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April 21, 2005


A note on the poll data. It's from a poll commissioned by Catholics for Choice, so one might object to the reliabilty of the data. However, that poll's data is consistent with just about every poll I've ever seen that breaks out data for Catholics. In general, Catholics track almost perfectly with the general electorate on almost every social issue.

Stop straying from the current script.

"All Catholics are bad."

Thanks. I had forgotten my lines. ;-)

Oh, one thing that's missing from the polling data is whether Catholics follow the Church's teachings regarding birth control. My guess is they had to drop that question becuase the respondents' laughter was so hearty and unending that the pollsters weren't able to ask any additional questions.

I read somewhere that Ratzinger said that he would prefer a smaller church that followed the dogma more closely. My gues is that if that comes true they will have to start selling the Vatican artwork to sustain themselves.

I swear I've read elsewhere that Bush became the first Republican ever to win a majority of the Catholic vote, which, as your history shows, is a whopper of Jon Lovitz proportion.

Does anyone else find it offensive that the article separates out "white Catholics"? This seems of a piece with friends of my parents declaring "Bush carried white America" -- implying he has the majority among "real" (or important) people. It seems especially out of place in a country growing less lily-white all the time.

Perhaps an even larger problem than mischaracterizing this Catholic vote as previously solid Dem is the universal media assumption that what swing there is comes entirely because of the sex-based issues -- something these poll numbers roundly refute. Doesn't it make greater sense to assume that Catholics are a swing vote because many are working or middle-class, and thus likely to go with the party they perceive is working for or against them economically? Why the desire to lump them in with the fundamentalist right (to the point most TV Catholic spokesmen are of the Bill Donohue variety)?

Is it possible the press buys into these ideas about Catholics because they still believe the only way for Dems to recapture a presidential majority is to reconstruct the Roosevelt coalition (which WAS heavily dependent on Catholics)? The same assumption seems in play when the press discusses the South -- they suggest Dems can't possibly compete without significantly competing there. Yet it's clear Gore got (in a fair count) an electoral majority without any real Southern state, Kerry very nearly the same...and both had better opportunity for expansion in the mid- and southwest than in Dixie. FDR carried the South, though, so they take it as an article of faith Dems have to focus there.

Mike S., haven't seen your name in a quite a while; glad to run into you.

demtom--I think part of the reason for separating out white Catholics from the overall Catholic bloc is for historical comparisons. The demographics of the Catholic vote in a place like Michigan or Maine isn't that different today than it was 20 years ago, but in CA or IL or FL it's dramatically different, mostly because of immigration from Mexico and Central America, and nationally there's the same effect.

As to why the press buys into this stuff, one of the reasons is that with very few exceptions--most of whom are at the WaPo--reporters are clueless about voting demographics and election data. Furthermore, I think the problem is exacerbated by the fact that most media "elites" are secular, and those who aren't tend to be "high church" protestants or Jews, without a lot of practicing Catholics. Then, in terms of pundits, the Catholics who are out there tend to be winger nutjobs like Buchanan, or wafflers like Russert. Despite the significant numbers of liberal Catholic officeholders not named Kennedy--Pelosi, Durbin, Kerry, Leahy and a bunch of others--the ranks of rational and liberal Catholic pundits are slim; I can think of EJ Dionne, but off the top of my head, I'm having a difficult time coming up with a second, at least that moves in the DC politico circuit (thus exempting Gary Wills, who's more of a "big picture" essayist). So, the "Catholic position" is increasingly staked out by wingers or the mealy-mouthed, and they're allowed to pass as "authorities" on all things Catholic.

Good point, that isolating white Catholics does make era-to-era comparison more exact. Though it does tend to inflate the journalistic significance of the more-GOP-leaning white segment.

E.J. Dionne was certainly all over the tube during the Pope coverage, suggesting you're right, they couldn't find anyone else to offer reaction from his political corner (though I was shocked to hear verging-on-liberal reactions from Cokie Roberts the other night -- if she's any barometer, this Pope is going to have alot of resistance from American Catholics).

It still weirds me out to think of Garry Wills as representing the liberal side. I've been around long enough to remember him right of center. He hasn't moved; the line has.

I think this pope IS going to have serious resistance from American Catholics. The American leadership is aware of that polling data, and they know that most American Catholics don't want their church dragged into political controversies, and they're still highly pissed about the pedophila scandals. A big problem is that this pope--and I owe this observation to Michael/Musing85--thinks the solution to the pedophila scandals is just to root out any gays from the priesthood, but leave everything else as is (or push backwards). The problem isn't homosexuality in the priesthood, it's that too many older priests were covered up, and too many newer priests shouldn't be passing the psychological exams, but they're so hard up for seminarians that they're taking anyone they can find.

The most pressing issue facing the church is the dearth of priests under 60 years old, and Benedict's "solution" to that problem is little more than sticking his head in the sand and hoping that a reactionary turn in doctrine will solve it.

Good to see you to demtom. I only post sporatically here because these guys hate Dean and were out to get him from the get go. ;}

I think the American Catholic Church is in deep trouble. I was a lasped Catholic until I saw that Law was given a Mass to celebrate for the Pope. That was pretty much the last straw in my case. I don't know of any American Cardinals that showed up for it and salute that but can't get past it in my mind. Unlike many, I don't hold all Catholics in contempt for that or for the election of Ratzinger but I can't support the Church anymore.

Thankfully Ratzinger isn't likely to be Pope for very long. Maybe when his place holder status is finished there will be a Pope who is willing to bring the Church farther along the path is was on before JPII.

I have a question about birt control. The church is against it because God said "Be fruitfull and multiply." IIRC, he said that when there were only two people on the planet. Isn't it possible that God thinks we were fruitfull enough and may not have a problem with contraception?

The Church isn't against birth control because of a quote from Genesis, the Church has twisted itself into an intellectual corner in order to keep control of our pelvises - it uses the so-called Natural Law to cover its ass (and ours). The Natural Law, used in controlling sexual behavior, anyway, is, very roughly, the idea that it is sinful to frustrate the "natural" purpose of sexual intercourse, which is procreation. If the sexual act is "abused" by deliberately frustrating its "natural" end, procreation, either one or both of the couple are considered by the Catholic Chruch to be in a state of mortal sin, which incurs eternal damnation. I am not making this up; but clearly, it has nothing really to do with filling up the earth with people, it has to do with controlling human behavior. Even back in the '60s when I was studying this stuff, and my brain was young and supple, I couldn't see the logic. And there have been huge tomes written about it. Google "natural law" if you want to see the breathtaking numbers of words written to justify trying to control people having sex.

Benedict 16 is all ready at his mission, even before he gets ritually installed. First Target is Spain, which recently passed a Civil Union act that will go into effect this summer. He is encluraging massive non-cooperation on the part of Catholic Civil Servants in Spain to this new provision.

Something tells me that the Spanish people may not take much delight in this intervention in their political affairs -- Church attendence is way down in Spain, and the reaction of voters to the "lie" about who bombed the Madrid trains suggests to me the vox populi may yet need to be heard. I suspect it might be read as a "bring back Franco" ploy.

For good reporting on Vatican affairs, I would recommend John Allen, who has been on TV quite a lot, but is the principle reporter for the National Catholic Reporter (good website) a moderately liberal and lay Catholic Paper. The NCR has a special feature called the "Abuse Tracker" which is updated daily, and delivers all the material on abuse in the World Wide English Language Press -- and sometimes translations from Polish or German when appropriate. (Scroll down on their homepage and look on the left).

Another American Catholic Liberal who "Pundits" is James Carroll at the Boston Globe. He is a former Priest and Church History Scholar.

I second Sara, the National Catholic Reporter is an excellent publication. RE: Carroll, I'm not as familiar with his work, but I do know that a lot of "liberals" believe that he grinds some axes and it sometimes colors his scholarship.

I agree that the National Catholic Reporter is excellent. James Carroll is also very good; his weekly columns in the Boston Globe appear on Tuesdays.

American Catholics and those in Western Europe are also much more liberal on gays too. After all, the most supportive region of same-sex marriage/civil unions is New England with its large Catholic population.

In Europe Belgium and Netherlands - both with large Catholic populations - have approved same-sex marriage and now 90% Catholic Spain is probably headed the same way. A Spanish poll said Spaniards support same-sex marriage 66-26%.

And booting gay seminarians out - a rumored possibility under Benedict XVI - will only add to the huge need for new priests. One of my gay priest friends said that in our diocese about 40-60% of current priests are gay. That figure was supported by one of my straight priest friends.

I don't think the Bishops formally voted on the issue of denying Communion to Catholic abortion advocates. I haven't found that in any documents from their meetings.

I know that they voted to not have a national policy on this matter so that each Bishop has the flexibility to use the approach that he believes will be most effective in his diocese to teach the faith. This is quite different from "voting against denying communion to politicians and voters who espouse positions contrary to Catholic teachings and doctrines." Those in favor of denying Communion themselves may not be in favor of a formal national policy on tis matter.

Can you provide a source for your statement? Thanks!

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