U.S. presidents grappled with Catholic issues long before JFK

John F. Kennedy might have been the first Catholic president, but he wasn’t the first president to deal with specific Catholic issues. You have to go all the way back to George Washington for that. Ever since Americans began electing presidents, the men who have held that office have dealt with issues specific to Catholics. Those issues have been both personal and political, cordial and stormy.

Our Sunday Visitor is publishing a great heritage series on U.S. presidents and Catholicism. To date the series has profiled George Washington, America’s first president; Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson; Reconstruction presidents Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant; and two 20th century giants, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, among others. There will be more throughout the election season.

No doubt there will plenty for future journalists to write about the Catholic connections of the future President McCain or President Obama. We’ll know which on Nov. 5.

Record 100,000 baptisms in Los Angeles for 2007

The final figures are just in from the Official Catholic Directory, known as the Kenedy directory in church circles. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles recorded 100,604 baptisms in 2007, making it the first time any diocese or archdiocese has exceeded 100,000 in a year, reports Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in The Tidings, weekly newspaper of the archdiocese.

Cardinal Mahony notes that the total exceeds the entire Catholic population of 50 U.S. dioceses. The Catholic population of the Los Angeles Archdiocese is estimated at nearly 4.2 million, according to the directory. It is the largest diocese in the United States.

By comparison, the second and third largest archdioceses had just a fraction of that number, the cardinal notes. The Archdiocese of New York, with a Catholic population of 2.6 million, had 27,011 baptisms. The Archdiocese of Chicago, with a Catholic population of 2.3 million, had 38,533 baptisms in 2007.

At the upcoming synod: Women experts and a Jewish guest

VATICAN CITY — The buzz at the Vatican is that Pope Benedict XVI’s choice of experts to serve at the Oct. 5-26 world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God definitely will include women scholars; probably four of about 40 experts. The official list of papal appointees should be published in early September.

And, the rumor mill says, alongside the “fraternal delegates” from other Christian churches and communities, Pope Benedict will invite a Jewish scholar as a “guest,” highlighting the fact that Christians and Jews share the first part of the Bible, although they interpret parts of it differently.

Until the list comes out, synod officials are likely to continue receiving postcards encouraging them to make sure women’s voices are heard in the synod hall.

There were no women among the 32 experts appointed by the pope to the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. For the 2001 synod on religious life, Salesian Sister Enrica Rosanna was the lone female among 16 experts. (In 2004, Pope John Paul II named her undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.)

However, women’s voices consistently have been heard in the synod hall. Unlike the experts who serve as resources to the synod officers and to the bishops and priests who are voting members of the body, the synod observers are invited to address the entire assembly. At the 2005 synod, half of the two dozen observers were women. And both the experts and observers participate in the synod’s small working groups, which is where the propositions to be presented to the pope are drafted.