Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The So-Called Catholic Vote

The Curt Jester's Mandatory post-election rant is well worth reading. I especially liked this section:

Now we will also have a culture of death Catholic Vice President who will be putting the vice into Vice President with his support of many forms of abortion. I bet the media can hardly wait to snap a picture of him receiving Communion to gloat. The USCCB meets soon to discuss "practical and pastoral implications of political support for abortion." Will the scandal of Sen. Biden be addressed? Probably not, but I would love to be wrong.

I hear that Sen. Obama will be FedExing 30 pieces of silver to Doug Kmiec. Moloch is quite happy with all of the Catholics that voted for Sen. Obama. According to Catholic Culture "Among Catholic voters who attend Mass weekly, McCain won majority support: 54- 45%. Among those who do not attend weekly Mass, the margin for Obama was an overwhelming 61- 37%. Thus Obama drew his support from inactive Catholics." So 45 percent of Mass going Catholics supported the most extreme supporter of abortion ever in a Presidential race. The unborn chopped up via scalpels will be glad to hear about hope and change.

There's been a lot of talk in the past about "the Catholic vote." But let's get one thing straight: there is no longer any such thing as a Catholic vote. Here's why:

1. Much is made over the notion that America is about twenty-five percent Catholic, but all that means is that twenty-five percent of the people who answer various surveys say they are Catholic. The estimated number of Catholics in America, both from this source and from various official figures, is just under seventy million.

2. Since McCain lost yesterday's election by about 7.5 million votes (with two states not tabulated yet), and there are almost ten times that number of Catholics in America, it would seem that Catholics overwhelmingly voted for Obama.

3. However, only 23% of the 70 million Catholics in America attend Mass weekly--which means that only about that number are "practicing" Catholics (a small number may be genuinely impeded from attending Mass for a serious reason, but the vast majority of the 77% of Catholics who go to Mass only occasionally or not at all are not in any sense of the word "practicing" Catholics). So the number of practicing Catholics who might reasonably be expected to consider the Church's teachings seriously and avoid voting for the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever to be elected is no more than about sixteen million; the others would vote more like all other lukewarm "religious" voters, and would probably tilt toward Obama as the statistics the Curt Jester posted suggest.

4. Even if 100% of those sixteen million practicing Catholics voted, according to the statistics the Curt Jester posted, 7.2 million would have voted for Obama (which is disconcertingly close to the exact number of votes Obama needed to win). However, it is unlikely that 100% of those sixteen million voted, for three simple reasons: a) not all of those Catholics are old enough to vote, b) not all of those Catholics are eligible to vote [esp. recent immigrants], and c) not all of those are otherwise capable of voting [sudden illness, inability to get to polls, etc.].

5. In the general population only about half of those eligible to vote do so in any election. Even if more than half of the eligible practicing Catholics voted, there is no way of knowing the exact number, other than to assume that it was somewhat less than the total sixteen million. So the maximum impact the Church could have in any given election even if all sixteen million weekly Mass attendees were eligible voters would be roughly 8.8 million votes--because that represents the 55% of weekly Mass-going Catholics actually willing to take seriously all of the bishops' various statements about the need to consider a candidates position on the abortion issue as the most important aspect when deciding for whom to vote. However, it can't be denied that the number of eligible voters among weekly Mass attendees is probably significantly less than sixteen million, which means that the number of Catholics who take the Church's teachings about abortion seriously enough to vote accordingly is probably a great deal less than 8.8 million, too.

6. Can eight or nine million voters be said to have enough "clout" on their own to constitute a formidable "Catholic vote?" Hardly. As an example, consider the Democrat primary--Hillary Clinton received somewhere around eighteen million votes, but that wasn't enough to win her the primary; and the disenchanted "Hillary voters" or PUMAs weren't enough of a percent of that eighteen million votes to throw yesterday's election to McCain.

So unless the bishops start really focusing on catechesis and stop letting many of those 77% of occasional Mass-goers treat the Church like a warm fuzzy place to celebrate Christmas and Easter and a sacrament factory that dispenses all the sacraments to anyone willing to show up and go through a labyrinthine and rules-oriented DRE-run "sacramental prep" program for the appropriate number of years and/or classes, only to watch three-quarters of these people disappear until they want to marry their live-in boyfriend or girlfriend in one of the pretty churches in town, we're not going to have anything even remotely approximating a "Catholic vote" in America. Sadly, the numbers above show that even the weekly pew-sitters don't seem to get it; years of terrible homilies about the importance of being nice to everybody hasn't done a whole lot for the Church Militant, many of whom seem to think that if we just invite Evil in for a nice cup of tea and a good long chat, and maybe get him to sign on for a felt-banner project or a homeless animal awareness drive, that Evil will turn out to be not such a bad fellow after all--even if Evil does insist we overlook his terrible presence in the deaths of the innocent unborn.


L.T. said...

Erin, I think you have some antiquated notions about the "Catholic vote" since the McGovernik Party broke up the Old Democratic coalition. It hasn't been been a voting block the way the African-American vote is since JFK. The Catholic vote instead has been a consistent bellwether demographic. Catholics went 54-45 for Obama, 52-47 for Bush in '04, and 50-47 for Bush in '00. The Catholic vote predicts winners and their margins better than any other demographic. Campaigns woo the Catholic vote because it reflects the popular electorate on game day, not because it can be relied on to vote in predictable patterns based on Church teaching. Catholics publicly betraying their Church's teachings is a serious problem, but it's got little to do with the the politics of the "Catholic vote."

Also, Catholics are not defined by their adherence to some checklist of moral/political doctrines. Bad Catholics are still Catholics. Your criticism of the Church as a sacrament factory has some truth, but it neglects the importance and virtues of sacramental membership central to Catholic ecclesiology. Poor catechesis is a symptom of a far bigger problem in American Catholic life today; it isn't a primary cause. It's too simplistic to say that's where the bishops have failed. Bishops this year were as bold and united as ever in their denunciations of Obama's pro-choice absolutism, but electoral politics is not a catechesis quiz. I'm not defending Catholics who voted for Obama; I'm just saying faith & politics isn't a simple connect-the-dots relationship.

And while the evangelicals vote more consistently pro-life, they defected in significant numbers this year to help Obama win several states and defeat pro-life ballot initiatives in CO, SD, and MI. What has been disturbing to me is hearing so many of my "devout" Gen-X evangelical friends swoon over Obama and grant him free passes on his abortion position. My devout Catholic friends by contrast did not. It's one thing to say Catholics aren't devout enough. It's arguably worse when even your devout members are betraying the political implications of their faith.

Anonymous said...

I was 'willing' to listen to the bishops, and I voted for Barack Obama, because I did not believe in the premise for which the united bishops spoke in their pop fashion.

It does no good for a united cause that devout individuals of a particular faith e.g. Roman Catholics, are characterized as 'good' or 'bad' in their own faith practices.

This issue speaks precisely to the heart of the foundation of the United States of American, and why there is such a distinction between separation of religion and State. Thank God I live in the good ol' USA.

I did not vote for Mrs. Clinton because she had an inherently undesirable amount of smutty baggage, and we as a country need to turn to a clean slate, so to speak.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Anon, Obama has PROMISED to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, making it illegal to regulate abortion in any way, and making it illegal for Catholic doctors and hospitals NOT to perform abortions.

It will also overturn the Partial Birth Abortion Act..... That means that children the SAME AGE MY SON WAS WHEN HE WAS BORN (35 weeks) will, for no reason other than the fact their mother doesn't want them, be partially delivered and killed.

Children who could spend a couple of days in NICU, and then go to loving adoptive homes.

Children who's only crime is not to be loved or wanted.

This is EVIL. It is MADNESS. And it's what the bishops were speaking out against.

You can vote your own economic self-interest over the lives of the poor innocents, but don't blame the bishops or other Catholics if you feel guilty in the morning... in this case guilt would be a sign of a properly formed conscience!

(Sorry for the rant, Red.... I am just SO upset and disgusted by this right now. I mean, he didn't evcen LIE about his intentions... so how could anyone vote for him?)

Irenaeus said...

Separation of "religion and state" doesn't mean Christians can't have a voice in the public square, or that things which are of concern for us are exclusively religious concerns. We advocate for traditional marriage and pro-life laws not because these are religious issues but because they are issues of common, public morality, of reason, of justice.

Note that we're never pushing for laws that require people to go to church on Sundays, for instance, or requirements that citizens adhere to the Nicene Creed.

Abortion isn't wrong because religion says so; abortion is wrong because reason says so, and, since in Christian tradition reason and faith aren't opposed, the Church happens to agree.

Had you really read the statements the bishops who addressed the issue put out, you would have seen that most of them addressed this, stating that abortion isn't a Catholic concern exclusively, but a common human concern.

Your reference to "separation" is a dead giveaway you haven't thought this through. Thanks for giving us a president who advocates crimes against humanity. One day, there will be a reckoning.

Anonymous said...

The only reliable voting bloc is atheists.

Elizabeth said...

I'm reading and enjoying your blog -- so many good posts, so little time!