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Religion and the Presidential Election

Religion and the American Presidential ElectionGerry OShea
America is a very religious country. More than 40% of the population attend church services at least once a month, and about half report that they pray every day. By comparison, in most countries in western Europe, attendance at church on Sunday hovers around 10%.

Surprisingly, we have heard very little from the candidates for the Democratic nomination for the presidency about their religious convictions. Mayor Buttigieg has spoken very movingly about the importance of his Christian faith as a married gay man. Nearly all the Christian denominations look askance at the homosexual lifestyle, but he attends an Episcopalian church where he and his husband, Chasten, received a full church blessing when they got married.

Joe Biden is a practicing Catholic but, because he supports the Roe v Wade decision which gives a woman the right to choose on the abortion issue, he was refused communion in a church a few months ago. He argues that h…
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Crisis in the German Catholic Church

Catholic Church Reform in GermanyGerry OShea

The “church tax” in Germany has no equivalent in the United States. It involves the state collecting up to 9% of income frommembers of the different religious denominations and passing on the money to the various churches. Because of this lucrative arrangement the Catholic Church in Germany has a deep treasury and supports many major charitable ventures as well as sending millions to the Vatican every year.

That is an important source of real power in Rome where big cheques carry a lot of weight. In addition, since the Reformation 500 years ago, German intellectuals have been central to theological developments in the church. Most recently, Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop of Munich before becoming Pope Benedict, was a leading theologian in the liberalizing Second Vatican Council before going on to lead a conservative papacy.

The sexual abuse scourge has devastated the Catholic Church. The idea that members of the clergy took advantage of their pr…

The 1950 Election in Ireland

Thomas Xavier Doodle and the 1951 General Election in Ireland
Gerry O’Shea
Renowned Irish historian, Tom Garvin, cast a cold eye on life in Ireland in the 1950’s. He deplored the backwardness of many facets of the culture, writing that the country was “marooned in insular seclusion, pauperized, pre-industrial and riddled with superstition.”

Polio and Tuberculosis ravaged many households with minimal help from the rudimentary hospital system. Babies, many of them home births and part of big families, were reared in an atmosphere where children were encouraged to be seen but not heard. Manliness was defined by stressing the Spartan virtues: robust physical strength combined with an acceptance that suffering and hardship must be endured as part of Christian living.

Timothy Corcoran, a well-known Jesuit educator and theologian, had a major influence on the Irish school system. He espoused a dark understanding of church teaching about the results of original sin. According to his insights, chi…

The Ideal and the real in Modern Irish History

The Ideal and the Real in Irish HistoryGerry OShea
Every country has a story told by its own citizens that marks it as different, setting it apart in some way from other places, usually highlighting positive aspects of the country’s culture or geography or tradition.

For the first sixty years or so after independence in 1922, the Irish story promulgated by church and state was that the country had emerged from hundreds of years of abuse and denigration by a foreignpower, but now that the Irish had their freedom the real character of the population emerged – noble and religious people, living a simple but wholesome lifestyle, very different from the pagan country next door.

Eamonn De Valera, who was prime minister for about half of the years we are talking about, added to this positive image of Irish life when he engaged in some idyllic imaginings in 1943, praising the image of “comely maidens dancing on the village green.”

Frank Duff the founder and driving force behind the Legion of Mary…

The Bishops and Abortion

The Bishops and AbortionGerry OShea
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the outgoing president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops(USCCB) opined recently that the climate change crisis is “not urgent,” directly contradicting Pope Francis who in his encyclical Laudato Si pleaded that saving “the common home” must be a top priority for the church and indeed for all humanity.

DiNardo and a majority of his episcopal colleagues in the USCCB continue to identify abortion as the “preeminent” – their language - issue of our time, meaning that it supersedes all other concerns.

These church leaders have mainly pursued a legal remedy to the widespread termination of pregnancy in the United States. Reverse the Roe v Wade decision and they claim we are more than half way to solving the problem.

Archbishop Sample of Portland, Oregon, supporting this perspective, expounded last month about our times being particularly propitious to achieve their goal because “of a unique moment with the upcoming election cycl…

In Praise of Moderation

In Praise of ModerationGerry OShea
To convey their distaste for extremist views scholastic philosophers in the Middle Ages used a pithy Latin dictum, in medio stat virtus. They hailed the middle or moderate position on various controversial issues as most likely to represent the best and truest option. In today’s parlance, it suggests that virtuous and prudent behavior does not reside at the far edges of the left or the right but somewhere in the middle.

Some readers will remember Senator George McGovern, the Democratic nominee who faced Richard Nixon in 1972. He was a highly-principled and capable leader, but in those tempestuous days when the war in Vietnam dominated political discourse, Senator McGovern was successfully labelled as an extremist by his Republican opponents.

They claimed repeatedly that the senator was outside the mainstream, that he would concede everything to the communists in Hanoi to end the war. The scare tactic worked and he lost to Nixon in every state except Mas…

Advantage Biden

Advantage BidenGerry OShea
It is early times for making predictions, but still a review of all the polling data, nationwide as well as in various key states, and an assessment of the other candidates’ progress point to Joe Biden as the one with the best chance of getting the Democratic nomination.

I suggest that there are four good reasons why he is favorite and likely to be successful.

First, the Democrats are looking, above all, for a winner; they really want the current president out, and the polls show that when faced with a direct run-off against President Trump, Biden consistently fares better than any of his Democratic opponents, winning by as much as ten points nationally and also edging out or matching the president in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michican, North Carolina and Florida. The blue-collar voters who abandoned Hillary Clinton seem ready to leave Trump for the man who is known as “middle-class Joe.”

Democrats are fired up above all else about beating Tr…