National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

McCain's VP choice a woman - and a post-denominationalist

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News Analysis
When news broke yesterday that Republican presidential candidate John McCain had named little-known Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate, religion writers across the country and the curious in the blogosphere scrambled to figure out her denominational affiliation.

Palin was briefly touted as the first Pentecostal to run on a major party ticket. A spokesperson, however, told the Associated Press yesterday that although the 44-year-old mother of five grew up in the Assemblies of God, the largest organized Pentecostal denomination in the world with an estimated 57 million members, she does not consider herself a “Pentecostal.”

Her primary place of worship in Juneau, Alaska’s capital, is said to be the “Church on the Rock,” an independent congregation founded in January 2000. Palin’s spokesperson, however, said the governor also attends different churches.

The initial confusion surrounding Palin’s denominational identity, therefore, has a simple explanation: She doesn’t have one.

Convention history finds Catholics often sought to lead prayers

WASHINGTON -- In politics, every word, every action, every appearance is analyzed in terms of how it helps one side or hurts the other. Even prayer.

So the appearances of Jesuit Father Edward Reese and St. Joseph Sister Catherine Pinkerton in leading prayers at the Republican and Democratic conventions, respectively, are getting at least a little attention by those wondering what the two Catholic religious leaders might be saying by their presence.

To which they respond: nothing.

Father Reese, president of Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix, accepted the invitation from the Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and his wife, Cindy, to offer a prayer at the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 3 because he has known the couple for years. The McCains' sons, James and Jack, graduated from Brophy. The McCains also have supported the school generously, and Cindy McCain is a member of the school's board of regents.

"It's an honor to be asked," Father Reese told Catholic News Service.

Delaware bishops low-key on Biden's church involvement

WASHINGTON -- There is little record of public discourse between vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden and the bishops of his home diocese in Delaware over the Democratic senator's legislative position on abortion.

Biden, a Catholic, was named Aug. 23 as the running mate of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Putting Biden on the Democratic ticket ensured the resurgence of many of the same questions and accusations that plagued Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts four years ago about a Catholic nominee whose voting record on abortion sometimes conflicts with Catholic teaching.

During the campaign in 2004, a handful of Catholic bishops -- not including the heads of the dioceses where Kerry regularly attends Mass in Washington and Boston -- issued statements saying they would refuse to give the senator Communion if he presented himself to them during Mass.

Like Kerry's record, Biden's legislative history includes opposition to efforts to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion and to make it harder for minors to cross state lines to obtain an abortion.

Pro-life Democrat: 'Don't vote on any one issue'

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DENVER -- Voters should judge U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, on the whole of his record and political vision rather than concentrating on one topic such as abortion, said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa.

"I don't make a determination on how to vote for them or support them based upon one issue, even on a very important issue like abortion. That's the approach I take, and that's the approach I ask voters to take of me," Casey told Catholic News Service Aug. 27 in an interview during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

"When I campaign for public office, I go before the voters of Pennsylvania and present my background as well as my positions on a whole slew of issues and say, 'Vote for me based upon a whole set of criteria,'" he added. "That's the same approach I take when it comes to a presidential candidate."

Casey ran as a pro-life Democrat during his successful senatorial campaign in 2006. In a speech to the Democratic National Convention at Pepsi Center Aug. 26, Casey shared advice his legendary father, the late Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, would give regarding using power to help people.

Obama puts 'mutual responsibility' at heart of campaign

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Denver
Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination for president Thursday by renewing the call for mutual responsibility at the heart of his campaign – a call that has animated his political strategy since his days organizing troubled neighorhoods from church basements in Chicago.

“That's the promise of America – the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper,” Obama said. “That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now.”

His speech, titled "The American Promise", capped a Democratic National Convention that has sought a new emphasis within the party on faith and values. Religious Democrats held an unprecedented four faith caucuses, organized by the party's Faith in Action leader, the Rev. Leah Daughtry, and moderated by Obama's faith outreach team.

Pelosi counters Catholic bishops' criticisms on abortion

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A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has struck back against criticism from prominent Catholic prelates who accused the California congresswoman of misrepresenting church teachings about abortion.

"While Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception, many Catholics do not ascribe to that view," said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly.

Pelosi, the nation's highest-ranking Catholic elected official, said on "Meet the Press" Sunday (Aug. 24) that the question of when life begins is "an issue of controversy" within the church. Her comments drew rebukes from the archbishops of Denver, Washington and New York.

In a statement released Tuesday (Aug. 26), Cardinal Justin F. Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., both high-ranking officials in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Pelosi's argument was inaccurate.

"The church's moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development," Rigali and Lori said.

Catholics in Denver lobby for peace, common good

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Denver
Catholics' long tradition of caring for people, reducing suffering, providing health care, education and the basics to hold together families and communities (not to mention body and soul) has somehow gotten lost along the way. Not in actuality, but certainly in the common consciousness of American society.

“When I was growing up, I understood that this was the work of the Catholic church,” said Chris Korzen, 32, executive director of Catholics United, which describes itself as a national movement for justice, peace and the common good.

In the mainstream media, especially around election time, it has been a long time since that image of the church's public role held sway. Catholics are typically portrayed as being against abortion and gay marriage and not for much of anything relevant to public policy. Korzen's group and many others are working to refocus the lens.

Study: woman, family support linked to abortion rate drop

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A study of the effects of public policy on abortion rates during the past two decades shows that providing social and economic supports for women and family contributes to a significant reduction in abortions, according to Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

The group, founded in 2005 and dedicated to “promoting awareness of the Catholic social tradition” said the findings should provide common ground for both Republicans and Democrats interested in reducing the rate of abortion in the United States.

The study was released Aug. 27 in Denver during a town hall meeting sponsored by Democrats for Life of America.

According to the study, a recent survey of women who obtained abortions showed that nearly 75 percent “cited economic hardship as a reason for obtaining an abortion; three-fourths also cited having a child as interfering with work or school, or child care responsibilities as a reason.”

Obama values draw one time Reaganite to Democratic ranks

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Denver
Once candidate Ronald Reagan was so effective in persuading voters to cross party lines that presidential candidates today still fight over the "Reagan Democrats."

As Sen. Barack Obama strives to reverse the process, turning Republicans into what he calls "Obamacans," he has an influential Reagan Republican at his side.

Not only that, but this Republican quotes St. Thomas Aquinas and follows the example of Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day.

Douglas W. Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, was a former constitutional lawyer for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He also served as dean of the law school at Catholic University where he personally taught all nine sections of the course on Catholic social justice teachings because students were required to take it and no one else wanted to teach it.

As he began to look into Obama's candidacy over the last year, Kmiec said, he realized, "If he were in my class on Catholic social teaching, he'd be getting an A."

Biden's Catholicism adds to ticket, but raises questions too

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Denver
Democratic vice presidential choice Sen. Joe Biden highlights his Catholic faith as a major part of his identity. And if his pro-choice stance on abortion makes him vulnerable to criticism from church leaders, his religion is also seen as boosting the chances of the ticket Democrats are ratifying in their national convention here this week.

Sen. Barack Obama's selection of the Delaware senator as his running mate in the race for the White House is likely to be very helpful in wooing undecided Catholic voters, said Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center and an expert on Catholics' role in politics.

Biden, who would become the first Catholic vice president in U.S. history, is “a solid, middle-class Catholic with working-class roots, which is exactly what the ticket needs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Michigan -- those key swing states,” Reese said. “It's no secret that Obama had trouble getting the Catholic vote during the primaries.”

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