National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source


A silver anniversary message for the economy



Twenty-five years ago, 33 million Americans -- including one out of every four children -- were poor. About 7 percent of workers were unemployed. And approximately 28 percent of the nation’s wealth was held by the richest 2 percent of the population.

In response to those economic ills, the U.S. bishops unveiled one of the most insightful, challenging and controversial documents ever written by the leaders of the Catholic church in the United States.

New White House staffers have Catholic, Jewish ties


President Obama on Tuesday named an immigration expert with longstanding ties to the Catholic Church as his top domestic policy official, continuing a campaign-year makeover of White House staff.

The hiring of Cecilia Munoz, along with the appointment on Monday of Jacob Lew, an Orthodox Jew, as White House chief of staff, may improve Obama's sometimes tense relations with two key religious groups: Catholics and Jews.

Lew, who has extensive connections in the American Jewish community, is expected to help Obama build a more friendly rapport with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Similarly, the administration's relations with Catholic bishops have been tense at times, principally over abortion rights and conscience protections. Munoz has for years worked closely with Catholic groups, including U.S. bishops, on immigration and other issues.

Munoz began her career working on immigration policy for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"Catholics and people of faith have a true ally with the appointment of Cecilia Munoz to head the administration's Domestic Policy Council," said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, a liberal group.

New California law targets global child labor, slavery


Religious advocates of responsible investment are praising a new California law for making it tougher for major corporations to profit from child labor or human slavery around the world in the supply chain of their products.

The state’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which took effect Jan. 1, requires all large companies that do any business in California to study the supply chains for their products.

Republican presidential candidates rate poorly on secular scorecard

If kids brought home grades like this, they'd be grounded.

The Secular Coalition for America rated all presidential candidates on nine issues, including church-state separation, civil rights, evolution and taxpayer funding of religion.

At the bottom of the class is Michele Bachmann, who scored straight F's before bowing out of the race after the Iowa caucuses. She was followed closely by former Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who both scored a string of F's and a single C.

At the top of the class were President Obama with three A's, three B's and a C -- a modest mixed bag -- and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman with 4 B's and an A.

The report card is the first issued for presidential candidates by the coalition, said SCA president Herb Silverman, and is intended to help "secular-minded Americans" in the voting booth.

Most secularists, however, won't be voting in a GOP primary: data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life show that religiously "unaffiliated" Americans tend to favor Democrats over Republicans, 55 to 23 percent.

Retail politics not what they once were in NH


MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The old, red-brick mills of Manchester line the entire eastern bank of the Merrimack River, but no textiles or shoes are made there these days. Now, technology companies, Jillian’s Billiards Club, Milly’s Tavern, and the local campus of the University of New Hampshire fill the rooms that once held looms and shoemaking equipment. And, this year, with the political calendar moved forward so that the New Hampshire primary occurs only two weeks after Christmas, it is not only the mills that have changed.

Catholics silent in Iowa caucus hype


DES MOINES, IOWA -- Religion has had an extraordinary presence in the buildup to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, but Catholics have been distinguished by their silence.

“It’s part of the Catholic culture,” said Deacon Dan McGuire, parish administrator at Assumption Parish in Granger, Iowa. “We get involved in politics. That’s obvious. But as a former excluded minority ... we keep faith in our private community. We don’t vocalize it in public.”

Partisanship in the pulpit, then and now



In October, at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, sponsored by a host of conservative, mostly Christian groups, including the Family Research Council, Liberty University and the Heritage Foundation, Pastor Robert Jeffress stirred up a hornet’s nest when he called Mormonism a “cult” and said that Christians had an obligation to prefer a coreligionist to a non-Christian, all other issues being equal. Jeffress’ comments raised the immediate issue of anti-Mormon bigotry, but they also raised another issue: What should be the role of clergy in campaigns?

Americans tend to conflate nostalgia with history, which produces a highly conservative understanding of the large variety of ways our forebears confronted complicated questions. The way things were done in our youth is, we assume, the way things have always been done.



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