Faith & the Public Order: February 2009 Archives

RJN2.jpgI am still saddened by the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus. Many are. I pray for him regularly at Mass and while saying the rosary and I find myself wondering what he'd say about this or that today. First Things arrived the other day and I shelved it temporarily because I've got other things to read first (what, I am not going to drop everything to read FT???); I look forward with eagerness to read to First Things as much today as when I first was introduced to the magazine by friend Father Edward Oakes but I have to admit it is still a little awkward seeing RJN's name on the cover.


One of the last gifts he gave to us is the forthcoming book, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile. It's not a book from the grave as it was in production long before RJN got ill and died. I am looking forward to it as I have looked forward to everything RJN wrote for publication or said in the public forum.


Available from Amazon

A Google preview of American Babylon


Product description


neuhaus_american_babylon.jpgChristians are by their nature a people out of place. Their true home is with God; in civic life, they are alien citizens "in but not of the world." In American Babylon, eminent theologian Richard John Neuhaus examines the particular truth of that ambiguity for Catholics in America today.


Neuhaus addresses the essential quandaries of Catholic life--assessing how Catholics can keep their heads above water in the sea of immorality that confronts them in the world, how they can be patriotic even though their true country is not in this world, and how they might reconcile their duties as citizens with their commitment to God. Deeply learned, frequently combative, and always eloquent, American Babylon is Neuhaus's magnum opus--and will be essential reading for all Christians.


Let me recommend to you the Richard John Neuhaus Online Archive, a well stocked blog of materials by or on Father Richard.

The Holy See's Press Office released a statement this morning about the US Speaker of the House's visit to the Holy See and to the Pope:


Following the General Audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.


His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.


Pope & Pelosi.jpgGood for the Pope. I wish I could've been there watching the Speaker's face while the Pope teaches her (and her entourage) the orthodox faith including the various constituent components of Catholic moral teaching. I'm sure she knew that the Pope would say something about her heterodoxy but I bet she didn't expect such a direct address. Or, did she? You know, she's not very clear on these things so every little bit helps. Perhaps now she'll actually become a believing Catholic and not one that merely picks and chooses what to believe so as to keep an influential job.


Now, can we get Joe Biden and the other Catholics in Congress to meet Pope Benedict?


dubois.jpgA Presidential insider takes up the work of faith-based initiatives for the Obama administration, it was announced on February 5th. The 26 year old Princeton grad, Joshua DuBois (also a BU alum) will lead a restructured office which got its sea legs in the Bush administration but had its antecedants in prior administrations of government. He is a Pentecostal pastor. Known to be charismatic and bright, DuBois will be assisting faith groups navigate federal funding policies while having the ear of the President. According to the White House Press Office,

"The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus on four key priorities, to be carried out by working closely with the President's Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships:

-The Office's top priority will be making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete.

-It will be one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion.

-The Office will strive to support fathers who stand by their families, which involves working to get young men off the streets and into well-paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood.

-Finally, beyond American shores this Office will work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.

"The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will include a new President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds. There will be 25 members of the Council, appointed to 1-year terms.

Members of the Council include:

Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America
Philadelphia, PA

Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and noted church/state expert
Washington, DC

Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention
Taylors, SC

Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Alexandria, VA

Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Cleveland, OH

Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Corps
Chicago, IL

Fred Davie, President, Public / Private Ventures, a secular non-profit intermediary
New York, NY

Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA
Philadelphia, PA

Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs and expert on church/state issues
Winston-Salem, NC

Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed
Lakeland, FL

Dr. Arturo Chavez, Ph.D., President & CEO, Mexican American Cultural Center
San Antonio, TX

Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners
Washington, DC

Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Knoxville, TN

Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco, a secular national operating intermediary
New York, NY

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision
Bellevue, WA

All are interesting choices and all seem to be leaders in their respective faith traditions or organizations. I wonder if this group can work with the faith groups across the spectra and not just the people who follow their particular brand of faith. Two members of the Council are Catholics (one being a priest) and they are seemingly on the left side of the Church. THE common thread which unites this group is experience in community organizing, just like the President. I look forward to seeing the fruit of their labors. Dealing with the secularists is not going to be easy even for the theologically left of center people chosen for the Council.

Regarding the mandate to "address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion" I wonder just how this goal is going to be accomplished. It sounds fishy to me as I don't trust the double-speak of President Obama when it comes to protecting life. He certainly has not demonstrated that pro-life matters are part of his makeup. In fact, the opposite is true: Obama has stepped on the pro-life efforts of reasonable people of all faiths.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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