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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » The Trouble With Catholics

Left In Lowell

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May 22, 2012

The Trouble With Catholics

by at 11:02 am.

Not too long ago, I saw a short clip on City Life that made me wonder: Imagine If Muslims Made An Ad Like This One? Now, my friend George Anthes took exception to me making this point. He felt that it was more than appropriate for Catholics to assert their mores & values, as they headed into the polling booths to cast a ballot. In one regard, I fully agree. The point where I slip off is when politicians take the “will of the People,” as a mandate to codify dogma. It is perfectly fine for any politician/elected official to be “informed” by their faith, but it is another thing altogether to govern by it. The Constitution, dear readers, is very clear on this point.

In light of nitwits like former GOP presidential hopefuls, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to be attuned to the consequences of impasssioned charlatans in the White House. Thus, I flipped the context of the video clip around, wondering if red blooded, apple pie eating, baseball watching, “Sarah Palin - real Americans” could sit quitely by, if Muslims asserted their faith in a similar fashion? You make the call.

Lately I have been tossing around this phrase: “You can’t rationalize a person out of an opinion, they did not arrive at in a rational way.” And this, I feel, is the trouble with Catholics. Well most, anyways.

The religious assemblage, which has evolved over the past century from a strong Democratic constituency into a national election bellwether, is no longer discernible from most other voter groups. As the community has become less homogenous and more assimilated into mainstream culture, so has its voting habits – sending many politicians on a fool’s errand in pursuit of the “Catholic vote.”

“I think the Catholic vote is very fractured right now,” said Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., the editor in chief of “America,” a Catholic newsweekly published by the Jesuits.

But to call the Catholic vote a pure bellwether would be a mistake; the determination of an individual’s vote is more likely in 2012 to turn on more common political variables (like income, education, or ethnicity) – than simple religious identity.

“Catholicism was never as monolithic as its foes assumed,” said William Dinges, a professor of religion and culture at the Catholic University of America. “In many respects, Catholics are less distinguishable than they once were from other religious groups.”

Two Catholics were on the ballot in each of those contests: Rick Santorum, a vocal proponent of the church’s teachings on abortion and contraception, and Newt Gingrich, a convert to the faith who frequently screened his film on the late Pope John Paul II on the campaign trail. And yet, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is an active member of the Mormon Church, won the Catholic vote in each of those contests. Gingrich and Santorum had stronger showings among other Christians, especially evangelical voters.

To the extent that any political leader could court a segment of the Catholic vote in future elections, they might only succeed at the margins, or in very specific locations or instances.

“There’s a group in the middle, maybe 10 percent, and that’s a big enough group in important states like Pennsylvania and Ohio,” said Reese, not coincidentally naming two swing states this fall. “They’re extremely important, and the swing voters are what we used to call Reagan Democrats – white, ethnic people who sometimes vote their pocketbook, or sometimes vote other issues.”

The Trouble With Catholics? They think!

I was raised Catholic, sorta. The death of an older brother put my mother at odds with God. She was very bitter about God’s plan. Thus, my association to The Church was tangential, at best. Later, as I studied anthropology, sociology and comparative religion, I became more sure of a “divine,” but less sure that any one faith had it correct. Which means, I tend to accomodate any faith that does not make it a habit to shit on other faiths. The ones that tell you that they are THE ONLY TRUE WAY? Those ones? I don’t care for. I may even make it a habit to undermine those folks. ;v)

Modern american Catholics, imho, much like the Buddhists, are very tolerant of other faith systems. I think this tolerance comes from a rational awareness of their place amongst us, as partners in our constitutionally secular society. That core rationality, allows them to come to a place in faith that they can hold dear, but allow a tolerance of those that do not. As they are not inclined to perpetrate their dogma on others, it is hard to herd the flock into the voting booth as a monolitihic voting block. Catholics are nothing like, say, Southern Baptists.

For politcal shepherds and charlatans, alike, that is trouble.

3 Responses to “The Trouble With Catholics”

  1. joe from Lowell Says:

    American Catholicism’s history on the receiving end of religious discrimination no doubt plays a role here.

    This is similar to religious African-Americans. Most of them attend evangelical Protestant churches, but they voting behavior and political beliefs certainly differ, despite the very-similar religious practices, beliefs, and teachings that they share with white evangelicals.

  2. Christopher Says:

    Then of course there is the issue of neither Santorum nor Gingrich being model Catholics. Gingrich is twice divorced and neither of them seem terribly sympathetic to the “least of these”, an area in which official Church statements can be quite liberal.

  3. C R Krieger Says:

    I got confused somewhere.  The Bill of Rights is clear about keeping the Gov’t from dictating about religion.  Massachusetts was slow to get the message, but finally did in the early 1800s.  Well, Commonwealth Constitution wise, if not culturally.  That took a while longer.

    The video mentioned JOBS.  Given the long Roman Catholic association with Labor Unions, what is that saying?

    And, the voters have pronounced their views on Santorum and Gingrich.

    It will be interesting to see how the vote divides along religious lines this November.  As Joe from Lowell notes, African-Americans tend to be Evangelicals and tend, these last few decades to vote Democrat.  Before that, when some party stood against Black voting rights, they tended to vote, when they could vote, Republican.  Things change from time to time.  For more than half century after 1930, mostly the Democratic Party dominated the US Congress, but that Party changed over time, especially with HST and as LBJ changed.

    As for a similar Muslim video, it might go down well, if well done.  Frankly I hadn’t seen this before clicking back to it today.  The Muslim faith, along with some practices we tend to eschew, has deep threads of preventing injustice.  (Let us not confuse al Qaeda with the broad swatch of Islam).  The Mormons did a series of TV spots, as I recall, which introduced us to parts of their faith.  I don’t remember any tar and feathers.

    From a Constitutional point of view I don’t mind people heaping scorn on a video like this.  I just wouldn’t wish to see the Government, at any level, rule against it.

    As for the Church, I have heard that the late Cardinal Suenens once told a man studying for the priesthood, when the man said he was “against the Church”, “My son, we are all against the Church”.  In a loving sort of way.

    Regards  —  Cliff

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