Catholics: Just Like Everybody Else!

I remember a few years ago at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, a national meeting of socially justice minded Professional Catholics, the then-head of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Social Justice and World Peace office, John Carr, talk to us about how important the Catholic vote was.  As he put it, in 6 of the last 6 presidential elections, the candidate that the majority of Catholics voted for had won.  In his explanation, this was because we were such an important and large voting bloc.  We’d swayed the presidential elections!  As go the Catholics, as go the nation, I suppose.  I thought that there might be a less flattering explanation.  Maybe Catholics are just basically Americans, and we vote the way the country does, instead of voting as Catholics.

I mention that because the Washington Post has a poll done by Univision about Catholic attitudes worldwide on same-sex marriage. The headline?  “Catholics Still lead the Way on Gay Marriage.”  Wow, we lead the way!  54% of Catholics in the United States support same-sex marriage.  I guess that much be significantly greater than the rest of the country, huh, if Catholics are leaders?  Well, according to a poll from last March, 53% of Americans support same-sex marriage.  So maybe not so much “leading” as “right in line with public sentiment.”  

Look, I understand.  Catholics are the largest single denomination in the United States (although generic Evangelical has us beat).  And the Bishops’ have a strong media arm, and a concerted effort in making us seem like we all vote together and how the Bishops’ want.  But I don’t even think they’re all voting together in the privacy of a voting booth.  In reality, if you want to know what a Catholic thinks of an issue, you should probably just guess based on what Americans think.  Because actually, we’re not that special.

Now, why so many Catholics go to church but don’t seem to care what the church leadership says on issues left or right–that’s another post.  Probably several.

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