Busted Halo

Michael O’Loughlin looks at faith and politics.

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March 22nd, 2012
How candidates’ views on immigration reform are shaping up in this year’s election

People wave US flags and hold signs calling for action on immigration reform as President Barack Obama visits El Paso, Texas, in 2011. (CNS photo/Gael Gonzalez, Reuters)

The Republican Party may have a Latino problem on its hands. The remaining candidates seeking the party’s nomination have taken an unusually harsh tone regarding immigration, and the two Catholic candidates are at odds with their Church about the rights of migrant people. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has moved to the far right on immigration, and Latino voters are responding by falling in line behind President Barack Obama. Understanding what the Catholic Church teaches on immigration, and how those teachings might influence crucial Latino communities, may give the GOP nominee a reason to reconsider the harsh rhetoric.

Romney dominated the Puerto Rico primary last week, trouncing Rick Santorum, his main rival, winning more than 80 percent of the vote and all 20 delegates. Romney benefitted from the support of Puerto Rico’s governor, and he tried to appeal to voters by coming out in favor of statehood with no preconditions. Santorum, who campaigned on the island, made a major gaffe when he said that he would support statehood for the US territory only if …

March 8th, 2012

Elizabeth Warren speaking at the Women in Finance symposium in 2010. (wikimedia commons) US Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder)

Radio provocateur and conservative ringleader Rush Limbaugh entered the national conversation around the Health and Human Services contraception mandate, taking the already heated rhetoric to a new low.

A Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, testified before Congress that she supported the HHS mandate and stated her desire for her school, a Jesuit institution, to provide coverage for contraception despite the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial birth control. Limbaugh reacted to the testimony on his radio show.

Rightly and predictably, Limbaugh’s critics have assailed his comments as out-of-bounds and inappropriate. After several advertisers began pulling their revenue from his show, Limbaugh issued a half-hearted apology. President Obama called the student to offer his support.

In response to the debacle, Georgetown’s president, the lay Catholic John J. DeGioia, issued a letter condemning the heated rhetoric and calling for cooler minds without ceding ground on the debate. From the letter:

In our vibrant and diverse society, there always are important differences that need to be debated, with strong and legitimate beliefs held on all sides of challenging issues. The greatest …

February 23rd, 2012

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day that Catholics and other Christians set aside to begin a season of reflection, repentance, and preparation for Easter, the holiest feast on the Christian calendar. Catholics and some “high-church” Protestants, especially Lutherans and Episcopalians, mark Ash Wednesday with a smudge of ashes of their foreheads, compelling them to don a public marker on their faith and to be a reminder to others of our shared mortality and need for a savior.

You might have seen some well-known Catholic politicos sporting ashes yesterday. Vice President Joe Biden regularly receives an imposition of ashes, leading to a memorably bizarre exchange between two BBC reporters who suspected the burned palms were a bruise or stray makeup. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he would not attend Ash Wednesday services, while Rick Santorum said he planned to receive ashes. Santorum campaigned with ashes on his forehead, but he did not sport a smudge in last night’s debate.

I usually receive ashes at Washington DC’s Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, a vast structure adorned with beautiful mosaics mere blocks from the White House. Masses throughout the day, including the noon Mass celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, are standing …

January 31st, 2012

Despite a couple fumbles in the week leading up to the South Carolina primary, and then being routed in that contest by Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney has won the Florida GOP primary and appears poised once again to reclaim the moniker of “inevitable nominee.” Though Gingrich still leads in national polls, Romney’s win in Florida demonstrates his superior organization, outsized fundraising prowess, and his favor with the conservative establishment.

In the days leading up to the Florida contest, as it became clear that Gingrich would lose to Romney, the former Speaker of the House was defiant that he would stay in the race right through the summer. With Gingrich now realistically the only candidate left between Romney and the nomination, it is easy to forget that only a few months ago his decision to embark on a Mediterranean cruise with his wife, Callista, caused most of his campaign staff to resign, and that he barely registered in polls. So what happened?

The answer may lie in a two-year-old Supreme Court decision, commonly referred to as Citizens United, that granted corporations the power to make very large, and often very secret, contributions to organizations called super PACs (political action committees). Some …

January 27th, 2012

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his tax returns this week, and much of the focus has been on his astronomical income and the relatively low tax rate he paid on those earnings. But also embedded in those IRS forms is evidence of Romney’s charitable giving. Over the past two years, Mitt Romney took in more than $40 million. Of that, he gave nearly $7 million to charity, almost half of which went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church.

Contrast Romney’s giving with a couple Roman Catholic politicos. The avuncular Vice President Joe Biden reported on his returns that he gave $369 to charity, though in fairness to him, he said he does not report contributions he made to his church. The former Speaker of the House and wanna-be president, Newt Gingrich, fares a bit better donating about two percent of his not insubstantial income to charity.

Does faith help explain the giving gap among these politicians? Perhaps.

Mormons are known for their generosity when it comes to tithing, and they are instructed to give 10 percent of their income to the church. Romney comes close, giving seven percent one …

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