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Religion's role in politics provokes brewing backlash


PBS broadcast a six-part documentary series earlier this month titled “God in America.” It comes from the award-winning producers of “American Experience” and “Frontline.” (Full episodes are available for free online at A review of the series in Religion News Service called the show “an intense exploration of the complex dynamics that animate a nation that is both deeply religious yet without an official religion.”

Palin, at center of political stage, keeps mum on faith

Sarah Palin once pursued politics out of a religious sense of calling, and considered her choice as vice presidential candidate by 2008 GOP nominee John McCain part of “God’s plan.”

But now, as the midterm elections loom and Palin positions herself as the heroine of the Tea Party, Palin has become less vocal about the faith that propelled her onto the political scene.

“She’s not even talking much about her Christian faith as a whole, much less as a Pentecostal Christian,” says author Stephen Mansfield, who charts Palin’s journey through religion and politics in a new book.

As she stirs the Tea-Party pot at rallies across the country ahead of the midterm elections, the former Alaska governor occasionally refers to freedom as a “God-given right” or people with special needs and the elderly as “God’s gifts.” But her speeches tend to focus more on the economy and small-government populism than faith or social issues.

Mansfield, who has also parsed the faith of George W. Bush, President Obama, Winston Churchill and others, says Palin’s faith was nonetheless key to her swift political ascent.

The Pope or the Tea Party?



It’s time to stand up for government’s essential role in serving the common good and challenge the anti-government fervor of Tea Party activists. If you’re looking for a bold champion of economic justice who rejects the movement’s infatuation with unfettered markets and hostility toward government, start with the spiritual leader of 1 billion Catholics around the globe.

Election Central


Over the past several weeks, NCR’s Distinctly Catholic blog has featured analyses of various midterm races around the country that, in one way or anther, are of interest to Catholic voters.

Each post looked at polling data, key issues, fundraising, and other important election dynamics.

Here, at Election Central, you will find links to each of those original posts. Look for each to be updated with new information as we get closer to election day. The analyses are organized by type of race: for Governor, House and Senate.

We've also provided links to other articles that look at the upcoming elections, from both the print edition of NCR and NCRonline.

Stay tuned for updates. Get informed on the issues. This midterm election will reshape the political landscape and NCR’s at Election Central is the place to find a distinctly Catholic view of that landscape.


    Candidates talk God, country, jobs


    RICHMOND, MO. -- In pursuit of a hotly contested rural western-central Missouri congressional seat, the candidates are in a race to out-patriotize, out-pray and out-job-create one another.

    Listen to 17-term Democratic incumbent Ike Skelton and you’ll hear all about the importance of saluting the flag and supporting our troops. Listen to Republican challenger Vicky Hartzler and you’ll hear all about praying to God and protecting the Constitution.

    CEO: Health care reform, sale of Catholic hospitals not linked

    WASHINGTON -- The head of a Catholic health system has denied reports that the decision to put three hospitals in northeastern Pennsylvania up for sale was a result of the health care reform bill passed in March.

    "Discussions about mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships have been conducted in our health care community for years -- long before the passage of the (Patient Protection and) Affordable Care Act," said Kevin Cook, president and CEO of Mercy Health Partners, in an Oct. 10 statement. "Our decision announced last week was due to many factors."

    Cook said "the rationale for our initiative has been mischaracterized by certain politicized media outlets and severely distorted by some special-interest groups."

    Mercy Health Partners is comprised of Mercy Hospital in Scranton, Mercy Special Care Hospital in Nanticoke, Mercy Tyler Hospital in Tunkhannock and several outpatient facilities. It is part of Catholic Healthcare Partners, based in Cincinnati.

    Taking the midterms to Virginia's neighborhoods


    Penhook, Virginia (population 785) is well off the beaten path. Located about an hour south of Lynchburg, the town is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and along the 14 mile route from the main road, you pass signs directing you to six different Baptist and Christian churches as well as a farmhouse flying the Confederate battle flag.

    In town, just past Carl’s Place Family Diner but before the post office is the Penhook United Methodist Church where, once a month, they host a community breakfast to build fellowship and raise money for charities that feed the hungry. You can have waffles, turkey sausage and cheese casserole, bacon and sausage cooked on the grill outdoors, grits with or without cheese, biscuits with gravy. “The gravy’s not too good today, I don’t know what happened,” one woman apologizes to me, but it tastes plenty good to me.

    Emotions run high


    LANGHORNE, PA. -- Mike Fitzpatrick says he received an automated phone call from his congressman that invited him to a meeting. So he dropped in on Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat who represents Bucks County in the Philadelphia suburbs and, it so happens, the man Fitzpatrick hopes to replace by winning their Nov. 2 congressional election.

    Group aims to mobilize Catholics for equality


    In recent state ballot initiatives about marriage laws, the Catholic church and Catholic allies have used deep pockets and organizational strength to speak out for state laws that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

    But a group of politically savvy Catholics say the bishops are out of step with the majority of Catholics on this question, and on Sept. 14, they launched a new effort that plans to use grass-roots organizing and community building “to mobilize the 62 percent of American Catholics who support freedoms for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity ... [and] channel that support into action for legislative, political and cultural change.”

    The group is called Catholics for Equality.

    Fr. Joseph Palacios, a founding board member of the group and a sociologist and adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Washington, cites a May survey by Gallup that found that 52 percent of Americans say that gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable, the highest acceptance rate since 2006. Among Catholics, support jumps to 62 percent, up from 46 percent in 2006.



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    July 17-30, 2015


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