Faithful Citizenship




Today’s Washington Times published an op-ed by Matt Smith and myself entitled “Catholic voters hold the power to change elections.”

Most Catholics have yet to realize that elections are not won only by having the best plan for our nation. That message has to reach those voters most likely to embrace it, work for it, and on election day vote for it.  The sheer number of Mass-attending Catholics, especially in the key battleground states, make them a potent force in the outcome of the 2012 election.

We begin the argument by saying:

It’s natural for Democrats to reach out to Catholic voters – they are found close at hand in urban centers and among the rank and file of our nation’s labor unions. The Democratic Party’s message to Catholics is dependably amplified by the media, friendly clergy and academics long aligned with the political left. The only political outreach to Catholics independent of the party machinery comes through fake Catholic groups funded by labor unions and George Soros-type donors.

The Ronald Reagan years taught Republicans the importance of reaching out to Catholics, but most GOP candidates and their operatives still need to be reminded. That Mass-attending Catholics are now naturally disposed toward the Republican Party is a fact that has never been fully embraced. John McCain’s 2008 campaign made a shallow attempt to lure the Catholic voters who had provided the winning margins for Republican presidential candidates in 1980, 1988, 2000 and 2004.

Please read the remainder of the op-ed by clicking here.




Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is supposed to be a Catholic, yet he celebrated the passage of a same-sex marriage bill in his state. At the press conference after the signing he expressed the hope that same-sex marriage in New York would be the beginning of a “progressive” movement across America.

Andrew Cuomo is destined to become the Ted Kennedy of the next generation unless he is defeated.

Most readers will recall that his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, was a leading Catholic politician of his time, albeit a dissenting one. Cuomo Sr. had a public dispute with Cardinal O’Connor of New York during the 80s that defined the lines of the abortion debate among Catholics that remains today.

But Andrew Cuomo has gone well beyond his father: His father admitted that Catholic teaching does not recognize the lawfulness of abortion, yet argued as governor he could not compel the citizens of a “pluralistic society” to give up abortion.

Andrew Cuomo doesn’t bother with the division between private conscience and public responsibility — he just barges ahead pushing what agenda the secular Left insists upon, in this case, gay marriage.

Read more on this in my post at Catholic Advocate on “Andrew Cuomo and the Future of ‘Social Justice’ Catholics.

Following the passage of similar legislation in Rhode Island on June 29th, bishops in both Rhode Island and New York have responded to Cuomo by reiterating the duty of the Catholic laity  to hold public officials accountable for their actions.

Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island made the perspective of the Church very clear:

“I am deeply disappointed that Rhode Island will establish civil unions in our state. The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our families, and poses a threat to religious liberty.”

Same-sex marriage is moving up the list of contested issues for the 2012 election. This is not good news, by the way, for those politicians who support gay marriage. With the exception of a few states on the East and West coast, most Americans are opposed to changing our legal definition of marriage.

Pro-lifers around the nation were surprised when Mitt Romney refused to sign the pro-life pledge distributed by the Susan B. Anthony List to all the GOP presidential candidates.

Romney has been trying to fortify his pro-life credentials since his 2008 nomination defeat to Sen. John McCain.  One reason Romney fell behind McCain during the primary battles was the skepticism among pro-lifers and social conservatives about his commitment to the pro-life and pro-marriage cause.  This skepticism was rooted in Romney’s actual record as governor of Massachusetts and his explicit rejection of the pro-life label during his gubernatorial race.

Romney issued his own pro-life pledge to explain his decision:

“As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences. That is why I could not sign it. It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.

“The pledge also unduly burdens a president’s ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array of key positions in the federal government. I would expect every one of my appointees to carry out my policies on abortion and every other issue, irrespective of their personal views.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List, issued a statement expressing disappointment in Romney’s decision and her response to Romney’s version of the pledge:

“Governor Romney refused to take the pledge and his explanation raises more questions than answers. In good conscience, we cannot let this rest.”

“He seems to indicate that he wants the freedom to nominate pro-abortion candidates for key cabinet positions such as Attorney General or Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is precisely what we want to rule out and it is unacceptable.”

“He chooses to identify non-existent legislation that would defund hospitals as a reason not to sign. Defunding hospitals has never been considered by Congress, is not part of public debate, and is not part of the pledge. 95 percent of abortions are performed outside of hospitals. Instead, we outlined existing pieces of pro-life legislation that address taxpayer funding of abortion. We would like to know where he stands on each measure.”

In short, Dannenfelser rejects Romney’s argument that signing the SBA pledge would lead to the defunding of “thousands of hospitals across America.”

What Dannenfelser doesn’t say is that this argument is precisely the one being used by Planned Parenthood and its supporters to defend itself against the growing movement to withhold state and federal funding from its abortion clinics.

What Romney himself admits is that he doesn’t want to give up the option of appointing pro-abortion members of his administration to positions like Secretary of Health and Human Services, if elected president.

It remains to be seen how pro-lifers in the grassroots will react to Romney’s decision to ignore the SBA List pledge.  Some may view it as a simple disagreement among friends, as Romney obviously wants it to be seen, others may see it as another example of why the former governor of Massachusetts cannot be trusted as the 2012 GOP nominee.





At the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference and Strategy Briefing on June 3-4 in Washington, DC, Catholic Advocate hosted a panel discussion, “Catholic Citizen Action in Defense of Life, Marriage, and Human Dignity.” Matt Smith, Catholic Advocate vice president, hosted the session which included Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, grassroots activist Larry Cirignano, Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, and myself.


The panel was notable for several reasons. First, it was the only discussion of the Catholic vote in the midst of a conference addressed by all the GOP presidential hopefuls with the exception of Newt Gingrich. Second, the discussion was extremely well-attended by conference attendees who were predominately Evangelical.

Matt Smith, head of Catholic coalitions in President George W. Bush’s administration, framed the hour-long discussion around the importance of Catholics as a swing voting group. Their loyalty to socially conservative presidential candidates has been demonstrated again and again since Ronald Reagan’s surprise victory over the first evangelical president Jimmy Carter in 1980.

I had the experience of having led the Bush/Cheney campaign’s Catholic outreach in 2000 and 2004 and advising the McCain campaign in 2008. And, I took a few minutes to describe the temper of Catholic voters heading into the 2012 election. “Many Catholics are frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of intensity in Catholic leaders about the issue of abortion and same-sex marriage,” adding, “Some faithful Catholics become confused about the priority they give to life and marriage when they see so much energy being spent on other issues like immigration and universal health care.”

This frustration, I explained, has three consequences among the Mass-attending Catholics most likely to vote in the 2012 election. “Many struggle with what obedience means when they feel a lack of leadership on the settled issues of life and marriage.”  As a result, and this can be seen since the late 60s with the formation of the Moral Majority, Catholics seek refuge in political groups that have no Catholic affiliation.

I told the Faith & Freedom Coalition that when Catholics take their political participation out of the Catholic community a vacuum is created allowing a truncated view of social justice to emerge, “one that has distanced itself from the protection of the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.”

Those asking questions or making comments at the session were quick to agree with my description of the growing frustration among many Catholic voters and asked what should be done. In response, Matt Smith reminded all those present that it’s the responsibility of Catholic laypersons to engage the political process, especially the work needing to be done in registering Catholic voters, educating them, and mounting get-out-the-vote efforts.

It should be added that Ralph Reed’s new organization — the Faith & Freedom Coalition — is growing very quickly both in size and influence. Compared to the conference last year, the 2011 event was at least ten times the size and displayed a level of energy comparable with a Tea Party rally.  I have no doubt that the 2012 conference will need to be held at a much, much larger venue and will end up being “standing-room only.”  No kidding!