Bishop knew of abortion plan

Mr. Neill said the bishop was informed Jan. 17, the day before an abortion was performed on the 16-year-old Guatemalan girl, who was a foster care client of Commonwealth Catholic Charities of Richmond (CCR), a group incorporated under the diocese.

The Pawlenty Walk

Brody’s hawking his interview with Gov. Tim Pawlenty and a couple of the clips are worth a perusal. I. If John McCain needs to do as much work rounding up evangelicals at this point in the election cycle as Pawlenty suggests (and he sure seems to), then the presumptive GOP nominee is farther out of the evangelical loop than any presidential candidate of his party since the religious right emerged into national politics in 1980. The only real explanation is that his campaign was so much on life support from late last summer through this spring that it had no capacity to do the work of rounding up evangelical leaders that even such non-evangelical characters as Geo. H.W. Bush and Bob Dole managed to do in their 1988 and 1996 races. 2.

Pet Peeve

The Denver Post’s Karen Crummy has a series of articles (here, here, here, here, and here) showing why Obama may do better than his Democratic predecessors in a number of Western states (Montana, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico). But among the various factors she looks into, the prevalence of religious categories favorable to the Democrats eludes her attention. Key in Montana, Colorado, and Nevada are the high rates of the religiously unaffiliated (respectively 53 percent, 55 percent, and 61 percent, according to the North American Religion Atlas). The national average is 40 percent. New Mexico is below the average, at 37 percent, but makes up for it by its large number of heavily Democratic Latino Catholics.

SUSA Keeps On Keeping On

Now Virginia. I continue to be struck with the consistency with which SUSA’s state polls show McCain leading strongly among regular worship attenders, Obama among those who attend occasionally and almost never. John Green and I have always measured what we call the religion gap by the differential in the votes for Republican and Democratic candidates among those who tell exit pollsters that they attend worship once a week or more. In the 2006 midterms, this gap dropped seven points, from 20 to 13. If SUSA’s regulars are taken as something akin to that (they doubtless include at least some of those who say they attend a few times a month), then the 13-point gap in Virginia (now a swing state) suggests things remain close to where they were two years ago–which would be just fine for Democrats.

Johnny and the Grahams

Did McCain get what he wanted out of Franklin and Billy?“My father and I were pleased to have an opportunity to meet and visit with Sen. John McCain today,” Franklin Graham said in a statement. “The senator and I both have sons currently serving in the military, and also have a common interest in aviation. I was impressed by his personal faith and his moral clarity on important social issues facing America today.” Probably. What’s it worth to him? Better than nothing.

Faith Based

Once upon a time, in a country far away, what the president cared most about, and what most exercised public debate, was something called a faith-based initiative. The idea was that religiously inspired organizations could do a better job delivering social services than mere secular or, God knows, governmental agencies. Or at least could do just as good a job but were being discriminated against because of unreasonable and even illegal secularist prejudices. So an office was set up in the White House to foster the faith-based, with legislation supposed to go with it. But then came Terror, and the faith-based business of the nation turned out to lie elsewhere, and the legislation died in Congress, and just about everybody forgot about that White House office, except just before the last election, when one of the people who used to work there wrote a book revealing it all to be a politics-driven fraud and that was one one more straw that broke the back of the Republican control of Congress.

Keeping the Faith

Being a professor, I don’t get to write just anything, but one of the touching things about Hunter Thompson epigones like Matt Taibbi is how they like upholding gospel truth against the contemporary prosperity gospel. As in:McCain’s transformation is so complete that at a recent town-hall meeting in Nashville, when asked to name an author who inspired him, the candidate — who once described televangelists of the Jerry Falwell genus as “agents of intolerance” — put none other than Joel Osteen at the top of his list. “He’s inspirational,” McCain said. Standing at the meeting, I didn’t write Osteen’s name down in my notebook — apparently because my brain refused on some level to accept that McCain had actually said it. Of all the vile, fake, lying-ass, money-grubbing shyster scumbags on the face of this planet, there is perhaps none more loathsome than Osteen, a human haircut with plastic baseball-size teeth who has made a fortune selling the appalling only-in-America idea that terrestrial greed is actually a form of Christian devotion.

Dobson 0, Obama 1

Dobson <a href="lays an egg with former Bush White House apparatchik Peter Wehner. The jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme petition is up to 10,000 and counting. The beginning of a movement? Cf. Sam Freedman pushing from this end.

New Yorker Evangelicals

Unfortunately, the powers that be at the New Yorker have not seen fit to put Frances Fitzgerald’s Annals of Religion piece up on the web–the latest effort to answer the question: Is the old religious right giving way to a new, broader, more moderate engaged evangelicalism? Fitzgerald, who’s been on the beat off and on since she investigated Jerry Falwell and his church for her Cities on a Hill back in 1981, thinks she does see a turning of the tide, though she doesn’t omit notes of caution. The article revolves around Joel Hunter, the Orlando megachurch pastor who deserves to be considered one of the leading figures in the movement, if movement it be. Hunter’s religious identity was formed in an Ohio Methodist church, and even as he found his way to a conservative evangelical theology, he has clearly retained the inclusive, community-building strain of Midwestern Methodism. (For more on this, see Andrew Walsh and my One Nation Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics, forthcoming from Rowman and Littlefield in a few weeks.)
At the end of the article, Hunter says that in the Florida primary he voted for Mike Huckabee as “the first iteration” of a new type of evangelical leader–someone who cared about climate change and the plight of the poor, and didn’t take himself all that seriously.

Presbyterians move to allow gay clergy, but fight remains

c. 2008 Religion News Service SAN JOSE, Calif. _ The nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination on Friday (June 27) cracked open the door to ordaining non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy, though the decades-old fight is far from over. Delegates at the Presbyterian Church (USA) meeting here voted 54 percent to 46 percent to remove a clause in their constitution that requires clergy to be either married and faithful or single and chaste. But the action still needs approval by a majority of the denomination’s 173 regional bodies, called presbyteries, and similar moves in recent years have twice failed to win ratification on the local level.

Va. judge sides with breakaway Episcopal churches

c. 2008 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A Civil War-era law that lets Virginia churches keep their property when leaving a denomination where a “division” has occurred is constitutional, a county judge ruled Friday (June 27), siding with 11 former Episcopal parishes. Fairfax County Judge Randy I. Bellows’ ruling on the 1867 law stops short of awarding the property to the parishes, but it hands them a major legal win. “It’s a resounding victory and very broad,” said Steffen Johnson, lead counsel for several of the congregations. “There are just a few loose ends to tie up.” The ruling could encourage the dozens of Episcopal parishes in similar court battles across the U.S., and shake the confidence of mainline Protestant denominations that fear losing churches and people to breakaway groups.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Town asks court to decide upkeep of church cemetery PALMYRA, Pa. (RNS) With residents calling it “pathetic” that no one is caring for a cemetery, town officials have asked the Lebanon County Court to decide who should be responsible for its upkeep. Two local churches that cared for the cemetery for 140 years have denied ownership. Officials of Palm Lutheran Church and Trinity United Church of Christ say the borough should maintain it.

Cleaning St. Peter’s Needs a Careful, Acrobatic Touch

VATICAN CITY-As the tomb of the first pope and the principal church of most of his 264 successors, St. Peter’s Basilica is Roman Catholicism’s greatest shrine. It’s also a treasure trove of artistic riches, with works by such artists as Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini. At more than 600 feet long, with a dome 450 feet high, it is one of the biggest churches in the world. And with millions of visitors per year, it is one of the busiest tourist attractions anywhere.