Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Endorsing An Enlightened Catholic Politican

Tom Perriello is our newest Democratic representative. His defeat of Virgil Goode for the 5th district in Virginia, is in many ways the most stunning of all the democratic wins--so far. He is a progressive and a committed Catholic and an all around good guy with a distinctly different attitude towards politics. The following article is from Slate:

The 5th District spreads from Charlottesville (the Tribeca of the South) down to the border of North Carolina. It's been Virgil Goode country since 1997—Goode being the congressman whose re-election campaign was predicated on insulting immigrants, Muslims, the mentally ill, homosexuals, teenagers, Northerners, and, eventually, pretty much everyone, in as many different ways as possible. In August, polls showed Perriello running 30 points behind Goode, who, right up until the night before the election, refused to learn how to pronounce his opponent's name.

"Part of what I've loved about this race," Perriello (it's Perry-ello) says this morning, "was that they just weren't able to make it about 'Charlottesville liberal outsiders.' And that's because we didn't take the bait." So when Goode ran an ad accusing an ominously darkened and anachronistically bearded Perriello of being a "liberal New York lawyer," Perriello hit back with a cheeky spot shot in front of a New York backdrop. "Even if I had been a New York lawyer," he tells me, "if I had had a better plan for the economy, I should have won because voters needed leadership and competence right now. Not fear."

A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, Perriello worked to end atrocities in Liberia as well as with child soldiers, amputees, and local pro-democracy groups in Sierra Leone. He became special adviser for the international prosecutor during the showdown that forced Liberian dictator Charles Taylor from power. His work as a security analyst has taken him to Afghanistan and Darfur.

Perriello has also been a part of a groundswell of young progressives whose religious faith motivates them to seek social change through public service. One of the most startling aspects of his 2008 campaign was his pledge to tithe 10 percent of his campaign volunteers' time to local charities. Time they could have spent stuffing mailers and phone-banking went to building houses for the poor.

"Ours is a community-service generation," he says. "Our background is in not-for-profits, the netroots, and problem solving. We understand that the big divisions in America are not even about politics; it's a whole new way of thinking that throws traditional politics out the window."

Perriello says he was warned not to talk about Darfur in the rural South but did it anyhow. When the Goode campaign got snarled up in controversy over a gay art film last month, Perriello didn't go there. Why not? "That's old politics. People are smarter and better than the media thinks," he says, promptly apologizing for insulting my profession. "We didn't run ads with Darth Vader voices, and my favorite conversations have been with people who told me they voted for Virgil but still loved the way I campaigned."

Perriello doesn't doubt that the economic crash benefitted him. "That doctored picture of me [in the Goode ad] wasn't half as scary as losing 10,000 jobs in the 5th District," he says. "Hey, ask him about the NASCAR ad," says a coffee shop patron, who ambles up to congratulate him. "That was the turning point, wasn't it?" Perriello describes the ad tweaking Goode for his extensive corporate sponsorships.

"People want to be called to serve," he says. "If after 9/11, President Bush had asked us to work toward energy independence or asked college students to learn Farsi so they could assist State or CIA on the ground, we would have done it. ... But our leaders from both parties were never willing to ask us to do anything. There was no call to service."

With three minutes to go before the announcement of his new gig, it sounds like job security isn't much of a concern to him. Hanging on to a congressional seat is not his first priority. Not at the expense of doing the right thing. Perriello muses that this new generation of leaders seems to feel that if they don't get re-elected, it would be OK. "I love what I did in Afghanistan and Darfur. If I have to go back to that, it wouldn't be the worst thing." That's why he so admires Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. "I think he's a great politician because he's a bad politician in the conventional sense. He says what he believes without any care for polls or messaging. It's about right and wrong."

It's now one minute until the race can be called for Perriello, and the wait for Goode to request a recount—or not—can formally begin. Perriello is racing off to Martinsville, Va., to make the announcement. "Possibly tonight will be my first sleep night," he says, having endured a brutal 72 hours since Election Day. The Perriello ad that had everyone in Virginia chuckling this fall was this one, in which it became clear that even some of his most ardent admirers had no idea how to say his name. As the race over the 5th District winds down today, Perriello's new blend of intelligence, deep faith, humility, humor, and optimism tells me it's a name you may want to remember.


Assuming the links work in the above article it really is worth the time to check out his ads. The NASCAR ad is priceless, but then so is the one with ardent supporters who can't pronounce his name.

You would think our hierarchy would be ecstatic that a committed Catholic service oriented politician had beaten a racist homophobic bigoted good ole boy. Well, you'd be wrong. Tom Perriello is also pro choice in that he favors attacking abortion from the social support angle rather than the repeal of Roe v Wade and he is a co founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Here are some comments from some of out Bishops:

Pro-legal abortion Catholic wins hotly contested congressional seat

Roanoke, VA, Nov 7, 2008 / 06:03 pm (CNA).-

Thomas Perriello, a Catholic who is in favor of legalized abortion has defeated Republican incumbent Virgil Goode by 648 votes in the race for Viriginia’s Fifth Congressional District.
On Friday afternoon, the Perriello campaign declared victory, even though Goode will likely demand a recount if the lead remains less than 0.5% of the vote.

Despite claiming to be an ardent Catholic, Perriello ran on an agenda that treats abortion as one of several equally important social issues to be addressed instead of the paramount human rights and social justice violation that Catholics must fight to end.

This theory has been frequently criticized by Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Charles Chaput, who recently described the organization Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good—co-founded by Perriello—as having “done a disservice to the Church.”

Chaput charges that these groups have confused “the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress prolifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.” (Archbishop Chaput seems to be saying that the legal letter of the law is therefor more important than the spirit of approaching abortion in a compassionate and service oriented way. I thought Jesus taught this whole thing the other way around.)

“All of them seek to ‘get beyond’ abortion, or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won’t be necessary. All of them involve a misuse of the seamless garment imagery in Catholic social teaching. And all of them, in practice, seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues,” Chaput said at a dinner for the women’s group ENDOW in mid-October. (Better that than misusing the teachings of Jesus.)

The Catholic Diocese of Scranton (Bishop Martino) has also warned about Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, saying that the group tells people “that a Catholic may vote for a candidate who supports abortion . . . (but) they are neither united nor allied with authentic Catholic teaching. Catholics and non-Catholics alike should not be misled by them.” (Bishop Martino actually means that they are not aligned with his understandings of Church teaching, as even the teachings of the entire body of US Catholic Bishops don't hold sway in his diocese. In his diocese he is the church.)

Ignatius Reilly, from “,” says that “at this early stage in his career, his resume (Ivy League education, community organizing skills, and liberal nonprofit causes) is remarkably similar to President-elect Barack Obama. We should keep an eye on Perriello to see how he moves forward from this stunning upset. Meet our newest liberal member of Congress.” (OOOOHH, Just like Barack Obama! Scary stuff, all this working with the poor and disadvantaged. OOOOHH an Ivy League education! Scary stuff all this working to get a good degree and become literate.)

Perriello, the youngest of four children and single, received his B.A. from Yale University in 1996.

Besides “Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good,” he helped to launch, an organization described as “dedicated to bringing together faith-based communities to support liberal causes like a higher minimum wage, environmentalism, and peace in Iraq.”
He is also the co-founder of, an international on-line community “dedicated to building a liberal global response to problems without borders such as climate change.”


Obviously Congressman Perriello is not a REAL AMERICAN CATHOLIC, no matter how many times a week he may go to Mass. That there are REAL CATHOLIC BISHOPS who would vastly have preferred his opponent won, (he who insulted every group he possibly could) is mind boggling.
Is changing a legal definition so important that we should allow it to trump the spirit of human decency? Is this a path Roman Catholics really want to follow? Or should we instead trust that the spirit of human decency will transcend the legal definition? Apparently Americans think it's time to try the path of human decency. Maybe that's the enlightened thing to do.
Tom Perriello is one Catholic politician I will keep an eye on, because he seems to be one Catholic politician worth keeping an eye on.

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