Saturday, October 4, 2008

Catholics: Democrat or Republican?

In the NY Times today there is an article of the internal divisions among Catholics regarding political parties. Which party, Democrat or Republican, best represents the full panoply of teachings of the Catholic Church?

The debate comes down to respect for human life. Conservative Catholics, most prominently Catholic bishops, have focused on the issue of abortion, equating abortion with homicide, saying that "liberals" who say they are for social justice are ironically endorsing homicide.
In Scranton, Pa., every Catholic attending Mass this weekend will hear a
special homily about next month’s election: Bishop Joseph Martino has ordered
every priest in the diocese to read a letter warning that voting for a supporter
of abortion rights amounts to endorsing “homicide.”

This, of course, leaves only Republican candidates eligible for voting according to these conservative bishops. I am largely annoyed by politicking from the pulpit. But all sides actually do it. The other side, however, says this is just one of many teachings in the Catholic Church, and, in fact, when considering the wider teachings overall, the Democratic Party fits the bill. On issues like poverty, social justice, education, health care, immigration, racism, and the war in Iraq, the Catholic Church tends toward the position articulated by the Democratic Party. Does one issue of being pro-choice outweigh all of these others?

Scranton is an interesting place for this to occur. Since it is the childhood home of Joe Biden, himself a Catholic.

Scranton, the focus of disproportionate amount of attention because it was the childhood home of Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, has become a flashpoint in the battle playing out nationwide in weekly homilies, pastoral letters and diocesan newspapers. Scranton is also one of several heavily Catholic, working-class cities in swing states — like Pittsburgh, Erie, Pa.,
Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit and St. Louis — where a new network of liberal groups like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United are trying to promote the church’s social justice teachings.

Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate nationwide, and about a third in many of the most heavily contested states in the Northeast and Midwest, an increasingly central focus of both presidential campaigns.

The entire article just demonstrates how Catholicism is not just one thing. That there are many different forms it can take based upon local circumstances and emphases taken by different clergy, laity, and organizations. All of these "Catholicisms" focus on life, but they all see it differently. For the entire article, go here.


Anonymous said...

Throwing a bit of a wrench into the works is that, in Pennsylvania, the Democratic senator (Casey, from Scranton!) is pro-life, while the Republican senator (Specter) is pro-choice.

Jared Calaway said...

Interesting. I did not know that. Are either of them Catholic?

Anonymous said...

Casey is, but Specter is Jewish