April 6, 2005


A closer embrace: Washington and the Vatican: A first trip by a president to a papal funeral signals a shift in how the US views Rome. (Linda Feldmann, 4/06/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

When George W. Bush boards Air Force One Wednesday for Rome to attend the pope's funeral, it will be a historic moment. [...]

[T]he confluence of interests between a born-again Protestant US president and the Roman Catholic Church over central social issues - abortion, gay marriage, stem-cell research, euthanasia, and judicial nominations - has left a mark on American politics that is likely to continue under the next pope, analysts say. As seen in the recent turmoil over the life and death of a brain-damaged Florida woman, Terri Schiavo, collaboration between evangelicals and Catholics in promoting common causes has become a potent element of US politics.

So, too, has the involvement of Catholic bishops in US elections, witnessed by the assertion by some last year that Democratic nominee John Kerry, a Catholic, should be denied communion over his support for abortion rights. The fact that Bush won the Catholic vote last November - albeit by a small margin, but still a first for a Republican since the advent of exit polls - is likely to encourage more involvement by clergy in coming elections, political analysts say.

"If the next pope is like John Paul II, I think we'll see the present situation continue," says John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron. "For starters, the issues on the right are unlikely to disappear soon."

From a purely political perspective, a European successor (except for Cardinal Ratzinger) would be the least helpful to us, a conservative black Pope a coup.

Pope 'Broadened the Way' for Evangelicals and Catholics: Theologian Tom Oden sees continued cooperation ahead. (Interview by Stan Guthrie | posted 04/05/2005, Christianity Today)

Christianity Today executive editor Thomas C. Oden, a Methodist theologian at Drew University, met Pope John Paul II last December as general editor of InterVarsity Press's Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Oden, formerly chairman of the board for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, looks back at the pope's impact on evangelicals in an interview with senior associate news editor Stan Guthrie.

What were the pope's most significant contributions concerning relations with evangelicals? He was certainly known as a very ecumenical pope.

John Paul II opened the door in ways that had not been opened before for Protestants, especially for evangelicals, to see that their doctrines, although they differ [from Catholic doctrines] in many ways, have important levels of similarity between them. I regard this as a work of the Holy Spirit in our time to bring the Christian community and all of its different manifestations worldwide into a greater proximate unity as the body of Christ.

The pope gave firm, moral leadership not only on culture-of-life questions, but on questions such as the firm commitment of the church to care for the poor without the overlay of secularist and socialist ideology. John Paul II was a strong, moral voice at a time when evangelicals were beginning to wake up to the fact that while we do, indeed, have many differences with Roman Catholics—on Scripture, sacrament, penitential practice, and many other things—we have many common and shared values, and, in some profound ways, shared doctrine. We share the same New Testament, the same canonical Scripture. We share the same confession, the same Nicene Creed, the same Apostle's Creed, and so forth.

What John Paul did is bring that into much greater palpability and accessibility to evangelicals than had been the case before. I really don't think that the project we call Evangelicals and Catholics Together could have occurred without Pope John Paul II. There were before Pope John Paul many great Catholic ecumenists who were part of making that way, but he broadened the way so that many of us could go in it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 6, 2005 12:00 AM

In today's world, Evangelicals and Catholics are on the same side. The MSM is to unchurched and contemtuous of religion to notice.

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 6, 2005 8:20 AM