Benedictions: The Pope in America

Benedictions: The Pope in America

The Catholic Gap: Two views explain it all for you

Want to know why Obama hasn’t put away the nomination already? One word: Catholics. (Or, for those of you with more ultramontanist sensibilities, two words: Roman Catholics.) We’ve expended lots of bytes debating it here, and it will surely figure in tomorrow’s contests in North Carolina and most especially Indiana. For a primer on the issue, check out two articles.
One is by Melinda Henneberger, a Slate contributor, Commonweal columnist, practicing Catholic and the author of If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians To Hear. In “Hillary for Mother Superior” she pieces together the trail of evidence, some of it self-inflicted by Obama, while others clues leading to places some of us don’t want to go:


A priest I know in central Pennsylvania, the Rev. John Chaplin, sees race as an issue. “At my little church, some of what I heard was racial, and some of it was people believing that stuff about Obama being a Muslim,” said Chaplin. Parishioners seemed to find video clips of Obama’s former preacher, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, particularly shocking in contrast to the formality of the Catholic Mass and our high-church fondness for services so decorous that one really needn’t exchange a word with another soul. (“We don’t carry on like that in our church” is how one woman in Chaplin’s diocese, the 67-year-old wife of a retired cop, described her reaction to Wright to me.) “You know that Catholic thing about propriety,” Chaplin said, “that you penalize people for speaking out and never penalize them for keeping quiet? That’s part of it, and the Catholic notion of patriotism, which is heavily nationalistic, hurts him, too. This isn’t a group predisposed to voting for Hillary…”


She also cites Tina Fey’s comparison of Hillary to bitchy old nuns, which always struck me as not only unfair to nuns (I don’t know any like that, but I’m an adult convert, post-V2–my knuckles were spared) but also paradoxical: Catholics (seem to) complain endlessly about parochial school nuns, then want to vote for one for prez? Then again, as Melinda points out, the same people who complain about Obama’s pastor complain that he is a Muslim…
Then there is this Boston Globe piece today, “Catholics Reflect Schism in Democratic Base,” which does a good job unpacking the split.
More to come tomorrow, no doubt.

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posted May 6, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I was not a Catholic in the Thirties, but for the record, my knuckles were not spared in a public school because I was left-handed.
Is the Boston Globe willing to concede the actual reality that it would take a schismatic Catholic to vote for any Democrat? I could agree with that.

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