Feb. 16, 2006 • Volume 14 Number 11

Forum Explores Faith and Politics

Russert to moderate panel discussion on Catholic politicians

Five of the nation's most prominent Catholic political analysts from across the conservative-liberal spectrum will gather at Boston College on Monday, Feb. 27, for a public discussion on the controversy over the relationship between politics and religion in America.

"Catholic Politicians in the US: Their Faith and Public Policy," which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. in Conte Forum.

Liberal voices James Carville, Democratic political strategist and news commentator, and E.J. Dionne, nationally syndicated Washington Post columnist and Brookings Institution senior fellow, will join conservatives Ed Gillespie, political strategist and former Republican National Committee chair, and Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and former Republican presidential assistant, in addressing the broad range of contemporary issues facing American Catholic politicians.

The discussion will be moderated by Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press" and political analyst for "NBC Nightly News" and "The Today Show."

Taking its theme from the history of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the institutions of American democracy, the event will explore several major questions, such as: Can a Catholic politician balance a dual loyalty to the Church and to the American people? What is the proper role of American Catholic bishops in their contributions to American public life? Should Catholic clergy run for office?

From the moral obligations of voting, to the national debate over right-to-life and end-of-life issues - abortion to assisted suicide and the death penalty - to matters of morality, family values and social justice, the panelists will address the relationship between politician decision-making and Catholic Church teaching.

The event is sponsored by Boston College's Church in the 21st Century Center, which seeks to be a catalyst and resource for the renewal of the Catholic Church in the United States by engaging critical issues facing the Catholic community. The center is an outgrowth of Boston College's Church in the 21st Century initiative, which was the first response of any Catholic university in the nation to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

"For many Catholics today, the influence that faith has in the lives and policymaking of Catholic politicians is critical," said Church in the 21st Century Director Timothy Muldoon, "because there are a number of issues that touch on basic questions of the common good and the moral life. Further, since Catholics comprise the largest religious group in both Congress and the US Supreme Court, many outside the Catholic world are interested to learn more about the relationship between faith and public policy."

Muldoon cites some examples of the intersection of faith and politics, including strong statements issued during the 2004 election campaign by prominent Catholic bishops about the duty of Catholic politicians around issues like abortion, stem cell research, poverty and war. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops' quadrennial statement "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility" [available at], he adds, regularly calls Catholic politicians to consider the common good, drawing from the best of Catholic reflection on serious moral, political, and economic questions.

"The forum on Feb. 27 will be of interest to both Catholics and others interested in thinking about the complex relationship between religious faith and politics. Our goal is to engage a conversation about the role that Catholics take in public life, and how their faith informs their work," said Muldoon.

For information on the speakers and on registering for "Catholic Politicians in the US," see the forum Web site. -Office of Public Affairs staff

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