Southern Religion

‘Subtle racism’ deters black Catholic leadership

Bishop J. Terry Steib

Bishop J. Terry Steib

Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo greeted the remarks more favorably than many did former President Jimmy Carter’s declaration that President Barack Obama is besieged by racism. Note that other Catholic disagreement we found was civil in this important, widely overlooked moment in our long national debate over “racism” and its effects.

Black Catholic Bishop J. Terry Steib of the Diocese of Memphis reflected Saturday on the “subtle racism” which had resulted in “a relative dearth of black Catholic leadership” in 1984, when Black Catholic bishops issued their own pastoral letter: What We Have Seen and Heard [.pdf].

Keynote speaker at a symposium marking the silver jubilee of the landmark 1984 letter, he also said that despite a quarter of a century’s progress, that same racism recently caused a furor in Catholic circles over Notre Dame University’s award of an honorary degree to President Barack Obama. He told the audience at Philadelphia’s St. Raymond Church that other presidents have had disagreements with the positions of the Catholic Church in in war policies and capital punishment and the like, but have received honorary degrees without similar objection. That racism, he said, is doing the church ongoing harm.

Lou Baldwin of the Catholic Standard Times wrote:

It is the subtle racism that still exists which contributes to the lack of priestly vocations among young black men because “it leads to a mistrust of the Church among young black men and women,” he said. “Let’s acknowledge that.”
On the other hand, the African-American community “has contributed to some of the difficulties they are facing,” Bishop Steib said, quoting Obama on the collapse of the two-parent family in the black community and the failure of many black men to live up to responsibilities to their children.

The pastoral letter being celebrated dealt less with the effects of Catholic racism than with the special gifts, culture, and values shared African American Catholics bring to their church and their path in the faith.

Yet there was no possibility of omitting racism from the discussion while also being honest for racism an overarching characteristic of American life, not of denomination.

Speaking into the gale of uproar of Obama’s school speech black Southern Baptist pastor Dwight McKissic did not flinch from it either. Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press summarized McKissic’s view:

“Whenever a black man ascends to prominence and power, the political establishment tries to demonize that person,” McKissic said. He quoted the late Jerry Falwell, who in 1961 questioned “left-wing associations” of Martin Luther King. “They were accusing him of being a communist and a socialist like they accuse Barack Obama of being a communist and socialist.” … McKissic said many white preachers want God to judge America for abortion and gay marriage. McKissic said he feels strongly on both of those issues but believes that racism is also a sin, and God must judge America for that sin as well.


September 18, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Cultural, Obama | , , , | 2 Comments

Catholic Bishops continue debate over church in public affairs

Debate over the University of Notre Dame’s awarding of an honorary degree to President Obama in May continues in conservative Catholic reaction to the announcement that Obama will deliver a eulogy at Senator Edward Kenndy’s funeral mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston.

Not that the debate ever quite stopped.

Archbishop John R. Quinn argues in the Aug. 31 issue of America magazine that had Notre Dame refused to award Obama an honorary degree, it would have done harm to the church’s and its mission by fostering “false messages” about itself. He argues instead for “a policy cordiality:”

It proceeds from the conviction that the integrity of Catholic teaching can never be sacrificed. It reflects a deep desire to enshrine comity at the center of public discourse and relations with public officials. It is willing to speak the truth directly to earthly power.
Yet the Holy See shows great reluctance to publicly personalize disagreements with public officials on elements of church teaching. And the approach of the Holy See consistently favors engagement over confrontation. As Pope John Paul II put it, “The goal of the Church is to make of the adversary a brother.”

Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne/South Bend, writing for the same issue, “restates his case against inviting the president to speak at commencement and awarding him an honorary doctor of laws.”

Grant Gallicho of dotCommonWeal writes:

While one might disagree with Bishop D’Arcy’s version of events, it’s tough to take much issue with the way in which he has voiced his displeasure. In other words, he’s never approached the unhinged shenanigans of some of the protesters at Notre Dame. (Speaking of, I never thought Randall Terry could jump the shark. Wow, was I wrong.)

Bishop Sheehan of Sante Fe in an interview with the National Catholic Recorder this week said:

I don’t feel so badly about Obama going [to Notre Dame] because he’s our president. I said we’ve gotten more done on the pro-life issue in New Mexico by talking to people that don’t agree with us on everything. We got Governor Richardson to sign off on the abolition of the death penalty for New Mexico, which he was in favor of. … We need to be building bridges, not burning them.

Expect more of this debate.

August 27, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Obama, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Catholic Bishops continue debate over church in public affairs

Notre Dame/Obama uproar is a right-wing ploy

Uproar over President Obama’s upcoming commencement address at Notre Dame is, Gallup Poll data suggests, a right-wing organizing ploy.

Most Catholics don’t share the views of the angry Catholic bishops and right-wing activists who created and are sustaining this apparent confligration, as Gallup explains:

The argument of those who protest the extension of the invitation to Obama is that Catholics have a distinctly conservative position on these moral issues. That is certainly the case as far as official church doctrine is concerned, but not when it comes to average American Catholics. The new Gallup analysis, based on aggregated data from Gallup’s 2006-2008 Values and Beliefs surveys, indicates that Catholics in the United States today are actually more liberal than the non-Catholic population on a number of moral issues, and on others, Catholics have generally the same attitudes.

Frequency of church attendance is an almost unerring predictor of American political conservatism. Yet even Catholics who regularly attend church are more liberal than non-Catholics who go to church regularly:

Regular churchgoers who are Catholic are significantly more liberal than churchgoing non-Catholics on gambling, sex before marriage, homosexual relations, having a baby out of wedlock, and divorce. Committed Catholics are at least slightly more likely than devout non-Catholics to say that abortion and embryonic stem-cell research — the two key issues highlighted by those protesting Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame — are morally acceptable. Only on the death penalty are committed Catholics more conservative than regular churchgoers who are not Catholic.

moral acceptability by church attendance and affiliation

Lacking sufficient support among those for whom they speak, Bishops who in the name of being prophetic seek to call down fire on Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama, and right wing activists who seek to energize and add to the number of their followers, are both further dividing themselves from the majority of U.S. Catholics.

They can expect to see themselves less well-heeded after this conflict than before. The opposite of their intentions.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Politics, Religion | , | Comments Off on Notre Dame/Obama uproar is a right-wing ploy

Catholic University of America student newspaper endorses Obama at Notre Dame

The Tower, the student newspaper at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., wrote Friday:

If Notre Dame has done their job right, students will already be sound in their Catholic beliefs. It should not be an issue where the President stands on his ideas of life. He is coming to speak to students about their role in the world, what they will face when they embark on the next chapter of their lives. More than anything, it is the students’ first test of maintaining a Catholic identity in light of someone who does not share some of their beliefs. There is a way to still maintain a Catholic identity, to reconcile faith, and still listen to the Commander-in-Chief of this great nation.

Read the entire piece here.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Cultural, Education | , , , | 2 Comments

URLs to support Notre Dame+Obama [Or Not]

Do you support Notre Dame and President Fr. John Jenkins in his decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak at the 2009 graduation commencement?

It’s a project of Notre Dame Alums in Support of Fr. Jenkins, Faithful America, and Catholics United.

Or is the Cardinal Newman Society’s already well-known petition the one you yearn to sign?

Cry havoc and loose the dogs of Web petition.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Education, Religion | , , | Comments Off on URLs to support Notre Dame+Obama [Or Not]

Fact-fixing CNN on Notre Dame

One myth-besotted CNN paragraph preoccupied Mollie at GetReligion.

She was addressing the story of South Bend, Indiana Roman Catholic Bishop John D’Arcy’s boycott of the Notre Dame graduation ceremonies at which President Barack Obama will be honored.

Let her help you substitute legislative fact for fiction and filter spin out of science here.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Religion, Science | , , | Comments Off on Fact-fixing CNN on Notre Dame

Honesty is also a Catholic value

Richard Viguerie brings a refreshing clarity to the Notre Dame uproar refreshingly by combining high dudgeon with fiction:

Barack Obama is a pro-abortion extremist. He supports elective abortion at any point during pregnancy, and even afterward; he opposes protecting children who survive abortions. He supports using U.S. taxpayers’ money to pay for elective abortions in our country and in other countries. He is working to strip medical professionals of their right not to perform abortions.

After the word “pro-abortion,” everything he said was a distortion and calculated to inflame his audience.

Viguerie echoes arguments made elsewhere and closely examined by Beth Dahlman.


Dan Gilgoff notes that Notre Dame’s president is unwavering in his defense of the invitation.

As for the student body, Notre Dame campus newspaper, the Observer, reported “in an Oct. 8, 2008 article that Obama led the student body with 52.6 percent of the vote in a mock election held by student government, in which 2,692 undergraduates and graduate students voted.”

March 25, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Honesty is also a Catholic value

Fuss over Notre Dame’s invitation (accepted) to Obama

Nothing here to fight about and they’re fighting about it.

Yes. [Thanks to Mark Silk.]

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Politics, Religion | , | Comments Off on Fuss over Notre Dame’s invitation (accepted) to Obama