Cascadia Catholics

A left-leaning Catholic discussion forum.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

55% of Catholics Vote Democratic this Mid-term

Here's an interesting figure. 55% of Catholic voters voted for a Democratic candidate this year. That's up considerably from 2004, where Democrats only carried 48% of the Catholic vote, giving Bush a slight (52%) victory.

Granted, the mid-term election was not a presidential contest, but it certainly points to a cheery trend. “This represents a dramatic change,” said John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

This from a National Catholic Reporter article, which you can read in full here:
National Catholic Reporter

The article goes on to state:

And while the war in Iraq dominated voter thinking, Catholics had other issues on their minds, according to analysts and activists who study religion’s impact on voting.

Among the top issues: congressional corruption and malfeasance (think Florida Rep. Mark Foley and convicted California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham), managerial incompetence (exemplified by the handling of Hurricane Katrina and the war), and increasing angst in the electorate focused on economic inequality. Add to the mix a new Democratic desire to engage religiously motivated voters and the result is the party’s first Capitol Hill majority in 12 years.

I never fully believed in the "God Gap" - a catchy phrase for this co-opting of religious voters by the Republican Party. I mean, I know it exists, but the issues are more complicated than that. As usual.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Letter to a Catholic Convert

First of all, I want to begin by welcoming you to the Church, though I have to admit, honestly, that I regard you as a bit of an oddity, a living miracle. The big miracle to me – besides your existence – is that you found your way into the Church at all. I can’t imagine such a thing. How did you do it? How did you choose to enter such an ancient, crotchety, bruised and shaken institution as the Roman Catholic Church? Converts to the faith alarm me. They really do.

Now I can understand us “born” Catholics. We manage to thrash our way through the cobwebs and rigors of Rome with apparent ease, because we still recall the assuring voice of our mothers, teaching us the rosary or telling us stories of the saints. We have been raised, schooled, and thoroughly steeped in our Catholic identity. It’s in our guts. But I don’t know where you people come from, I really don’t – except maybe from God, and that’s a miracle, alright.

So now you’re a Roman Catholic, just like the rest of us, wholly immersed in this Catholic community by way of your baptism and confirmation, and every bit as Catholic as those born to it. And when people ask you who you are, you might even appeal to that Catholic identity, if you’re brave enough. I say “brave” because, gathering from what you've been saying, there were objections to your conversion from family and friends. And can you really blame them? Their knowledge of the Catholic Church is probably incomplete or skewed, coming to them from outside the faith. And if we believed the Church was everything the world tells us it is, there’s little chance intelligent people like ourselves would be in it at all. But the world has never really understood the true character of the Catholic community. And it’s high time we Catholics took matters in hand and stated it plainly.

Who are we, exactly?

We are a Eucharistic Community. We are Christ-ridden people. I don’t mean to say we are Christ-like in our behavior, I mean that we are suffused with God, thoroughly steeped in the body and blood of Christ. Really. Concretely. In our guts.

You have been taught in your RCIA class that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ made flesh. This is fundamentally Catholic. You really aren’t going to find this anywhere else, not in quite the same context. The Eucharist is not a metaphor, and it is not a symbol. When you receive communion you receive the Incarnate God, just as Creation received the Incarnate God in the person of Jesus Christ. You are that Creation. And you are in communion with that Creation, in everything and everyone, in every culture and every creature on this planet, and in the very stuff of the planet itself. If you want the whole picture, you are in communion with every subatomic particle, every quark that blinks in and out of existence, and every star at the leading edge of our expanding universe. This is Creation - so far as we know - and here we are, the Christ-bearers, conscious somehow of this tremendous reality, believing somehow that God enters this reality. And we have to get our minds and hearts around that if we can.

So then I think it’s fair to say that we are all, each of us, Sacramental: We are the outward sign of an invisible grace.

Flannery O’Connor, one of our greatest American writers, wrote a letter to a friend that is often quoted, but I thought I’d quote it again, in case you missed it. She says:
I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater…. She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn’t opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but, overcome with inadequacy, had forgotten them. Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” That was all the defense I was capable of, but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.

What does that mean, the center of existence? I suppose we each have to answer that in our own way. But when we participate in the Eucharist, we are Eucharist, we are communion, we are the body of Christ that is the Church. And this Church, this people, is flawed, varied, broken, often sinful, yet always and profoundly Sacramental.

Let me quote one more paragraph from Flannery O’Connor, this is from her first novel, Wise Blood:

Hazel Motes walked along downtown close to the store fronts but not looking in them. The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying any attention to the sky. The stores in Taulkinham stayed open on Thursday nights so that people could have an extra opportunity to see what was for sale.

If Creation is suffused with God, the God Who comes down from heaven to share in His Creation, then Creation must be charged with the grandeur of God, and we ought to be paying closer attention. If Creation is suffused with God, the God Who comes down from heaven to share in our humanity, then we are the voice of that Creation, its only conscientious part, and our voice ought to proclaim the truth that this is so.

If we are a Eucharistic community, then our words as well as our actions - our ‘outward signs’ of the invisible grace that is God Incarnate - are critical to the Christian promise of hope. They are critical to our Sacramental character. It’s not the Church but we as church, who must assume responsibility for making Christ present to the world. If the world is ever to know Christ, is ever to know the fulfillment of the Christian promise, we must speak the whole truth, always, and then do the work of human hands – however we are gifted. And we must make the Eucharist the center of our existence, in our lives, in our stories, and in our guts.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Capital Punishment Slide Show

Over at, my working website, I have uploaded a Power Point presentation on the Death Penalty, given from a Catholic perspective. You can download the Power Point slideshow from the website, or simply view the pages in .html.

Anyone wishing to use this presentation for their congregation or justice group is welcome to it.

Let's keep the conversation going! Comments always appreciated.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Death Sentence of Saddam Condemned by Vatican Official

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said it would be wrong to carry out the death penalty against Saddam Hussein.

"For me, to punish a crime with another crime, such as killing out of vengeance, means that we are still at the stage of 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.'"

This according to Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service:

In a Nov. 5 interview with ANSA, the Italian news agency, the cardinal said both Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life"), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach that modern societies have the means to protect citizens from the threat of a murderer without resorting to execution.

"God has given us life, and only can God take it away," the cardinal said, adding, "the death sentence is not a natural death."

"Life is a gift that the Lord has given us, and we must protect it from conception until natural death," he said.

"Unfortunately," he said, "Iraq is among the few countries that has not yet made the choice of civility by abolishing the death penalty."

A point that isn't made, which I think needs emphasis, is that a dead Saddam is a silent Saddam. He will take many secrets to his grave. He knows a lot. He knows what chemical weapons he got from foreign governments, and how he got them. (See: Donald Rumsfeld).

And on another note, regarding the Death Penalty and Catholic Social Teaching, let's remember this statement: "A DEATH SENTENCE IS NOT A NATURAL DEATH." It will come in handy.

Ride the Blue Wave!

waveNow that things have settled down, it's good to be back at the Blog. Hope all of you out there (ok, all two of you) are still around.

Dems take House!
Dems poised to take Senate!
Rumsfeld resigned!
It's not raining in Seattle!
It's time to CELEBRATE