Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Last night I went to an interesting event. San Francisco boasts a couple of large, active Catholic young adult groups (YAG's). I hadn't been to one of the St. Vincent de Paul YAG meetings in about a year, but I wasn't going to miss this one. The infamous Mayor Gavin Newsom would be talking to the group about his faith and his politics (he comes from an old Irish Catholic family). Newsom is the guy who started handing out same sex marriage licenses at the beginning of this year. I also found out a month or so ago that he went to my high school, graduating two years behind me. Looking in my senior yearbook, I did recognize the little sophomore, but I don't have any specific recollections of him. Newsom is now all of 36.

Usually the SVdP YAG meetings have about 60 to 100 people in attendance. Last night's meeting drew 250. The crowd was probably about 1/3 gung ho for the Mayor, and 2/3 against. Of course, the big question on the mind of 2/3 the people was "How can you oppose the Church on abortion and homosexuality and consider yourself a Catholic in good standing?" The other 1/3 are, I assume, unaware (willfully or no) that it should matter whether you agree with Church teaching at all.

As it happened, I ended up sitting in the front row directly in front of the podium, about 4 feet away from Newsom. Newsom proceeded to tell about his upbringing, education, adult life in business, and how he became Mayor. Although it was not particularly on topic (he really never did talk about his faith with any specificity whatsoever), I did find his story to be quite engaging. Later he went on to why he supports abortion and gay marriage. It was all pretty standard liberal democrat "Rosa Parks" kind of stuff, no surprises there.

The most interesting thing was to experience the charisma and "mojo" of this politician. You can see when someone has star power, and this guy has it. Assuming he doesn't bungle the whole SF Mayor job, he's going places. He'll probably end up Senator or Governor some day. Despite the fact that I and the other 2/3 would never vote for the guy in a million years, and consider his kind of anarchy to be a threat to the Republic, we did find him quite charming and likeable (interestingly, many of the ladies I talked to afterward, who are dead-set against him politically, did acknowledge that he's quite a mensch).

Another point in his favor is that he is not a BS'er. He knew that most of the room was against him (not that there are enough of our kind of votes in the city to be the slightest threat to him politically), and he was very straightforward and blunt in telling us his position and that he stands for what he stands for and that no leader ever amounts to anything unless he does what he thinks is right and takes a clear stand.

After having seen Newsom (and about 15 years ago, Jerry Brown, also from right in front of the podium), I understand a bit more about charisma. I've heard on many occasions that Clinton had it (i.e. that he was amazing to meet in person), and I think that Dubya also has it.

He also acknowledges that he's not a Catholic in good standing. That's got to be a first for a politician! You'll never hear Kerry or Pelosi say this. Now of course, a serious Catholic wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of being elected San Francisco mayor in the first place. As far as I know, he didn't use his status as a "Catholic" when he was campaigning. Also, his vague references to faith without mentioning a single specific are another indicator that he is a cultural Catholic only. Just replace "Catholic" with "Irish" and that's probably all it means to him. Either that or he knows that showing any actual devotion would be political suicide.

Now, there are a lot of Catholics who think they are "Good Catholics", while supporting abortion, fornication, active homosexuality, contraception, and euthanasia. But thinking does not make it so. To be Catholic is to be in communion with the Church and what she teaches, and to believe that what she teaches is true. However, what Bishop has ever had the cojones to make it absolutely clear that believing and acceding to Church teachings is a requirement for being truly Catholic? Hence all the politicians who might as well be Baal worshipers but unashamedly claim the Catholic mantle for themselves.

A lot of atheists, secular humanists, and skeptics hate the Catholic Church for the mind control they think it imposes on its members. As if....

Anyway, Newsom has got some serious mojo. Keep your eyes on this boy. He's probably got a bright political future ahead of him.

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