Busted Halo

Busted Halo contributors look at the intersection of faith and politics and examine the role of the Catholic Church in contemporary society.

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April 19th, 2012

Mitt Romney speaks during a debate in New Hampshire(CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

When he was running for president in 2007, Gov. Mitt Romney recognized that he would need Evangelical support were he to win the nomination. Then, like now, Evangelicals were suspicious of Romney for two reasons: his conservative credentials seemed less than genuine, and his Mormon faith is too far outside the mainstream.

Though there was only so much he could do to try to assuage Republican primary voters that he was indeed one of them, Romney thought he could make headway on the religious front by giving a Kennedy-esque speech about the role of religion in politics, tackling his Mormon faith head-on and appealing to the higher sensibilities of the American people.

So at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Romney sought to “address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America’s greatness: our religious liberty.” He said:

There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other …

April 5th, 2012
Remembering the poor and marginalized when we're crunching numbers

Ron Swanson, the man’s man parks director played by Nick Offerman on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” is a libertarian who believes “child labor laws are ruining this country.” He describes government as “a greedy piglet that suckles on a taxpayer’s teat until they have sore, chapped nipples.”

Despite his extreme views, Swanson holds great admiration for his deputy, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler. Knope is the sunny antidote to Swanson’s anti-government rants; she believes that government is a force for good in the community, providing not only necessary services to residents of fictional Pawnee, Indiana, but also programs and resources that improve their lives. Swanson, of course, disagrees. (Watch highlights of Swanson’s anti-government rants here).

Swanson is a bit of a caricature, and I suspect even he doesn’t believe all of what he says, but the contrast between him and Knope offers a visual of the national debate over government. Though presidential politics continues to dominate the news cycle, another battle is shaping up in Congress, where House Republicans have presented a slash-and-burn budget proposal, seeking to privatize, cut, and minimize the role of government in the lives of US citizens. Not surprisingly, Catholic and Christian relief organizations …

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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