Catholic left

Attention reporters: Joe Biden's history with Catholicism an important element to his politics

Attention reporters: Joe Biden's history with Catholicism an important element to his politics

The 2020 presidential race is in full swing. The political press and its insatiable appetite for all things Donald Trump has subsided in as much as it needs to dedicate column space and airtime to the Democrats looking to replace him.

At last count, 20 people are running in the Democratic primary. Those include long-time frontrunners like Bernie Sanders, according to various polls and based on money raised, as well as those you may never have heard of before now like John Hickenlooper.

Overall, religion and faith, as expected, has gotten little to no coverage thus far. Only Pete Buttigieg has seen crossover coverage and that’s only because he injected his Christian faith (as a shot against Vice President Mike Pence) into the conversation.

The religion of these candidates and history with the dogma of their respective faiths — what they believe, why they believe it and, in some cases, when they changed their minds — is an issue many Americans care about. Journalists in the New York and Washington, D.C. bubbles may not think so (or even be aware of it), but the rest of the country (from the Bible Belt to the Western Plains) cares.

One candidate whose faith does need examination is Joe Biden. The former vice president has been in the news a lot recently — even before he announced a 2020 bid — but the faith angle (and his history with Catholicism over the decades) has sadly been overlooked.

For starters, Biden was born and raised a Roman Catholic. Were he to win the presidency, Biden would only be the second Catholic — after John F. Kennedy — to occupy the Oval Office. That’s no longer a big a story as when JFK did it in 1960. Nonetheless, Biden’s brand of Catholicism (past and present) is worth lots of news stories and TV segments. One can't run a Biden is running in 2020 story without including his faith and how it has influenced his life and politics.

It's true that Biden winning wouldn't make the same headlines JFK did in 1960. Or can they? After all, Catholics have come a long way in this country — both in terms of political clout and in overall population — that a Biden win wouldn't do much in the way of cementing Catholicism in any way. After all, a majority of the Supreme Court now features Catholic judges. Issues like abortion (Biden was once a pro-life Democrat) and religious freedom are at the center of the culture war being waged primarily by conservative Catholics, with help from Evangelical Christians, Mormons and other Protestants.

Overall, the Biden coverage has been devoid of any faith.

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Washington Post looks at the Harris Wofford love story, but ignores a big Catholic ghost

Washington Post looks at the Harris Wofford love story, but ignores a big Catholic ghost

I realize that my reading habits are not those of your typical American news consumer. In addition to a heavy, heavy daily dose of the offerings of major newspapers and the websites of broadcast operations, I frequent many alternative sites linked to religious groups and commentators.

In other words, I am reading people who share GetReligion's obsession with the religion angles behind the headlines. I'm out there looking for religion "ghosts," of course.

This means that I first ran into news about that interesting wedding announcement by former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford -- made public in a New York Times commentary piece -- on an alternative Catholic news and commentary site, before I saw the mainstream coverage.

The headline on this piece by former CBS Evening News producer Greg Kandra (now the Catholic deacon blogging at "Headlines and Homilies") jumped on the religion angle: "At 90, Harris Wofford -- Former Senator and Catholic Convert -- Announces He’s Marrying a Man."

Does the "Catholic" angle really matter, in this case?

Let's look at the Washington Post coverage before we make a call on that question. Here is the overture. Prepare for some intense DC Beltway name dropping.

Harris Wofford, a former Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, John F. Kennedy’s presidential assistant on civil rights and an intimate of Martin Luther King Jr., will wed at his Foggy Bottom apartment Saturday before a gathering of family and friends. Dinner is to follow at a neighborhood Italian restaurant.
The groom is 90.

The other groom, Matthew Charlton, is 40.

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Crux rescued by Knights partnership; yes, major LGBT Catholic group is worried

Crux rescued by Knights partnership; yes, major LGBT Catholic group is worried

For those of you who were out of the loop at the end of this past week, there was a second major election about the Crux website. Check here to see round one: "To be or not to be -- What will become of Crux after that Boston Globe tie is cut?"

It didn't take long for the next shoe to drop, in the form of a second major announcement at the website: "Crux will continue with the Knights of Columbus as its partner."

Key parts of that short text include:

Veteran Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr., associate editor of Crux, and the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, have announced that they will enter into a partnership in which Crux will remain an independent news outlet headed by Allen and Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín.
Allen said the joint project is designed to make one of the world’s best known Catholic news platforms even stronger. The partnership will combine the Knights’ resources and spirit of service with the journalistic experience and commitment of Crux.
As part of the project, Catholic Pulse, a news and commentary website operated by the Knights of Columbus, will merge with Crux, adding its resources to Crux’s blend of staff-generated reporting and analysis with pieces by respected guest contributors. The Crux website will feature the tagline: “Keeping its finger on the Catholic Pulse.”

Allen and Co. will retain their deep online archives, which is crucial to the coverage of ongoing news and controversies. And what about the size of the new editorial team? It will be smaller, but some freelance scribes may be added in the future.

But, wait. Aren't the Knights, uh, rather doctrinally conservative?

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The papal encyclical: Challenging coverage and advancing the story

The papal encyclical: Challenging coverage and advancing the story

Remember Joseph Stalin's nasty and dismissive line, one version of which goes, "The pope? How many divisions does he have?”? Or maybe he actually said, “How many divisions does the pope of Rome have?”

Hard to say. Both versions are floating around the Internet.

No matter. The implication is clear in both instances. The Vatican long ago lost a considerable portion of its worldly power that once allowed it to impose its will not only on the preponderance of Roman Catholics, but on much of non-Catholic humanity.

This should be obvious to GetReligion readers. Should you require evidence, however, the recent vote legalizing same-sex marriage in once staunchly traditional, Catholic Ireland should serve as a clincher.

The Vatican's diminished influence is also obvious in much of the general media's coverage of Pope Francis' environmental encyclical, Laudato Si -- notwithstanding all the headlines it generated. 

Francis emphasized the moral challenge he believes is key to slowing human-influenced climate change and to furthering a sustainable global environmental policy that fosters economic justice. His moral argument -- a harsh critique of rapacious capitalist practices and unbridled consumerism -- warned of the negative consequences of current policies for all the world, but, in particular, for the poor and powerless. 

But get past the lede of most renditions of the story -- most prominently in the follow up coverage -- and you find that the Vatican's message was not the dominate theme.

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Religion in Cuba ahead of visit by Pope Francis: Think politics, politics, politics

Religion in Cuba ahead of visit by Pope Francis: Think politics, politics, politics

My fascination with Cuba began in my late teens when I discovered traditional Cuban dance music, which I much preferred to the bubble-gum rock that had supplanted the doo-wop sound, my first musical love. My friends and I -- middle class Jewish guys from New York City's outer boroughs -- referred to the music as "Latin;" today it's know as "salsa," a catch-all term that fails miserably, as did Latin, to do justice to the many musical forms that comprise the rhythmic complexity of the Cuban musical palate.

By the early 1960s, we were regulars on the New York Latin dance scene. One of our wider circle actually become one of salsa's biggest stars. That would be Larry Harlow, nicknamed El Judeo Maravilloso (the Marvelous Jew), who began life as Lawrence Ira Kahn. Go figure.

Our access to the music was greatly, if inadvertently, facilitated by Fidel Castro, who's revolutionary success in 1959 prompted many of Cuba's greatest musicians to flee to the U.S. for the artistic freedom that trumped any revolutionary zeal they harbored. 

I got to Cuba in 1998 to cover the visit of Pope John Paul II and I hope to return there later this year or next with three high school-era friends for a bucket-list musical tour of the island nation. In the meantime, I read all I can about contemporary Cuba, including this recent Washington Post piece that touted what was called a Cuban religious resurgence.

Here's a few graphs that convey the news feature's central point:

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Bishop enforces Catholic doctrine; press goes, 'Wha ...?'

A regular reader who is an active Catholic recently sent us a URL to an interesting mainstream news report about religion and, this is the unusual part, even suggested a headline that ALMOST nailed the GetReligion angle in the piece.

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Hey Telegraph editors: Where's the Catholic left?

One thing is certain, the facts boldly stated in the headline at The Telegraph are enough to grab readers from the get-go.

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How to bury a link to the Catholic scandal of this age

Anyone who has followed the mainstream media’s coverage of the Catholic Church over the past decade or so knows that the biggest story out there — for perfectly valid reasons, let me stress — has been the latest wave of evidence that some members of the church hierarchy have hidden the sins and crimes of many clergy who have abused thousands of teens and children. These scandals have been drawing waves of coverage since the 1980s, although there are reporters out there who seem to think that this hellish pot of sin, sacrilege and clericism didn’t boil over until the revelations in Boston about a decade ago.

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The Sun mourns death of a liberal priest

It’s a question that journalists debate from time to time in major newsrooms: To what degree are obituaries news stories?

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