Opinion

As the Catholic vote goes, so goes the nation

Parishes all across the country are holding “faithful citizenship” gatherings where an ostensibly “non-partisan” speaker offers Catholic viewpoints on the various issues facing our country.

The goal is to help Catholics seriously discern which candidate they will support, after thoughtfully reviewing what is at stake for our country, with respect to our Catholic values.

It’s a noble goal, but I am sad to say that many Catholic voters like myself have given up on seeking input from our local Catholic leaders, lay or ecclesial, for a variety of reasons.

First off, the Catholic vote, I am proud to say, continues to elude the mainstream media. We are what they call “a swing vote” and a “decisive demographic.”

We are blue collar, white collar, new money, old money, rich, poor, immigrant, native born and the most racially diverse demographic in the world. Yet, in our diversity, every Catholic feels bonded by a sacred creed that transcends every generation and every national border and continental shore. Our faith is truly universal, just as our name “catholic” implies.

In recent years, the Catholic Church in America has grown by way of immigration and a new influx of converts to Catholicism.

However, American Catholics have become increasingly divided these past 25 years. Two things factor prominently in our division. One is a post-1960s trend of moral relativism, as best represented by groups such as “Common Ground” Catholics who seek reconciliation by finding areas of commonality among Catholics on issues such as poverty, war and peace and abortion. These Catholics are culturally Democrats. They were raised with the pre-Roe v. Wade, FDR, LBJ and JFK version of the Democrat party. As one friend described her upbringing, “I grew up with the understanding that good Catholics had to vote Democrat.”

Most of the lay leadership in the church today belongs to this group. The ecclesial leadership consists of both: The bishops such as former Seattle Archbishop Hunthausen, known for his peace activism, are as beloved by Catholic liberals as John Paul II was beloved by Catholic conservatives.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, with her tortured understanding of the Catholic Church’s view of abortion as somehow open for debate, and the many liberal Catholic legislators such as Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, John Kerry (and locally, add Patty Murray and Christine Gregoire), are from this group. They have tied taxpayer-funded social programs to the gospel imperative of serving the poor and view that as social justice. The “War on Poverty” and “New Deal” are integral to their Catholic identity, while the sanctity of life is either equal in importance (that’s due to the influence of moral relativism) or, in most cases, is not considered as important as war and peace, capital punishment and poverty.

The second trend is the Ronald Reagan-Pope John Paul II Catholics who came of voting age during the 1980s and embraced the moral conservatism that these two highly influential world leaders revived. This group made the connection between social problems and the breakdown of the family. As it turns out, poverty is almost exclusively tied to single parent homes, where one parent is both primary wage earner and caretaker of the household. This is not a moral judgment, but a demographic reality.

Perhaps more compelling to this group of conservative Catholics, of whom I belong, is that we were the first generation to personally experience the ravages of sexual liberation (read: irresponsibility). We were on the front lines of the breakdown of the family, who had the abortion clinics on our campuses, the STDs, and whose parents made divorce the norm rather than the exception.

With the fall of socialism in the late 1980s came a wide acceptance that the government’s role in fixing social problems was limited and often resulted in hurting the very people it intended to help by imposing “one size fits all” solutions aimed at correcting outcomes without addressing the root causes of poverty.

Sending out government checks to people only known by their Social Security number is alienating and hardly offers a solution to the issues that poor families face. Throwing money at people doesn’t teach them how to build lasting relationships, make them loving parents or help their children excel in school. It certainly doesn’t make good citizens — and in fact breeds contempt and entitlement.

This last week before our national election, many Catholic bishops are becoming unglued at the prospect of a Barack Obama presidency, which is certain to bring a liberal Supreme Court and reverse the progress made in protecting the unborn.

It will most certainly strengthen the hold of government over the lives of citizens regarding choices about educating our children and religious freedom. Will churches be muzzled from the pulpit regarding church teaching on homosexuality, as is the case in Europe and Canada? Will the churches be forced to close their adoption services due to laws mandating the acceptance of same-sex couples or unmarried couples, as has happened in Massachusetts? Government-run health care will most certainly bring back taxpayer-funded abortion.

Stay tuned. We are about to find out. The Catholic vote is leaning that way. As the Catholic vote goes, so goes the nation.

Federal Way resident Angie Vogt: vogt.e@comcast.net. For past columns and further commentary, visit www.soundupdate.com.

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