Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Catholic amd Democrat--The Roots Are Deep

When a Methodist gets money, he becomes an Episcopalian
When a Baptist gets money, he joins the Presbyterian Church.
The Rev, Samuel D.
Burdhard whose quip
that the Democrats
were the party of Rum,
Romanism and Rebellion
sealed the deal between
Catholics and the
Democratic Party
When a Catholic Priest is named a bishop
He becomes a Republican. 

Catholics have traditionally been Democrats—after all, the Democrats are the party of Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion. (See entry for March 7, 2011.) What has caused our hierarchy to shift to the Republicans?  And why is our laity not following?
I was shocked to see that according to a recent Pew survey, President Obama leads Governor Romney among Catholics 54% to 39%.   While the majority of African-American Catholics and Hispanic Catholics are strongly pro-Obama, a slight majority of White Catholics are now sliding into the Obama camp.  A clue to this surge might be found in the surveys that indicate that the one faction of the Catholic vote that is not weighted toward the President are the White Catholic weekly Mass-goers among whom Romney has a slight edge.  Some attribute this to weekly Mass-attendees being “more faithful” Catholics who are inclined to follow the leadership of their bishops.  While that may be true, the converse conclusion must then also be true: that there is a majority of White Catholics, including both those who attend Mass weekly and those who have stopped attending regularly, who have lost their confidence in the leadership of the bishops.    
What shocked me about the Pew Survey results is not that the majority of Catholics are not following the bishops’ lead, but that I would have thought that since the majority of (white) Catholics in this country have gradually slipped up into the better-off classes and are no longer among the working (labor union) class, that their politics would have turned as well from the traditional alliance between the Catholic Church and the Democratic party.  But they haven’t.  What are the reasons that they are staying locked in the Democratic Party?
It may be that despite their newly acquired relative affluence Middle and Upper Class Catholics are still convinced of the basic Catholic view of society as a cooperative unit in which those who have more have responsibility for those who have less. Catholic social teaching over the 120 years or so since Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum has embraced the idea that not only are individuals responsible for works of charity but that society itself has an obligation from each of its members towards all of its members.   This corporate view is at odds with Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand views of a world in which each person must look out for his or her own interest first rather than for the “common good.”   It may be that the boomer generation of Catholics gratefully remember their parents’ stories of  the Church’s support for organized Labor in the years of the great depression and realize that without the boost that Catholic Social teaching—along with the Democratic New Deal and the G.I. Bill—gave their parents, they—the boomers—would not have had the social and educational opportunities that empowered them to make the jump into the Professional and Managerial classes.   It may also be—and given that the Catholic boost in the Obama ratings comes because of the non-weekly attendees—a sign that not only have the bishops become irrelevant to many of the Catholics-in-the-pews but there is actually a backlash against their leadership among those whose disaffection with the leadership of the last twenty years or so has made them indifferent towards formal Catholicism.  Given the recent scandals and the poor quality of Episcopal leadership this factor cannot be discounted.  As hard as the Timothy Dolans and Sean O’Malleys try to pedal forward the bike of American Catholicism, the number of foot-draggers on the bishops bicycle built for 450 (or whatever the number of American bishops) is holding back the advance of the Institutional Church.  O well, there may be grace in that too. 

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