[cross-posted at Acts of the Apostasy]
So who is Stephen Prothero? He’s a professor at Boston University, and he contributed a column to CNN’s Belief Blog.
1-6: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor
I know that justices are supposed to stick to interpreting the law rather than making it, especially if they adhere to the judicial philosophy of “original intent,” but I’m not buying it. When it comes to “judicial activism,” there are really only two kinds of judges: those who know they are acting and those who wrongly imagine they are not.
Throughout U.S. history, the Supreme Court has played nearly as important a role as the presidency on the race question, and a more important role than the U.S. Congress. Women seeking abortions do so under a regime written and enforced by the courts.
In a 2011 speech at Duquesne University School of Law, Scalia denied that his Catholicism affected his legal decisions. I’m not buying that either, which is why he and the five other Catholics on the Supreme Court occupy half of this list.
7: Speaker of the House John Boehner
As any child (or parent) can attest, the word “no” is powerful indeed, and as the leader of the House Republicans, John Boehner wields that power today. Before he gave the commencement address at Catholic University last spring, more than 80 professors at that university wrote an open letter to Boehner saying that the budget he pushed through the House contradicted Catholic social teachings by neglecting the poor. But Boehner continues to say “no” to the Obama administration, most recently on its decision to require Catholic-affiliated employers to cover birth control services in their health plans.
8. Vice President Joe Biden
The first Catholic vice president of the United States, Joe Biden wields by most accounts more power than many vice presidents in American history. (Remember Spiro Agnew?) And though Biden has ruffled the feathers of church authorities on the abortion question, he is an observant Catholic who attends church regularly and met with Pope John Paul II four times. “The animating principle of my faith, as taught to me by church and home,” Biden told the Christian Science Monitor in 2007, “was that the cardinal sin was abuse of power.”
9. Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania
For a while, Newt Gingrich was the Catholic Republican front-runner, but that title has been seized by Rick Santorum. Unlike Gingrich, who converted in 2009, Santorum is a cradle Catholic, and he’s a more convincing fellow traveler in Christ to the religious right.
Everyone thought this election was going to be about the economy, but Santorum’s mantra seems to be, “It’s the culture, stupid.” Santorum has grabbed headlines in recent weeks by calling President Obama a purveyor of a “phony theology” and otherwise keeping questions of faith not just on the front burner, but at a rolling boil. This weekend, Santorum said that John F. Kennedy’s famous church/state speech, in Houston in 1960, made him want to “throw up” when he first read it. “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” he told ABC News on Sunday.
10. Archbishop Timothy Dolan
It says something about Catholic authority today that it is hard to think of a member of the Catholic hierarchy who stands among the most influential U.S. Catholics. But Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan is the most likely person for this honor. A theological conservative, Dolan was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2010, and he was elevated to cardinal in Rome last month. In 2008, Dolan took on Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi for their views on abortion, and in 2009, he criticized the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to speak at its commencement.
11. Stephen Colbert
The man behind the Super PAC Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow will not be happy to learn that he fell outside the top 10 here, but he is still one of the most influential Catholics in the United States today. Colbert makes his political jabs with a smile, but they sting nonetheless.
Last year, The Washington Post asked whether Colbert was “Catholicism’s best pitch man,” and he does put a very different face on a church that has been best known in recent years for sex scandals. Both Colbert and the character he plays on “The Colbert Report” are committed Catholics. In fact, Colbert (the character) loves his Catholicism so much that he gave it up last year for Lent.
Colbert (the real person) regularly books Catholics on his show and has appointed Father James Martin, S.J., as the show’s official chaplain. With Martin and other theists (and atheists), Colbert regularly discusses matters of faith. In fact, his character often gives guests discussing such questions wider berth than his more political guests.
12. Blogger Andrew Sullivan
In another era, this final slot might have gone to Garry Wills, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and public intellectual whose writing regularly addresses the intersection of faith and politics in the United States. But we now live in a digital age, so the nod goes to Andrew Sullivan, the Brit behind “The Dish,” a popular blog now hosted by The Daily Beast.
The thumbnail bio is that Sullivan is gay, Catholic and conservative, but his blog is far more nuanced (and coherent) than readers might imagine from that trifecta. In part because of his unpredictability, his site is the go-to blog for all things political and cultural. And the reading is easy because of Sullivan’s refusal to pull his punches. (Obama’s “uninspiring” state of the union was, in his words, a litany of “cramped, tedious, mediocre micro-policies.”)
Imagine that – no one outside of the Washington/New York hub of whatsitpatootie. It’s almost as if Prothero doesn’t believe there exists an America beyond the Eastern seaboard. And here’s another ‘not a big surprise': conservative Catholics are bad, liberal Catholics are good. Boehner is a Catholic who says “no” to Obama’s compassion and outreach, while Biden sees the abuse of power as the worst sort of sin. Bias much? I’m surprised he didn’t include Sister Keehan or Kathleen Sibelius on this list – in fact, with the exception of Justice Sotomayor, there are no women on the list. *Gasp!* Not only is the Church misogynistic, but so are Boston University professors!!
And Andrew Sullivan is an influential Catholic? Who in the world is Andrew Sullivan? Who outside of Washington/New York cares?
We can do better than this guy, right? Isn’t Cardinal Burke more influential than Boehner? Isn’t Archbishop Chaput a bit more influential than Joe Biden? With the exception of Cardinal Dolan, no one on his list has the power or ability to shape Catholic thought or protect Catholic identity or propose Catholic truths. Eleven on this list do not have the power to ex-communicate (an influence I wished would be wielded more liberally) or the power to forgive sins. That’s real influence.
No – the influence wielded by most on that list, to one degree or another, is to affect religious liberty. Maybe that’s Prothero’s point.
So who would you include on this list? What changes would you suggest, or his analysis spot on? I have a couple ideas, but I’m interested in what you have to say.
One of the most irritating aspects of life for faithful American Catholics over the past several decades has been how quiet most of our bishops have been in the face of outrageous attacks on the Church. Too many of our bishops have acted as if they had their spines surgically removed upon consecration. Fortunately there have always been a handful who have been willing to speak out and suffer the media attacks that then ensue, along with the ambushes of heterodox Catholics frequently eager to lend a hand to anti-Catholics in their ceaseless war against the Church. One of the more outspoken bishops is Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who has never been afraid to proclaim the truth, and to do so eloquently. He is at it again over at First Things.
National Public Radio’s ludicrous firing of Juan Williams and a subsequent mainstream media article on Catholic bloggers may seem to be two separate issues. Some may say what does the overwhelmingly conservative leaning Catholic blogosphere have in common with the liberal leaning Juan Williams? The answer is quite simple; both scare the mainstream media because Juan Williams and the majority of the Catholic blogosphere put forth interesting solutions to often discussed questions.
The modus operadi of some in the mainstream media is to find a couple of unnamed fringe Catholic bloggers, who few read, and then make them become bigger players than they really are. Combine this with a Juan Williams quote which most of America agrees with and voila you have it; the ultimate straw man from which you can tear apart any minority who appears on Fox News or any Catholic blogger who faithfully defends the teachings of the 2,000 year old Catholic Church.
In this Associated Press article on the Catholic blogosphere, the piece mentions Thomas Peters and Michael Voris (who is known for his videos not his blogging,) but focuses on harsh unnamed Catholic bloggers. The article quotes John Allen who calls elements of the Catholic blogosphere “Taliban Catholicism.” The highly respected Mr. Allen, who though working for the dissident leaning National Catholic Reporter, is often known for his many high ranking Church contacts and his fairness. He should have know better than to give the quote that he did. To take a few bloggers from the right (or even from the left) and call them the Catholic blogosphere is the type of journalism that would not pass muster for a high school paper, let alone the AP. This would be akin to taking the worst rated college or pro football team and telling the world this is the best of American football, or perhaps watching the Walla Walla Community theater production of Hamlet and saying this is Hamlet at its finest. John Allen should have realized where this article was going and chosen his words more carefully.
The AP article continues by naming a Church official who seems worried about the Catholic blogosphere. One wonders if the Church official would know the difference between Father John Zuhlsdorf from Father Richard McBrien, Amy Welborn from Aimee Semple McPherson, Mark Shea from Mark Sanford, Rocco Palmo from Rocco Mediate, or Tito Edwards from Tito Santana. I worked for years in a diocesan office and I have yet to meet, even in my travels, a diocesan official who is well versed in the blogosphere. It seems to be a generational thing and most diocesan officials are not to be confused with the younger, more conservative seminarians or young priests being ordained.
While some in the mainstream media snicker at the Pope and Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church) they in reality have their own magisterium. In their secular magisterium anyone who believes in the Catholic Church’s authority is hopelessly outdated, because according to gatekeepers in the mainstream media, true thinkers are those in the dying liberal churches who don’t know what they believe. Sadly, GK Chesterton prophetically predicted this would happen. He said, “It’s not that atheists and agnostics believe in nothing, they believe in everything.” In modern parlance, “It’s all good.” How sad that some who proclaim to be “open minded” can’t see the obvious; liberal Christianity is dying on the vine.” Continue reading
In a recent column Washington Post columnist, E J Dionne noted that the Tea Party movement is a great scam. Quite an indictment coming from the self described progressive Catholic who still thinks government can never be big enough and the Church should tell the faithful more about the teachings of the agnostic Saul Alinsky than that of 2,000 year old teachings of the Catholic Church. Dionne has made it his business to comment on all matter of politics and religion for quite some time. His partner in left wing chicanery is New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who never hesitates to go for the jugular. Though she says he she comes from humble Washington DC roots, you would never know it by how she mocks those who really came from humble surrounding and never forgot it. She probably grew up with many Sarah Palin’s and Christine O’Donnell’s around her. Yet, I doubt she mocked many to their face as she gleefully does now to the backs of Palin and O’Donnell.
Dionne and Dowd seem to have it backwards, they don’t think citizens should voice their views about the fallacies of liberal Big Government, but they do believe everyone knows better than the divine about religion. This is quite common for liberals who often seem to think they are divine. Dionne and Dowd are part of a movement who thinks they should control government and religion, and those who disagree with them are often labeled as unintelligent; the worst sin as far as liberals are concerned. However, who is the unintelligent one? Big Government has never worked. It has only brought huge debt which has to be repaid by future generations. Individuals who go into debt face a series of tough measures. Yet Dionne and Dowd seem oblivious to this and advocate the same disastrous path for the government, the end result being tough measures for everyone. In other words Big Government is a disaster that doesn’t work.
However, Big Government isn’t the only disaster Dionne and Dowd advocate. They want the Catholic Church to turn her back on its 2,000 year old teachings and embrace the Dictatorship of Relativism, so named by Pope Benedict XVI. Dionne and Dowd are happy to embrace dissident Catholics who espouse this sort of thinking. It seems Dionne and Dowd are more comfortable with the views of Marx, Alinsky and Freud than they are with Christ, St Paul, St Thomas Aquinas, St Joan of Arc and Pope Benedict XVI. Continue reading
It would appear that those in the mainstream media who want to do hit pieces on Pope Benedict XVI need to take a number. The latest to engage in Yellow Journalism is CNN. The “network of record” dispatched Gary Tuchman to do the dirty work. One might recall that it was none other than Tuchman who remarked how distressing it was travelling in the heartland during the 2008 Election campaign. He complained that some who recognized him told him that their Middle American views and ideas were repeatedly mocked by the mainstream media, all the while those of the liberal establishment were hailed. Tuchman’s words were quite revealing when it comes to this story.
CNN has been advertising their hit piece on Pope Benedict XVI as if he was already guilty of some sort of cover up, even though during the Abuse Scandal it was none other than the New York Times who praised then Cardinal Ratzinger for tackling the tough problems. What tough problems did he tackle? The most notable example being Father founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Father Marcial Maciel was one of the few prominent conservatives caught up in the Abuse Scandal, most of the abusers were Church liberals who wanted to change the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger took on Father Maciel at the height of his power and popularity. One might recall that Father Maciel was quite close to Pope John Paul II. So from this example we can see that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) showed no favorites and pulled no punches. The Legionaries of Christ were shaken to the core and as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI removed their leadership and installed his own, hardly the work of someone who was timid.
The CNN piece was perhaps even more despicable than the New York Times hit piece, because in the interim much of the modus operandi of the Old Gray Lady was exposed. Still CNN used the same material and claimed that they had something new. There is nothing new here. The crux of their argument comes from material provided by Jeffrey Anderson the attorney who has made millions off the scandal. Anderson says he is one a mision to “reform the Church.” What kind of reform would that be? Some Catholic dioceses have been forced into bankruptcy, which means the poor whom they dioceses assisted through their social programs are left in the cold. For all his concern of “reform” Anderson hasn’t provided a penny to these particular poor.
[Updates at the bottom of this post as of 4:21pm CDT 10-16-2009 AD]
This week there has been a whirlwind of character assassination done by the mainstream media to conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh’s bid to purchase the St. Louis Rams (American) football team of the National Football League (NFL). They have been accusing Mr. Limbaugh of saying several racist quotes without confirming their existence. All the alleged racist quotes have been debunked by Snopes earlier this week as well as being denied by Mr. Limbaugh. Additionally many in the mainstream media have been unable to find any evidence of these allegations.
But today there has been a sudden realization of regret when the heat turned up on their yellow journalism. Regret that some elements of the mainstream media were involved in libel and slander.
The most prominent of the yellow journalists are liberal news anchors Anderson Cooper and Rick Sanchez of the left-of-center CNN, sports columnist Bryan Burwell of the liberal St. Louis Dispatch, and finally the liberal Huffington Post (HuffPo) blog.
Although the subject of President Obama being honored by Notre Dame has quickly cooled in the fast-paced blogging universe- I wanted to weigh in with some comments because I think it is important to hold the President to account on some of the promises he made in his speech, and to offer some ideas for how Catholic universities should approach such political intersections in the future.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer misquoted and took out of context a lecture delivered by James Francis Cardinal Stafford at CUA several times when reporting on the good Cardinal’s critique of President-elect Obama’s abortion stance. Matthew Balan of NewsBusters reports the not-so-great journalism standards that Wolf Blitzer employs when “reporting” the news for CNN.
On Tuesday’s Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer referred to a Catholic cardinal’s criticism of Barack Obama’s abortion position as a “scathing rant“ and a “diatribe.” A CNN graphic also used the “scathing rant” term, and Blitzer later referred to the cardinal’s words as a “blistering rant.“