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    • To my Republican Friends July 6, 2020
      You voted for Trump even though you didn't like him. Doubted his character. Questioned his fitness for the job. Yet, your aversion to Hillary was even greater The post To my Republican Friends first appeared on Spirit of a Liberal.
      Obie Holmen
    • Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist May 4, 2020
      The Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) recently named Wormwood and Gall as one of three finalists for a Midwest Book Award in the Religion/Philosophy category. The awards program, which is organized by MIPA, recognizes quality in independent publishing in the Midwest. The post Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist first appeared on S […]
      Obie Holmen
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    • Ruth Ben-Ghiat on the Return of Fascism in Italy September 29, 2022
      Perhaps like me you’ve been long aware of (and troubled by) the rise of authoritarian leaders and governments around the world.The most recent example of this is in Italy where, in the wake of recent elections, the country’s first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini, Giorgia Meloni, has declared victory, as the right-wing alliance led by her Brothers of […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Summer’s Parting Gift September 21, 2022
      See also the previous Wild Reed posts:• Summer’s End (2021)• Summer Vignettes• Photo of the Day – June 22, 2018• Nelson Mandela and the Rainbow Connection• Late Summer Blooms• My Rainbow Sash Experience• Photo of the Day – August 27, 2015• First Signs of “By Far the Most Paradoxical” SeasonImage: Michael J. Bayly.
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    • Ruth Krall, A Bilgrimage Bibliography April 2, 2021
       A Bilgrimage BiographyRuth Elizabeth Krall, MSN, PhDNote: Since 2015 my friend William D. Lindsey (Bill) has published my work on his blog Bilgrimage. At this time, the blog is inactive, so I have decided to pull together my various posts so that future researchers and academics can find them in one place.  I have arranged this bibliography so that more rec […]
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    • Ruth Krall, "Persephone’s Journey into the Underworld: Lessons for Our Time" February 3, 2021
      Ancient portrayal of Demeter and Persephone, Apulian red-figure loutrophoro, ca. 4th century BCE, from the J. Paul Getty Museum, at the Theoi Project websiteWhen I announced at the start of this year that I've decided no longer to maintain Bilgrimage, I also noted that if readers have something they'd like me to consider for posting here down the r […]
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    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
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    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
       A saint for the millenials: the young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 of galloping Leukemia, will be beatified today in Assisi by Pope Francis (last step before being officially declared a saint). Carlo came from a luke warm Catholic family, but at the age of 7, when he received his first 'Holy Communion', he displayed an astonishing […]
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    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
      (Jack Vidgen)Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Hust […]
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    • Elendil October 6, 2022
      There's an interesting article about The Rings of Power in the Hollywood Reporter: ‘The Rings of Power’ Showrunners Break Silence on Backlash, Sauron and Season 2[...] The call from the lawyers came in to Amazon on a Friday in 2017: The Tolkien estate was going to entertain proposals for a Lord of the Rings show. Prime Video, along with every other ente […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

Santorum’s Second Song

Originally published at Talk to Action.

Many of us thought that Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) political career was over when he lost his seat to to Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. in 2006.   But recent events suggest Santorum is enjoying an historic comeback.  His second place finish in the Iowa caucuses and the backing of 150 national Religious Right leaders seeking to unify behind a single candidate may make him the main conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

But all this may signal not only a revival of Santorum’s political career, but the neoconservative philosophy.

Neoconservatism’s tide had seemingly ebbed with the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq.  But I have always sensed that this philosophy of empire, religious orthodoxy and laissez-faire was far from consigned to the dustbin of history, and was perhaps only a national crisis away from resurgence. It now appears that the neocons have found a horse to ride into rehab in in the person of Rick Santorum.

As it happens, Santorum is a good barometer of the status of Catholic neo-conservatism, a movement that has taken some hits in recent years. Their powerful figurehead, Richard John Neuhaus passed on; the quagmire of Iraq displayed the limits Inverse Trotskyism and an economy bankrupted by deregulation has disproved their economic paradigm.

But we still suffer recession today because of a Democratic president who is not Keynesian enough in his approach while hesitant (until recently) to identify his political opposition with their beliefs in intentional economic sclerosis and downward mobility.  To those of us who are not well-versed in economics, it is easy to understand why we could be led to believe that stimulus does not work.

Simultaneously the GOP presidential candidates have fail to satisfy Republican primary voters.  Different states provide the script for different outcomes.  Thus, a candidate needs to grab onto a block of powerbrokers to propel him into a very negotiable position.  Santorum has done this, trumping Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry with the simultaneous endorsement of almost every Religious Right leader that matters.

Santorum may not be able to wrest the nomination from Mitt Romney, but he may very well emerge as a power broker.  If and when the former one term governor of Massachusetts becomes the 2012 GOP standard bearer, he will need Evangelical support in order to have a chance at winning in the general election. If Evangelicals — and, to a lesser extent, conservative Catholics — don’t go to the polls in November, President Obama is reelected. To get their support, he will probably need Santorum.

The implications of such an occurrence are well worth considering.  The price of Santorum’s blessing could range from an end to the federal funding and oversight of embryonic stem cell research; to a veto on U.S. Supreme Court choices or even a spot on the ticket as Vice-President.

Neocon op-ed writers such as David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer have recently portrayed Santorum as some sort of blue-collar saint; the great “Christian” hope who reflects his middle-class roots — although he is a millionaire many times over.  Santorum earned $1.3 million in 2010 and the first half of 2011 alone and embraces economic policies antithetical to upward social mobility, such as free trade agreements, deregulation and tax cuts for the top .001%.  

The mainstream press often describes the former senator as Catholic. But Santorum is a particular kind of Catholic, one who is often out-of-step with the beliefs of some sixty-million American co-religionists. While the clear majority of American faithful largely ignore the Vatican proscription against artificial contraception, Santorum has made his opposition a campaign issue.  He has also opposed the federal funding and oversight of embryonic stem cell research.

Two of Santorum’s sons attend a private Opus Dei school in Washington, D.C.  Beyond that, the former senator is well known as an Opus Dei cooperator.  While not officially a member, being a cooperator offers plausible deniability to those who support the secretive organization’s goals of a more theocratic society built upon a foundation of ultra-orthodox Catholic notions of morality.

In 2007 he became a Senior Fellow with the Koch and Scaife-funded Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), the infamous neoconservative think tank.

He has used that position to advance a noxious culture war agenda demonizing liberals, gays and those who advocate a healthy separation of church and state.  Indeed, his 2011 denunciation of JFK’s 1960 embrace of that fundamental First Amendment principle was a formal elaboration of a long held view.  In 2002, while attending a Vatican celebration of the birth of Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, he told the National Catholic Reporter, President Kennedy’s position had caused “great harm in America.”  He went to say, “All of us have heard people say, ‘I privately am against abortion, homosexual marriage, stem cell research, cloning.  But who am I to decide that it’s not right for somebody else?’  It sounds good, but it is the corruption of freedom of conscience.”

What the former senator derides as “the corruption of freedom of conscience” was actually JFK’s pledge not to give in to the temptation of using government to invoke religious supremacy; something often visited upon Catholics in America’s past.

But there is a clear Catholic case against Santorum.  In his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he chose the bellicose policy of George W. Bush over the trepidation of Pope John Paul II.  His embrace of laissez-faire economic runs afoul of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical, Caritas in veritate (“Charity in truth”). His support for the teaching of Intelligent Design appears to be more of a political sign to friendly conservative Evangelicals than a sign of fealty to Rome (in 2006 the Director of the Vatican’s observatory severely rebuked the entire concept). He has taken extremely large campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.

Indeed, Santorum’s tobacco industry contributions do not square with his very public anti-abortion pronouncements. According to The March of Dimes, both first-hand and second-hand tobacco smoke is hazardous to any fetus: Statistics from the United States are compelling. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, if all pregnant women in this country stopped smoking, there would be an estimated 11 percent reduction in stillbirths; 5 percent reduction in newborn deaths. Cigarette smoke contains more than 2,500 chemicals. It is not known for certain which of these chemicals are harmful to the developing baby, but both nicotine and carbon monoxide play a role in causing adverse pregnancy outcomes.  

Catholic neoconservatism is making its presence felt in this year’s Presidential Election.  It is not inconceivable that one of their number may soon be one heartbeat away from the presidency.

Is the Vatican’s Man in Philadelphia a Republican Hack?

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

If the July 19, 2011 appointment of Charles Joseph Chaput as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was designed to deliver Pennsylvania to the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, we can expect a nasty mix of overt clericalism and partisan hackery in the City of Brotherly Love.

While this would not be the first time the Vatican has seemed to directly intervene in American politics, it may well indicate an increasing level of involvement. During Chaput’s recent tenure as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, he established himself as perhaps the Republican Party’s attack dog within the Church’s American hierarchy as well as one of the leading culture warriors of the Catholic Right. In the 2004 Presidential Election, Chaput openly declared that Catholics had only one choice and that was to vote for President Bush. He also railed about how Senator Kerry, the Democratic nominee (and a Catholic) should be denied Communion because of his support of reproductive rights and embryonic stem cell research. Four years later Chaput attacked then-Democratic presidential candidate Obama as “the virulently pro-abortion Democratic senator” and chastised his Catholic supporters. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated in Congress before becoming law, he attacked the need for a public option for health care coverage, egregiously dissembling on the subject.

Once ensconced in Philadelphia — a larger city and media market in a potential electoral swing state — Chaput’s media visibility will undoubtedly rise along with his standing in the hierarchy.

While Chaput’s politics may gain greater visibility in light of his promotion, his dismal handling of the priest pedophile scandals may gain proportionally greater scrutiny as well. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), is also displeased.. The group accused the archbishop of covering up sexual abuse in Denver and was outraged by his opposition to the reformation of the statute of limitations for civil law suits involving sexual abuse. This wound remains open in Philadelphia as well in the wake of Cardinal Rigali’s dismal record.

In any case, the Keystone State has gone Democratic in every presidential election since 1992. But in the last two elections the margin of victory has reduced to less than 55% of the vote, arguably putting the state in play in 2012. Since much of the electoral base of the Democratic Party in the state is concentrated in counties surrounding the big industrial cities of Erie, Pittsburgh, Scranton, and particularly Philadelphia, which are heavily populated with Irish, German and Italian working and middle class Catholics. If the Republicans can depress the Democratic turnout in those cities, Pennsylvania could go red as a Cardinal’s hat in 2012.

Given Chaput’s record electoral interventions, it is not unreasonable to think that the Church’s intentions behind the Chaput appointment may be more political than pastoral. If so, it will come as no surprise if we hear Chaput deemphasize economic issues, increase his vitriolic attacks on Obama’s policies on choice and embryonic stem cell research, and threaten the faithful with eternal damnation for not voting in accord with the Archbishop.