In May 2016, I gave a speech to a group of Catholic activists in Cincinnati, Ohio, gathered together by Priests for Life, on how Catholics could make THE difference in the upcoming presidential election. I specifically outlined the ways the institutional Church would try to oppose Catholic efforts on behalf of the pro-life cause. What I predicted did, indeed, happen, and in quite dramatic fashion. Fortunately, Catholic voters overcame clerical resistance and voted 52% to 45% for the Trump/Pence ticket.
Deal W. Hudson
The 2016 election will be decisive for the future of our nation. Eight more years of leadership such as we have witnessed under Obama will stamp our culture so deeply it would take a century to undo the damage.
What damage, you ask? Eight more years will bring an end to religious liberty. Expressing the Christian view of human existence will become the occasion of bureaucratic and legal censure and punishment.
The fuse will be ignited by those who defend the Christian understanding of homosexuality, but the ensuring explosion will extend along an entire range of issues from the meaning of marriage, public school curricula, freedom of speech, control of the internet, radio and TV programming content, euthanasia and, of course, abortion.
To put it bluntly, if the Democrats win the 2016 election the United States of 2050 will be completely unrecognizable from the nation into which I was born in 1949.
The generations who fought and even died against the tyrants of ideology — the reduction of the human person to vacuous materiality — will have sacrificed for nought. The tyrants won without firing a shot. They took control of the culture by taking over the leadership of our basic institutions — education, entertainment, journalism, medicine, banking, social services, and religion.
To have any chance of impacting the next election, which as I have written will be difficult, Catholics should consider the following lessons that have been learned by those of us who have been actively involved in successful and unsuccessful political campaigns on behalf of life, marriage, religious liberty, and the protection of those near to death.
These are not merely my personal recommendations but represent a consensus of Catholics who have been active in leading political, grassroots efforts on behalf of worthy candidates.
1. Promote Mass attendance: All the exit polling since the late ’50s shows that Mass-attending Catholics, not self-identified Catholics, are most likely to vote for socially conservative candidates who oppose gay “marriage,”oppose abortion, oppose euthanasia, support the military, espouse traditional values, support fiscal responsibility, oppose the growth of federal power, and look upon the United States as an “exceptional” nation. If Mass attendance continues to drop, Catholic voters will have less and less impact at the ballot box. Their voting pattern will lose its distinctiveness.
2. Maximize the likely voters: Outreach to Catholic voters should focus on maximizing the identification, education, recruiting, and actual voting of Mass-attending Catholics. Effort spent going after historically hostile or indifferent groups is a waste of time and resources. Self-identified Catholics vote with the general population, as do Catholic groups bound by ethnicity. Yes, Catholics need evangelization, but that’s a long-term project which cannot be completed by 2016.
3. Watch your language: Most Catholic politicians and activists sound like Evangelicals. That’s not meant as a criticism of Evangelicals but a criticism of Catholics who do not bring the concepts and diction of their own faith into the public square. It’s also a criticism of Catholics who think they have to sound like an Evangelical preacher to gain a following or create applause. Catholics speaking about politics need to develop their own effective political language and their own powerful, persuasive rhetorical models.
4. Don’t ask for permission from clergy: The Church teaches that the Catholic layperson has a specific obligation to participate in politics, to be political all the way to the grassroots. Our clergy and religious have an obligation to vote but do not have the same obligation to engage politics in a partisan manner. Catholics make the mistake of asking for permission to create groups or support candidates when asking permission is not required. Our clergy teach us the moral-social principles upon which our participation is based, but they cannot — and should not — become obstacles to lay participation in politics. (The only exception is in the case of ex-communication when a politician is “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin,” such as abortion; see Canon 915.)
5. Collect lists, stop waving fists: Too many Catholics confuse public complaining with political participation. They spend their time making impassioned comments at political rallies, or in religious meetings, about the state of the culture and the need to change our political leadership. None of these impromptu speeches gain any votes because they are “preaching to the choir.” The fury, however, can be an effective starting point of genuine political outreach, which includes list-building, volunteer recruitment, volunteer and voter education, door-knocks, messaging through media, and get-out-the-vote programs.
6. Realize Catholics play dirty: One of the hardest lessons to learn and accept is that Catholics in politics will play dirty. By that I mean they will lie about the faith, misrepresent its teaching, ignore its non-negotiable moral principles, distort the views of pro-lifers and other socially conservative Catholics, and will proclaim “Church teaching” for policies that have no authoritative standing in the “sacred deposit of faith.” We have responsibility to expose those lies in a timely manner to keep them from becoming embedded in the public consciousness.
7. Politics is about passion, not reason: Catholics will have noticed that the candidate who “tells it like it is” is not necessarily the candidate who wins. That’s because political outcomes are not determined by who tells the truth but who stirs the passions — wins the admiration — of the most voters. Voters vote, first and foremost, for the candidate they “like,” who they are “favorable” toward. Politicians and their supporters who do not get this are beaten from the start. Of course, Catholics should support a politician who tells the truth about human existence, but they should also either recruit likable candidates or convince the grouchy ones they need to smile more and frown less.
8. Take sentimentality seriously: Catholics, for good reasons, are a sentimental tribe. Any acquaintance with the last 200 years of Catholicism in America will appreciate the hardships of generation after generation of Catholic immigrants. And before that, the America of the Founders was not at all hospitable to Catholics, an anti-Catholic attitude that was still evident in the 1960 presidential election. This fact makes the passionate nature of politics even greater among Catholic voters. Candidates and activists need to tread carefully and, most of all, know who they are talking to when they talk to Catholics.
9. Master Catholic symbols: Catholics, as liturgical worshippers, are naturally alert and vulnerable to the power of imagery and symbols. For example, I was told some years ago, “never wear French cuffs when you speak to Catholic voters.” Good advice, such symbols only remind voters – even if they wear French cuffs themselves – of the Protestant elites who looked down upon their Irish, Italian, or Slavic grandparents. You will not believe the pains taken by candidates to have “collars” or “habits” behind them during their stump speeches. This is why it’s rare for an Evangelical political consultant to successfully manage Catholic outreach.
10. Happy warriors win, grumps lose: Politicians are in sales. Voters are the buyers. When you are selling, you don’t browbeat the buyer, you don’t sadden the buyer, you don’t demean the buyer. No, you befriend the buyer, meet his or her eye with a smile, learn his or her name, shake hands warmly, and talk about how buying your product will make life better. In short, be the kind of person they like and trust, who they can believe in. Anger, condemnation, self-righteousness and such attitudes and tones of voice may delight a small percentage of angry, condemning, and self-righteous voters, but it won’t win an election.
*This column is the personal opinion of its author and does not represent an endorsement of any political party or candidate by the Morley Publishing Group, Inc.
Published at http://www.thechristianreview.com, Mar 13, 2015
By Deal W. Hudson
•Catholics are obliged to participate in politics by voting.
•Legislators are elected to serve and protect the common good, human dignity, and rights of human persons.
•Voters should have a clear understanding of the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.
•The life issues are dominant in the hierarchy of issues for the Catholic voter.
•Prudential judgment is the application of principle to concrete situations.
•Catholic principles apply to all political issues but in many cases do not lead prudentially to one acceptable Catholic position.
•The bishops’ teachings on faith and morals are binding; their prudential judgments on policy guide us but do not bind us.
•The Christian Faith cannot be restricted to oneself and one’s family, making it impossible to “love one’s neighbor.”
•The principle of subsidiarity teaches that Catholics should first address social problems at the local level before asking the government to intervene.
•Politics and government need the public witness of what faith teaches about the common good, human rights, and human dignity.
•Abortion is the dominant political issue.
•Being pro-abortion disqualifies a candidate from a Catholic vote.
•Catholics can justly support politicians who advocate incremental means toward eliminating abortion.
•The ban against euthanasia and assisted suicide admits of no exception.
•Removing extraordinary means of supporting life is allowable as a prudential judgment.
•The growing acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide rests on the misguided assumption that pain detracts from the value of life.
•Since science serves human ends, not its own, scientific research must always respect the moral law.
•Science must respect the inherent dignity of the human person.
Unused and unwanted embryos must be treated with the respect afforded to other human beings.
•Ending human life cannot be justified in the name of therapeutic (i.e., medical) benefits to other persons.
•Population policy must not include abortion and sterilization as methods of slowing population growth.
•The use of contraception in population policy undermines marriage and ignores the moral issues of promiscuity and disease.
•Catholic institutions should not be required to support contraception or abortion through mandated insurance coverage.
•The right to abortion should not be allowed to enter international law under the rubric of women’s “reproductive health” or fears of overpopulation.
The Death Penalty
•The Church teaches that the death penalty is acceptable in principle but should be avoided in practice.
•The responsibility of elected officials is to ensure that penal systems and sentencing policies do in fact protect society from known aggressors.
•The practical elimination of the death penalty is based upon the strength of the penal system and the commensurateness of the sentencing procedures.
•States have the right to engage in war in self-defense but should first exhaust all peaceful solutions.
•Just war is waged within defined moral boundaries in regard to its targets, goals, and outcomes.
•Political leadership must have both the inclination toward peace and the capacity for decisive action if war is just and necessary.
Defense and Terrorism
•Nations have a duty to protect their citizens from legitimate threats.
•Nations should build their capacity for defense in light of just-war theory.
•Terrorism—the injury and murder of innocent civilians— is never justified.
•Defending a nation combines the military, international diplomacy, and a compassionate foreign policy.
•Judges should be evaluated according to their judicial records and commitment to the limited judicial role, not attacked for their privately held religious views.
•Those who would nominate and confirm judicial activists disenfranchise the faithful Catholic voter.
•Catholic leaders have a duty to respect their constituents and their Church’s commitment to natural law tradition when considering judicial appointees.
Marriage and the Family
•Marriage was instituted prior to the state and should be recognized by the state as something inviolate and necessary to the common good.
•Prudential judgments about law and public policy should always seek to strengthen marriage and families.
•So-called same-sex marriages cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church, and civil unions are likely to undermine marriage and damage its foundational role in society.
•Parents—not the state–have the right to educate their children.
•Catholic parents have the right to have their children educated in a curriculum consonant with Catholic values.
•Governments should provide financial support to families for the education they desire for their children.
•Work is a matter of human dignity and is necessary to the common good.
•Government should create the conditions that support business and industry development.
•Corporate responsibility is critical in helping to maintain economic success.
•Taxes should be fairly based upon one’s ability to pay.
•Tax policy should not penalize marriage or the raising of children.
•Corporate taxes should not threaten the capacity to create and sustain jobs.
•The preferential option for the poor requires that authorities first provide assistance to the poor and oppressed.
•The poor must have access to the education and job training necessary to compete in today’s job market.
•Strong families that remain intact keep their members from falling into poverty.
•Health-care needs should be met by a combination of personal and corporate insurance, philanthropy, and government programs.
•Catholic health-care organizations must be free to perform their work with clear consciences.
•Abstinence and fidelity should be the foundation of sexually transmitted disease—education and prevention.
•Religious expression is a human right that should be recognized by the state.
•States that enforce secularism in social services and education are violating religious liberty.
•Political debate naturally involves religious concepts since law and public policy directly affect the common good.
•A nation should seek to accommodate the immigrant who, for just reasons, seeks greater access to the basic goods of life.
•Political leaders and citizens should recognize the reality of human interdependence that crosses all borders and all national identities.
•The immigrant is a person who deserves the same protection of law and social benefits afforded to citizens.
•From creation, human beings are given special responsibility as stewards of the earth.
•As part of its duty to the common good, the government should prevent unnecessary harm to natural resources.
•Government should also use creative and technological skill, in concert with global cooperation, to reverse existing environmental damage.
Published in Crisis Magazine, November 1, 2006
By Deal W. Hudson
I’m writing this in response to comments made over the years about friendships I’ve maintained with persons who are diametrically opposed to many of my core values. Most of these comments have the tone of disapproval, others just sound flummoxed with me.
Let me say from the start that my reason is not conversion. Such an ulterior motive would make such a friendship one of utility, not a true friendship, to use Aristotle’s hierarchy of friendship. In the Book VII of his Nicomachean Ethics, he distinguishes between friends who are bonded by shared pleasure, the lowest; those who find each other useful; and true friends who share a common vision of life.
I’m sure the diligent reader just noted that I created a huge hurdle for myself to jump, namely, how can I be friends with those, who I said above, do not share my “core values”? Doesn’t this constitute an impossibility according to Aristotle’s criteria?
Since I regard myself as someone whose mind and heart has been shaped by the tradition from Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas to Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson, I take this challenge seriously. In order to answer it, I have been made to reflect upon those specific friendships, both past and present, to find, if I could, what “common vision” we may have shared.
What came immediately to mind was the acceptance and respect I shared, and still share, with these persons. Several of them, in addition to being liberal Democrats, have been homosexual, which I thought important to mention, though I didn’t want to put it in the headline.
Such was the case of my friendship — call him “W” — of over 40 years with a man whose eulogy I delivered only a few years ago. We shared a love of Flannery O’Connor, who had been a personal friend of his, as well all things literary and musical. I spent hours at his piano singing show tunes while he thundered away, magnificently. I still miss him.
When issues of faith, sexuality, or politics came up, our conversations were always direct but civil and punctuated with great guffaws of laughter, usually provoked by his puncturing of my inflated ego. But W never hinted at any disapproval of my conversion to Catholicism at age 34 — he also loved the convert, Evelyn Waugh — or the help I offered to George W. Bush — a man he didn’t love — in his campaigns and years in the White House.
Unlike many liberals nowadays, W did not look upon me as a moral inferior for being conservative, Catholic, or Republican. He did not assume I was a racist or felt disdain toward the poor. Oh, W would correct me sharply if I said or did something out of line, but I accepted the rebuke as a lesson given by a man whose judgment I respected and whose love I trusted.
What I have said of W can be applied to all my friendships with “liberals, Democrats, and pro-aborts.” There is, in fact, a “common vision” that stands behind the differences about politics, religion, and morality, and at the heart of the vision is acceptance, respect, and love, the truest love of willing the good for the other.
Another dimension to that common vision is a sharing of the greatness of the world and its culture — music, poetry, fiction, film, ideas, history, travel, and mutual friends. After all friends do not simply sit and stare at each other, quite the opposite, they look out at the world together and share in its delights.
At this point the reader might be thinking that I have ignored the looming question of how I could share a “common vision” with, say, a pro-abort. My answer is to say that not all who support abortion do so with the virulence of a pro-abortion activist. Not all who call themselves feminists despise conservative men who smoke cigars and play golf. Those friends of mine who are abortion supporters respect my view and those of other pro-lifers. They agree to disagree, but do so in way not to dismiss the subject from conversation but to admit their minds are still open on the subject.
The same can be said of liberals and Democrats: few of them are as unpleasant as the liberals on TV and radio who cannot address any difference of opinion without a mocking, scornful tone of voice. I cannot share a common vision with anyone, on the right or the left, who treats others with instant disrespect because of a label, whether of their party affiliation, religious belief, sexual orientation, or taste in music.
At the heart of liberal scorn is the belief that “all the rest of us” are their moral inferiors, which makes friendship impossible. I fear that conservatives are developing the same attitude toward liberals — that they hold a monopoly on the moral high ground. This may be the main reason I have felt less at home lately in what’s left of the conservative movement.
The gradual politicization of American culture since the resignation of President Nixon in 1974 — driven by the endless victory laps of the media — has made “across the aisle” friendships less and less likely, especially in the area I live around Washington, DC.
And since it has become a habit “to google” a person after you meet him or her, before pursuing further contact, many possible friendships never get off the ground. That person you found delightful at a concert, or a bookstore, a party, at church, or standing in line at the grocery store turns out to a wretched “Republican” or “Democrat,” or whatever label makes him or her an “untouchable.”
Friendship faces a difficult future, I fear. It’s for this reason I offer this explanation of what has appeared to some a disconnect between who I am and who I call “my friend.” Perhaps the “common vision” that grounds a friendship is larger, and more nuanced, than we think.
Published at The Christian Review, December 20, 2015
By Deal W. Hudson
It was the spring of 1970 when Paul McCartney announced he was leaving the Beatles. I had already grown discontent with pop music, the frenetic discord of Jimmy Hendrix touched no part of a young man brought up on Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, and Broadway show tunes. The Beatles, to my ear, wrote songs that expressed tonal continuity with the music I had grown to love.
My first year at the University of Texas, 1968, I set up an Akai tape deck on the desk of my dorm room and next to it laid a pile of reel-to-reel recordings of my favorite crooners. In my closet hung a row of Oxford cloth button down shirts next to my grey, blue, and brown wool pants. My penny loafers were kept shined, and when it grew cool in Austin I would put on my grey herringbone jacket bought for me by my great Aunt Lucile in London the previous year.
When Aunt Lucile met me in London at the end of my summer tour of Europe which she had given me as a Christmas present, she was not pleased with my attire. She hailed a taxi and told the driver, “Selfridges“! She led me into the men’s shop and told the attendant she was going to buy me new clothes and he could “dispose” of what I was wearing. Aunt Lucile insisted on adding an umbrella, which no “gentlemen” should be without. Once on the street, she was distressed that I didn’t know how to walk properly with an umbrella — she said, “Tap the sidewalk on every third step,” and I did, eventually.
Aunt Lucile lived in one of the historic houses in Austin, next to the Treaty Oak and the Coca Cola bottling plant. During my four years at UT, I served as her yard boy and as a waiter at her receptions and dinner parties. When she fed me breakfast after mowing her yard, she would lay out silver, china, and immaculate linen, in spite of the fact that I was sweaty and wearing gym shorts, tennis shoes, and a T-shirt.
My great Aunt had been a professional singer between the two world wars, singing mostly in Europe. She had sung the “Negro Songs” of H. T. Burleigh on the same program with Irish tenor John McCormack at Royal Albert Hall for the Queen Mother of England. In the summers, she sang with the well-known composition teacher and composer, Nadia Boulanger, at her American School at Fountainbleau. She was the one person in my family who appreciated my interest in, and passion for, literature, philosophy, and the arts. Years later, she was the only family member who read my dissertation on romanticism, concluding, “You’ve been a bit hard on the romantic poets, haven’t you?” And, yes, I had.
Back to the Beatles and my musical disorientation that followed. A few months after their breakup, I had just finished mowing my aunt’s lawn when she brought me a towel and a glass of water, and suggested I introduce myself to her new tenant who lived in the apartment on the side of the house. “She’s a new music teacher at the university, I think you should meet her.” I was anxious to get back to my apartment, but whatever Aunt Lucile wanted, she usually got. So I went around to the apartment door and knocked. A pretty young woman answered the door. I explained who I was and was invited in and offered a glass of delicious lemonade.
When she asked, I told her I was a junior philosophy major at UT. Then she asked what kind of music I liked. After I had shared my complaint about the direction of pop music, she asked if I had ever heard any classical music. I had heard some Gershwin, I told her, and had attended an opera as a high school student, but nothing had really left a big impression. “Well,” the young professor said, “tell me what you like in music.” “Melody,” I said. She went to a large stack of albums, pulled out a record, and put it on the turntable.
The music I heard over the next few minutes changed my life. It was so beautiful, the most beautiful music I had ever heard, and I sat transfixed until it ended. She saw my reaction, smiled, and said, “That was “Prelude to the Afternoon of Faun” by the French composer, Claude Debussy. I asked her if she had any more music like that, and she put on some Ravel and then some Wagner. I knew then that I would go immediately to the University Co-op and buy these recordings. I thanked her — I hope to this day she knew just how much I was in her debt.
At the Co-op, I bought a Debussy LP conducted by Pierre Boulez and played by the New Philharmonia Orchestra, along with some Ravel and an album of Wagner overtures. That day began a lifelong passion of exploring the entire history of classical music, every epoch and every form, from both played and sung, chamber music and orchestral, opera and oratorio, songs and choruses. Over the next ten years, I collected the entire standard repertoire and had started looking into the lesser known later romantics such as Delius, Vaughn Williams, Finzi, Hanson, and Pfitzner. At the end of my three years at Princeton Theological Seminary, I went on an opera tour of Europe with Aunt Lucile, the highlight being “Lohengrin” at Bayreuth and “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Munich Opera.
By the time I started teaching at Mercer University Atlanta in 1979, I knew enough to teach Music Appreciation in the prison program at the Atlanta Federal Prison. Being an amateur, I played my student/prisoners what moved me and found it moved them as well. Several cried when I played the Penitential Psalms of Lassus and, especially, “Pavane for a Dead Princess” by Ravel. My class was almost entirely African-American from cities on the East Coast, but the music built a bridge between us that made of all sad when the class came to an end.
What provoked these memories was the death of composer/conductor Pierre Boulez at age 90 whose recording served my entryway into the vast universe of great music we, perhaps wrongly, call “classical.” I’m startled when people ask me why my musical tastes are so “narrow” (I haven’t listened to pop music since 1970). I am still discovering wonderful music (Norwegian Ludwig Irgens Jenson (1894-1969) for example) that makes me realize I will be on this musical journey until the day I die. Thanks to my Aunt Lucile, her tenant whose name I, sadly, cannot remember, Claude Debussy, and Maestro Boulez, my life has been inestimably enriched.
Published at The Christian Review, January 12, 2016
By Deal W. Hudson
Recently, I spoke to a group of pro-life leaders about the 2016 election. I made the following remarks with the hope that the Trump and Cruz factions can eventually “kiss and make up.”
I’m going to address the question, “Who Is Us?”
In recent weeks criticism has been leveled at Trump for not being “one of us.” (I have deliberately left out a link to this criticism.)
I’ve used this phrase, but never publicly. Never as a public argument.
Now that I’ve seen it used this way, I am deleting it from my vocabulary.
Because I started asking myself just “who is ‘us?’” And, am I part of the “us” who speak this way about others not being “one of ‘us?’”
So I started making a list of questions about who could or should be called “one of ‘us.’”
A woman who’s had an abortion?
A man who’s encouraged a woman to have an abortion?
A person who claims to be pro life yet can’t talk about it coherently?
A person who accepts the ‘three exceptions”?
A person who claims to be prolife but contracepts and defends it?
Persons with test tube babies?
Women with frozen eggs?
Catholics divorced and remarried?
The rude, crude, and unattractive?
Male chauvinist pigs?
Anyone who’s been picked up drunk by the police?
Anyone who’s ever been to a strip club?
Or owned a strip club?
Those who watch porn?
Unchaste homosexual priests?
Unchaste heterosexual priests?
Now, I want to pose a question about all of the above:
Are they “one of ‘us’” as long as they are not outed and their “offense” made public?
If outed, do they cease being “one of ‘us?’”
If not outed, do we think they are “one of ‘us’” but aren’t really?
If not outed, do they think they are “one of ‘us’” but aren’t really?
Or do we wait for a prominent Catholic leader to tell us who is “one of ‘us?’”
Another way of answering the question is this:
The “us,” it seems, is who we are FOR.
And the not “one of ‘us’” is who we are AGAINST.
What if “us” accounts for only 20 or 30 % of voters? (Probably far less.)
What if the “us” makes political coalitions impossible? Winning impossible?
What if the “us” turns off even those who sympathize with “us?”
What if it being an “us” makes “us” look like “whited sepulchers?” (Matthew 23.27)
One final question:
If we were all stripped naked and standing before God, would anyone qualify to be “one of ‘us?’”
Because then all will be revealed, all will be outed. The hairs on our heads will be counted (in my case that won’t take long!).
I believe, and I think you will agree, that God has a different conception of “us,” and who belongs to Him.
It’s not based upon our sins, or whether they were made public while on earth, or our erroneous beliefs — He opens His arms to all who have learned to love Him.
By repentance and receiving forgiveness.
By growing through the trials and errors of life.
By learning from the just judgment of others and undergoing a continual conversion of the heart toward Him.
In other words, A Pilgrim’s Progress.
That’s the only way I can make Christian sense of being part of an “us”: As a pilgrim among pilgrims who “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” (1 Cor 13.12)
PS. Since this speech, Pope Francis issued his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. As I read it, I recognized the Holy Father was addressing the similar theme of how Catholics relate themselves to those who have committed, or remain in, “objective” sin.
Published at The Christian Review, April 15, 2016
Note: Robert (Bob) Novak was America’s premiere political reporter for decades until he died at age 78 in 2007. His work, starting at the Chicago Sun-Times and continuing through the Wall Street Journal, CNN’s “Crossfire,” and Fox News, is well-chronicled. In 1998, the year of this article, Novak was received into the Catholic Church by Msgr. Peter Vaghi and Rev. C.J. McCloskey. His wife, Geraldine, had been attending St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington, DC for several years, but it was some books given to Novak by Jeff Bell, a prominent Catholic political consultant, that began his journey. Bob and I became friends shortly after I came to DC in 1995 but it wasn’t until later we began having regular breakfasts at the Army Navy Club. Eventually, I would accompany Bob and Geraldine on their first, and second, trip to the Holy Land. This article was written at my request for a special issue of Crisis Magazine on the Catholic vote which would turn to be perhaps the most influential issue ever published.
Robert D. Novak
Published November 11, 1998
The conventional wisdom among politicians and journalists for much of the past half-century has been that Catholics, 44 million currently of voting age, comprise a swing vote.
As the 1950s began, Catholics were departing their traditional home in the Democratic Party to support Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower for president. That was followed by a massive return of Catholic Democrats—accompanied by a good many Catholic Republicans—to vote for their cocommunicant, Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960. The gradual attrition of Catholic support for Democratic presidential candidates climaxed with heavy backing for Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.
But by 1996, Catholics were supporting Democrat Bill Clinton’s reelection much more strongly than other Americans; among Catholics, it was 54 percent for Clinton, 38 percent for Republican Bob Dole, and 8 percent for independent Ross Perot. That’s not the whole story. While Clinton ran worse among many voter groups in 1996 than he had in 1992 (including seniors and youth, at opposite ends of the age spectrum), he did better among Catholics: a gain of 2.3 million votes compared with Dole’s gain of 400,000 and Perot’s loss of 3.3 million. Of the 23 states with a Catholic vote above the national average, Dole carried only two: Texas and Colorado. Had Dole run just a little better among Catholics, his supporters surmised, he might well have been elected.
Is There a Catholic Vote?
Thus, at a time when the conventional wisdom has assumed a divorce between Catholics and the Democratic Party, it is no exaggeration to say that the Catholic vote elected Bill Clinton. In the Midwest (where there is a plurality of Catholics) and the Northeast, this vote was indispensable to the near-sweep Clinton had in these two regions. The apparent oscillation of the Catholic vote over nearly 40 years raises difficult, even troubling questions.
•If Catholics appear always to be on the side of the winner, whether it be Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, is there no driving principle that informs the choice? Or, are Catholics really no different from other American voters? If Catholics preferred Clinton in greater numbers than their fellow citizens, does that mean that they prefer a candidate who is irrevocably tied to abortion rights, gay rights, and racial preferences and is irrevocably opposed to school choice and school prayer?
•Does this then demolish the Republican concept of the Catholic voter as a natural partner of Protestant fundamentalists and evangelists in a religious coalition?
•Put bluntly, what evidence is there that there are distinctive political characteristics that bind together Catholics sufficiently to form a bloc vote with even some elements of coherence? Is there really a Catholic vote?
The only logical answer to this paradoxical question is that there are two Catholic votes—just as there are two kinds of Catholics in America, active and inactive religiously.
The active Catholic attends Mass every Sunday, probably subscribes to religious publications, may well belong to the Knights of Columbus and the Legions of Mary, and will tend to conform to the views of the Catholic bishops, at least on abortion.
The inactive Catholic is an inconstant communicant, likely is not a member of any parish church, and is cut off from the views of the bishops—particularly when it comes to abortion.
This distinction makes some sense out of what has been the otherwise inexplicable political migration of Catholics during the past half-century. Prior to that time, there was not much swinging by Catholic voters; they were—with some notable though temporary exceptions—Democrats.
The first migratory wave of Catholics in the 19th century was composed of Irish fleeing the potato famine and political exclusion. They settled into the Democratic Party in their new nation’s big cities as a power base against the American establishment—Protestant and Republican—that excluded them from power and privileges. German Catholics, many fleeing post-1848 political repression throughout Europe, followed the Irish and were generally their political allies in the Democratic machines.
The Irish-German Catholic loyalty to the Democrats was interrupted by Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s Anglophile policies and intervention in World War I, with Republicans scoring major Catholic gains at the presidential and lower levels in 1920. By 1928, when the Democratic nominee for president was urban Catholic Al Smith of New York City, Catholic voters returned to the fold and for the most part stayed there during the Franklin D. Roosevelt era and Harry Truman’s 1948 election.
But beneath this seemingly steadfast adherence to their ancestral party, Catholics were restless. They were unhappy that the Democrats seemed to have become the liberal party of blacks, Jews, and silk-stocking Protestants, as reflected in international policy toward Communism and domestic policy toward the welfare state. Eisenhower ran well in Catholic areas in both of his landslides over Adlai Stevenson, which began the political analysis of a Catholic swing vote.
But through the last ten presidential elections, there has been marked difference in the voting patterns of active and inactive Catholics, as the numbers of the latter rose dramatically. In 1960, 73 percent of Catholics still said they regularly attended Mass. The figure dropped to 64 percent in 1964 and to an all-time low of 40 percent in 1988, before returning to 47 percent in 1992 and 46 percent in 1996. That signifies a stabilized base of active Catholic voters for the past decade. Here is a rundown of the voting patterns of the kinds of Catholics in those ten elections:
1960:With John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic nominee for president since Al Smith, Catholics returned to their Democratic roots—especially the active Catholics. Kennedy won 83 percent of the Catholic vote (comprising 22 percent of the electorate), getting 87 percent of religiously active Catholics and 69 percent of inactive Catholics. This nonideological support from his coreligionists elected Kennedy. He lost to Republican Richard M. Nixon among both religiously active Protestants and inactive non-Catholics.
1964: Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson for the most part kept the Catholic voters he inherited from Kennedy. But the 79 percent he received represented a resumed Catholic erosion in the Democratic Party. Actually, he received a higher percentage of the inactive Catholics than had Kennedy, but dropped among the active Catholics. Also, the intensity of Democratic support among active Catholics was diminishing. In 1960, 52 percent of active Catholics described themselves as “strong” Democrats; in 1964, the figure was 32 percent.
1968: The migration of Democrats out of the Democratic Party continued, though less so among active Catholics. Democrat Hubert Humphrey fell well below the JFK/LBJ totals, but he still won 57 percent—divided by 58 percent from actives and 52 percent from inactives. Active Catholics were still supporting Vietnam policy more strongly than the national average, and that may have contributed to Humphrey’s residual strength among that group.
1972: In the year of President Nixon’s reelection landslide, the Catholic vote for a presidential candidate fell to the national average for the first time. Democrat George McGovern received only 39 percent among both active and inactive Catholics, reflecting the national antipathy to what was perceived as a fringe candidate. Little more than half of the nation’s Catholics described themselves as Democrats, though their ancestral hostility to Republicanism led them into independent ranks. Asked for the first time by the National Election Study to list their ideology, only 19 percent of active Catholics said they were “liberal” compared with 31 percent of inactives. Stating a “conservative” preference were 36 percent of actives and 30 percent of inactives.
1976: This post-Watergate, post-Vietnam election, paradoxically, showed Catholics rallying for Democrat Jimmy Carter—a born-again, Protestant Southerner—with 57 percent and 56 percent from actives and inactives, respectively. Both kinds of Catholics were clearly repelled by the Nixon scandals, but their ideological split was becoming more obvious. For the first time, a plurality of active Catholics (42 percent) called themselves conservatives; inactives were evenly divided between “liberals” and “conservatives.”
1980: Now the ideological division of American Catholics became clear. A majority of actives (54 percent) voted for Ronald Reagan, marking the first time this group had given a Republican presidential candidate a higher vote than the general electorate. A plurality of inactives (48 percent) backed President Carter. The party preference of all Catholics dropped from 49 percent to 42 percent, with some of them going to the Republicans (21 percent among actives, 11 percent among inactives).
1984: In his landslide against Democrat Walter F. Mondale, President Reagan won equal support—and lots of it—from active and inactive Catholics: 58 percent, one percentage point below the national share. Here was a national sweep that obliterated religious voting lines. Stated Democratic affiliation of Catholics fell to what is still an all-time low of 37 percent. For the first time, Catholics voted for the Republican nominee with a higher percentage than the country at large.
1988: Republican George Bush received 2.4 million fewer Catholic votes, including 2.1 million actives, than Reagan had four years earlier. In defeat, Democrat Michael Dukakis cut into the church-going Catholic, labor-union, and lower income households that had gone heavily for Reagan—in short, the famous “Reagan Democrats.” But Bush retained Reagan’s inroads among the inactives.
1992: In this year the gap between Catholics who go to church and those who don’t became an abyss. The inactives liked the looks of Bill Clinton so much that they backed him against President Bush, 51 percent to 28 percent in the three-way race with Ross Perot. But active Catholics who had turned away from Bush in 1988 did not like Clinton either; it was Bush over Clinton, 42 percent to 37 percent, among the actives.
1996: Beneath the superficial indication that the Catholic vote had reelected Bill Clinton while white Protestants overwhelmingly supported Bob Dole’s losing campaign lies the Catholic division. The inactives backed Clinton, 56 percent to 33 percent; actives supported Dole, 47 percent to 44 percent. This year also produced evidence of an ideological split. For the first time since the left-right preference began to be tested in 1972, half of active Catholics identified themselves as “conservative” and, also for the first time, a plurality of inactive called themselves “liberal.” Self-identified Democrats constituted 41 percent: the same as 1992, up from the low of 38 percent in 1988 and down from the 40-year high of 64 percent starting the period in 1960.
The 1996 Catholic vote was 29 percent of the national total, the highest in this 40-year period, but divided evenly among actives (15 percent) and inactives (14 percent).
Active Catholic Identity
The reality of two increasingly distinct Catholic votes should provide clear lessons for Republican politicians.
Inactive Catholics are an amorphous blob, undetectable from the rest of the electorate and certainly not classifiable as a voting bloc to be courted.
Active Catholics certainly do not constitute a monolithic bloc in the nature of African-Americans or even pietistic white Protestants. But they do have distinctive characteristics—including an anti-abortion position that belies claims by pro-choice Catholics.
In 1976, the National Election Study asked voters about abortion for the first time—and again the active/inactive dichotomy was apparent. Among active Catholics, 88 percent opposed permissive abortion laws, compared with 53 percent by inactives. By 1980, the anti-abortion bloc among active Catholics had declined to 75 percent.
In 1996, the National Election Study had changed the questions to make comparisons unrewarding, but the gap among Catholics widened. Enactment into law of a woman’s right to an abortion was favored by 26 percent of active Catholics but 50 percent of inactives.
The body of active Catholic voters cuts across economic lines and social status. Although they are patriotic, that is not a live issue with the end of the Cold War. What is relevant today, they are disturbed by the decline of traditional social values and maintain a belief in absolute moral values. As such, they prefer the conservative position on abortion, school choice, school prayer, and affirmative action.
If that profile seems familiar, it is because it is not much different from the outlook of born-again, fundamentalist, and evangelical Christians. In 1996, these pietistic Protestants constituted 18 percent of the electorate—combining with active Catholics for a 33 percent share.
What this coalition feels about the size and function of government is unclear and surely not monolithic. What is certain is that these voters will not vote for a pro-choice candidate opposed to school vouchers and school prayer who advocates racial preferences. They supported the losing Republican candidates in 1992 and 1996 but not in sufficient numbers to avert the Clinton victories.
Will the Republican candidate and managers in 2000 be confused by lumping together the voting preferences and ideologies of all Catholics, active and inactive, and seek a centrist position on social issues while avowedly pursuing a phantom Catholic vote? The answer will shape the politics of the 21st century.
Obama Fails to Seize the Opportunity of His Big Night
Deal W. Hudson
January 28, 2010
President Obama gave his first State of the Union speech last night.With his popularity in a steady decline for the past six months, Obama needed his speech to rekindle the enthusiasm for his leadership that elected him in the first place. Thus far, there is no evidence to suggest he was successful.
If his State of the Union had been a Broadway Show, the morning reviews would have closed the show in the first week.
One reason for Obama’s inability to reverse his popularity slide is his decision to ignore the fact that a majority of Americans do not support some of his key initiatives. In a Rasmussenpoll taken just before the speech, 61 percent want Obama and the Congress to drop health care reform and focus on jobs. But Obama ignored this widespread resistance and called on Congress to get the bill passed, saying, “We need health insurance reform.”
Simply renaming health care reform “health insurance reform” will not solve Obama’s political puzzle, nor the underlying problems of the legislation. But this is typical of the president’s approach to political obstacles — change the language, not the substance, and people will drop their objections.
The speech itself broke no new ground either in tone or substance. Obama continued to blame the Bush administration for his inability to rebuild the economy and the GOP for the lack of meaningful legislation passed (in particular, health care reform).
Most unsettling was Obama’s dressing down of the Supreme Court – who were all sitting directly in front of him — for their recent decision lifting the restrictions on corporate contributions to political advertising. This presidential faux pas elicited a wincing, head-shaking “that’s not true” from Justice Samuel Alito, which quickly became a popular YouTube video.
Alito’s response is already being called the “Joe Wilson moment” of the evening, referring to the South Carolina Congressman’s “You lie!” outburst during the president’s last speech to Congress in September. Needless to say, it doesn’t help Obama that such strong gut reactions became part of the media narrative of an evening that was to be the resuscitation of his presidency.
Other than stumbling over the separation of powers tripwire, the most awkward moment for Obama was the laughter, even from Speaker Pelosi, following his declaration, “Starting in 2111, we are prepared to cap government spending for three years.” Embarrassed by the laughter from both sides of the chamber, Obama awkwardly ad-libbed, “That’s how budgets work.” But his speech never recovered its momentum.
If Obama was trying to revive his popularity with independents, he chose a strange moment to announce the end of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the U. S. military. Passed by the 103rd Congress in 1993, this policy regarding homosexuals in the military was signed by Bill Clinton, a master of attracting and keeping the support of independents. Why Obama would choose to pay homage to his far-left base when he is hemorrhaging independents and blue-dog Democrats is inexplicable.
Some of the punditry following the speech was bizarre. NBC’s Chris Matthews made two contradictory statements. First, he called Obama’s speech “post-racial,” whatever that means, but then added, “Tonight, I forgot he was black.” What? If Matthews had ‘forgotten Obama was black,’ he wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.
Obama’s State of the Union will do nothing to help his popularity, nor will it dilute the potency of Scott Brown’s victory on January 19. The president should have spoken directly to the discontent that created an election environment where a Republican could win the seat Ted Kennedy held for 46 years. Instead, he chose to play the martyr to those ‘malevolent Republicans.’
Is It Time For a Catholic Tea Party?
Deal W. Hudson
Published February 10, 2010
Over 750 “tea parties” were held on April 15 of last year, protesting the excesses of the Obama administration — in particular, the pork-stuffed stimulus bill. Initially, the mainstream media tried to ignore the movement. They downplayed its size and influence, until the steady slide of President Obama’s popularity, the growing opposition to Congress’s health-care reform proposals, and Republican victories in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts forced them to acknowledge its influence.
Since then, the media strategy has been to portray the tea party as a gathering of disgruntled extremists, in spite of the fact that the limits on government spending they advocate would have been considered common sense in both political parties only a decade ago.
For American Catholics, the equivalent of centralized federal power is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The USCCB, the kind of episcopal conference authorized by Vatican II, has no canonical authority of its own. But its voice is considered authoritative by the media, and it is treated as such by those who applaud its lobbying efforts in Congress and the White House.
Criticism of the USCCB among lay Catholics, as well as many priests and bishops, has been a constant since its march to the political left in the years after its creation in 1966. Pastoral letters, including the ones on the economy (1986) andwar and peace (1983), created a clear line of demarcation between the liberal politics of the conference (aligned with the Democratic Party) and the Catholics, both lay and religious, who interpreted the Church’s social teaching differently (in a way inclining them toward conservatism and the GOP.)
The pro-life advocacy of the conference, along with its opposition to same-sex marriage, has always set it apart from other politically liberal institutions. Unfortunately, the USCCB’s choice of coalition partners and memberships often threaten to undermine the clarity of its witness.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the series of reports from the Reform CCHD Now Coalition. These reports show two things clearly:
1. Bishops have given Catholic money to organizations advocating abortion and same-sex marriage (two such organizations were defunded last November).
2. The bishops have joined coalitions, like the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, that also advocate abortion and same-sex marriage.
These reports differ from previous attempts to address the politics of the USCCB in two ways: First, their Internet links allow anyone to read the various smoking guns unearthed by the research. The second factor is timing — the reports come after both the 2008 presidential election and the furor surrounding Notre Dame’s decision to bestow an honor on a pro-abortion president.
The Notre Dame incident brought home to thousands of Catholics, in a way they had never understood before, that many venerable mainstream Catholic institutions were strongholds of dissent.
Yet the Notre Dame story might not have gone so far if many Catholics were not already furious with the role a bishops’ document played in the election of Barack Obama in the first place.
The 2007 version of the bishops’ “Faithful Citizenship” document, prepared in advance for distribution for the 2008 election, contained several passages that, if taken out of context, gave the green light to Catholic voters to ignore Obama’s aggressively pro-abortion stance. (Obama won the self-identified Catholic vote over Sen. John McCain 54 percent to 44 percent, though among religiously active Catholics he lost by 1 percentage point.)
That document did not emerge from the USCCB without a fight — a number of bishops opposed it; I am told that Archbishop Raymond Burke, then still in St. Louis, was literally shouted down when he tried to explain his opposition to the problematic passages. The best any bishop has been able to say to me regarding “Faithful Citizenship” is that “it was difficult, it was a compromise.”
But such compromises are brewing a tempest for a potential tea party revolution among the faithful. In some ways, the very notion of a tea party goes against the grain for Catholics, with their inbred sense of deference to authority. Those same Catholics, however, are beginning to realize that there are some matters where they can speak out without acting in disobedience to the authority of their bishop.
In response to my recent story on the USCCB’s membership in a pro-abortion civil rights organization, a Notre Dame alumnus from the class of 1965 sent me this message: “Is it time for us to start throwing tea bags at the USCCB?” This is a man who, ten years ago, would not tolerate a word uttered against either Notre Dame or the bishops. The times may be changing.
The Catholic Tea Kettle Continues to Boil
Deal W. Hudson
Published September 23, 2010
Over the past two weeks, I’ve had extensive discussions with a wide group of Catholic leaders about the state of the Church in the United States. The frustration and impatience among Catholics, which I discussed last February in “Is It Time for a Catholic Tea Party?,” continue to grow.
The occasions for this discussion were the Catholic Leadership Conference held in Philadelphia earlier this month, immediately followed by the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference and the 15th Annual Partnership Dinner benefiting InsideCatholic, both held in Washington, D.C.
The broad background for this discontent is well known: Lay Catholics cannot understand why, over the past 30 years, more bishops haven’t taken a stronger public stand on Catholic politicians who openly dissent on life and marriage issues.
This level of discontent remained at a simmer until the 2008 presidential campaign and the election of Barack Obama as president — at which point it reached a boil. From parishes around the nation came reports of priests and lay staff making clear their preference for Obama, in some cases arguing openly that their support for Obama was offset by “proportionate reasons,” such as Sen. John McCain’s support for the Iraq War.
When the concerned faithful began to hunt down this “proportionate reasons” argument, they found it in the bishops’ own 2007 document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility.” Stunned Catholics wondered aloud how the bishops themselves could have provided Obama’s Catholic supporters the very argument they needed to rebut any concern about his advocacy for infanticide as a state senator.
In response to the outcry, a record number of bishops issued statements during the presidential campaign either seeking to clarify “Faithful Citizenship” or to correct misinterpretations of the Catholic faith set forth by Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Joe Biden. Yet none of them targeted the grassroots and parish-based campaign efforts of pro-Obama groups, like Catholics in Alliance, using the “proportionate reasons” argument to distract Catholic voters from Obama’s abortion record.
The one bishop to confront this interpretation of “Faithful Citizenship” head-on was Bishop Joseph Martino in Scranton, Pennsylvania, who famously interrupted the speakers to say, “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese. The USCCB doesn’t speak for me. The only relevant document… is my letter. There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”
Obama was elected with the help of the self-identified Catholic vote, though weekly Mass-attending Catholics slightly preferred McCain. Some Obama sympathizers publicly applauded his election given the history of racism in our nation, and although they never explicitly called this a “proportionate reason,” it was certainly treated as such.
President Obama’s record has, unsurprisingly, tracked closely to his record as an Illinois state senator. Immediately discarding the Mexico City Policy upon his election, he has undone, or sought to undo, every aspect of the “abortion reduction” policy put in place by the Bush administration.
Most importantly, he found a way around the Hyde Amendment by inserting a massive abortion mandate in his health-care legislation. With the passage of Obamacare and the inability of USCCB lobbying efforts to either defeat it or strip out its abortion funding loopholes, many lay Catholics have come to assume a Tea Party posture of “enough is enough.”
Many of them wonder why Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, is still in the good graces of the USCCB. It was Sister Keehan, after all, who neutralized the bishops’ opposition to the health-care bill and denied the presence of its abortion funding.
Sister Keehan has become a virtual symbol of what is wrong with the Church: There is no accountability, and no consequences for open dissent on the preeminent moral issues. Thus, when it came to light that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the USCCB has been funding organizations that openly support abortion and gay marriage, the reaction of the laity was a cynical “more of the same.”
Some of the leadership I spoke with cited examples of overall improvement in episcopal leadership, both in individual dioceses and at the USCCB, and warned of becoming too negative.
Attention to tone is always important, but the simple fact is this: Of the 97 Democrat Catholic members of the House, only 9 voted against a health-care billcontaining abortion funding, in spite of the fact that the USCCB and cardinals like Justin Rigali and Francis George spoke out clearly against it. (All 38 GOP House members voted against the bill.)
Something has gone wrong when those who publicly profess the Catholic faith feel no compunction about openly defying its teachings at the urging of their bishops. On top of that, a group called “Catholics United” announces it will spend $500,000 to reelect those same politicians, all Democrats — and not a single bishop makes any comment.
The Catholic tea kettle continues to boil, as the patience of many of the lay faithful is running out.
Why Does the Media Hate the Church?
Deal W. Hudson
Published March 31, 2010
It’s sad to watch the New York Times and the Washington Post, along with MSNBC, attack Benedict XVI. The story they concocted over the past few weeks, with the help of retired Bishop Rembert Weakland about Rev. Joseph Murphy, is risibly tenuous.
These once-great newspapers trivialize themselves by publishing front-page stories making obvious their chronic disregard of the Catholic Church and, especially, the Pope. Nothing else but a kind of seething hatred explains their willingness to ignore the canons of credible reporting and comment.
The Church’s staunchest defender in this country is Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who has been countering this latest attack from the first blow. Donohue calls the New York Timesstory on Father Murphy the “last straw,” but no doubt there will be more straw to ignite Donohue’s flaming pen. (And it won’t be from the pages of the Summa Theologiae, which its author deemed as “so much straw” in the hours before his death.)
I asked Donohue, and a number of other experts, the question, “Why does media like the New York Times and the Washington Post hate the Church and the Pope – what’s the source of the animus?”
Donohue replied, “As I said in today’s New York Times op-ed page ad, it stems from three issues: abortion, gay marriage, and women’s ordination. So, when they can nail the Church on promiscuity, they love it. The goal is to weaken the moral authority of the Church so it won’t be as persuasive on issues like health care.”
Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, agrees the media wants to weaken the Church. He echoes what his friend the late Bob Novak used to tell me about the mainstream media; it is “the most secular, liberal group in the country. The Catholic Church stands for everything you and I believe (though I’m not a Catholic) and for practically nothing the media likes. But the media cannot ignore the Catholic Church because it is so strong, popular, and enduring. That leaves the media one avenue of attack: Jump on any mistakes or scandals involving the Church and don’t let go.”
Another Evangelical friend of Catholics, Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, wrote to me that the “lamestream media hates the Pope because he exemplifies the vibrancy and relevance of orthodox faith in today’s society, which many in the press find either alien or deeply troubling.” Reed also views the media as alarmed that for the “once divided Evangelicals and devout Roman Catholics, the Pope is a symbol of a faith-based constituency the media views as hostile to modernity and values-neutral ‘tolerance.’”
Some responses to my question were brief and to the point. Bishop Robert F. Vasa of Baker, OR wrote saying, “Deal, Jesus told us it would happen: John 15:18-19. Looking the passage up I found: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (NIV translation).
Another quotation from Scripture came from the founder of Wallbuilders, David Barton, who cited Romans 1: 28-30 to describe what happens to those who directly reject belief in God. “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil. . . . (NIV translation).
The philosopher Francis Beckwith, a recent convert to the Catholic faith, located the source of the media’s hatred in “the narrative of secular liberalism.” “The media doesn’t want to acknowledge that Catholics even have an “intelligent” point of view,” he explained. “This is why they don’t assess arguments, they seek out scandal in order to demoralize opposition. Given its status as an unquestioned first principle, secular liberalism can not allow a divine foot in the door.”
Russell Shaw, who used to deal with the press on a daily basis as communication’s director of the bishops’ conference, also thinks, “The people in charge in those places are secularist ideologues who believe they possess the right answers.” Shaw is not particularly sanguine about the outcome of the struggle: “It would be nice to think there’s a happy ending to this story, but I doubt it. Somebody’s got to win in the end.”
The recurring theme in the answers I received was that of two powers, two opposing moral viewpoints, competing for influence. The secular power of the media detests the traditional moral teachings of the Church but does not confront it directly, preferring coverage of scandal to argument. As Jim Bopp, Jr., general counsel to National Right to Life, wrote to me, “The Pope and the Church are the strongest force making people accountable to traditional moral requirements. It therefore must be destroyed by any means necessary, even though liberals are soft on pedophilia, they are prepared to condemn the Catholic Church for not dealing harshly with them.”
The poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach” about loss of faith that left us on a “darkling plain/Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight.” In this round of attacks on Benedict XVI we are witness to just such a scene. But, as Francis Beckwith reminded me, the Pope knows how to defend his faith. “This scares the crap out of the mainstream media, since it upsets the narrative: only dumb, ill-informed, people disagree with us. The narrative must be sustained at all costs, even if it means engaging in wicked defamation.”
The White House and the Congress Are Hurting the Church, and We Must Stop It
Deal W. Hudson
April 27, 2010
The present White House is having a huge impact on the Church in America. It’s typical to hear talk about the influence of the Church on politics, but at the present moment the influence is definitely in the other direction.
The pro-abortion forces in this country and the “social justice/seamless garment” crowd in the Church have been empowered by the new Congress and presidency. The reason the Church is so weak right now is the sudden power of groups like the Catholic Health Association, Catholics United, and Catholics In Alliance for the Common Good.
These groups, and their leadership, have straight lines of communication throughout the Church, through the USCCB, chanceries, parishes, and various Catholic associations. This is the network that drove the twisted interpretation of “Faithful Citizenship” through parishes nationwide in 2008.
They plan to do an even better job in 2012, unless we do something about it, unless we stop them.
Obama’s leadership, along with that of Pelosi, has strengthened the hand of the most anti-Catholic, anti-life elements of our culture, both here and in Europe, at the EU and the UN.
The threat of arresting our Holy Father on his upcoming trip to the UK should be a huge wake-up call for what we are up against.
The Church will eventually exert its influence, but for the present moment it is up to independent groups, like Catholic Advocate, to minimize the influence of the fake Catholic groups, especially the psuedo-Catholic groups funded by George Soros, liberal foundations, and labor unions. The media must be forced to describe them for what they are, as we did with Voice of the Faithful.
If we claim the role of Catholic lay expertise in politics then we can’t constantly be looking to the bishops to solve our problems. We should resist the impulse to ask the bishops to do all this work for us.
If we’ve made any mistake since the election it has been focusing on the bishops rather than training Catholics to be politically active and building a coalition of Catholics with other like-minded people of faith.
The only thing we should ask of the bishops is to rewrite the “Faithful Citizenship” document, which caused so much confusion in 2008.
We should not allow the defense of life to be treated as anything other than a Catholic effort, rather than a partisan one. Not only you and I are accused of being “shills” for one party as a result of our emphasis on life and marriage, but several of the more visible bishops as well.
We cannot wait for the Church to reform itself from within so that it assumes a commanding role in shaping our culture and politics. Instead, we must win targeted victories against the kind of leadership that strengthens the hand of the left-wing in the Church and the culture.
If we have another election like 2008, Church reform will be put off for many years to come.
The Supreme Court and the Battle of Hastings
Deal W. Hudson
Published April 14, 2010
On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a case being called “The Battle of Hastings,” involving the right of a college or university to deny recognition to a student group that bans gays and lesbians. Christian Legal Society v. Martinez stems from 2004 when the University of California Hastings’ chapter of the Virginia-based Christian Legal Society changed its policy to exclude anyone who engaged in “unrepentant homosexual conduct.”
Applying its non-discrimination policy, the university decided not to recognize the group — called the Hastings Christian Fellowship — meaning the organization could not receive university funding, meet in university rooms, post on designated bulletin boards, or participate in the Student Organizations Fair.
The Christian Legal Society brought suit against UC Hastings represented by the Alliance Defense Fund. The Hastings’ case arrived in the Supreme Court after the 2006 decision by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruling in Hastings’ favor, saying its policy regulated conduct, not speech. White argued the policy did not regulate what the group could say about homosexuality, but it did bar them from discrimination.A 3-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge White’s ruling In March 2009.
To argue on behalf of the Christian Legal Society, CLS and the Alliance Defense Fund have recruited Michael W. McConnell, a former federal appellate court judge, who currently runs the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. McConnell is arguing the case pro bono.
The justices will consider whether a law school at a public university with a non-discrimination policy can refuse funding to a religious student group because the group requires its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court received 22 friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the Christian Legal Society. And among the almost 100 parties filing briefs in support of CLS and ADF there are 14 state attorneys general, including those from Michigan, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Alabama, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Louisiana, West Virginia, and South Dakota.
“Just as all student groups have the right to associate with people who share common beliefs and interests, Christian student groups have the right to be Christian student groups,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “Requiring leaders of a Christian club to live by a Christian code of conduct is no different than an environmentalist club requiring its leaders not to be lumberjacks.”
For Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund, the Hastings’ decision will have historic ramifications for religious freedom in our nation. As Sears wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner:
“As Christian beliefs stand in ever starker contrast to the campus culture, it has become academic de rigueur to punish the free association of Christian students and the free expression of their ideas on campus.”
The decision of the justices regarding Hastings, according to Sears, will determine whether “the Constitution protects the rights of private student groups to select their message and their officers.” The outcome of Hastings will also send a message to universities and colleges. Should they be training their students “to believe that it’s appropriate for government officials to coerce and ostracize private organizations in order to conform to the prevailing orthodoxy that rules most college campuses today.”
The Battle Over Who Controls the Internet Comes to A Head
Deal W. Hudson
Published May 16, 2010
The battle over who controls the Internet will soon come to a head. Is it the federal government, as the Obama administration is seeking to establish, or the many private companies who collaborated to create it and the millions of private citizens who use it for their entertainment and livelihood?
Soon we will find out if the federal government is going to take over the Internet. Under the Obama administration the Federal Communications Commission is seeking to force AT&T and Verizon to lease their Internet lines to rival companies.
Requiring Verizon and AT&T to share their lines, the FCC would effectively be putting the Internet under government control. Control of the Internet is precisely what the Obama administration wants with its support of “net neutrality” — the idea that there should be no restrictions or priorities on the type of content carried over the Internet by the carriers and ISPs.
Obama’s support of net neutrality means that all Internet traffic will be treated equally, regardless of where it originated or to where it is destined. “I’m a big believer in net neutrality,” President Obama proclaimed only a few days ago while reaffirming his backing of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
The groups backing net neutrality are opposed to companies like Verizon creating different levels of service by charging a higher cost for faster service. Other groups have argued that this kind of tiered service could also lead to “discrimination” against religious content for two reasons: Verizon executives may decide to filter religious content they find objectionable, and religious organizations may not be able to afford the faster service.
Those opposed to net neutrality argue that an Internet kept “open” by government regulation puts families at risk, for example, allowing sex offenders and pornographers to have unfettered access to home computers.
A month ago, in a severe setback to the Obama administration’s push for “net neutrality,” a federal appeals court ruled the Federal Communications Commission did not have the authority to issue a 2008 citation against Comcast Corporation for inhibiting some Internet traffic from high-bandwidth file-sharing services.
The court ruled that the FCC had not been legally empowered by the Congress to regulate the network-management practices of an Internet service provider.
The White House and its allies in Congress, however, are moving ahead with their plans to take control of the Internet.
The plan is to insert net neutrality standards into regulations from the 1930s regarding landline telephones. In other words, by reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunication service the FCC will be given a green light to impose its will.
Groups like the National Taxpayer’s Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Center for Individual Freedom have strongly condemned the effort. CFIF has a petition for those who want the FCC and the Obama Administation to “keep their hands off the Internet.”
The Tea Party and the Religious Conservative Movement
Deal W. Hudson
Published October 8, 2010
A host of commentators on the Tea Party phenomena have mindlessly described the participants as exclusively concerned with fiscal issues. Anyone who has attended one of these events knows better.
Those who attend Tea Parties across the country are solid, middle Americans, from blue collar to white collar, all united not only by a concern for the profligate spending of the federal government, but also by the equally irresponsible social agenda of the Obama administration.
Here are the results of a major polling study of those who attend the Tea Party demonstrations. Called the American Values Survey: Religion, Values and the Mid-Term Elections; this poll was conducted in early September using a sample of 3,013 adults – that’s three times the normal sampling of a national survey.
Guess what? The survey showed that compared to the general population the Tea Party movement is “more supportive of small government, is overwhelmingly supportive of Sarah Palin, and reports that Fox News is the most trusted source of news about politics and current events.”
We didn’t need a survey to tell us that, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.
More importantly, however, are these findings:
Nearly half (47%) also say they are part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement.
Among the more than 8-in-10 (81%) who identify as Christian within the Tea Party movement, 57% also consider themselves part of the Christian conservative movement.
They are mostly social conservatives, not libertarians on social issues. Nearly two-thirds (63%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and less than 1-in-5 (18%) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
I’ve always considered the Tea Parties to be a natural extension of the religious conservative movement I chronicled in my book, Onward Christian Soldiers: the Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon & Schuster, 2008). I think this survey proves it, beyond any doubt.
The media in ignoring the social conservative dimension of the Tea Party is, once again, trying to ignore the continued power of the people of faith in American politics.
Harry Reid Among the Catholics Who Vote
Deal W. Hudson
Published October 5, 2010
Recent polling shows the religiously active Catholic vote is trending strongly toward the GOP. Gary Andres summarizes the findings by commenting:
“While Republicans lost among Catholics in 2006 by 11-points and 13-points in 2008, they now hold a 7-point lead (39%-32%) among Catholics in general. Republicans also lead among Catholics who attend church once a week or more by 12 points.”
These numbers look back to the results of the 2004 presidential election when George W. Bush crushed the Catholic candidate, Sen. John Kerry, by 5% among all self-identified Catholics and by nearly 20% among Catholics attending Mass at least once a week.
This spells trouble for Sen. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, in his race against Sharron Angle. Of the 78% of Nevada citizens who call themselves Christian, over half, 44%, are Roman Catholic. Catholics are the largest religious group in Nevada at 27% with Evangelicals at 13%. Catholic voters make more of a difference in Nevada than most other states. (Mormons who usually vote with other social conservatives are 13% of the population.)
Elections over the past 30 years have shown that when the religiously active voter is aroused then pro-abortion, socially liberal politicians like Reid become vulnerable. There is a strong correlation between both Catholics and Protestants who attend church regularly, or have children at home, with strong concern about a candidate’s position on social issues.
There is a long list of reasons why Catholic voters who care about the defense of life would vote against Senator Harry Reid. Here are just some of his votes over many years:
Reid voted “NO” to allowing Senate consideration of a partial birth abortion ban. Roll Call Vote #332 – 10/20/1999.
Reid voted “NO” on the motion to table the substitute amendment that would have weakened a proposed partial birth abortion ban. Roll Call Vote #335 – 10/20/1999.
Reid voted “NO” to requiring anyone receiving fetal tissue as a result of an abortion to disclose information about it. Roll Call Vote #338 – 10/21/1999.
Reid voted “NO” to barring funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) unless they have stopped activity in China or unless China no longer performs coerced abortions. Roll Call Vote #456 – 9/21/1995.
Reid voted “YES” to removing the Mexico City Policy language to the House version of a bill, which would require all groups receiving federal funding for overseas development from performing or promoting abortion. Roll Call Vote #561 – 11/1/1995.
Reid voted “YES” to tabling legislation barring federal funding for UNFPA unless it shuts down operations in China. Roll Call Vote #575 – 11/15/1995.
Catholics who understand the proper priority the life issues should have in their political participation will find Reid completely unacceptable compared to his opponent Sharron Engle who has been judged to be 100% pro-life by the Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life.
The aspect of the Catholic vote that Angle and her advisors should concern themselves about is Latino Catholics. Latinos constituted 15% of the Nevada vote in the 2008 presidential election, up from 10% in 2004. 76% of Latinos in Nevada voted for Candidate Obama in 2008.
The danger for Angle and the GOP, as Michael Sean Winters has pointed out, is that Angle’s strong push against immigration reform will also push the Latino vote strongly toward the incumbent. Indeed, pro-abortion Catholics in the Congress, like Representative Linda Sanchez (D, CA-39), have been stumping for Reid among Latino voters.
Latino voters are often described as natural social conservatives, which may have accounted for the strong support of George W. Bush in 2004, but the immigration debates of 2005 cooled their ardor towards the GOP.
Angle’s solid pro-life position should win her a majority of non-Hispanic Catholic voters. But the Latino Catholic vote may remain wedded to immigration reform for the near future regardless of Senator Harry Reid’s dismissive attitude towards protecting the unborn.
Deal W. Hudson
Published November 24, 2010
Ask me what I am thankful for this year, and one of the first things that comes to mind is the social/political phenomenon of the Tea Party.
To me, it represents a loud “enough is enough” – not only to the nonsense being perpetrated by the White House and the Congress, but also to the bad ideas that have infused our public policy for decades.
If we are lucky, the Tea Party will be around long enough to accomplish a fundamental reorientation of public attitudes toward government, education, and the media.
The biggest loser in the mid-term elections, where the Tea Party demonstrated its clout, was the mainstream media. With the exception of Fox News, all the major news networks and many newspapers failed to take the Tea Party seriously and cooperated in the failed effort to taint it with racism.
Liberals long ago found the best way to fight conservatives was to avoid ideas and instead ascribe them a despicable motive, preferably racism (the charge of misogyny having lost its steam).
When confronting a Catholic liberal, the motive one is often ascribed is not racism but Republicanism – as if this were the only explanation for why you wouldn’t want Catholic dollars going to community organizations that promote abortion and same-sex marriage.
The subject-motive shift – as we used to call this fallacy in logic class – has become so entrenched in the public mind that very few noticed it, until those in the Tea Party refused to take the bait. They weren’t going to have their objections to government bailouts and Obamacare reduced to their supposed objection to an African-American president.
In fact, the Tea Party represents a post-racial society better than President Obama in the White House. The president and his surrogates have not been very subtle in playing the race card, while the Tea Party refused to cower and cringe when charged with bigotry. They know full well that the racism of their parents is no longer part of the fabric of American society.
This fusion of racial and political attitudes was first accomplished in the academy through the vehicle of “multiculturalism.” It purported to put all cultures and beliefs on equal footing, but in practice it denigrated traditional Western education for its association with male domination (patriarchy), conquest (colonialism), and slavery.
Our nation itself – founded by men and women inspired by Western ideals of freedom and liberty – was placed under the shadow of the multicultural critique. As a result, the patriotic impulse was held suspect until it was revived again – not only by the Tea Party but also by pride in our military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Government policies have inevitably been shaped by a mixture of politics, race and gender. The 2005 immigration debate was doomed from the beginning, based as it was in the perverse logic of multiculturalism that grants privileges to those who are classified as “excluded” by taking them away from others.
The legislation currently before Congress called the Dream Act is a perfect example. This bill allows children of undocumented immigrants to go to U.S. universities and pay in-state tuition. Some 55,000 youngsters who come each year to the United States illegally as children or who were born here to undocumented immigrant parents would be allowed to go to university after completing high school.
At present, children of illegal immigrants can’t enroll in college even if they attended elementary, middle, and high school in the United States. These potential university students would now compete for enrollment with students who are American citizens.
This aspect of the Dream Act is grossly unjust and makes a complete mockery of any idea of citizenship. The Dream Act grants economic privileges to persons because they are illegal – privileges denied to a legal citizen.
If anyone wonders why there is such a thing as a Tea Party, all they have to do is look at legislation like this. Whether or not the bill is passed, the debate alone will extend the life and influence of the Tea Party – for which I am thankful.