Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Justice Samuel Alito (top left), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (bottom left) and Sister Norma Pimentel (right) were three of the top Catholic newsmakers of 2022 (Composite image).

We should perhaps give thanks that 2022—unlike recent years, with their pandemics, presidential elections and putsch attempts—felt a little quieter on the newsfront. It was a nice slowdown from two years of insanity in the world and the church.

At the same time, there was much to read about and report, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, inflation in the United States and abroad, the stubbornness and resurgence of Covid-19, an ongoing crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, the collapse of cryptocurrency and so much more.

For the past several years, the editors of America have presented a list of the top five U.S. Catholic newsmakers of the year. You can read 2020’s top five here and 2021’s here.

Without further ado, here are our top five U.S. Catholic newsmakers of 2022. (No, Joe Biden’s not on there—we decided three years in a row would be too much.)

Unlike recent years, with their pandemics, presidential elections and putsch attempts, 2022 felt a little quieter on the newsfront.

Nancy Pelosi

In November of this year, the 82-year-old Democratic representative from California announced that she would not seek reelection to her role as party leader in the United States House of Representatives. The move ends a two-decade career in Democratic House leadership, during which Speaker Pelosi made news for her dealings with other politicians and also occasionally for her clashes with church leaders.

For Catholics, the biggest news about Ms. Pelosi in 2022 was San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s announcement in May barring Ms. Pelosi from receiving Communion in the archdiocese over her support for legal abortion. Archbishop Cordileone wrote an open letter to Ms. Pelosi in which he said he had “no choice” in the matter. The archbishop came on America Media’s “The Gloria Purvis Podcast” to discuss his decision soon after.

For her part, Ms. Pelosi defended her stance and her identity as a pro-choice Catholic. In late June, she met with Pope Francis in Rome and received Communion there, according to witnesses.

Later in the year, Ms. Pelosi’s husband was attacked at their California home by a QAnon conspiracy theorist. The suspect told police he had hoped to attack Ms. Pelosi over “Democratic party lies.” Archbishop Cordileone and other U.S. church leaders offered their prayers in the wake of the attack.

In her final year as Speaker of the House, Ms. Pelosi oversaw the recent passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified same-sex and interracial marriage. Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop Robert Barron publicly opposed the law, calling it “misnamed.”

In May, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone barred Ms. Pelosi from receiving Communion in the archdiocese over her support for legal abortion.

Samuel Alito

Much has been made of the supermajority Catholics hold at the U.S. Supreme Court, a far cry from the days when pundits spoke of a “Jewish seat” and a “Catholic seat” on the traditionally Protestant-dominated nine-seat bench. Whether or not the religious convictions of any group of judges sway their overall rulings, this year’s most prominent ruling definitely had a Catholic jurist at the heart of the story. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 in a decision authored by Justice Samuel Alito, a 16-year veteran of the court who is seen as its most politically conservative justices and the ideological heir to the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

An early draft of Justice Alito’s decision that was leaked on May 2 gave the gist of what was to come: In an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, Justice Alito wrote that Roe “was egregiously wrong from the start” and that “Roe and Casey must be overruled.”

In July, Justice Alito was back in the headlines when he told a gala dinner in Rome sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative that writing the decision had been “an honor.”

Justice Alito wrote that Roe “was egregiously wrong from the start” and that “Roe and Casey must be overruled.”

Ron DeSantis

In a year that saw Republican hopes for a “red wave” dashed in races across the country, Ron DeSantis was a major exception, winning his reelection bid as Florida’s governor by nearly 20 percent. Mr. DeSantis has gained national attention in recent years for his Covid-19 policies, which prohibited employers from mandating vaccinations, among other things, and his efforts to limit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. In September, the governor again made headlines when he flew a group of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in a ploy to draw attention to the crisis border. The move was criticized by the U.S. bishops, including Archbishop Thomas Wenski from his home state of Florida, who reminded political leaders that migrants are “not faceless numbers—but human persons.”

In April, Gov. DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban, for which he was praised by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. In his speech after the bill was passed, he said that “life is a sacred gift worthy of our protection.”

In 2019, soon after Mr. DeSantis’s first election victory, America had praised the governor for his environmentally focused executive order that would give funding to Everglades restoration.

Although their political beliefs conflict in a myriad of ways, Catholics like Gov. DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott figuratively, if not literally, share the same cup with Catholics like Ms. Pelosi and President Biden. That they remain so far apart on so many issues epitomizes the polarization found among U.S. Catholics today.

In a year that saw Republican hopes for a “red wave” dashed in races across the country, Ron DeSantis was a major exception.

Norma Pimentel

This year marked an escalation in the politics surrounding immigration, from the aforementioned Gov. DeSantis transporting migrants to “blue cities” to Catholic Texas governor Greg Abbott launching an investigation into N.G.O.s at the U.S.-Mexico border for potentially “facilitating the illegal transportation” of migrants. The latter of these strategies seemed to target Catholic Charities U.S.A., which has worked to assist migrants crossing the border by providing humanitarian aid.

One of the major faces of C.C.U.S.A. has been Norma Pimentel, M.J., the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, Tex. Sister Pimentel has served in that position for 15 years now, and in that time has met and worked with Pope Francis to help migrants fleeing their home country in a 2017 initiative. This year, she received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in recognition of her work at the border.

In a February article about threats to Catholic organizations that work with migrants, Sister Pimentel told America that Catholic Charities is simply “restoring human dignity” to the people they serve.

She also encouraged politicians, including President Biden, to visit the border and see the reality on the ground for themselves.

“Do you really think that people are uprooting themselves, putting themselves in danger as they undertake a difficult journey just so that they can come to our respite center to take a bath and have a meal or sleep on a mat?”

In February, Sister Pimentel told America that Catholic Charities is simply “restoring human dignity” to the people they serve.

Christian Pulisic

Who’s this? Ninety percent of the country didn’t know Christian Pulisic from Christen Press until late November. No more. Following his star turn in the 2022 World Cup, Mr. Pulisic is now a national hero. Though the U.S. men’s soccer team was eliminated by the Netherlands in the Round of 16, he led the American squad to its first appearance in the knockout round of the World Cup since 1930.

Among the young forward’s heroics in Qatar was scoring the only goal against Iran in a 1-0 U.S. victory in group play, accomplished at great physical cost. While millions celebrated, Mr. Pulisic remained crumpled within the goal with what was later called a “pelvic contusion.” Nevertheless, he came back a few days later to play in the next match. It was worth it, right?

As it turns out, the man who scored the sweetest goal in U.S. World Cup history is appropriately enough from Hershey, Pa. In June, a local Catholic church in Hershey, St. Joan of Arc, held its annual parish festival. One raffle prize? “[A]n autographed USA jersey of Hershey native and St. Joan of Arc parishioner and professional soccer player Christian Pulisic.” That’s better than a million goldfish!

Mr. Pulisic is only 24. Let’s pray with the parishioners of St. Joan of Arc that he’ll be even better for World Cup 2026: The championship game will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, just a three-hour drive from Hershey.

The latest from america

Richard Nixon called McLaughlin one of the only good Jesuits among “all-out, barn-burning radicals” in a conversation with Billy Graham.
James T. KeaneFebruary 07, 2023
A public policy solution to homelessness may sound good but actually make the problem worse. Who pays for that mistake? (iStock/Dejan Marjanovic)
Anyone involved in choosing public policy, directly or indirectly, must consider the possibility that the wrong option will actually make a problem worse.
Mark PiperFebruary 07, 2023
This week on The Gloria Purvis Podcast, Gloria speaks with Dr. Meg Chisolm, a Catholic psychiatrist, about mental illness and how should people of faith treat it.
The Gloria Purvis PodcastFebruary 07, 2023
A man wearing a cardinals cap speaks into a microphone
In the report made public Friday, Bishop Robert McManus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester said he felt releasing the names “will not accurately reflect the various concerns and outcomes.”