The National Catholic Review
The Election: Catholic Voters and Issues

Exit polls indicate that a majority of Catholics voted Democratic on Nov. 7, helping the party to take control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. According to The New Republic, 52 percent of Catholics voted Democratic, compared with 47 percent who voted Republican. George W. Bush won the Catholic vote in 2004 by the same margin.

The shift in the Catholic vote was evident in Ohio, where the Democratic gubernatorial winner, Ted Strickland, scored a 20-point advantage among Catholics. Senate winner Sherrod Brown, also a Democrat, won the Catholic vote 54 percent to 46 percent, a 47-point turnaround from 2000, when Republican Mike DeWine landed the seat.

Also on Nov. 7, a proposal in Missouri to limit human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research was defeated. Missouri’s Catholic bishops had called for defeat of the measure, saying that no human life, at any stage of its development, may ever be taken for the sake of someone else’s gain. A proposal to ban abortion in South Dakota was also voted down.

In Arizona, voters approved proposals limiting state services to illegal immigrants and making English the state’s official language. Both measures were opposed by local bishops. Proposals that would have required parental notification before a minor’s abortion were defeated in Oregon and California, while voters in Wisconsin approved a referendum that could lead to reinstatement of the death penalty.

Lebanese Concerned Over Increasing Tensions

Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic bishops expressed concern about increasing tensions in the country after calls by the Shiite Muslim organization Hezbollah and pro-Syrian factions for the formation of a national unity government. In a statement released Nov. 1 after their monthly meeting outside Beirut, the bishops also aired their fears about the friction created by the pending formation of an international tribunal to try the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was murdered in February 2005. The bishops expressed sorrow for the division over the international court and the national unity government. The bishops strongly regret the chaos prevailing over the Lebanese political arena, which has divided the Lebanese into opposite groups that do not know what they want, they said, reiterating previous statements that the Lebanese should put the country’s interests above personal ones in order to find the adequate solutions to these problems.

British Bishop Stresses Rights Owed to Military

In a pastoral letter to mark Britain’s Remembrance Sunday, Nov. 12, the head of Britain’s military diocese said soldiers have a right to be properly armed, supplied and reinforced. Anything less risks lives and is morally reprehensible, said Bishop Thomas Burns of the Bishopric of the Forces, the nation’s military diocese. In a pastoral letter to be read on Remembrance Sunday, which honors the deaths of British troops, Bishop Burns said military personnel needed to know that none of their superiors will ever lack the moral fiber to stand by them. The bishop said, Force strengths have to be sufficient, strategies realistic, supplies adequate, equipment appropriate and apparel proper to the task in hand. Delay has no excuse. All improvements are welcome. These things are owed to our servicemen and women as [a] right, he added. They are inherent parts of the job that they are asked to do. The bishop’s letter was to be sent out to all Catholic military personnel and their families and dependents.

Lutherans, Catholics on Life After Death

Catholic and Lutheran scholars met in Baltimore Oct. 12-15 to discuss Catholic and Lutheran beliefs about life after death. Among the scholars’ concerns were issues such as purgatory, indulgences and Masses, and prayers for the dead. Excesses in 16th-century preaching about indulgences and in Catholic penitential practices sparked Martin Luther to seek reform in the church, starting a movement that led to the Protestant Reformation. The Baltimore meeting was the third session in the 11th round of the official U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue. The dialogue is co-sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope: Gregorian University a Jesuit Priority

Although it may tax their resources, Pope Benedict XVI asked the Jesuits to continue making the Pontifical Gregorian University a priority in their service of the church. The pope visited the university Nov. 3, addressing students, professors and benefactors, then holding a private meeting with some of the 89 Jesuits who work at the Gregorian University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute. In his public remarks, the pope spoke about his many visits to the university, beginning with a visit during the Second Vatican Council and including his service as a visiting professor in 1972-73. As he did in late October speeches at the Pontifical Lateran University and to Rome university students gathered at the Vatican, Pope Benedict focused his remarks on the importance of a life of prayer for students studying theology or other subjects in preparation for a life of service to the church. Robert F. O’Toole, S.J., the president of the Gregorian University Foundation, attended the meeting with the pope and later said that the Holy Father’s description of the Gregorian University as a priority among the priorities of the apostolate of the Society of Jesus,’ is a wonderful encouragement to the whole Gregorian University Consortium family and all those who generously support it.

Violence in MideastSymptom of Larger Issues

The differences that lead to violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East are merely symptoms of a much larger issue of injustice that must be addressed, the Vatican’s representative at the United Nations said Nov. 2. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, papal nuncio to the international body, spoke before the United Nations’ Special Political and Decolonization Committee, during a session on the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Each year at this meeting we recite the seemingly endless list of difficulties and differences separating Israelis and Palestinians, but they are differences which make it all the more urgent for states to address the problem of the fundamental injustice at the heart of this question, Archbishop Migliore said. The nuncio called on the United Nations, United States, Europe and Russia to lead the way in reactivating genuine negotiations with all dispatch. No preconditions should be imposed for those talks, he said.

U.S. Policy Change Could Guarantee Israel’s Survival

As violence increased in the Holy Land, the top Catholic official in Jerusalem said the survival of Israel could be guaranteed if the U.S. government were to change its policy toward the region. The main question for the U.S. administration and for Israel is survival, said Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem during a Nov. 2 interview with Catholic journalists from the United States. But if the United States wants Israel to survive, to be recognized, then it should take measures to surround Israel with friends. But current U.S. policy is surrounding Israel with enemies. That’s not the way to protect your friend. Israeli forces moved into the Gaza Strip Nov. 1 in an effort to halt rocket assaults on southern Israel.

Nigeria’s Problems Due to Government Failures

Despite Nigeria’s wealth from natural resources, Nigerians are suffering because of government mismanagement, said Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria. Unlike officials in other countries, Nigerian public officials are not concerned with unemployment. In Nigeria governance has been practically reduced to merely manipulating oil wealth, said Archbishop Onaiyekan. He said Nigerians are resourceful and motivated, but the country will never be truly great until the people are well managed and motivated to perform at their optimal standard. He said, In a nation where many young graduates roam the street unemployed for years or are underemployed...there is something seriously wrong. Archbishop Onaiyekan was among participants in a Nov. 1-4 conference in Enugu, Nigeria, to discuss reversing the so-called resource cursewhen a country’s natural wealth does not create wealth for its citizens.

Caritas Korea Leads Aid Program for North

With the agreement of the North Korean government, Caritas Korea is leading Caritas Internationalis’s aid program to the communist country, said the president of Caritas Korea. Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon, South Korea, said Caritas Korea has the responsibility of helping approximately five million poor North Koreans. Caritas Korea staffers will meet with their North Korean counterparts on behalf of Caritas Internationalis, plan and implement aid programs, receive donations from local and overseas sources and cooperate with other Caritas Internationalis members and supporters, the bishop said. Since Nov. 1, Bishop You said, Caritas Korea has had a mandate to coordinate the program. UCA News, an Asian church news agency, reported the bishop made the announcement Oct. 30. Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations in more than 200 countries and territories. Caritas Korea is the confederation’s local affiliate.

Comments

Bill Miller | 12/6/2006 - 4:39pm
"The Best and Worst of Times", A Disturbing Read

While Bishop Thomas Curry is obviously an excellent wordsmith, I find this article disturbing on several levels. The tone of the article suggests to me that everything would be just fine if certain "Catholic commentators" would just stop writing with a tone of "negativity, failure, and pessimism" regarding the Church. The article strongly suggests that the many good things about Catholicism are rarely cited in the media, while the negative points are overblown, evidently as part of the dangerous vice of anti-Catholicism. While I would agree that there is much to love about Catholicism, I must also assert that we still have a long way to go on our journey toward wholeness.

As a life-long lay minister with well over 25 years of service to the Church, I am particularly disturbed that authors such as Peter Steinfels, with whom I share many of the same opinions about the current weaknesses of the Catholic Church, coud be subtly labeled as part of the anti-Catholic movement today. While I agree with Bishop Curry that anti-Catholicism is still a force with which to be recokoned, I do not feel that anyone who points out perceived flaws in the establishment should be labeled as anti-Catholic, either directly or indirectly, as is implied in this article.

I call into question Bishop Curry's assumption, gleaned from his pastoral visits, that there is a little ideological disagreement to be found among today's parishioners. My pastoral experience indicates that there are a number of issues including, but not limited to, the notion of an all-male celibate priesthood, which are significant to current parishioners. Even more disturbing to me is the fact that his research sample includes only the people who have chosen to stay in the Church and not those who, loving the Church, but being disappointed by the inability of its leaders to hear their cries for "discussion" on the issues, choose to leave.

While I have sometimes been tempted to leave this wonderful but "less than perfect" organization, I have chosen to stay. I love my/our Church. Those would would imply that I might somehow be construed as part of the anti-Catholic "problem" may be suffering from the same "insularity" for which they criticize others.

On one point in particular I hold strong agreement with Bishop Curry. Evangelization is the number one priority in our Church today. My plea to the hierarchy, and to all in leadership in the Church, is to return us to the days when our leadership (especially the Bishops) was giving us such boldly Christian documents as the Pastoral on Peace, and the landmark work: "Economic Justice for All." I believe I have the skill to evangelize, and some strong tools in the form of Church leaders and Church documents of the past. What I need today, is the witness of Catholic leaders (ecclesial and lay) who are willing to be model "risk-takers" for the radical but wonderfl message of the Gospel. I will put myself in that category, since I know there is so much more that I could do; and I "throw down the gauntlet" to those who seem to be comfortable with the status quo.

Bill Miller | 12/6/2006 - 4:39pm
"The Best and Worst of Times", A Disturbing Read

While Bishop Thomas Curry is obviously an excellent wordsmith, I find this article disturbing on several levels. The tone of the article suggests to me that everything would be just fine if certain "Catholic commentators" would just stop writing with a tone of "negativity, failure, and pessimism" regarding the Church. The article strongly suggests that the many good things about Catholicism are rarely cited in the media, while the negative points are overblown, evidently as part of the dangerous vice of anti-Catholicism. While I would agree that there is much to love about Catholicism, I must also assert that we still have a long way to go on our journey toward wholeness.

As a life-long lay minister with well over 25 years of service to the Church, I am particularly disturbed that authors such as Peter Steinfels, with whom I share many of the same opinions about the current weaknesses of the Catholic Church, coud be subtly labeled as part of the anti-Catholic movement today. While I agree with Bishop Curry that anti-Catholicism is still a force with which to be recokoned, I do not feel that anyone who points out perceived flaws in the establishment should be labeled as anti-Catholic, either directly or indirectly, as is implied in this article.

I call into question Bishop Curry's assumption, gleaned from his pastoral visits, that there is a little ideological disagreement to be found among today's parishioners. My pastoral experience indicates that there are a number of issues including, but not limited to, the notion of an all-male celibate priesthood, which are significant to current parishioners. Even more disturbing to me is the fact that his research sample includes only the people who have chosen to stay in the Church and not those who, loving the Church, but being disappointed by the inability of its leaders to hear their cries for "discussion" on the issues, choose to leave.

While I have sometimes been tempted to leave this wonderful but "less than perfect" organization, I have chosen to stay. I love my/our Church. Those would would imply that I might somehow be construed as part of the anti-Catholic "problem" may be suffering from the same "insularity" for which they criticize others.

On one point in particular I hold strong agreement with Bishop Curry. Evangelization is the number one priority in our Church today. My plea to the hierarchy, and to all in leadership in the Church, is to return us to the days when our leadership (especially the Bishops) was giving us such boldly Christian documents as the Pastoral on Peace, and the landmark work: "Economic Justice for All." I believe I have the skill to evangelize, and some strong tools in the form of Church leaders and Church documents of the past. What I need today, is the witness of Catholic leaders (ecclesial and lay) who are willing to be model "risk-takers" for the radical but wonderfl message of the Gospel. I will put myself in that category, since I know there is so much more that I could do; and I "throw down the gauntlet" to those who seem to be comfortable with the status quo.