Black Catholics and the Obama victory

No matter what one’s political leanings, it’s hard to deny the historic nature of an African-American being elected president of the United States. We explored the mixed views of black Catholics toward a pro-choice African-American candidate in a story two months ago, and some of our client newspapers did the same.

Now, Our Sunday Visitor contributes its own reporting on this double-edged question in a story by former OSV editor Gerald Korson. He found extreme pride in the black Catholic community tempered by Obama’s views on the politics of abortion.

San Francisco archbishop posts open letter on same-sex marriage debate

Archbishop Niederauer. (CNS/Greg Tarczynski)

Archbishop Niederauer. (CNS/Greg Tarczynski)

In case you missed it, there’s been a development in the California debate over same-sex marriage: an open letter from the archbishop of San Francisco appealing for both sides to be more tolerant of each other. The money quote:

We need to stop hurling names like ‘bigot’ and ‘pervert’ at each other. And we need to stop it now.

Here’s our story, and here’s a link to the full text of the letter.

The letter also discusses some of the other issues that have been swirling in California since voters approved the same-sex marriage ban last month. From our story:

In the letter, the archbishop also:

— Stated that the Archdiocese of San Francisco “did not donate or transfer any archdiocesan funds” to support Proposition 8.

— Strongly criticized “voices in the wider community” which charged Proposition 8 backers with “hatred, prejudice and bigotry.”

— Defended faith communities’ involvement in the political arena.

— Underscored Proposition 8 backers’ “defense of the traditional understanding and definition of marriage” as their motivation, rather than seeking to attack “any group” or “to deprive others of their civil rights.”

More digital ink on the proposed Freedom of Choice Act

Lots of digital ink has been spilled this week over the Freedom of Choice Act, which was a major concern of the U.S. bishops at their fall general meeting earlier this month. Among those weighing in were CNS clients like the National Catholic Register (here and here) and the National Catholic Reporter (here), plus other Catholic and secular sites (here, here, and here).

We have our own ink spill today with this backgrounder and analysis, FOCA’s effects seen as dire, but chance of it passing considered slim, which includes comments from people on several sides of the issue.

Text of statement by Cardinal George on abortion, election

Just off the presses. It’s the followup to this story.

STATEMENT of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” (Psalm 127, vs. 1)

The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all.  Because of the Church’s history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad.  The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.

The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents.  A good state protects the lives of all.  Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973.  This was bad law.  The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.

In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any “interference” in providing abortion at will.  It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry.  FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars.  It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.

Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion.  Abortion clinics would be deregulated.  The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated.  FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life.

FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children.  It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities.  It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.

On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will.  They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby.  Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men.  The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted.

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world.  If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve.  Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected.  Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us.  Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful.  We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation.  The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.

Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government.  Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected “watchman.” (Psalm 127)  May God bless him and our country.

Bishops and the Catholic electorate: One more view

The debate likely will never end over whether the U.S. bishops had any influence on Catholic voters in last week’s presidential election.  We’ve had several pieces, such as here, here and here, on the issue as well as links to some of the articles (e.g., here and here) our clients have been doing.

Taking a more in-depth look at something one of our stories from last week touched on, Our Sunday Visitor has an article in an upcoming edition maintaining that Barack Obama actually lost votes in states where bishops spoke out. What makes this article of more-than-average interest is that it’s written not by a lackey (ouch!) of the Catholic right or left but by Mark M. Gray, director of Catholic polls at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. (Gray, some of you may recall, was also one of the researchers on last year’s readership study — is the glass half empty or half full? — on the Catholic press and other Catholic media efforts.)

More on what the election means for us

Picking up where we left off yesterday:

10:54 a.m. ET: Catholic high school in Arizona had an election-night watch party so that “dry facts” of the classroom could come to life. (From The Catholic Sun of Phoenix)

9:30 a.m. ET: The national Catholic newspaper Our Sunday Visitor offers three post-election perspectives:

— Editor John Norton (a proud member of the CNS alumni association from his work in our Rome bureau) writes that Catholics must find ways to work together after this divisive election season even though some are jubilant at the results and some are sickened to the core because of the president-elect’s “pro-abortion ideology.”

— Longtime Catholic author and commentator Russell Shaw has a column titled “What an Obama presidency means for Catholics,” in which he notes both the challenges facing the pro-life movement and the questions surrounding the influence of the U.S. bishops over their flock.

— Also online is the paper’s first post-election editorial, simply headlined “President Obama.”

Election ’08: What does it all mean?

(UPDATE: There are new links on a new page we’ve started here.)

Make sure you refresh this page often for the latest updates on this day after Election Day. Plus, we want to hear what you think (see below).

4:45 p.m. ET: Latest updates posted for referendums storygubernatorial and congressional story, and story on congratulations from Catholic leaders in U.S. to Obama.

3:25 p.m. ET: Sneak peek: Was it race, or something else, that led to an Obama victory? (From the CNS columns package offered to our client publications for their editorial use.)

2:13 p.m. ET: This CNS story, which ran last month, is worth a second read in light of Obama’s victory because it captures the historic nature of this election balanced by the troubling position of Obama on abortion: Black Catholics see Obama candidacy as a path to racial equality.

2:00 p.m. ET: Here’s one way of looking at yesterday’s results if you’re a pro-lifer (from the National Catholic Register): “Life Didn’t Lose – the GOP Did.”

President-elect Barack Obama smiles during the election-night victory rally in Chicago Nov. 4. (CNS/Reuters)

President-elect Barack Obama smiles during the election-night victory rally in Chicago Nov. 4. (CNS/Reuters)

1:28 p.m. ET: Quite the variety of reactions in this story in the National Catholic Reporter. Everything from “hope” and “promising” to “a tragedy because of the gap between what he (Obama) claimed to embody and what his few unscripted utterances, and his votes and associations indicate him to be.” The paper also editorializes, “In moment of hope comes the challenge of accountability.”

12:55 p.m. ET: Early story on Cardinal George’s letter to President-elect Obama now updated with more U.S. church reaction. Includes comments from Archbishop Wuerl, Bishop Zubik, Catholic Students for McCain, Priests for Life, others.

12:23 p.m. ET: Second update now posted on pope’s message to Obama and other Rome reaction. There’s an extremely intriguing comment at the end from a Rome-based missionary news agency:

Obama’s victory speech ended with the words, “God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America,” something that would not be possible in Catholic Italy and which demonstrates that religion remains at the foundations of public life in the United States.

12:06 p.m. ET: Another CNS election story, Democrats make gains in gubernatorial, congressional races, includes comments from a political science professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

11:45 a.m. ET: Don’t miss yesterday’s story on reconciliation after a particularly contentious election. We’re hearing that several parishes have called because they want to reprint it in their church bulletins. Nice to hear positive feedback from readers, especially this year.

11:25 a.m. ET: Our earlier story on the pope sending a congratulatory message to Obama has now been updated with comments from the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

11:18 a.m. ET: Backgrounder from our Latin America correspondent: When dealing with Latin America, Obama faces complexities.

11:13 a.m. ET: The Catholic Sun in Phoenix (where John McCain conceded last night) has its own story on last night’s events there.

11:02 a.m. ET: Our story on yesterday’s referendums: Church view on same-sex marriage prevails; other ballot issues fail.

10:51 a.m. ET: In addition to noticing the success of ballot initiatives on marriage (see below), the National Catholic Register has an editorial titled “Our President” noting that, like it or not, Barack Obama won the election and deserves to be treated with respect even when opposing some of his policies.

10:44 a.m. ET: The next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican? Amy Welborn says she first thought of Douglas Kmiec but then had this name flash through her mind: Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. As she says, “Hmmm.”

10:33 a.m. ET: The Catholic Key, newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., has this blog post up reminding readers that no matter who won or lost, the Lord God is the one we should trust.

10:25 a.m. ET: A blogger on the site of Commonweal magazine wonders if the day will pass without someone putting up the headline, “First Catholic VP is elected.”

10:15 a.m. ET: Big Wins for Marriage, says the National Catholic Register.

9:05 a.m. ET: Pope sends congratulatory message to Obama

8:52 a.m. ET: President of U.S. bishops congratulates Obama on ‘historic election’ (text of news release)

8:40 a.m. ET: Vatican spokesman expresses hopes for Obama’s presidency

– – –

Today we’re gathering reaction from around the church and the Catholic press to the results of last night’s election returns.

But also, what do you think? By any measure, the election of the first African-American to the presidency of the United States is historic. But also, what does yesterday’s election mean to the future of race relations, to the future of the abortion issue, to the future of the rest of the Catholic Church’s social agenda? And what about the approval in California of the amendment that defines marriage as the union of husband and wife?

We’ll be adding links here throughout the day, but you can also comment below. (Comments are moderated, but if you’re on topic yours will appear as soon as we can get to it.)