much in the news. Here’s the punchy lede:

If they want to repent their sins, sex offenders in Buncombe County and elsewhere had better do it at home.

Some church services are among the activities that are off limits because of tough restrictions on registered sex offenders’ movements, passed all but unanimously last year by state lawmakers who invoked a young girl’s tragic murder.

This week, though, the General Assembly will likely start to rethink a ban that keeps sex offenders from going within 300 feet of a place “intended primarily for the use, care or supervision of minors.”

But then things get a little confusing. A Fayetteville legislator is quoted as saying that the General Assembly might have acted unconstitutionally — but the reporter doesn’t quote him or anyone else saying why. The story doesn’t tell us what the legislators are considering doing to change the 300-foot law.

There also seems to be a subtle assumption that all houses of worship in North Carolina are Christian. As reader Lee pointed out, the quote directly addressing whether registered offenders belong in worship is from a legislator, Bruce Goforth. He certainly seems to make that assumption.

Goforth, among the most vocal advocates in the legislature for sex-offender restrictions, said the far-reaching ban was an unintended consequence.

“We want them in church to try to turn their lives toward Christ,” Goforth said, so “they would no longer prey on society.”

Making that the sole reaction on the question of offenders in worship surely doesn’t reflect the breadth of the feelings of worshippers. The article itself doesn’t spend a lot of time going beneath the surface, where lurks a few challenging questions — can sex offenders ever be rehabillitated? In Christian terms, can they be redeemed? What rights do they have? Will this set up a church-state conflict? One gets the impression, from the list of upcoming bill tacked on near the article’s end, that some legislators are moving towards tightening the laws. If a more permissive law about where they can worship is enacted, it will be the exception in North Carolina rather than the rule.

Picture of the U.S. Constitution is from Wikimedia Commons

Print Friendly

Holy (modern) Communion

450px-our_lady_of_walsingham_ii1We have so much fun with the British press on GetReligion that it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to flex some other critical muscles on behalf of our colleagues across the pond. Thanks to commenter David, who sent us this Times of London story about a new Catholic order of nuns, for giving me this opportunity. While there are some places where writer Joanna Moorehead doesn’t go deep enough or give enough context, the vivid quotes and uncondescending portrayal of these unusual women compensate for her flaws.

The fact that it was written for the “Women’s” section may go some way to explain some of the “gee-whiz” style of this article about the formation of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham. The article begins with a multi-faceted portrait of a young woman, stewardess Katie Colbran, on the cusp of leaving her job to test out her call as a nun.

From September, she’ll be Sister Katie: instead of the fast-moving, hard-living, sexy, dizzy, international world of air travel, she’ll be surrounded by the peace, tranquillity and well-tended gardens of the community’s House of Prayer. Instead of the Arrivals and Departures boards at Heathrow, her life will be ruled by the ancient rhythm that’s been followed through the centuries by Catholic men and women who have taken up life as a monk or a nun: morning prayer, Mass, the Angelus, Vespers, night prayer. Instead of her mobile phone, she’ll live by the bells of a religious house; instead of eating in a different restaurant in a different European city each night of the week, she’ll be sharing meals around the simple community table with her fellow sisters. And instead of looking ahead to a future that might have included a partner and children, she’ll be choosing a life in which a lover, and babies, can have no part.

In Western Europe in 2009, the life of a Roman Catholic nun seems bizarre — all very well as the subject for, say, the comedy Sister Act (which has just been turned into a West End musical), but nothing to do with anyone’s real life. And what’s equally extraordinary is that the community Colbran is joining is, in these days of dwindling interest in religious worship in general, and in being a nun or monk in particular, almost brand new.

Some caveats — Actually, nuns can take care of babies, and some do — they just can’t have them (unless they were previously married, but that’s another story). Although apparently the number of vocations to the religious life in Great Britain are small, many religious orders have long been globally connected, and there are many places in the world where vocations are actually growing, as noted in this earlier piece on the order.

It would also help if the article gave some background on Our Lady of Walsingham.
(My former rector, an Anglo-Catholic, made a retreat at the shrine, a favorite with Catholics and “spikey” Anglicans alike.)

Even if the essay sometimes read like a crash course on “nuns 101″ the writer has some wonderful quotes from Colbran and from foundress Sister Camilla. Here’s one in which Sister Camilla grapples with what it means to have walked away from the opportunity to marry and have children:

Giving up the chance of children, though, was a harder choice. “In your twenties, you don’t really grasp what that’s going to mean. And then in your mid-thirties it can be a lot more painful — but it’s part of the sacrifice, and you have to hold firm to what you are doing and to struggle on through, just as you do in a marriage when the going gets tough. All choices involve sacrifices of one sort or another.”

Ain’t that the truth.

The quote illustrates very well the tension between realism and idealism that infuses this piece — voiced by the women Moorehead interviewed as they make what is indeed an unusual choice in a mostly secular British culture. This is a rare opportunity to see a religious community in formation (the Vatican has approved turning it into one that welcomes men, which likely is a whole other story in itself). There’s a little gauze here, but there’s more meat than one would expect in the lifestyle section — and a potentially exciting story that really has only just begun to be told.

Picture of Our Lady Of Walsingham is from Wikimedia Commons

Print Friendly

Improper use of “improperly”?

salt_lake_temple_baptismal_fontI tend to agree with my fellow libertarian Penn Jillette about people of different religious backgrounds attempting to convert me: I’d be more offended if they didn’t. It shows they care about me temporally and eternally. So I don’t personally share the disdain so many people have for the Mormon practice of baptism of the dead.

But ABC’s Jake Tapper has a rather interesting story headlined “President’s Late Mother Improperly, Posthumously, Baptized as a Mormon.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints confirmed Tuesday afternoon that someone improperly, posthumously baptized the late mother of President Obama into the Mormon faith.

Last June 4 — the day after then-Sen. Obama secured enough delegates to win the Democratic presidential nominee — someone had the president’s mother Stanley Ann Dunham, who died in 1995 of cancer, baptized.

On June 11, she received the endowment.

Tiny quibble here but it’s the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not Latter-Day Saints. I’m not sure what it means that she received “the endowment” a week later and would like to know more about it and how it differs or expands upon the baptism. But what I really want to know is when and how the Latter-day Saints “confirmed” that they improperly baptized President Barack Obama’s mother. Here’s the only quote on the matter in the Tapper piece:

Mormon Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said that “the offering of baptism to our deceased ancestors is a sacred practice to us and it is counter to Church policy for a Church member to submit names for baptism for persons to whom they are not related. The Church is looking into the circumstances of how this happened and does not yet have all the facts. However, this is a serious matter and we are treating it as such.”

I could be reading this wrong but it seems to me that Farah is saying that the church has a certain policy on the matter and they’re looking into whether policy was followed.

I’m also confused by this section:

The Provo Daily Herald notes that the LDS Church “has run afoul of Holocaust groups multiple times,” because of efforts by Mormons to posthumously baptize Jews killed during the Holocaust. “Leaders said in November that they are making changes to their massive genealogical database to make it more difficult for names of Holocaust victims to be entered for posthumous baptism by proxy.”

Those changes obviously did not come quickly enough for the late Mrs. Dunham.

How, exactly, would an effort to make it more difficult to enter the names of Holocaust victims in a genealogical database affect Obama’s mother? And, further, that last line seems to say it’s a foregone conclusion that she should not have been baptized by the LDS. That’s a fine position to take, of course, but it might be nice to get some different perspective as well.

The Daily Herald provides a bit more information about what the Mormon teaches regarding baptism by proxy. And Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune has much, much more on the practice, how the church views it and how people who oppose the practice view it.

Image via Wikimedia.

Print Friendly

Those consistently complex “Catholic voters”

51772329If you read the comments threads on the Divine Mrs. MZ’s recent post on Notre Dame, President Barack Obama and the U.S. Catholic bishops (or some of them, at least), you can see that we are veering back into familiar territory. I am referring to the tendency among many mainstream journalists to make references to trends among “Catholic voters,” “American Catholics” and other broadly defined terms that reveal next to nothing in terms of usable information.

The truth, of course, is that it is becoming harder and harder to argue that American Catholics are part of one church, with one approach to doctrine, morality or church life.

At the Washington Post, Michelle Boorstein managed to pack some of this complexity into a way-to-short update under the headline, “Notre Dame’s Obama Award OK with Most Catholics.” The word “most” is crucial, of course. Here’s the lede:

There is a vocal and influential constituency of American Catholics who disapprove of the University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to speak at the Catholic university and receive an honorary degree in mid-May. But almost twice as many Catholics approve of the invite — not a total shock since the majority of American Catholic voters cast ballots for the president.

Catholics upset with Notre Dame for giving Obama (a supporter of abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research) what many see as American Catholicism’s highest award have been slamming Notre Dame since the honor was announced.

So who are these angry Catholics? The road, as usual, leads to the omnipresent pollsters at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. And once again, the most significant statistic can be found further into the report, way past the headline grabbing fact that 50 percent “of Catholics” (whatever) back Notre Dame’s decision to violate a U.S. Catholic Bishops policy (full text here) by giving Obama an honorary doctorate, while 22 percent “say they disaprove.”

But here is the key statistic, if you want to understand the complexity that many reporters are missing — especially in newsrooms without experienced religion-beat professionals.

… (A)uthors of the poll note that there is a gap in the Notre Dame controversy that persists in so many arenas — between more and less observant Catholics. Among white, non-Hispanic Catholics who attend church weekly or more often, approval of the decision plummets to 37 percent. Forty-five percent said the decision was wrong. Among those who attend “less often,” 56 percent support the invite while 23 percent oppose it.

Pew’s poll also shows that weekly attending white Catholics are now noticeably more negative toward Obama’s performance compared with earlier this year. In fact, a plurality of this group (45%) now disapproves of the job Obama is doing, more than double the figure in February (20%).

Here is the actual language from the poll’s executive summary:

… (A) new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life also finds a deep division on this issue between the most-observant Catholics and those who are less observant, as defined by frequency of worship service attendance. These findings are consistent with Catholic’s overall views of Obama: a majority voted for him in the 2008 presidential election and express approval of his performance in office thus far. The new findings are also consistent with Catholics’ views on abortion and embryonic stem cell research, with pluralities in the poll expressing support for each. But a division between the most-observant Catholics and less-observant Catholics also is apparent on these issues.

Did you catch that? The disagreement over Notre Dame and Obama is essentially the same as the disagreement among clashing American Catholic camps over the issue of the moral and legal status of abortion itself. In fact, 61 percent of the “attend less often” Catholics believe that abortion rights should be protected in all or most cases, as opposed to 30 percent (still an interesting number) among the “attend weekly” Catholics.

Clearly, there needs to be another line drawn inside the “attend weekly” flock if we are interested in finding what unites the Catholics — the pro-catechism Catholics? — who back the U.S. bishops’ statement opposing the granting of honors to those who actively oppose Catholic teachings. We need to know more about the Catholics who are mad at Notre Dame.

Thus, let me once again share the four-pronged typology that a veteran priest here in Washington, D.C., gave me a few years ago. There are, he said, four kinds of Catholics in this country and, thus, four “Catholic votes” on almost any issue. Any news report that lumps these groups together isn’t worth very much.

* Ex-Catholics. Solid for the Democrats. Cultural conservatives have no chance.

* Cultural Catholics who may go to church a few times a year. This may be one of those all-important “undecided voters” depending on what’s happening with the economy, foreign policy, etc. Leans to Democrats.

* Sunday-morning American Catholics. This voter is a regular in the pew and may even play some leadership role in the parish. This is the Catholic voter that is really up for grabs, the true swing voter that the candidates are after.

* The “sweats the details” Roman Catholic who goes to confession. Is active in the full sacramental life of the parish and almost always backs the Vatican, when it comes to matters of faith and practice. This is a very small slice of the American Catholic pie.

So, who is cheering for Notre Dame? Who is booing?

I confess (key word) that I think the pros at the Pew Forum needed to ask one more question. The weekly Mass question is crucial, but what about that other controversial sacrament? What about people who do and don’t go to confession?

Print Friendly


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X