Casting Stones

Casting Stones

Catholics, Obama, and the Race Issue

David Gibson suggests that the lack of support for Barack Obama among Catholic voters may be due to an “African-American problem” in the Catholic Church.
Six weeks ago I got a call from someone advising the Obama campaign on the Catholic vote. In spite of a targeted effort toward Catholics, Obama was doing poorly and some negative press was beginning to show up. An article at elicited angry phone calls from the Obama campaign resulting in a change of the headline from “Obama support soft among Catholics” to “Obama slow to gain among Catholics.”
This Obama advisor was worried that Catholic voters were going to be tagged as “racist” unless the candidate could figure out a way to garner more support. Obama and his campaign haven’t figured it out in spite of the high profile endorsement of Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA). Now the issue of racism and the Catholic voter is hanging in the air. Gibson’s post doesn’t really make that charge — he raises a larger question about the American Church — but the issue is now surely on the table.
Gibson links to a Q & A with Pew’s John Green about Obama’s “uphill battle with white Catholics.” Green’s analysis of the exit polls provides no clear evidence of Catholic voters having a race problem with Barack Obama. Green’s only comment is this: “And frankly, Obama’s race may also have been an issue for some voters.” In support of this, Green offers no evidence and does not pretend to.
Gibson and Green don’t even raise the possibility that Catholic voters are turned off by Obama’s positions on the issues. Again and again he has reminded them of his pro-abortion position, saying on a televised debate with Hillary Clinton that the only act as a Senator he regretted was voting for Teri Schaivo’s parents to have their day in court over the treatment of their daughter. Democrats will say this is a “single-issue” kind of comment, but they don’t understand that issues like partial-birth abortion and Teri Schiavo have powerful symbolic value among socially-conservative Catholic voters. When hear, for example, Sen. Obama justifies partial-birth abortion, many Catholic voters, particularly those who voted for George W. Bush in the last two elections (47% and 52%), will find it difficult to view him as a candidate who will benefit their families. Catholics, by the way, tend to be very patriotic so Rev. Wright’s angry denunciations of our nation underscore Obama as being out of touch with ordinary American families.
In my opinion, race is only a small factor in the lack of Catholic support for Obama. If he had the positions of former Maryland Lt. Gov. MIchael Steele (black and Catholic) he would be pulling Catholic voters away from the GOP in droves. (McCain would do well to pick Steele as a running mate.)
Regarding the larger issue raised by Gibson, I think that white Catholics have the same problem understanding “black Christian rhetoric” as they do “Southern white Evangelical rhetoric.” It’s not a sign of racism but regionalism.
I am intrigued, however, by Gibson’s argument that the failure of Catholic bishops to condemn slavery led to the relatively small number of African-American Catholics. The Church has undoubtedly served the African-American community through their inner city schools. I am familiar with the effort of lay Catholics and dioceses to keep urban Catholic schools open for minority children, mostly African-American. I have been told about many subsequent conversions to the Catholic faith by these students, but I have no idea if anyone keeps statistics about this or tracks these students after graduation.

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posted April 30, 2008 at 11:59 am

I must be the only Catholic who likes Obama.

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posted April 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Hi Matt:
Fortunately, you are not alone (smile).
Obama has the support of quite a few Catholics throughout the country. I suggest you visit the campaign’s web site and type “Catholics for Obama”, and you will be pleasantly surprised.
God bless you.

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posted April 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm

I am Catholic and a Proud American mother of an active duty soldier and my reasons for not liking Obama have nothing to do with the color of his skin. I do not agree with his politics.
God Bless us all

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posted May 1, 2008 at 11:17 am

I am Catholic and the only thing I DO like about Obama is his race. It is his policies and platform, not his race, that do not reflect my hopes or dreams as a Catholic or as an American.

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posted May 1, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I’m intrigued by your use of the phrase “pro-abortion.” I’m certain Senator Obama is an advocate of an increase in the abortion rate. From what I have read, he is “pro-choice” on the abortion issue. That is, he leaves the decision of whether to have an abortion or not, up to the pregnant woman.
Having grown up a Catholic, I must say I’m also confused by your classification of Catholics as “socially conservative.” Quite to the contrary, American Catholics tend to be much more liberal on social issues when voting as this is what Jesus calls us to do as individuals – to minister to the less fortunate and the federal and state governments provide an excellent mechanism to help the indigent.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a very strong supporter of Senator Obama for the presidency and in the event he fails to win the Democratic Party nomination, I’ll gladly vote for Senator Clinton.
My Catholic upbringing and 16 years of Catholic schooling leads me to see the GOP position on social issues to be the immoral one. Supporting elective wars and the death penalty is far more “anti-life” or “pro-death” than the Democratic stand on “pro-choice.” After all, in being pro-choice on abortion, Democrats are not advocating anyone ever have an abortion, just that the option is there. Whereas the GOP favors wars in which we send our soldiers to kill and be killed. Doesn’t sound like something Jesus would have favored.
Finally, consider this – abortion indeed existed at the time of Christ yet he nor any of the biblical writers chose to address this. Wonder why?
Peace my friend,

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posted May 1, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I truly believe that Obama should navigate his campaign toward more forgiveness among all people. Belfast has a program that teaches students that forgiveness among the Protestants and Catholics could be an attainable goal. Therefore, I feel that Obama should address the public and discuss this issue just like he spoke in Philadelphia. But, first and foremost let’s talk jobs,or lack there of, and other pressing situations. We seem to be so focus on personal issues, that we can’t see that within 10 years China may sending jobs (unwanted I may add), to us. Does that not frighten us.
I remember when I saw American citizens on T.V. when the devastation of Katrina occurred, did that look like a developing (Third World) country?

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posted May 7, 2008 at 11:20 am

Part of the problem with Obama reaching Catholics is the fact that his ‘catholic’ advisors are not really Catholics…they are left-wingers that call themselves catholic but are really at odds with most of the tenets of the faith.

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chris hicks

posted May 22, 2008 at 11:54 am

It is tragic to read some of the posts here that support DEMONcrats like Obama or Clinton. Shame on you for putting your politics in front of your faith. Christ is the author of life. Why in the world would you support and vote for someone who believes it is ok to slaughter innocent human life??? That issue alone should be enough to turn your interest to another candidate or party. The fact that every business partner of the Clinton’s is either in jail or dead should be another warning sign for those who call themselves “believers.” Just another compromise that millions of catholics have sold out to. God have mercy on your twisted thinking and your compromises of the cross.

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posted October 5, 2008 at 10:41 am

I am a life long strict Catholic and this election is unusual. We must decide if we want a non christian leading our country or a man that is pro choice but does not believe in abortion. John McCain is the non Christian as he has never been baptised in any religion and does not feel the need to remove original sin. What does that mean that he is perfect or just is not a believer. His vp pick has 5 children but sets that aside for her advantage which is also against our Catholic faith. McCain is an adultress and a divorced person which is also against our faith. As a Catholic I do not want a non Christian leading this country but I do want a man that is not for abortion but also in fairness to each and every citizen he cannot force my belief on all women this must be left to the real Judge. Simple Obama gets my vote

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