Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Kerry and his church

Time magazine has a piece on "Kerry’s faith" (he’s a Catholic). Although the article seems to indicate that the Catholic Church has problems with Kerry’s positions, it ends by, in effect, arguing that Kerry has problems with the Church’s positions. All this (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) was not an issue when Kennedy ran and won. Will Kerry be helped in those states with a large plurality of Catholic voters (for example, in some Midwestern and Southwestern swing states)? He ran strong among Catholics in the primaries. He voted with abortion rights advocates last week on the Unborn Victims of Violance Act (it passed the Senate, 61-38). I expect this to become an issue.

Discussions - 4 Comments

I remembered reading in the "USA Today" (May 21, 2001 -- Thank you LexisNexis!) that Bush got 55% of the vote in 2000 among Catholics who attend church regularly, but only 46% among all Catholics (compared to Gore’s 50%). Abortion was one of the obvious key distinctions; that along with the marriage issue will continue to be crucial.

The Iraq war -- despite its early criticism from the bishops and the resulting disfavor among the laity -- will not significantly hurt Bush among the practicing Catholics. Now that the war itself is over, the bishops and the laity are turning back to concerns over abortion and marriage. Besides, the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a lot of deference to the civil authorities to determine when conditions for just war are met, so it may be easier for Catholics who opposed the war but know this part of the Catechism to overlook the issue. Faith-based initiatives and school vouchers, which were important in 2000, may not play as much of a role this time, in my humble opinion. Vouchers are old news (unfortunately) and faith-based initiatives have yet to become wide-spread enough to become an issue.

What I found extremely interesting last year is that the very same lukewarm, fuzzy-wuzzy, liberal, pick-whatever-you-want, cafeteria Catholics who hate the hierarchy/papacy and its stances on divorce, gay marriage, birth control, abortion, etc., are the very same people who suddenly combed their unused copy of the Catechism of the Church in order to support the hierarchy’s opposition to the war in Iraq. The inconsistency made me sick! Maybe they should exercise their consciences a bit more thoroughly on the other issues. Mr. Kerry is obviously among the cafeteria Catholics but I don’t think that it will hurt him all that much at the polls (maybe slightly as previous commentator noted) because most Americans are the same, sadly.

Personally, I think the Catholic/Protestant split is still over emphasized. Since Vatican II, when Catholics went "mainstream" the real division in the Church is between Liberals and Conservatives, as in most other Churches. The Episcopalians and the incident over the gay bishop demonstrate this. On matters of politics at least, and often in matters of theology, conservative Catholics and Protestants have more in common than they do with liberals of the same denomination.

Rob has it right on! The liberal-conservative split among the denominations surprisingly links the Christians on moral & social issues and even to a large degree theologically. Peter Kreeft, in his books, points out that Catholics, Protestants, Jews & Muslims often have much more in common against the forces of secularism than are divided by theological issues. The divisions of liberals-conservatives and believers-secularists seem to be widening as we get closer to November (& a day of reckoning) as the gay marriage issue, "The Passion," infanticide, oops, I mean, partial-birth abortion (or, did I mean, freedom and "reproductive rights"), have recently brought out. I think it’s great that the issues are being brought to light so that they can be debated and sound policies can be made. Though, I do hope that morality and a public spirit/common good can reconcile us to reasonable positions.

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