Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Catholics for Obama

Having examined the national chairpersons for the Romney campaign's "Catholics for Romney," let's turn to the "Catholics for Obama" team. I spent considerable time looking up the co-chairs -- and there are a lot of them, mind you. As I looked at the Obama website, I did so with the intention of ascertaining what credentials each of these co-chairs brings to the table. It seems to me that you would want people with a very outward and immediately recognizable Catholic identity. Try as I might, I could not figure out why some of these people were chosen. That is, I think the ultimate decision to include some of them was not so much because they are Catholic but because of some other appeal. Let's take a look at each member named on the Obama website in order of appearance.

Polly Baca

  She is a former Colorado state senator and a minority. There is no mention on the Obama website that she is Catholic. It is reported elsewhere that she told Obama to stay away in 2010 when she was running for re-election. I looked at her Wikipedia page, which anyone is free to edit (including Ms. Baca), but there is no mention of "Catholic" whatsoever (as of this date). Indeed, in an article about her being honored for her work with Israel, there is no mention ofher being Catholic. The Archdiocese of Denver website lists her as a member of its review board, but you are not required to be Catholic to serve on such a board. (I was a bishop’s delegate to a review board for several years, so I know this to be true.) Lastly, even on Answers.com. which contans a lengthy biography of Ms. Baca, there is no mention of her as a Catholic. Rather, it identifies her more with Chicanas than her faith.

The Hon. Elizabeth Frawley Bagley

Bagley is "Honorable" because she was an ambassador to Portugal under Clinton. Her profile on teh Obama website never mentions the word "Catholic." Neither does her biography on Wikipedia. We learn that Elizabeth Frawley Bagley was born July 13, 1952 in Elmira, New York, and that she is an attorney specializing in trade and international law, a diplomat, and a major Democratic party donor and fundraiser. Here is some more interesting stuff from her Wiki bio:

Her late husband, Smith W. Bagley (1935–2010) was an heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune and a vice chairman of finance for the Democratic National Committee, and the Bagleys were regarded as "two of the heaviest financial hitters in the [Democratic] party." Closely associated with the Clintons since Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, Ambassador Bagley was a "bundler" during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign who became a "HillRaiser" by raising more than $100,000, and the Bagleys contributed over $1,000,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Ambassador Bagley was also "part of the national finance team for the Obama campaign, having personally raised about $350,000" as of August 2008. Together the Bagleys "raised the maximum $600,000 for President Obama's inauguration events" in 2009.

Bagley was reportedly a key player in securing the Catholic vote for Obama in the 2008 election. Here is an expose claiming Frawley-Bagley "manipulated the Catholic vote" as the board chair of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Rep. Xavier Becerra

As a Representative, he has his own official government webpage. But instead of wading through all of that, I went again to the website that anyone can edit themselves, Wikipedia. His entry there has one mention of “Catholic” – in the box to the right where it says “Religion.” On his personal website, there are pictures of him campaigning for Boxer and Brown, his fellow Californians. I suppose his credential for being on Obama’s team is that he has a 71% liberal voting record.

Nicholas Cafardi  

From Pennsylvania, Cafardi is a lawyer and a canon lawyer. So he does have sufficient mention on the Obama website of his work with Catholic organizations. What is not mentioned is that in 2008, he was asked to resign from board of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, because of his controversial support of Obama. He is a writer for the National Catholic Reporter, a liberal publication that reports on the Catholic world. Cafardi recently wrote an article saying Obama is more pro-life than Romney and alleging that Romney profited from abortions through Bain Capital. There has been plenty of de-bunking of this ridiculous suggestion. It would seem that Cafardi wrote his own biography on the Duquesne website, as he calls himself “one of the foremost lay canon lawyers in the United States.” Although I do not know him personally, I know scores of canonists, and they do not hold this same high opinion of him.

 Kathy Dahlkemper

Dahlkemper’s Wiki-bio mentions Catholic only as her religion, but does mention that she is on the diocesan marriage preparation committee with her husband. Dahlkemper was a 1-term (two years) congresswoman from Pennsylvania from 2009-2011. This ad against her in 2010 slammed her for voting for Obamacare, and as a result she lost her seat in the 2012 election that saw Republicans gain a majority in the House. “Dahlkemper supported the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, an anti-abortion amendment to America's Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 (HR 3962), but later voted in favor of Affordable Health Care Act despite the Stupak-Pitts Amendment not being included.” Dahlkemper asserted “I wouldn't have voted for Obamacare if I'd known about the HHS Rule.” I guess she took Nancy Pelosi seriously when she said they had to pass the bill to see what's in it.

 Rep. Rosa DeLauro

She is a House member from Connecticut. The only mention of her being Catholic on Wikipedia is to say she is Catholic. She is also noted to be one of the most Liberal members of the House and a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. DeLauro has faced criticism from the Roman Catholic Church, of which she is a member, over her support for abortion rights. DeLauro has voted in favor of measures that expand the availability of abortion services. She also pushed a bill to give free diapers to poor women with babies and supported a soda pop tax.

Sen. Dick Durbin

He is a liberal Senator from Illinois. I will not spend time writing about him. If you don't know why he is on this team, then I cannot explain it to you!

Miguel Foster

There is no picture of Foster on the Obama website, so I cannot distinguish him from Adam when I Google his name. All it says on the Obama website for him is: “Miguel Foster serves as the director of the Civil and Human Rights Department of the United Auto Workers.” As a result, I can find that he is on the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. He is obviously a union supporter and is on the board of the Michigan AFL-CIO. He also appears on a list of “Coalition members” on a website called People Before Banks, which states: “We are a coalition of labor, faith and neighborhood groups who are fed up with the unfair foreclosures scarring our communities.” No other details are available about Mr. Foster. I think he is from Michigan., but I guess if I cannot identify him, it is hard to say he is not a good Catholic! Who is John Galt?

Thomas Groome

Groome is an Irish-born, laicized Catholic priest. He teaches at Boston College. To say the least, Groome is a controversial figure who has written controversial opinions on Catholic teaching. His works have even led to scandal in Scotland. There is something out there about Groome wanting his good name restored. You can watch this You Tube broadcast of Groome and see him for yourself. Professor Groome is also the primary author of various religion textbook series from W.H. Sadlier, most recently the “Coming to Faith” series. Some have criticized the series over the years as lacking in doctrinal substance and being too “fluffy” with the focus on love and peace.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur

According to her Wikibio, Kaptur has been in Congress since 1983, almost 30 years. “Catholic” is listed as her religion and that is its only mention in her biography. Kaptur beat Dennis Kucinich for the Democratic nomination earlier this year, a race that came about because Ohio lost two Congressional seats. She will run against Joe the Plumber in the November election for that northern Ohio Congressional seat. Her biography on the Obama website says: “Congresswoman Kaptur is a parishioner at Little Flower Roman Catholic Church and a graduate of St. Ursula Academy, where she received the distinguished alumnae award in 1995.” If that’s all it takes--graduate from a Catholic institution and be a member of a parish--I would be qualified to be a co-chair! Except I suppose you also have to want Obama to win. Scratch that.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy

So it appears Obama is continuing to tap the 1%. What are Victoria Kennedy’s credentials as a Catholic, other than being Ted Kennedy’s second wife and widow? Maybe it is that she was invited and then disinvited to speak at a Catholic college earlier this year. I think whoever invited her in the first place should probably be terminated for not properly vetting her, but is sympathy for a humiliated woman (albeit a Kennedy) enough of a reason to vote for a man who is destroying our country? I can see no credentials other than Mrs. Kennedy was married to Ted Kennedy, and she wrote a preface for a booklet in 2008 called A Catholic Case for Obama. I hope that means there is a very small pool from which to choose. I suspect it is because she played an active role in helping pass Obamacare in 2010.

Victoria Kovari

Kovari is the female Barack Obama, as she is said to be a “community practitioner and social activist” in Detroit. She has said in an article that Catholic Church should stay out of the birth control issue. I guess that’s why she is on the Obama team. She is a former Interim President and National Field Director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which is “bathhouse of public and heretical Catholic dissent.” She is almost as qualified as Ms. Kaptur since, according to the Obama website, she is a member and currently serves on the Parish Council of Gesu Catholic Church in Detroit. She did not graduate from a Catholic school, apparently.

 Gov. Martin O’Malley

O’Malley is the governor of Maryland. All you need to know about him is he supported and signed into law the gay marriage law in Maryland. He’s qualified to be on Obama’s team.

Jim Oberstar

According to the Obama website, Oberstar served as a United States representative from Minnesota from 1975 until 2011. Minnesota, home of Al Franken. Enough said – qualified. In his Wikibio, the only mention of Catholic is in as his religion. We learn that he went to Georgetown. Another tick for the qualified-to-be-on-Obama’s-team box. Oberstar was another victim of the Tea Party in 2010 after serving 36 years in Congress. The Wreck of the Jim Oberstar is a piece that is not flattering to Representative Oberstar.

Lawrence Parks

Mr. Parks was tough to pin down. There is no Wikipedia page for him. When I Googled him I kept getting entries for parks in Lawrence, Kansas. Parks is employed by FHL Bank, San Francisco, as Senior Vice President for External and Legislative Affairs. He also has a law degree. He has given testimony in Congress. He worked for Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, who died during Clinton administration.

Sr. Jamie T. Phelps

No complaints on this member of the team. She has a record of devoting her life to Catholic causes. She is an Adrian Dominican Sister. Sister Jamie is a member of the Board of the National Black Catholic Congress. I have not read anything to detract from Sister Jamie’s stature as a dedicated vowed religious. Her ministerial experience is summarized: “In her almost 50 years she has devoted to public church ministry, Sr. Jamie has served the church and the community as an educator, social worker, community organizer, pastoral minister, consultant, lecturer, liturgist, spiritual director, preacher, retreat director, administrator, scholar, theologian, and author.”

Fred Rotondaro

Rotondaro is a senior fellow at the liberal thinktank Center for American Progress. He serves as Chair of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, another liberal organization that cloaks itself in the Catholic moniker. Rotondaro blogs for the Huffington Post. Among his postings is “Catholic Bishops Support Republicans,” another one entitled “Have Catholic Bishops Turned Their Backs on the Working Class and the Poor?”, and another titled “Catholic Bishops Trying to Find Relevance in Health Insurance Debate”. Rotondaro spends a lot of time arguing on Twitter about the GOP, especially against fellow Catholic Paul Ryan.

Rep. Tim Ryan

This selection is quite a mystery to me. This Congressman Ryan is no kin to the aforementioned Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Tim is age 39 (b. 1973) and single. His Wikibio makes no mention of him being Catholic. Even under “Religion” it says “Christian” instead of Catholic. He is called the “meditative Congressman” and he practices Buddhist “mindfulness” which is “one of the seven factors on the path to enlightenment.” His appeal to Obama must be that he is from Ohio, a battleground state that Obama must win. But Catholics there are pretty smart, so I doubt they will mistake a Buddhist for a Catholic!

Stephen Schneck

Probably more than anyone else, this Obama team member’s views illustrate the deep and growing divide between factions of Catholics over their conflicting positions on social teaching. Like several others on the team, he is a Board member of Catholics in Alliance and is Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at CUA, my alma mater. At least this co-chair has some experience actually arguing on the issues that are at stake in this election. Here is an analysis of Ryan vs. Schneck on the budget . And you can read a contrast between Schneck’s liberal, condescending view of Tea Party members with that of Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute. And to see an oral debate where Schneck takes a beating, and gets caught up in “Distributive Justice” and “Preference the Poor,” watch this appearance on the O’Reilly Factor from 5/12/12.  Lastly, you can read Mr. Schneck’s obsession with the liberal view of Catholic social teaching in this article called “A taxing problem: How can the nation help the poor?” (Wednesday, June 13, 2012).

John Sweeney

Here we have another mystery team member. Sweeney's Wiki bio makes no mention at all of him being Catholic. He is a former President of the ultra-liberal SEIU. His bio tells a story of how he became President of the AFL-CIO, and it takes up two screens worth on the Wikipedia page. The piece reads like a mob story, describing the bitter battle over the presidency and how Sweeney made it to the top. He is identified as a founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance. And he gave a speech in 2009 on the need to control the rising cost of health care. Other than that, the mention of him receiving the Medal of Freedom from Obama is the only other nexus between them.

Mark Tuohey III
Lastly, due to the alphabet only, is anotherlawyer from D.C., Mark Tuohey III. His qualifications from what I can glean are that he went to Jesuit schools, he worked on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign in 1968, and he was a “Washingtonian of the Year” in 2005. A little probing reveals Mr. Tuohey was involved in the investigation of Vince Foster and Whitewater during the Clinton administration. And, he helped bring major league baseball back to Washington – Obama ALMOST gets my husband’s vote for that one! The Nats are in first place at present and hopefully headed to a pennant!

So, we see several union bosses, some Hispanics, some African-Americans, some Caucasians, some lawyers, some Congresspeople, some socialites, and a few who even have theology credentials. Are there any midwesterners? Oh yes, Colorado. Hmmm, mostly Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other eastern locales are represented. I am anxious to see their state chairpersons when they roll them out. 

Now that we have met the two national teams--Catholics for Romney and Catholics for Obama, I will point out there are some articles already out there praising and criticizing the choices. One fairly even-handed contrast between the two “Catholics-for” groups comes from Seattle. One notes that, contrary to 2008, there will (can) be no pro-life plank in Obama platform this time around.

I am sure there will be more to write about in the coming weeks as these national teams of leaders begin to work their magic on the Catholic populace. Wait, I can't say that since magic is not a Catholic tenet.

My bet is on the Catholics for Romney to make an early mark on the race. Any takers?

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