President Obama’s visit to Puerto Rico yesterday was consequential not only for the politics of next year’s presidential race but also for the politics of the island. Perhaps more importantly, if yesterday’s visit proves to be seminal, leading to a greater understanding of and dialogue with Puerto Rican culture, the President may help his party – and his country – understand how the changing demographics stateside might look in the future. Puerto Ricans have spent the last century experimenting with issues of how a Latino culture born out of the mixing of the Catholic faith with indigenous culture intersects with U.S. culture. In short, their past may hold keys to the nation’s future.
Robert Royal has a thoughtful commentary on the role Hispanic Catholicism might play in shaping American culture. He notes that there is little abstract about Hispanic inculturations of the faith, which bespeaks a vitality often lacking north of the border. Royal also notes that such vitality is not always sufficient: He recalls visiting a rural church in Guatemala where pre-Christian rituals co-existed a little too easily with Catholic practice, an experience I encountered in Chiapas once, watching an older woman carefully set out an egg, a bottle of Coke and some candles before a statue of a saint as she began praying over a pregnant woman.
Royal's commentary is not lengthy and only touches the surface of some profound issues, but is well worth the read.
In this morning's Washington Post, Walter Reich explains that Yale University is shutting down what has been, heretofore, the best academic institute for the study of Anti-Semitism in the country. He suggests that the Institute come to a major D.C. university and mentions Catholic University among them.
The value of bringing such an Institute to CUA is obvious: Few hatreds have produced greater evil in Western civilization than the hatred of the Jews, so the need to study it is obvious for any university. But, because that hatred has a decidedly religious character, and has often, tragically, found a way to thrive within the Christian community, it would be especially helpful to locate such an institute at a religious university. After all, when you study anti-Semities, you are not studying Jews.
Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics writes about the changing, and more visible, role that white evangelicals play in today's GOP. He offers the prediction that at some point one of the GOP candidates will find a way to go after Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. I fear Silk is right. Politics can get dirty. Remember the GOP primary in 2000, when the charge surfaced that John McCain had a "black child out of wedlock" during the South Carolina primary? McCain, of course, had an adopted daughter from Bangladesh.
No one will challenge Romney's faith on a debate stage, to be sure. But, Romney can expect flyers in South Carolina that assert he is not a Christian to be sure.
It is hard to discern a clear winner in last night’s GOP debate in New Hampshire. Michelle Bachmann did very well in her premiere performance, Newt Gingrich was able to appear as a very intelligent, thinking man’s candidate (which he is) instead of as a bumbling manager whose campaign is imploding (which he also is), and Mitt Romney looked presidential, whatever that means.
What was more obvious were the losers: Tm Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Catholic social teaching, the 14th Amendment, and non-voodoo economics.
Bill Donohue, of the Catholic League, has posted a response to my item below.
He claims that Father Sirico never suggested John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" was a Christ-like figure. Maybe he should re-read Sirico's article, the whole point of which was to suggest that Rand had some subliminal need to paint Galt in Christ-like terms. Indeed, the title of Sirico's little essay "Who Really Was John Galt Anyway?" indicates that the burden of Sirico's essay is to prove that Galt was for Rand a Christ-like figure. (And such a burden!)In fact, I doubt Rand would have appreciated the comparison which is made by Sirico, not Rand. That is why I compared him to artist Andres Serrano.
I have just had a naughty thought. Earlier this morning, I posted about Father Robert Sirico's essay in which he represents the possibility that John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," was really a Christ-figure. He considers him as a "God-Man." He compares Galt's suffering and death to that of the Savior. He notes that Galt traces a "Sign of the Dollar" over creation.
So, how is this different from "Piss Christ," the infamous work of art by Andres Serrano in which the artist took one of Catholicism's most sacred symbols, the crucifix, and submerged it in a bottle of urine? Is not the suggestion that Galt is a Christ-figure just as insulting in its way as "Piss Christ" is in its way? Is this not sacrilege? Should we wait for a press release from the Catholic League? Or does Donohue only throw aspersions on the indecencies of the left?
Yesterday's New York Times contained an op-ed by Katherine Stewart in which she bemoaned the fact that a local church uses a neighborhood public school for religious services. She thinks this is wrong, that it threatens the separation of Church and State, that such services are divisive not inclusive, etc. Stewart's impoverished imagination fails to see that a scholl can and should be a vibrant part of a community and that opening its doors to groups like churches or community groups that need a place to gather will enhance the community not divide it. She notes that partisan groups are not permitted to use the school, to which I say, well let them in. She complains that some churches do not share her Greenwich Village values, to which I mutter to myself "Thank God" but also think that the First Amendment protects those religious groups to believe what they want and not to be discriminated because of it.
"Baptism unites the church, not ordination," said Anthony Padovano in a keynote address to the American Catholic Council held this past weekend in Detroit. Huh?
There is something decidedly un-Catholic about dividing the Sacraments and placing them in opposition to each other. But, more importantly, baptism unites because it brings one into the Body of Christ, the Church and the "source and summit" of our Catholic life is the Eucharist. No ordination means no priest and no priest means no Eucharist. This is Sacramental Theology 101.
At the recent meeting of the Catholic Health Association, a series of videos highlighted some of the benefits that accrue from the passage of the Affordable Care Act. One features the story of a family, the Malings, whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer at an early age in which the mother recalls worrying about the fact that this would be a pre-existing condition for the rest of the young girl's life. When the health care reform law passed, the mother said she felt like a huge weight had been lifted from her.