Pundits on the Pres at ND

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EJ Dionne of the Washington Post offers one take on Obama's speech, calling it "what may have been both the most radical and the most conservative speech of [Obama's] presidency." It's hard to disagree with Dionne's point that Obama drew deeply on Catholic social thought and tradition--and won the day with his even-handedness.

Beliefnet.com blogger David Gibson had a bigger-picture piece in Sunday's Washington Post about the divide in American Catholicism between a more moderate majority and a small but vocal minority of "purists." His main point--that Catholics value unity over purity--is on target as far as I am concerned, far more reflective of the grand sweep of Catholic tradition than the voices that want a leaner, meaner, purer church. (Gibson also cites America magazine's outstanding editorial on sectarianism in the church.)

Gibson references the Modernist controversy of the early 20th century, during which many theologians were denounced for being anti-Catholic for using new approaches to scripture and doctrine. Pope Pius X was among the leaders of the anti-modernist forces, but his successor Pope Benedict XV was far more conciliatory, writing in 1914 (as quoted by Gibson): "No one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith. . . . There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism. It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname.'"

I couldn't agree more.