Thursday, April 06, 2006

Commonweal on Catholics --
Commonweal Magazine is a Catholic periodical disdained by some conservative Catholics. The term "Commonweal Catholic" refers to a particular strand of liberal Catholicism, not intent on radically overthrowing the structures of the organized religion, but progressive nonetheless.

Commonweal now has online a description of the Catholic voter.

The article says nothing I didn't already know, that American Catholic voters as a bloc strongly resemble the general public and are now a swing constituency. It is a lamentable downgrade from Catholics being a solid Democratic-leaning group, a change which some such as myself believe was preventable and remains perhaps still reversible.

There is a clear divide between conservative and liberal Catholics.

As a rule, however, politically conservative Catholics focus more on abortion, while politically liberal Catholics focus more on poverty. Likewise, politically conservative Catholics emphasize church teachings against same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and embryonic stem-cell research, while politically liberal Catholics invoke church teachings against the death penalty, racism, and environmental degradation.

I tend to believe that the Democratic Party ought to be a coalition centered primarily on issues of economic social justice. Clearly, this is an issue which draws in political liberal Catholics.

The article also has some suggestions.

Catholic bishops should speak out on whatever social, economic, and international issues they choose. Morally, they have a solemn religious duty to guide their flocks. Politically, they have as much civic right to debate issues and question candidates as any other religious leaders do.

Still, many Catholics feel that their bishops made some mistakes during the 2004 election season. The most commonly heard criticisms are as follows: Catholic bishops focused almost exclusively on abortion and same-sex marriage. They did little to hold politicians’ feet to the Catechism’s moral fires on poverty. Sometimes, the bishops seemed partisan, not pastoral. Some bishops seemed to parrot positions staked out by conservative Christian leaders who reject Catholic theology. They scolded prochoice Catholic Democrats, but they did not scold prolife Catholic Republicans who endorsed prochoice candidates. With most Americans deciding how to vote based mainly on Iraq, terrorism, and homeland security, the bishops said little regarding what the church believes about war and peace, human rights, and international relief.

From a strategic perspective, regardless of how you feel about the issue, I have held that Catholic bishops have argued against abortion as if they want to minimize the number of people opposing abortion. By focusing on abortion overmuch, they have allowed people to ignore them, lumping them in (wrongly) with evangelical Christians in the Religious Right. Catholic opposition to abortion would probably be greater if the bishops had chosen a more balanced strategy of criticizing immoral stances on a wider range of issues. If you support abortion be thankful for their short-sightedness; if you oppose it, wail at their incompetence.
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