Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Church Political

Would love to get my hands on a copy of this one -- a study of Catholicism's role as geopolitical force:
"The Catholic Church and the Nation-State” paints a rich portrait of a complex and paradoxical institution whose political role has varied historically and geographically. The collection of essays covers 16 countries and five continents. Among the scholars who have contributed pieces are Reardon, UNH assistant professors Alynna Lyon and Mary Malone, and professors Christine Kearney and Paul Manuel of St. Anselm College in Manchester. Manuel, professor of political science, and Clyde Wilcox, professor of government at Georgetown University, also are co-editors.

“The Catholic Church, from its origin, always has been a transnational actor and had a global presence in individual lives, within the nation-state and in collaboration with nonprofit institutions. This book is a testament to the enduring nature of religion, not only its importance in the United States but its great importance around the world,” said Michele Dillon, professor of sociology at UNH who is an international expert about the Catholic Church in society.

The initial idea for the book was developed by scholars in response to ongoing problems of child sexual abuse in the American Catholic Church and pursued because of a general lack of academic study about the subject. “Before Sept. 11, there was very little discussion about religion and politics. After Sept. 11, people realized that religion does play a significant political role in society. Still, I was surprised that there had not been a major comparative study about the Catholic Church and its political role throughout the world,” Reardon said.

With an in-depth exploration of the five primary challenges facing the church — theology and politics, secularization, the transition from serving as a nationalist voice of opposition, questions of justice, and accommodation to sometimes hostile civil authorities — the book demonstrates how national churches vary considerably in the emphasis of their teachings and in the scope and nature of their political involvement.
How true, the latter. For example, in one Nigerian diocese, the faithful will be denied the Eucharist if they don't register to vote in advance of April elections.
Bishop Francis Okobo, who oversees the diocese of Nsukka in the southeastern state of Enugu, authorised the circulation of a bulletin in Catholic churches on Sunday telling the faithful that they had to make their vote count in this year's elections.

Parishioners were told not to be put off by the outcome of past elections in which the votes of the people did not count because of massive vote rigging.

"Whoever has not collected the voter's card after February 7 has automatically alienated himself or herself from the community, the Church, the nation and will not be allowed to receive the holy communion," the bulletin said according to This Day.

Nigerians are due to elect their president, state governors and lawmakers in polls that should mark the first handover from one democratic government to another in Africa's most populous nation and biggest oil producer.

"You might have often heard ... that the election has been concluded, that your votes will not count and that you will definitely be wasting your precious time if you go out to vote," the bulletin from the Nsukka diocese was quoted as saying.

"The Catholic Secretariat of Nsukka wishes to inform you that (this is) calculated political propaganda aimed at creating despondency in you so that they will steal away an unmerited victory. You are reminded and requested to quickly get yourselves registered, if you have not done that, because it is your civic responsibility and a sacred duty."

The news comes as others in Nigeria such as students face severe sanctions if they do not revalidate their voters' cards.
Demonstrating "how national churches vary considerably... in the scope and nature of their political involvement," no indication was given that the sanctions were contingent on how they voted.