It is true, and dismaying, that Obama got a bigger share of Catholic voters this time; but: when you break out weekly attendees vs. non-regular Mass-goers, it’s like this:
Mass-goers: McCain 54/Obama 45 Bush 56/Kerry 43
Non-Mass goers: McCain 37/ Obama 61 Bush 49/Kerry 50
That tells me something very significant: that regular Mass-goers, who were just as affected by all the other concerns, understood the prolife issue as much as they did four years ago. Obama did not improve his position with them significantly, in a year when he had every reason to do so, but for one: the prolife issue.
Of course, many will see the 45% that voted for Obama, and be unhappy about that; all I can do is point out Kerry got very nearly as much, and remember, folks were talking about what an accomplishment it was that Bush got 56% of these folks only four years ago. McCain got only a little bit less in a terrible economy.
Rocco Palmo crunches the number in more detail – although his results do not break down results in terms of the Catholic vote, simply in terms of how candidates and ballot referenda did in the light of various episcopal stances and statements. It’s worth a look before you come over here and discuss it.
As we all know, the bishops meet next week in Washington, and on the agenda is Faithful Citizenship and this whole knotty issue.
If you were composing the agenda, what would be on it?
I know we’ll have some disagreement here, and that is fine.
What I would hope would at least would be on the radar would matters that go deeper than the equation of what vote = what kind of sin.
At issue is, first, American Catholics’ sense of the importance of the abortion issue and their attitude toward it. Support for a radically pro-abortion candidate is only the tip of the iceberg. It is well known that self-identified “Catholics” abort in numbers comparable to non-Catholics. Some of those who voted for Obama probably are opposed to abortion but feel that the legal ship has gone too far to come back anyway, but many are simply not bothered by abortion – even the churchgoers.
There’s where the work needs to begin, as I have said many, many times before -to stop treating abortion simply as a “social issue,” but as a reality among Catholics themselves. To have every Catholic parish in the United States be a pro-life place, not just because there is educational material in the back but because it is a place where:
1) Children are welcomed and prayed for – as in the prayer for “a respect for life in our nation” will be supplemented by a prayer “in thanksgiving for the children of our parish and in hopes that God will bless the families of our parish with more children.”
2) It is stated bluntly and directly in every way possible: “If your teenager gets pregnant or fathers a child, please don’t be ashamed. We’re with you. Let us know what we can do to help, and let us pray for the young parents.”
3) It is stated bluntly and directly in every way possible: “We’re rejoicing in the birth of the special-needs children in our parish. Here’s the assistance we give parents of special-needs kids. There’s lots of it.”
4) In which foster parenting is promoted and regular workshops and training on fostering are presented.
5) In which adoption is promoted and the parish participates in funds that financially assist adoptive families.
Secondly, on a broader scale, I wish the bishops would take a critical look at rhetoric and expectations. It seems to me that over the past decades, a building-the-kingdom idealism has infected American Catholic political talk – something that perhaps can be traced to Gaudium et Spes (Ratzinger strongly critiqued the final draft of the document on this score). Related is the issue of faith-in-government – as in government programs and policies are the primary place to work out Catholic social teaching.
This is something that I believe begs for discussion. The bishops need to take a critical look at what they have farmed out to government entities, both philosophically and practically, and then turn back inward for some self-examination. Perhaps some of that self-examination can involve re-imaging the list of lay advisors and voices to whom they listen. If we are called to examine matters as untethered from party ties as possible – then let’s do that – even at the USCCB.
For American Catholics, political activity and involvement in politics has a moral dimension. For this reason, the bishops need to speak out and provide guidance in that area.
But in a period when recent stats indicated that barely 1/4 of Catholics make it to Mass any given week…perhaps it’s a good idea to take a look at that matter, too.
From Marcel LeJeune:
Yesterday we got a call from a person who chose life over abortion. She walked away from the abortion clinic and then called us to try and find help. We referred them to a local organization that supports pregnant mothers.
It was a poignant reminder that neither utopia nor Armageddon will come by way of politics.