By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
I can't remember as big a week for Catholics in national politics since Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton squared off in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary last April. With Catholics accounting for roughly a third of Keystone State Democratic voters, the contest prompted both candidates to hire Catholic outreach directors and to dispatch high-profile Catholic surrogates.A recap of the last week:
On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI named Timothy Dolan the new archbishop of New York, the closet thing to an American pope. One of his first congratulatory calls was from President Obama. The White House had the political savvy to keep quiet about the call to the media, to avoid making it look political.
On Tuesday, Catholic convert Bobby Jindal gave the Republican response to President Obama's address to Congress. Who would have guessed that a Catholic would emerge as a potential savior to GOP values voters?
On Ash Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden appeared with an ash smudge on his forehead in public, before the cameras, an apparent first for such a highly placed Catholic politician.
Yesterday, the liberal group Catholics United reported it had helped collect 3,000 signatures calling on Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback to repudiate a letter bearing his name that questions the purported Catholicism of his congressional colleagues who support abortion rights.
What is the common thread in this cornucopia of Catholics-in-politics news? That being Catholic is no longer the political liability it once was at the national level. It might be the opposite.