NEW YORK -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sparked controversy by agreeing to deliver the closing blessing at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., this week, on Monday drew further attention to his political role by asking both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to sign a civility pledge promoted by a leading conservative Catholic activist.
Tampa, Fla., is the GOP's choice for its four-day national convention, which begins Monday. But despite the Republicans' warm relations with so-called "values voters," the city on the bay does not enjoy a reputation as a particularly prayerful town.
A 2006 study showed Tampa to have the third most strip clubs per capita in the U.S. And a 2010 ranking of more than 50 metropolitan areas placed Tampa-St. Petersburg next to last in the percentage of people who identify themselves as religious adherents -- just ahead of Portland, Ore.
(Charlotte, host city for the Democratic National Convention, ranked 18th.)
But just because Tampa may lack a great religious reputation doesn't mean it lacks a meaningful religious life. For those who need a break from the nominating and speechifying during convention week, there are some ways to find spiritual sustenance, even if you're just watching the proceedings from afar.
The notion that Catholic bishops in the United States have not been involved in politics historically or should not be involved in politics is, in the first instance, a fiction, and in the second instance, absurd.
WASHINGTON -- The announcement that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan would deliver a benediction at the Republican National Convention made him the latest in a long string of prelates to offer prayers at the major party conventions.
By naming devout, conservative Catholic U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate, former Gov. Mitt Romney, once a Mormon bishop, did more than ensure the U.S. will have a Catholic vice president in 2013.
He established the first Republican ticket without a Protestant since 1860, when Abraham Lincoln, who belonged to no church, chose Maine Sen. Hannibal Hamlin, a Unitarian, as his running mate, said Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
As president, Richard Nixon, a man with well-honed grudge-bearing skills, had an enemies list. Barack Obama has one, too. Unlike Nixon, who mostly brooded about people he saw as swine, with curses and vulgarities vented against them, Obama takes his list further. He kills his enemies -- by approving drone attacks operated by remote control in military bases around the country.
Some Wisconsin Catholics are praying both Catholic vice presidential candidates will have a religious epiphany. They want GOP Rep. Paul Ryan to change his mind and heart about his deep-cuts budget, and Vice President Biden to turn against abortion rights.
Two Franciscans, Rhett Engelking, a layman, and the Rev. Michael Crosby, have launched a website Pray for Paul's Change of Heart with a special rosary prayer to St. Paul -- the most famous of converts who once condemned Christ until he saw the light on the road to Damascus.
While praising the congressman's sincere faith, they say they want Ryan to "reconnect with the compassion for the poor and vulnerable that is rooted in our consciences and articulated by the Catholic Church."
Their press release highlights the U.S. Catholic bishops' stance that the deep budget slashes fail to meet Catholic moral criteria to protect the poor and promote common good.
On Aug. 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of Americans marched on Washington to demand "jobs and freedom." As the nation engages the 2012 election, the echoes of cries for jobs and freedom from 1963 ought to pierce the conscience of every American.
Martin Luther King Jr. titled an early draft of his "I have a dream" speech "Normalcy never again." King addressed a normalcy wherein the contentment of a white majority lacked the "fierce urgency of now." White Americans did not feel the whips, cattle prods and fire hoses that stung and broke human bodies yet could not dampen the burning desires of a people for justice.
Normalcy then was contentment with a rate of African-American joblessness twice that of whites. Normalcy was the reality of relatively privileged white Americans, not only the overt supremacist, but good people of faith, who failed to see how the conditions under which their African-American brothers and sisters lived represented the dark side of white America.
The new normalcy is certainly not the same as 1963.
For the first time in U.S. history, both sides of the 2012 presidential ballot include Roman Catholics: Democrats' Vice President Joe Biden and Republicans' newly named vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
Nearly 20 years ago, a poll showed that 52 percent of Americans favored outlawing handgun sales, the first to show majority support for a ban, and pollster Louis Harris --who conducted the poll -- called it a "sea change of public opinion on this issue," according to an Associated Press report.
But you won't find that level of support today.