Alinsky for President?

Saul Alinsky is all over the presidential election this year. This despite the fact that he’s not running or consulting with any campaign—he died forty years ago, after all.

But Alinsky’s name has a particular symbolic meaning in American politics. The power of Alinsky’s reputation, decried by some Catholics, is only possible because of Alinsky’s outsize success sponsored by—you guessed it—Catholics. His early organizing work was made possible through financial and vocal support of Catholics in Chicago and his followers helped train Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

The Alinsky that critics object to is a stereotyped image in which power-at-any-costs disregards a concern for humans at the root of social structures, sacrificing a concern for a robust common good for a tactical win in the arena of politics. (This is the not-so-subtle message that is meant to be attached to Barack Obama, given his background in community organizing.) This version of Alinsky might exist in some organizations and movements, but then again these same organizations might not last or be effective for long with this style. Alinsky, his legacy, and his importance to the Catholic Church is a bit (actually a lot) more complicated. Continue reading

Mark vs. Mark: Examining longer term commitment

Here’s a key point from Mark Gray’s post (which I linked to in my earlier post):

Did Catholics Come Home bring people back to parishes? One indicator of interest from Alexa is that nearly one in five who visited the CCH website (18.3%) went looking for a Mass time by immediately visiting Seven percent of CCH visitors go to for their next site. Also, since writing a previous blog on this topic, the CCH YouTube channel has increased its subscribers by 10% and its video views by 16%.


Continue reading

Nineteen Sixty-four: New Year, A Bit of New Research

An initial read on the Catholic Come Home (CCH) advertisement push by Mark Gray at CARA:

Did Catholics come home?  We have no Mass attendance polling or headcount data. Yet, it is clear by some measure that the national Catholics Come Home (CCH) television advertisements had an impact in December. Evidence of the number of Catholics seeing the CCH videos, connecting with the CCH website and then some following through with seeking out parishes and Masses jumped up last month.

via Nineteen Sixty-four: New Year, A Bit of New Research.


Video on the Roman Missal

Since I have written several posts about liturgy and the new translation, I thought the following video might be of interest:


This particular clip comes from a playlist of videos on The Roman Missal (

The playlist includes a series of streaming videos recorded by liturgical scholars to assist schools, parishes, and university communities in their preparation for the Advent 2011 implementation of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal.  It was put together by the ND Center for Liturgy.  It is also accessible through the ICL you-tube channel, which I mentioned in an earlier post.  So, if you’ve already subscribed to the ICL channel, you may have already seen these- but the ND Center for Liturgy link actually provides additional information about the speakers recorded in the videos.

Data for the Day: Decline in the Number of Women Religious

One of the most significant changes in Catholicism in the last fifty years has been the dramatic decrease in the number of religious women. These maps highlight the decline of the number of religious women in dioceses across the country since 1980.  Several scholars have looked for sociological explanations for this decline. A common explanation argues that Vatican II itself, and not just the women’s movement or increased opportunities in the labor market that resulted in women leaving the church in large numbers. Specifically, before Vatican II religious women were accorded a special status within the faith. Continue reading

Where can I find out about the current state of religion in America?

Besides the obvious answer (“read this blog!”), it is helpful to know where to turn for accurate, concise, and well-presented information about religion in America.

The most recent book to do this is Mark Chaves’ American Religion: Contemporary Trends. This is the sort of book that casual readers would like, but so too would church study groups and college students. Even members of the Church hierarchy could learn something from this book (see pages 78-80). Continue reading

The Tabernacle in Catholic Parishes

One of the more contentious issues that has been under debate since Vatican II concerns the location of the tabernacle in local parishes.  Indeed, some view this issue as a decisive aspect of the spiritual vitality of the faithful—that the tabernacle location is somehow directly linked to one’s potential for spiritual participation in his or her faith.

There are four basic alternatives for locating the tabernacle: 1) in the sanctuary usually somewhere behind the altar, 2) out of the sanctuary and at the side of the nave, 3) out of the sanctuary in a separate room, 4) out of the nave in a completely separate chapel. Continue reading

Links of interest

Since Carol Ann brought up Archbishop Dolan’s appointment to the College of Cardinals, I thought that I would post a link to a talk that he gave at the University of Notre Dame in December:


Since the above talk is about an hour long, several short 5-10 minute clips created from it are also provided:

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3)

(Part 4) 

This talk helped kick off my colleague Mary Daly’s Project on Human Dignity.

One thing that I would like to do on this blog is to point people towards additional resources that might be of interest.  In that vein, you might want to consider subscribing to ICL’s you tube channel.  There are a number of interesting video clips from talks and lectures at Notre Dame and it is being updated all of the time.