Catholic voters helped give Trump his unexpected victory

Pins reading "The America Decide" are displayed during a reception organized by the U.S. Embassy to wait for the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, in Rome, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)Pins reading "The America Decide" are displayed during a reception organized by the U.S. Embassy to wait for the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, in Rome, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  

Despite months of pre-election polls showing Catholics backing Hillary Clinton, exit polls show Donald Trump won a majority of Catholic votes on Tuesday. Now, Catholic leaders are congratulating the president-elect while simultaneously calling for unity in a highly fractured nation.

“I congratulate Mr. Trump and everyone elected yesterday,” Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement released on Wednesday morning.

“Now is the moment to move toward the responsibility of governing for the common good of all citizens,” he continued. “Let us not see each other in the divisive light of Democrat or Republican or any other political party, but rather, let us see the face of Christ in our neighbors, especially the suffering or those with whom we may disagree.”

Two American cardinals took to Twitter to urge Catholics to pray for Mr. Trump.

“Congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston tweeted. “May God grant you good health, wisdom and courage during your presidency.”

Cardinal-designate Joseph Tobin, who will soon become the archbishop of Newark, invoked Scripture, tweeting, “Paul invites us to pray ‘for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.’”

In Rome, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, offered congratulations to Mr. Trump, telling reporters: “We send good wishes to the new president that his governance may be truly fruitful. And we assure him also of our prayer, that the Lord may enlighten and sustain him in the service of his fatherland, of course, but also in the service of well-being and peace in the world.”

How a Trump administration will relate to the Vatican remains a mystery.

Mr. Trump and Pope Francis clashed earlier this year over immigration, and the pope gave a speech in Rome last Saturday in which he denounced the building of walls. Mr. Trump has promised to build a wall along the United States’ southern border with Mexico.

Mr. Trump’s personal history and crude comments about women and sex led some Catholic and evangelical leaders to denounce him in the months leading up to the election. Many urged their fellow believers not to support the Republican nominee. Their efforts appear to have been futile.

The path to victory for the real-estate mogul and reality television star was propelled in part by enthusiasm from white Catholic voters. In Elk County, Pa., for example, which is about 70 percent Catholics, Mr. Trump won 70 percent of the vote compared to 57 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012.

RELATED: Why Trump can't win without white Catholics

In Ohio, which Public Religion Research Institute leader Robert P. Jones tweeted is a good representation of white Catholics nationally, Mr. Trump won 56 percent of the Catholic vote to Mrs. Clinton’s 41 percent.

Mrs. Clinton picked a Catholic running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, but her campaign was dogged by accusations of anti-Catholic sentiment following leaked emails that had been sent to her campaign chairman. Archbishop Kurtz did not comment frequently on the election in his role as president of the U.S.C.C.B., but he did release a statement expressing concern about the emails last month, which was published in some parish bulletins last Sunday.

The Trump campaign promised that he would appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, and he made a concerted effort to court Catholic voters, through the appointment of a Catholic advisory council, a letter writing campaign to Catholic leaders and a high-profile appearance on Catholic media in the days leading up to the election.

Perhaps more important than winning Catholic voters, however, Mr. Trump won about eight in 10 evangelical Christian voters, the biggest margin for a G.O.P. candidate in recent memory.

Voters in some states also weighed in on issues important to Catholic leaders, including physician assisted suicide, capital punishment, minimum wage laws and legalized marijuana. In Nebraska, despite intense lobbying from the Catholic Church, voters decided to bring back the death penalty while voters in California decided to keep the death penalty and speed up executions.

Karen Clifton, head of the anti-death penalty group Catholic Mobilizing Network, called the results “disappointing.”

The California Catholic Conference lamented the results as well. “In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, it would have been the fitting culmination of a year-long calling to live out the Works of Mercy,” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, voters in Colorado voted to legalize physician-assisted suicide and to block a proposal to bring universal health care to that state. The Colorado Catholic Conference was against both ballot initiatives. 

In Arizona and Colorado voters approved measures to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour.

In Massachusetts, the Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus spent one million dollars to defeat a ballot referendum legalizing recreational marijuana. But voters there approved the measure, as did voters in California, Maine and Nevada. In a statement, the Archdiocese of Boston expressed its disappointment in the results of the referendum but said it was encouraged that parishes as well as ecumenical interfaith groups “gave significant time and support for the effort to defeat this harmful legislation.”

“Anticipating significantly increased demands on many of the Archdiocese’s social service and assistance programs, due to the documented effects of widespread marijuana use, we will continue to as best possible provide for the needs of the people we serve,” the statement continued. 

For his part, while not mentioning the U.S. election, Pope Francis tweeted Tuesday, “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.”

Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America and author of The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

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JR Cosgrove
4 years 2 months ago
Hillary overwhelmingly received the Hispanic vote. Here are the percentages last night for her and for Trump. From Nate Silver's 538 sight Arizona — 84-12 California — 80-16 Colorado — 81-16 Florida — 67-31 Illinois — 86-10 Nevada — 81-16 North Carolina — 82-15 New York — 88-10 Ohio — 80-17 Texas — 80-16 Virginia — 81-15 Wisconsin — 87-10 This will overwhelming skew any results that are attributed to Catholics. Are the Spanish speaking/English speaking voters casting their ballots on things other than religion? That should be explored before we get another survey of how Catholics vote. These surveys are dutifully repeated like they indicate something that is relevant to being a Catholic.
Lisa Weber
4 years 2 months ago
And here we have evidence of why the actions of Jesus all pointed to making sexuality private. Abortion and same-sex marriage had a significant part in this election and people seem to have forgotten about the need to have a stable government that seeks the common good. I find myself angry with the Catholic Church for its excessive interest in people's sex lives and its failure to speak to the issues that can and should be addressed in public life - issues like corruption in business and government. My hope is that the Catholic Church will look more closely at the Gospel stories, especially as they apply to women. The Church has a unique ability to teach leadership skills, but only teaches them to seminarians. The Church could be teaching women as well, and doing good in the world in the process. The Church should be serving as an example of how women are integrated into the leadership of the community, but it neglects that opportunity. The only bright spot I see in this election is that moderate people may now be motivated to become more involved in politics. We have just elected a man who ran on a platform of hate and ignorance and this does not bode well for the country.
Kenneth Michaels
4 years 2 months ago
I'm not surprised that the USCCB and Vatican would be congratulating and supporting trump. The man built his whole campaign on a message of hate that must of left them longing for his election.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago
Most surprising to this nevertrump/neverhillary voter: millions of former Obama white voters voted for Trump this election. Some more interesting data from the CNN exit poll (24,537 respondents - ( - Caveat - older people reportedly less likely to be interviewed. Persuasion (all self-identification, of course): 52% Protestant, 23% Catholic, 15% no Religion. 5% LGBT Trump beat Clinton by more than 5% in the following groups in their exit poll. Age/Sex/Race: age >45 (9%), all men (12%), white men (32%), white women (10%), married (10%), non-college grads (8%), veterans (27%), rural (28%), independents (6%), Religion: Protestant (19%), Catholic (7%), Mormon (36%), Weekly attendees (16%) Character, neither candidate: is trustworthy (29%), qualified (14%), right temperament (14%), both unfavorable (20%) Condition of Country: Economy (63% poor), Personal Financial Situation Worse than 4 years ago (27%) Country on wrong track (62%), Supreme Court important factor (70%), Obamacare went too far (70%)
Maree Hutchison
4 years 2 months ago
Lisa, I agree with both your comments. To show respect to the American people, now their democratic decision has been made, I've deleted my full comment. I made my point and it's now over to US citizens to deal with and manage the outcomes in their own country. Best wishes.
Lisa Weber
4 years 2 months ago
I am appalled that any Christian could vote for Trump when his behavior shows no respect for Christian values. Thank you for a thoughtful perspective and best wishes.
Cindy Coleman
4 years 2 months ago
@Maree, a majority of my fellow Catholic friends said they planned to vote Trump based on pro-life concerns. The expectation that the next president would have 3 or more Supreme Court nominees during the upcoming 4 years....and those Justices would impact abortion cases before the court. In contrast, Hillary Clinton openly and forcefully was clear in her vehement support for abortion, at all stages of pregnancy and to ending the ban on Federal govt funding of abortion. Sec. Clinton is strongly aligned with Planned Parenthood. So it was a candidate that firmly professes abortion vs one with a possibility of being pro-life (though until this campaign Trump called himself pro-choice). I don't believe Trump will do anything regarding abortion, either pro or con--beyond making women more desperate economically which leads them to believe they have no alternative but aborting their child. Mrs. Clinton as president would definately promote abortion. There were repeated postings of articles, sermons, etc online and in social media that a vote for Hillary Clinton was "a mortal sin" because of her abortion position. Even such a sermon from a pastor in a different part of the US was posted on my parish's webpage. There was a ton of pressure to vote Trump for pro-life.
Lisa Weber
4 years 2 months ago
And this is the danger of a one-issue voter.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago
I'm not sure that being for protection of the unborn, for marriage of one man and one woman, for school choice, for religious freedom, etc. counts as a single issue.
Maree Hutchison
4 years 2 months ago
Thank you, Cindy. I've read & appreciated your thoughtful explanation. Please don't think me rude but I find US Catholics (but probably not all) to be single issue in approaching voting. It's not like in Australia. Each state has its laws regarding abortion ... which were painfully worked over for years until a position stood. We have a Catholic social welfare organisation which can provide counselling & support when people choose to keep their babies. Decisions that are made are a matter of seriously considered personal conscience, just the same as any decision a woman makes about reproduction. Pope Francis has mercifully approached this topic. So there's no way... nor need...that anyone would have the cheek to be thundering on about mortal sins & voting here. Of course, anyone who follows Gospel values thereby follows principles that are life-enhancing. And that applies to care for people AFTER they are born, as well as BEFORE they're born. Again, don't think me rude, but we just don't have this single issue pro-life or pro-choice public battle involved in voting. Supporting violence against people, being cruel to the disabled, dehumanising people of different backgrounds (like your Mexicans & Muslims), & sexually exploitative 'use' of women as if they are objects, are all not life-enhancing to the victims, but life-degrading. These behaviours, which were observed in the candidate's speech and behaviour, amount to social injustice. They were considered not in line with Gospel values. We also were gob-smacked at the candidate's promise to 'Ban all Muslims from entering the US.' Which would mean we'd all have to declare our religion when fronting up to visit the US, so that Muslims could be identified & then denied. This includes our fellow Australians who also happen to be Muslims & most, like in most groups, are decent people. The thought that we would be waved thro' because we're Catholic, but our Muslim fellow Australians, turned away on the grounds of religion alone, is repellent because it dehumanises them. So our approach to the candidate would not have been a single issue, but one that took in the wider application of Gospel values. A single issue approach gives the impression that it doesn't really matter, in the US, what happens to women, victims of violence, the disabled & those of other ethnic groups and religions. When I know that it does, to very, very many decent Americans. When you read my reply, Cindy, I'll delete this, too. As I don't want to disrespect Americans as their new administration moves in & they look forward.
Vincent Gaglione
4 years 2 months ago
I think that in one of my posts to an earlier article I used the phrase that Trump is a lowlife in respect to his statements during the campaign. (I believe that the post was taken down.) I also expressed the opinion that Catholics, especially the Catholic hierarchy, were strangely silent and unresponsive regarding Trump’s remarks about Pope Francis’ “disgraceful” comments about building walls. Now here I read that white Catholics were a significant part of the coalition to elect Trump, along with evangelicals. In a previous post here I noted that many Catholics had become as craven as evangelicals, overlooking gross behaviors and statements of the candidate for the sake of political effect. I personally think that those Catholics who voted for Trump did not want to reveal their preference before the election knowing full well how antithetical Trump’s comments and behaviors were to Catholic morals. In another article on the America website I read last night of the disaffection of Hispanic Catholics to some of the Protestant evangelical churches. I noted in another post on this site that Hispanic Catholics were not made welcome by either Catholic parishioners, clergy or hierarchy. How ironic, however, to find that the lot of them all wind up in the same coalition for Trump! I have not changed my opinions at all and these facts only reinforce what I believe. The Catholic Trump voters’ vision of the Catholic church is certainly not mine and never will be. Their president is certainly not mine and never will be. I look for the day when Catholics and evangelicals recognize that we are not “the one true faith” in the sense of ideological purity – something akin to the rabidly expressed nationalism of Trump supporters - but rather in the sense of global Christian service, charity, and the promotion of the welfare of all, good and bad, of the Faith or not, religious or not, documented or undocumented immigrant, refugee, etc. I must say that I find it extremely difficult to extend compassion to those who cannot themselves be compassionate.
ed gleason
4 years 2 months ago
The coming round-up 11 million Catholic Latinos and the certain Catholic response reminds me of the story by our mentor priest. A train, transporting Jews to the death camps, would stop for train water in a small German town right next to a Catholic church during Sunday mass. The Jews would cry out for water and the parish responded with closed windows and louder singing. Are our Churches prepared to offer SANCTUARY? .Is there at least one US bishop standing up and suggesting that ancient principle? Not yet and maybe not ever.. I bet there will not even be louder singing. My parish will respond OK but the other 92 in the archdiocese ...not much hope. Does SANCTUARY work? We few Catholics stopped Reagan cold in his failed round-up .of Salvadorans fleeing Reagan armed death squads. The Feds' Cheap talk, useless wire tapping, and mail intercepts were feeble attempts in the 80s. But Reagan did not have a Bannon who will employ more storm troopers. In the 80 we only had suburban Catholic college educated FBI agents. to contend with. Bannon is not a Meese .
Carlos Orozco
4 years 2 months ago
Before reading this article I did not know Trump had been interviewed in EWTN. I watched the interview and was surprised to see how much the now President-elect guards his spiritual life. The interviewer was friendly to him and pitched mostly softballs, but when wanting the public to get to know Trump the believer, was immediately confronted with a strong firewall. Whatever one's opinion of Trump is -and mine is still negative- his achievements are undeniable. During the election process he has single-handedly defeated the political, financial, information and entertainment establishment. A true miracle (maybe literally). For starters, he was not taken seriously by his Republican competitors, until it was too late. Thanks to WikiLeaks (the great news equalizer of this campaign, whether Assange intended it or not) we have learned that the HRC campaign colluded with their corporate media minions to focus and give a platform to the volatile Donald Trump, calculating that Clinton could easily defeat him in the general election. It seems that the least obvious of Hillary's litany of erroneous judgement calls was the one that ended her political career. As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago
I never wanted Trump to be President. I still think his character, temperament, language, chronic boasting and lies, and personal history of mistreating others should have disqualified him. But, now that he is president, I am left with hoping that some of the good things he promised might come to pass: Supreme Court justices who are pro-life, pro-family and respectful of religious freedom; Replacing Obamacare that ruined health insurance for the 90% so that 10% would have insurance but remains unstable and unworkable; School choice so that the discrimination of religious parents stops; Re-instating Catholic adoption agencies who want to place children with a mother and father married to each other Defunding planned parenthood (until we once again defend the lives of the unborn, let the rich pay for the killing of the poor and not the tax payer); Incentives for new businesses and jobs for those blue collar workers who voted for him. I don't care if he builds a wall on the southern border (a waste of time in my mind, but might give employment to poor workers), but I hope he fails to deport anyone who has been here for an extended period, and not committed a crime of theft or violence. I do support the rapid deportation of criminals.
Egberto Bermudez
4 years 2 months ago
I agree with Mr. Tim O'Leary "I hope he [Mr. Trump] fails to deport anyone who has been here for an extended period, and not committed a crime of theft or violence. I do support the rapid deportation of criminals." Besides, I believe, that deporting between 11 and 12 million people would be a humanitarian nightmare and a crazy, costly, and unaffordable enterprise. I am also opposed to the deportation of the parents of children born in the USA from undocumented parents, and by law, American citizens,this would breakup the family and condemn these children to abject poverty. In addition, I think that the dreamers ( children who were brought to the USA by undocumented parents) to deport them would be simply unjust and stupid. These children have been educated in our schools, we have invested in them, and to deport them would be outrageous. In fact, I have written comments to articles of this magazine in support of Immigration Reform since 2014. This is a comment that I wrote previously:Egberto Bermudez | 3/10/2014 - 2:51pm I believe that comprehensive immigration reform is a moral imperative. Archbishop José Gómez of LA has stated in his book "Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation": “Immigration is more than immigration is about who we are as a nation.” This book is a must read for anybody concerned about immigration. John Allen wrote an excellent review of this book. Let me quote a key passage of the book: “[…] America’s Catholic bishops support a comprehensive reform of our current immigration policies that secure our borders and give undocumented immigrants the chance to earn permanent residency and eventual citizenship. […] I also believe that until we can achieve a comprehensive reform, it makes good sense to impose a moratorium on deportations, except for persons guilty of violent or other serious crimes. Because of its grave impact on families, we need to stop deporting people whose only crime is that they are here without the proper papers. I also think our leaders need to work to encourage economic reforms in Latin America, especially in the region’s poorest countries. We need to find ways to target economic development to small business and agriculture so that far fewer Latinos will feel compelled to leave their families to seek jobs and money in other countries. Finally, I think we need to keep pushing for protection of the most vulnerable class of migrants—children and women, who often fall prey to unscrupulous traffickers and others.” In the first chapter of his book, bishop Gómez recognizes that NAFTA is an incomplete agreement because it deals with laws and policies that govern the flow of capital and money but fails to develop standards for the movement of laborers. “In the new economy, there are many safeguards for businesses and financial institutions, but few for workers.” Another strong advocate for immigration reform has been my own archbishop, Thomas Wenski, these men, Gómez and Wenski as well as all American bishops, support immigration reform not because they are politicians but as teachers of faith and morals. I agree with bishop Wenski: “Immigration is not just a political issue, but a fundamental human and moral issue.” I hope that all Catholics, whether they voted for Mr. Trump or not, would work at persuading Mr. Trump and Congress to pass comprehensive and humane immigration reform. More about Archbishop Gómez on Immigration
Egberto Bermudez
4 years 2 months ago
Very interesting information: 52% of Catholics voted for Trump and about 80% of Evangelicals. Another interesting piece of information, according to a CNN Poll, is that 29% of Latinos or Hispanics voted for Trump. Perhaps, Mr. O'Loughlin knows what is the % of Hispanic Catholics who voted for Trump? The only thing that I know is that the Hispanic practicing Catholics that I was able to talk about the election were conflicted: On the one hand they wanted to avoid an extremist abortion platform with little concern for religious liberty and an extremist immigration proposal on the other. Yes, I experienced, some, but very few die hard supporters of one or the other candidate and many that did not want to talk about the issue. The question is: Why did HRC lose? I would like to share with your readers the best explanations that I have read on the subject. Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies[University of Notre Dame] Patrick Deneen shared his analysis of the results. [...]Commenting on Trump’s high support among evangelical voters as well as his majority support from Catholics, Deneen said, “Remarkably, religious voters were willing to overlook his glaring offensiveness and even dubious values to vote for someone whom they believed would put an end to an aggressive campaign to marginalize and even criminalize religious belief and practice.” “While it was assumed by most that there would be a civil war and reckoning for the Republican party,” Deneen concluded, “it turns out that it will be the Democratic party that spends at least the next four years trying to find its way in the wilderness.” These are the three most interesting articles that I have read about: Why did HRC lose? 1) Donald Trump Elected 2) Trump Won because College Educated Americans are Out of Touch (May be a lesson in humility) 3)Trump Did Not Win, the Democrats Lost

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