I realize that my reading habits are not those of your typical American news consumer. In addition to a heavy, heavy daily dose of the offerings of major newspapers and the websites of broadcast operations, I frequent many alternative sites linked to religious groups and commentators.
In other words, I am reading people who share GetReligion's obsession with the religion angles behind the headlines. I'm out there looking for religion "ghosts," of course.
This means that I first ran into news about that interesting wedding announcement by former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford -- made public in a New York Times commentary piece -- on an alternative Catholic news and commentary site, before I saw the mainstream coverage.
The headline on this piece by former CBS Evening News producer Greg Kandra (now the Catholic deacon blogging at "Headlines and Homilies") jumped on the religion angle: "At 90, Harris Wofford -- Former Senator and Catholic Convert -- Announces He’s Marrying a Man."
Does the "Catholic" angle really matter, in this case?
Let's look at the Washington Post coverage before we make a call on that question. Here is the overture. Prepare for some intense DC Beltway name dropping.
Harris Wofford, a former Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, John F. Kennedy’s presidential assistant on civil rights and an intimate of Martin Luther King Jr., will wed at his Foggy Bottom apartment Saturday before a gathering of family and friends. Dinner is to follow at a neighborhood Italian restaurant.
The groom is 90.
The other groom, Matthew Charlton, is 40. ...
“Most of my life has been with a great woman, a great love, and a great family,” says Wofford at his Washington home. ... “Now, I’m with a great love late in my life.”
Wofford is well aware that it is the age difference, more than his fiance’s gender, that has caused jaws to plop and unleashed a fusillade of social media blasts.
And later on there is this:
Tall and courtly, Wofford has been an idealist for social justice his entire life. In many ways, his public declaration of marriage at age 90 to another man can be seen as one of his last and most deeply personal acts in furthering the cause of equal rights.
Wofford attended Howard Law School in the 1950s, becoming, he believes, the program’s first white graduate. (He has law degrees from both Howard and Yale.) He helped establish the Peace Corps. In the Senate in the 1990s, he championed universal health care and later worked with several nonprofit organizations on national service and volunteering. In Philadelphia, he introduced then-Sen. Barack Obama before his 2008 “A More Perfect Union” speech on race.
The Kennedy connection is crucial, opening the door to Wofford's career in politics and social work, at the same time.
To cut to the chase: What the story misses is Wofford's crucial role, after his conversion to the Catholic faith (he was an Episcopalian), in the development of the modern Catholic left. His work was known for its heavy stress on the church's teachings on social justice and -- critics would say -- very light touch on all unpopular ancient doctrines that clashed with the spirit of the age and, to be blunt, the Sexual Revolution.
The word "Catholic" does not appear in the Post report.
But here is another way to judge the importance of Wofford in the culture of the Catholic left. Consider this short passage in the Crux news report -- a year ago -- on the funeral Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame and one of the most influential liberal Catholics, ever.
Flags flew at half-staff throughout Indiana Wednesday, per order of Gov. Mike Pence, and in addition to Obama, there were also video tributes from former presidents George H.W Bush and Bill Clinton. Former president Jimmy Carter, as well as US senators Joe Donnelly, Harris Wofford, and Alan Simpson, spoke in person.
A symbolic speaker at a very symbolic event.
So, why is Wofford's role among modern Catholic leaders missing in this Post report on this eyebrow-raising marriage?
Let's just note that Kandra's short, and very dry, piece ends with this sentence: "If anyone needs a primer on the Church’s teaching on same sex marriage, you’ll find a good one right here."