The National Catholic Review

The New York Times opinion section offers a long op-ed on the (perhaps non-existent) Catholic vote, in which the author notes that Catholics are split evenly right now between the two candidates running for president and some thoughts on how the campaigns might gain Catholic votes. From the column:

In 2012, once again, Catholics should be the swing voters of a presidential race. They’re one of the country’s most divided and complex voting blocs, too. One third of Catholics are staunch social conservatives who view abortion as a litmus test when choosing a candidate, but Gallup polling finds the rest of Catholics slightly to the left of the country on most “values” issues.

Recent events have highlighted these divisions. After Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Catholic, said he was “entirely comfortable” with same-sex marriage in early May, President Obama reportedly accelerated his announcement endorsing it. Church leaders condemned Obama, while 68 percent of Catholics — five points higher than the country as a whole — support legal gay and lesbian relationships, and 51 percent support same-sex marriage.

In February, the Obama administration thought it had come to an understanding with the United States Council of Catholic Bishops over a federal mandate compelling Catholic institutions to pay for health care plans that cover birth control. But in the end the bishops rejected an “unjust and unlawful” deal, which Mitt Romney called an “attack on religious tolerance.” Fifty-eight percent of Catholics — including 62 percent of Catholic women — sided with the Obama administration, three points more than the rest of country.

Then there is the Hispanic vote. At 50 million, Hispanics are the fastest growing bloc in the country, solidly Catholic, and focused on the politics of immigration. In 2001, Karl Rove said that increasing the Republican share of the Hispanic vote was his mission, but the 2012 Republican Party doesn’t seem to be paying attention to that line of thinking. Mitt Romney promised to veto the Dream Act, a proposed law that would provide a pathway to legal status for children of illegal immigrants, provided they serve in the military or attend college.

Catholics are up for grabs this year. A Gallup poll from April has President Obama and Mitt Romney tied among Catholics, 46 percent each. At nearly 20 percent of the population, Catholics have roughly mirrored the popular vote in the last eight elections. They voted for Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but switched to Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. In 2000, Catholics, like the country, went under 50 percent for George W. Bush; but against John Kerry, Bush took 52 percent; by 2008, they’d flipped to Barack Obama, 54-45.

Read the full piece here. What are your thoughts? Who will earn the majority of the Catholic vote in 2012, Obama or Romney? Which candidate do you believe espouses Catholic values most clearly? Will the candidates’ faith lives, an issue I explore at Busted Halo, influence the Catholic vote? Will the continued assault on the Obama administration by the US bishops affect his standing with Catholic voters, and if not, how will that reflect on the bishops following the election?


Thomas Rooney OFS | 5/21/2012 - 4:28pm

"There is one aggressor here, and the Bishops would be negligent in not opposing this regime. And voting for a third party or staying at home is by default supporting this oppression. A complete cop-out."

So you would agree with the concept that any Catholic who doesn't vote against the oppressing aggressor/in line with the bishops ought not to present him/herself for Communion?  Is that your point here?

Thomas Rooney OFS | 5/21/2012 - 4:22pm
I'd appreciate if you wouldn't presume to lecture me, Mr. O'Leary. 

As far as Archbishop Rummel is concerned, he wasn't instructing Catholics how to use their vote.  And I'm not 100% sure what his ethnicity had to do with your point.  

Since Romney's healthcare plan is the blueprint on which Obama's plan was created, and since I don't personally believe either will do a thing to curb abortion rates (it is far ??too useful a wedge issue to keep alive for both parties)?, can you demonstr?ate to me how spending my vote on a candidate I don't believe has remotely ?earned it is a cop-out? 
Tim O'Leary | 5/21/2012 - 2:36pm
Thomas #23
Then I suppose you consider the actions of  German-born American Archbishop of New Orleans, Joseph Francis Rummel, to have been tyrannical. He refused communion to those segregationists who tried to block the integration of the Catholic schools, formally excommunicating 3 obstinate Catholics, in 1962 (including a judge, the nerve of him). The Louisiana State legislature threatened to remove funds (and tax exempt status) from the Catholic schools, although they backed down.

And, as bad as segregation was, it pales in comparison to the million+ abortions (which directly kills over 250,000 African-Americans each year). The current regime is even promoting partial-birth abortions, no worse morally, but more obvious to their depraved consciences, and therefore more egregious. And, now they want to make Catholics pay for things against their doctrine.

There is one aggressor here, and the Bishops would be negligent in not opposing this regime. And voting for a third party or staying at home is by default supporting this oppression. A complete cop-out.
Thomas Rooney OFS | 5/21/2012 - 12:56pm
I am unafraid to "protest" the policies of my government.  Just as I am unafraid of pronouncements coming from the pulpit that I may not present myself for communion if I vote a certain way.  THAT is tyranny; using the Eucharist as a weapon in order to keep a congregation's voting habits in line.  THAT is abuse of power in a free country.  As is overriding conscience clauses.  As is putting the screws to religious freedom.  

I will not vote for the President NOR the Republican challenger, because my conscience will allow me to do neither.  The lesser of 2 evils (which is not at all apparent in 2012) remains evil.

I will vote for third party candidate...or not at all.
Carlos Orozco | 5/21/2012 - 12:24pm
With regards to comments #19 and #20, I remembered a story Gerald Celente -a forecaster of political, economic and social events- likes to recall. Some years back, a German woman told him that she was angrily asking her grandmother how her countrymen allowed so many atrocities to be committed under their name. The grandmother answered: "You don't understand. The people weren't suddenly strapped from their liberties: it was done little by little, until the day came that nobody dared to protest".

As the current president concentrates metaconstitutional powers (I hate to be tiresome, but I can't insist enough on just how bad the NDAA act is) and even begins to dictate policies that overpass conscience exemptions on the very delicate field of human health, is it far out to suppose that future generations will ask us how we allowed tyranny to set foot? Not long ago these measures would have been unimaginable. Of course Catholic bishops cannot remain silent, and have yet to clearly denounce the current governmental attacks on due process.
Rick Fueyo | 5/21/2012 - 11:37am
I don't think the issue is solely whether there is Episcopal authority over political choices, but whether there is even Episcopal competency. I don't put great faith in the USCCB’s analysis of the impact of complex legislation, or the integrity of its recitation of previous legal decisions.

It is one thing to announce a value, another to analyze whether a particular piece of litigation advances, diminishes or is merely neutral towards that value
Thomas Rooney OFS | 5/21/2012 - 11:10am
Veiled comparisons to the political climate of Nazi Germany aside, there's a pragmatic reason it's a delicate matter for the bishops and clergy as well.  If they wish to keep the Church's tax-exempt status, they need to keep out of explicitly endorsing/opposing any political candidate.  Threatening a congregation with excommunication if they vote for Candidate X or do not vote of Candidate Y qualifies as endorsement (not to mention coercion).
Tim O'Leary | 5/21/2012 - 10:40am
Thomas #18
It is delicate for Bishops to wade into the political arena. When the German Bishops spoke out against the Nazis in such a manner, many Catholics did in fact leave the Church for their higher loyalty.;wap2
Today, most people blame the Church for not speaking out enough in the political realm during those times.
Thomas Rooney OFS | 5/21/2012 - 8:37am
Regarding prnouncements from the USCCB on whom their flock is "allowed" tp vote for:

The day I'm told...from the pulpit...that I must be sacramentally reconciled after voting for Candidate X before I receive the Eucharist is the day I leave my beloved Church.
Tim O'Leary | 5/20/2012 - 8:40pm
Jay #16
So, by the logic of your post, you say the Bishops speak for you only on Church teaching. I think they would be fine with that. While they have no authority on politics, I agree with you it is fine for them to express their point of view as citizens.

Jay Berringer | 5/19/2012 - 5:55pm
I'm about as interested in what the U.S. bishops have to say about who the next president should be as I am what the president has to say about who should next ascend to the throne of St. Peter.  That is to say, I'm not interested.  As a Catholic the bishops do not speak for me politically just as the president does not speak for me as a Catholic.  They are certainly welcome to their opinion but it just that and has absolutely no bearing on how I'll vote in November.
Carlos Orozco | 5/19/2012 - 12:35pm
Contrast Putin and Obama in the following video. Body language and silly talk leave no doubt they play in different leagues:
Carlos Orozco | 5/19/2012 - 12:16pm
After the terrosist attacks of September 11, the White House has been occupied by two of the most incompetent presidents in American history. Today, what the United States needs is its Vladimir Putin. Although the Russian president has been satanized by the Western media, his country is back on its feet and confident in the future. Long gone are the Yeltsin years in which that great nation seemed to be destined to become an energy providing colony of the Anglo-American Empire and robber barons took hold of its main industries.

He is certainly not perfect, and I would hate to have such a bully as a neighbor, but he is a true leader, something Barack Obama is not. The former KGB agent has understood the need for Russia to renew spiritually, after decades of Soviet war on religion, in its centuries-old Christian Orthodox faith.

Still the main obstacle to a complete Russian resurgence are its few births along with sky-high abortion rates. Putin has also has understood the need to attack these evil legacies of the atheist regime and has promoted childbearing and restricted abortion, as much as is possible in a country that still largely views it as a right. Orthodox and Catholic pro-life voices in Russia are growing.

It is sad to see that since the end of the Cold War, the former Evil Empire (Reagan dixit) has become more Christian, while the United States governmet has begun its war on Christianity and is heading the country towards a catastrophic police state in perpetual warfare to benefit the industrial-military complex.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 5/19/2012 - 9:00am
@Dr. O'Leary,

(I only meant that most people pick their socks at random, at least in November, and that most people have white socks in their sock drawer.)

There is strong correlation between religion and voting patterns for some religions. Jews, Quakers and atheists vote disproportionately Democratic. Mormons and the people the Barna Group calls "born-again" evangelical Christians vote disproportionately Republican.

But there is virtually no correlation for Catholics (or mainstream Protestants or evangelicals.) Catholics who live in red states vote disproportionately Repulican, and Catholics who live in blue states vote disproportionately Democratic. Black, Hispanic and single female Catholics vote disproportionately Democratic, and white male Catholics vote disproportionately Republican. Catholic university professors vote disproportionately Democratic, and Catholic small businessmen vote disproportionately Republican. Catholic France just elected a Socialist President and Catholic Hungary recently elected a neo-Fascist government.

There is no "Catholic vote." The evidence suggests that Catholicism is not a predictor of political preference.
Joshua DeCuir | 5/19/2012 - 8:47am
"Will the continued assault on the Obama administration by the US bishops affect his standing with Catholic voters, and if not, how will that reflect on the bishops following the election?"

How in the world, pray tell, are the Bishops "assaulting" the Obama Administration?!?  I guess the poor old Obama Administration just keeps gettin' picked on by those nasty old Bishops, huh? 

Perhaps you should open a newspaper other than the New York Times to see that it is the Obama administration who has taken a series of actions many consider to be an "assault" itself on the religious liberties enshrined in the Constitution.  Maybe start by asking a group of poor, inner city African American children in DC who's funding to attend the school of their choice was CUT by the Obama Administration.  Or maybe you could read the Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court opinion, which the OBama administration lost 9-0, and read the comments of its own former solicitor general, now Justice Kagan, who express astonishment at the Administration's own argument. 
Tim O'Leary | 5/18/2012 - 10:27pm
Amy #9
I haven't followed the white socks demographic (? Chicago - inside baseball joke) but I think the statistical correlations are very strong with religious belief, if accurately defined. Over 90% Catholics (myself included, if I was old enough) would have been solidly Democratic before Roe v. Wade and abortion-on-demand moved them to the party of Lincoln. 50% moved over several years and Reagan made their move permanent. I think this will continue for those practicing Catholics. Tom's link (post #5) has some great data (from Georgetown!)

Rick #3
A quick point on the Jesuits - despite my frequent and harsh criticism of many things they say and do (the Sibelius invite today was outrageous), they remain my favorite order. I would have been one if I had a religious vocation. I have benefitted greatly from knowing them and participating in their retreats. I love their charism, their history, their martyrs, their intelligence and St. Ignatius (and several Jesuits active in the minority today). However, so many of them have been seduced by the cultural currents of academia. They need to rediscover their roots and need to reignite the passion of their heritage. Then they will grow again.

Carlos #8
Sorry your earlier post was deleted. I read all your posts and I ask the editor to be more tolerant of the conversation.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 5/18/2012 - 9:18pm
It is difficult to win a national election without winning a majority of the Catholic vote for the same reason that it is difficult to win a national election without winning a majority of the people wearing white socks: both are essentially random samples of the general population. Religion is about as relevant to most people's vote as sock color. Trying to convince people to vote for your party's candidate by appealing to their religious convictions is about as effective as saying "Vote for us! Our candidate's socks are the same color as yours are!"
Thomas Rooney OFS | 5/22/2012 - 8:32am
@ Tim -

If you wish a discussion, that's fine.  Since we can agree this is not a lecture...please do not lecture me; my vote has no greater and certainly no less value than yours.  I resent your implication that my vote is a "cop-out" because I do not believe either of the major party candidate has earned it.  

But let's mush on...

"1)are there ever times when Bishops should withhold communion from Catholics who, in full knowledge, publically support oppressive regimes (such as in the examples above in Germany or New Orleans) in the ballot box? If you can agree that there are such situations, we can discuss if abortion or the current regime warrants the oppressive label."

In general, no; I do not believe the Eucharist should be made into a political tool.  No minister of the Eucharist can know the state of a person's soul when they approach for reception.  To use the Eucharist, the Real Presence of the Body of Christ, in such a manner is to deny Christ from those who may need Him most.

Was there a 2) ?
Carlos Orozco | 5/18/2012 - 7:29pm
Bill (#2):

Thanks for referring to my now deleted comment (in which I also argued Romney is not a Christian, by the way).

I don't watch the neocon disinformation cable channel you mention. But I also do not support Obama, among other things because as his terrible record on life issues. It is enough to remember his defense of denying medical assitance to babies that survived abortion prodedures while at the Illinois legislature, his abortion financing in Africa and assigning partial-birth abortion supporter Kathleen Sebelius to the HHS, as President.

Don't take my word for it. Do your own research.
Stanley Kopacz | 5/19/2012 - 1:39pm
We don't need a strong leader. We need a strongly informed, not brainwashed, citizenry.  That is our present weakness.  There is not a great difference between the two parties.  Even on abortion.  There are five republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court.  Abortion is still legal.  But they came up with Citizens United fast enough.  Both parties are whores for the moneyed, but the republicans like doing it.
Helen Smith | 5/18/2012 - 6:58pm
Stanley P. Kopacz:
"I think more than 1/5 of them will vote for Obama."

But look, after they cast their votes, they can go to confession to each other!
Tim O'Leary | 5/22/2012 - 5:45pm
Thomas #30
No apology needed. We are, perhaps then, not that far apart on the Eucharistic question, although I do think there are cases when flagrant and even boastful disregard for settled Church teaching by politicians on serious moral or doctrinal issues warrants excommunication, and not doing it causes scandal. The exclusion of racist segregationists in New Orleans is a more complex situation (not exactly a doctrinal issue) but I would have sided with Bishop Rummel. I think he was brave to do it. And it had the right effect.
ed gleason | 5/18/2012 - 6:08pm
The SS OK  marriage vote has increased rapidly in the last year. The numbers are only likely to increase toward election. If it's 50-50 now I say 55-45 by Nov. The 'who cares' are increasing daily.
On the other issue,note how the Pope yesterday tried 'walking back' the LCWR issue. A walk back but he still never crossed over the vatican prop line..  a lttle too late to even matter. Head fakes went out with the NBA.
Bill Freeman | 5/18/2012 - 5:22pm
Carlos: "Obama's radical anti-life positions are anything but Christian."  I've read many of your other post.  You seem to reflect Fox News.  Consider some independent reading?
Thomas Rooney OFS | 5/22/2012 - 9:52am
@ Tim

By the by, I wasn't try to be snide when I asked if there was a 2)...I thought I'd missed it.

2) Should the Eucharist be withheld from those who do not believe in the Real Presence, or that Jesus was the Christ?

- Although they may need it, yes.  They are being untruthful when they answer "Amen".

3) Should the Eucharist be withheld from those who would use it as a protest (I am thinking of the situation in St. Patrick's in NY City where gay protesters went up for communion and desecrated the host)?

- See my answer to #2

4) Should the Eucharist be withheld for unrepentant sinners or sinners who parade or flaunt their serious sin? (e.g. Mafia murderers)

- For unrepentant sinners, those who fully understand the gravity of their sins, yes.   

I would imagine (can never be sure about a person's soul) that nos. 2-4 would be in even greater need than 1).

- I agree.  However, the recipient also must understand what is taking place when they receive Communion.  They must understand that their "Amen"="Yes, I believe this to be the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ."

And I must amend what I wrote earlier, regarding leaving my Church.  I wrote it in a flippant manner, and it likely wouldn't be true.  Please accept my apologies.
Stanley Kopacz | 5/18/2012 - 5:36pm
Jesuits are committed and theologically educated Catholics, or so I've heard.  I think more than 1/5 of them will vote for Obama.
Tim O'Leary | 5/22/2012 - 9:16am
Thomas #28

2) Should the Eucharist be withheld from those who do not believe in the Real Presence, or that Jesus was the Christ?

3) Should the Eucharist be withheld from those who would use it as a protest (I am thinking of the situation in St. Patrick's in NY City where gay protesters went up for communion and desecrated the host)?

4) Should the Eucharist be withheld for unrepentant sinners or sinners who parade or flaunt their serious sin? (e.g. Mafia murderers)

I would imagine (can never be sure about a person's soul) that nos. 2-4 would be in even greater need than 1).
Rick Fueyo | 5/18/2012 - 5:24pm
Mr. O’Leary:
While the breakdowns you employed sound correct from other reading, I did not see him from the linked pieces. It sounded like you were referring to what political scientists refer to as the "cross tabs" in polling data, but I didn't see any when I looked at. I may have missed.
So I'm not refuting the general thesis that those that are more "churchgoing" and theologically educated with respect to the Church's current teaching, tend to vote more Republican.
But I'm not sure that the cause-and-effect relationship is clear in that.  Let me attempt to explain.
It is inescapable that those currently vested with Church teaching authority have made the political priorities of the purportedly conscientious Catholic perfectly clear. While Church  teaching is not clearly fall on either side of the political spectrum, abortion, homosexual marriage, and now religious liberty, in the context of the last years fight over contraception coverage, are paramount over other issues that would be more traditionally left-leaning, such as immigration and economic exploitation. On a purely snarky level, Garry Wills has noted, within the context of the Vatican’s doctrinal investigation into the LCWR, but the Vatican is concerned with excess emphasis on the social Gospel, which actually happens to be Gospel, at the expense of issues which are not actually set out in the Gospel. But that's admittedly snarky, and is not my larger point.
My larger point is that when Church authorities continue to say that one is only truly Catholic when one aligns with those priorities, and those responding to pollsters will therefore tend to not self identify as such.  That doesn't mean that their worldview which affects their political choices is not heavily influenced by what they deem to be Catholic sensibilities, even if their own priorities are not in line with those vested with teaching authority.  So it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, a vicious cycle, what have you.
There is a rough but imperfect analog in some of the triumphal statements from those among the more orthodox community about the "decline" of the Jesuits and the ascendancy of some of the more "traditional" orders, measured, in their calculation, a number of new vocations. I say that not in glee, knowing where I post. I used to imagine myself as the famous short coat “Jesuit”, eternally grateful to the smartest men I ever knew gave me a free high school education and access to higher education, and were greatest source of any positive influence to reflect the. It is an observation that has always rankled me, and I had attributed my cognitive dissonance to the fact that the Society of Jesus has been informally suppressed for 34 years now in the Church, while other orders have been exalted.  That has an effect over time. As an aside, I predict a similar long-term result with the LCWR.  It is already aging, and the informal "suppression" I describe will likely result in the same phenomenon, and years from now will be reading about the fact that the “fruits" of the Holy  Spirit have reflected the wisdom of the supporting the perfectly orthodox, as defined.  But I digress.
I would suggest that some of the same phenomenon is occurring in voting behavior. Though it is statistically accurate to say that the most committed Catholics tend to vote the most Republican, I think there is a reversal of cause-and-effect, and a definitional issue. I would submit, and I am biased, but among those the most incorporate Catholic sensibilities, especially given that we are a cultural faith that largely hails from the oppressed in this country, still may show a strong link to the Democratic side of the aisle, and not because they are theologically uneducated, but because they may have consciences formed in ways other than as prescribed in current orthopraxis. But when you are constantly told that you are not genuinely Catholic and should be the Church, you can do hedger self-definition in describing yourself to others, unless you are hyper theologically educated, and feel that you can stand up to the inevitable verbal attacks.
I hope I have not offended, and it made a semi-coherent point.
Tim O'Leary | 5/21/2012 - 9:17pm
Thomas #18, 25-26

I pointed to the 82-year old Archbishop’s German birth to emphasize his perhaps special sensitivity to the situation in pre-war Germany, when evil came in through plebiscite.

This is a discussion, not a lecture, (at least if you respond to my propositions) but you started out making a “bold” point of threatening to abandon the Bishops (really a kind of spiritual suicide threat) should they teach that collaborating with an oppressor is a sin in need of reconciliation. I picked two examples in rather recent history when they did exactly that. Both situations were preceded by plebiscites where Catholics knowingly voted against the Bishops for foul regimes. In both situations, I am sure many Catholics could have said exactly what you proudly said in #18.

So, if you want to address my point, and keep this a discussion, here it is explicitly: 1) are there ever times when Bishops should withhold communion from Catholics who, in full knowledge, publically support oppressive regimes (such as in the examples above in Germany or New Orleans) in the ballot box? If you can agree that there are such situations, we can discuss if abortion or the current regime warrants the oppressive label.
Tim O'Leary | 5/18/2012 - 5:02pm
To address Michael's question, I think the loose definition of Catholic in the polls is the cause of the confusion. There are after all many secularists and indifferentists who will answer to the name of Catholic on a poll and rarely set foot inside a church. They are barely cultural Catholics with a childish or distorted understanding of the faith (say as interpreted by the NYT or South Park).

So, if we take all self-identifiers, I guess it will be 48% for Obama and 52% for Romney. If the definition is narrowed to believing Catholics (which includes the theologically uneducated and cultural non-practioners), then Obama's numbers will drop into the low 40%. It the definition is limited to committed Catholics who are regular mass goers, it might drop into the 30%, especially if the religious liberty and gay marriage issues are high in the news come election day. 

And if it is confined to committed and theologically educated Catholics, it should go below 20%.