The headlines say Gov. Brown is Catholic. He says he's not sure what that means.

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 07, 2015

Nearly every headline story about California’s new law allowing assisted suicide (except the CWN story) mentioned that Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the legislation into law, was raised as a Catholic and once studied as a Jesuit seminarian.

Why is that information relevant? The editors and headline writers seem anxious to let us know that even a Catholic can accept the arguments for choosing suicide. But that approach is disingenuous, since throughout his political career, Brown has opposed the Catholic stand on virtually every major question involving respect for human life. In fact his opposition to Catholic teaching on these issues has been so pronounced, one might wonder whether Brown still thinks of himself as a Catholic.

Oh, wait. There’s no need to wonder. The Sacramento Bee asked the governor precisely that question, earlier this year: “Are you a Catholic?” He answered with a question: “What does that mean, by the way?”

Governor Brown isn’t sure whether or not he’s a Catholic. So it’s all the more remarkable how many headline writers think he is, and want the world to know.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 10, 2015 10:42 PM ET USA

    I think that Jerry's question is very relevant in the modern Catholic culture of the West. On the one hand, we have the New Age nuns who seem to be tight with Pope Francis. Then there are the Catholic politicians who claim to be more Catholic than the pope (e.g., Nancy). Then there are the SSPXers who too claim to be more Catholic than the pope. Then there are the cafeteria Catholics. Then there are the orthodox Catholics, some of whom prefer the Extraordinary to the Ordinary...