What divides the Catholic Vote has more to do with “prudential” judgments than Catholic Dogma. Catholics of every stripe make such judgments. The Catholic Bishops of the United States have indicated by statement after statement that they oppose abortion, gay marriage, and more generally a person’s right to follow the Church’s Teaching on the “Primacy of Conscience” when it comes to hot button social issues.
“There’s a profound wrestling going on in the Church right now over what it means to be authentically Catholic,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director for Faith in Public Life. “I’m worried that the Church is becoming a less friendly place for moderate and progressive Catholics who believe in the social justice mission.”
Writer and former priest Robert McClory said the stance of U.S. bishops on issues such as same-sex marriage and contraception is partly to blame for the continuing exodus of non-immigrant Catholics from the Church: Lapsed Catholics have become the nation’s second-largest religious group, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The push on sexual morality comes as the Church leadership is still recovering from the child sex abuse scandal.
“You get the feeling that the Church is a ship and that somebody amongst the crew goes down every week and drills another hole in the bottom of the boat, and eventually it’s going to be a very serious situation,” said McClory. “People are leaving. They’re embarrassed.”
I think the recent Vice Presidential debate between the two Catholic Candidate’s highlighted this. While the only question in the debate that focused on their respective Catholic faith had to do with abortion, both candidates seem to mirror what is happening in the Catholic Church around these issues with their reply.
Ryan seemed to be more comfortable with the Bishops position, while Biden seemed to represent the broader and more inclusive concept of the Church’s social justice issues of lay people in the pew. Clearly I think. a majority of American Catholics are more comfortable with Biden’s policy positions, although leading members of the Catholic hierarchy are clearly more enamored with Ryan’s.
Who will speak for the Catholic Vote? Will it be the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, or will it be the folks in the pew? The issue of the Role of Bishops in the Catholic Church has been problematic since Vatican II. That body declared them as servants and not autocrats, a role the bishops seem incapable of filling. The Bishops believe they are the Leaders of the Church and no others have the right to speak for the Church. While many in the pew see Vatican II as the highest Teaching Authority when it comes to one’s own moral compass. It goes without saying that the clergy sexual abuse has done more to destroy the authority of the Bishops in the Church than has the issue of secularism.
It is important for LGBT Catholics to vote this November because we have a choice to support gay marriage, a women’s right to choose, and address the issue of poverty in our nation when it comes to issue of national health care.
Clearly the GOP does not speak to the broad spectrum of Catholic Values like the Democratic Party. Human beings outside the womb: the poor, immigrants, the socially marginalized all assume a lesser place in GOP politics than do the unborn. Under the GOP’s Tent there is no room for Cardinal Bernadine’s “Seamless Garment of Life,” and the Common Good.
I invite my fellow Catholics to join me and vote for President Obama on November 6, 2012.
Rainbow Sash Movement