Catholic Politicians

Dominant-Issue Voters

By Deal W. Hudson

Several Catholic leaders have recently commented that Catholics should not be “single issue” voters, meaning that they shouldn’t vote exclusively on the abortion issue. I agree. But it’s not necessary to be a single-issue voter to give the life issues the priority they deserve. Catholics should be “dominant issue” voters.

The Catholic Church proposes a vertical—not horizontal list of moral and social issues for political consideration. The life issues—including abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem-cell research, and cloning—are at the top of that hierarchy. These issues should be considered dominant in determining how to vote for two simple reasons: First, the protection of life—the right to life—is a moral principle that sits at the foundation of morality itself. And it’s one of the three foundational rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. There could be no right to liberty or happiness unless there were a living person in the first place.

Second, the Catholic injunction to oppose abortion is unqualified: Individuals are not required, or allowed, to make prudential judgments of the principle to a specific case. Appeals to private “conscience” cannot override this infallible teaching. In the Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Public Life, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes:

In this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good.

Opposition to abortion, therefore, binds every Catholic on pain of mortal sin; it admits of no exceptions. There is no question, then, that as the dominant issue, a politician’s position on abortion qualifies him or her for the Catholic vote. From the perspective of the Church, not all the policy positions taken by candidates are of equal importance. Catholics, by understanding themselves as dominant-issue voters, can preserve the hierarchy of values at the core of Church teaching while not ignoring the legitimate spectrum of issues important to political consideration.

Furthermore, by understanding the dominance of life issues, Catholics will overcome their confusion about the difference between moral principle and prudential judgment. Unlike the admonition against abortion, most of the general principles proposed in Church teaching can be implemented in a variety of ways; it’s simply a mistake to assume—as the left often does—that one kind of implementation is more “Catholic” than another.

(The bishops’ conference issues dozens of policy recommendations every congressional session on issues ranging from broadband legislation to minimum wage and partial-birth abortion. Unfortunately, the average Catholic doesn’t discriminate between simple policy recommendations made by the conference and doctrinal statements and often wrongly assumes that they have equal authority.)

One final advantage to the dominant-issue approach is that it can help close the unnecessary divide between pro-life Catholics and “social justice” Catholics. There’s a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it’s threatened. The Church often employs the phrase “social justice” when addressing “the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1928).

The demands of social justice, then, begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It’s a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The source of moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry is one and the same—the inherent dignity of the human person.

Published in Crisis Magazine, June 1, 2002

Don’t Call Me a Conservative Catholic Anymore!

By Deal W. Hudson

Labels in politics and religion serve a purpose: There are discernible groups and coalitions within and between the worlds of the Church and government. Words used as labels serve the purpose of enabling us to distinguish between one group and the other.

But I don’t want to be called a “Conservative Catholic” anymore. In the last few months, I’ve read two headlines beginning with the phrase “Conservative Catholic” which contained comments that have effectively made the label, if not meaningless, represent a group of Catholics who are now spreading the virus of an identity crisis.

First, there was a former editor of First Things who broke with Church teaching on homosexuality because of lessons learned from a gay friend who pressured him on the subject.

Then, on Tuesday, there came a story in the Washington Post quoting “Conservative Catholics” who have become critical of Pope Francis. The Holy Father is charged with not being “accurate” in some of his recent interviews with and comments to the media.

Having read and pondered these “controversial” statements, I’ve defended them — which is what “Conservative Catholics” used to do — and I’m prepared to explain all of them.

Take one example: Pope Francis made the comment that every person seeks the Good as he or she “conceives” of it. St. Thomas Aquinas said precisely the same thing.

The will is naturally led by the vision of the Good — meaning what appears desirable — towards mental and physical action. That vision of the Good may be wrong, or incomplete, as Pope Francis knows, but that is how the human person operates.

By pointing out that all persons seek the Good as they see it, he is providing all Catholics with the secret of effective evangelism: Start with how people “see things” and work on converting that, and you will reveal the wisdom and beauty of the Church.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit. That makes him a highly educated and intelligent theologian who knows about one thousand times more about the subjects of the Church, God, faith, and salvation than any of the media.

What’s remarkable about this Jesuit Pope, the very first, is that he speaks and acts in the spirit of true evangelism. He’s not an enthusiast, a cheerleader, or a screamer. Pope Francis is the embodiment of the New Evangelization that has never gotten off the ground.

Instead of spending our days policing, and fretting over, his statements, I suggest we sit at his feet and learn from him.

Published at Catholic Online, October 17, 2013

The Trouble with Mitt Romney’s Pro-Life Conversion

Deal W. Hudson

Published December 27, 2007

Mitt Romney, by his own admission, was a pro-abortion governor of Massachusetts. That changed on November 8, 2004 in his second term during a conversation with Dr. Douglas Melton from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

According to Romney, Dr. Melton dismissed the “moral issue” of cloning embryos for stem cells “because we kill the embryos after 14 days.” (Melton disputes Romney’s account.)

“It hit me very hard that we had so cheapened the value of human life in a Roe v. Wade environment that it was important to stand for the dignity of human life,” Romney said. From that moment of conversion, Gov. Romney declared himself pro-life and an opponent of embryonic stem cell research. I join those who applaud Romney’s new direction and agree that his promises are the right ones.

But there is a lingering problem: Romney is opposed only to creating clones for stem cell research; he is not opposed to using “discarded” frozen embryos. These frozen embryos have been the primary source of embryonic tissue for stem cell research. How can you declare yourself opposed to this research when you are not opposed to the way it is actually carried out?

Romney’s position became even more confusing during his December 10th interview on CBS with Katie Couric. She asked Romney whether he agreed with using discarded frozen embryos for stem cells.

Romney replied:

Yes, those embryos are commonly referred to as surplus embryos from in-vitro fertilization. Those embryos, I hope, could be available for adoption for people who would like to adopt embryos. But if a parent decides they would want to donate one of those embryos for purposes of research, in my view, that’s acceptable. It should not be made against the law.

My question is this: How can you consider a frozen embryo a moral entity capable of being adopted, while at the same time support the scientist who wants to cut the embryonic being into pieces? Even more, if Romney’s conversion was about the “cheapened value of human life,” how can he abide the thought of a parent donating “one of those embryos” to be destroyed?

Peter G. Flaherty, Romney’s deputy campaign manager, has made it clear the governor is opposed to using federal funds on frozen embryo research, calling it “ethically troublesome.”

As the primary in Iowa approaches, many Iowa conservatives have still not made up their minds. Gov. Mike Huckabee has surged because he became the candidate about whom social conservatives had the fewest doubts. Romney’s well-oiled campaign — the best of any candidate, in my opinion — was never able to overcome the lingering doubts created by his pro-abortion past and the glaring inconsistency of his position on embryonic stem cells.

Romney is not the first politician who tripped over this issue. Back in the summer of 2005, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) appeared to be the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination until he declared his support for expanded federal funding for research on frozen embryos. When Frist refused to recant or clarify his position, his presidential aspirations came to a swift end. Frist’s meltdown came on the heels of the first showdown between the Bush White House and his pro-life supporters. The issue, again, was embryonic stem cells.

Jay P. Lefkowicz, who was domestic policy adviser at the time, describes in Commentary the huge effort made by Bush and his staff to make a decision on federal funding for research. Bush’s decision to limit funding to the existing stem cell lines pleased very few, though the pro-life message of his TV appearance softened the blow to the pro-lifers.

Romney now inhabits a similar political space: His overall pro-life message is pleasing to many voters, but they’re still looking for a safer bet.

Romney’s speech on religion, given at Texas A&M on December 6, was clearly an attempt to calm the fears of his social conservative base, not only about his religion but also his overall commitment to conservative values. Thus far, the former governor of Massachusetts has not received the bump in the polls his campaign hoped to see after the widely-covered speech. More helpful to Romney’s standing was the endorsement by National Review. The NR editors nevertheless acknowledged the chinks in Romney’s pro-life armor in their carefully-worded statement of endorsement:

He [Romney] may not have thought deeply about the political dimensions of social issues until, as governor, he was confronted with the cutting edge of social liberalism.

It’s clear from his convoluted statements on embryonic stem cells that Romney’s thoughts on this issue are still far from coherent and consistent.

For many grassroots conservatives, and those from the Religious Right, Romney may be too big of a stretch, especially when they — at least, for now — identify so closely with the preacher from Hope, Arkansas.

Why I Don’t Trust Mitt Romney

Deal W. Hudson

Published January 28, 2008

Note: I haven’t seen or heard anything since I wrote this to change my mind,

DWH 12/26/14

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has positioned himself as a pro-life, pro-family “social conservative,” and has received the endorsement of some prominent social conservatives. But Massachusetts-area grassroots Catholics familiar with his record as governor are mystified by that support.

Their view of Romney is that his “conversion” to social conservatism was pragmatic, a tactic to win the presidential nomination. The liberal policies that made Romney governor of Massachusetts – including a pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage platform – could not win him the Republican presidential nomination, so sweeping changes in his political philosophy were necessary.

Romney, the presidential candidate, is a politician vastly different from Romney, the governor of Massachusetts.

I’ve already questioned Romney’s pro-life conversion. Anyone who simultaneously supports both the adoption of frozen embryos and destroying them for scientific research is not to be trusted on this issue.

His record on the campaign trail only corroborates my concerns. For example, he campaigns as a fiscal conservative but promised a $20 billion taxpayer bail-out to the Detroit auto industry on the eve of the Michigan primary.

I have a hard time believing a President Romney would shed all the liberal bad habits he exhibited as governor – the same habits that pop up regularly on the campaign trail as he tells local audiences what they want to hear.

In a series of interviews with pro-life Catholics in Massachusetts, I uncovered a long list of concerns with Mitt Romney – and they are dead-set in their opposition to him. This is the story they told me.

Romney on Abortion

Today Romney describes himself as “pro-life,” and explains he converted to this position in late 2004. But his public statements and actions present a mixed history of pro-choice vs. pro-life positions.

During his 1994 Senate campaign against Ted Kennedy and in his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Romney campaigned as a pro-choice candidate. In a televised debate against Kennedy in October of 1994, Romney said he felt “abortion should be safe and legal in this country,” and he believed this because his mother took that position in her 1970 U.S. Senate campaign.

When Kennedy labeled his opponent “multiple choice,” Romney rebutted that, since the time of a close relative’s death from an illegal abortion years ago, “My mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter, and you will not see me wavering on that.”

Romney thus suggested he may have previously been neutral or pro-life, but he became pro-choice two years before Roe v. Wade (Conversion No. 1). He maintained that pro-choice position through his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, when he answered to Planned Parenthood and NARAL questionnaires by saying he supported “the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade,” and “I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose… Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government’s.”

Oddly, Romney refused to answer the candidate questionnaire sent to him that year by Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

By spring of 2005, Romney was highlighting his personal opposition to abortion in out-of-state speeches. “I’m in a different place than I was probably in 1994, when I ran against Ted Kennedy, in my own views on that.” On May 23, 2005, Romney was quoted in USA Today saying he was “personally pro-life” but declined to say more. “I choose not to elaborate on those because I don’t want to be confusing to people in my state.”

Massachusetts Citizens for Life was “unimpressed with those moves,” and still considered Romney an abortion-rights supporter.

Romney has attributed his pro-life conversion (Conversion No. 2) to a November 2004 stem cell research discussion with a Harvard researcher. He now claims he has joined company with other political figures such as Ronald Reagan and Henry Hyde who changed their views.

Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council summarized his view: “For a lot of people, especially Christian conservatives, it’s one of those black and white issues. You’re either pro-life or not. That’s the trouble with Governor Romney – he’s gray.”

Romney on Emergency Contraception

The Boston Globe claims that a visible result of Romney’s abortion shift was his July 2005 veto of a bill making the “morning-after pill” (Plan B) available over-the-counter at state pharmacies and requiring hospitals to offer it to rape victims.

If Governor Romney has indeed suddenly become committed to the culture of life in the past two years, why did he eliminate the conscience exemption allowing Catholic hospitals to opt-out of the intrusive law that his own Department of Public Health decided to grant them?

On December 7, 2005, the Globe reported that Romney’s Department of Public Health had determined Catholic and other privately run hospitals could opt out of giving the morning-after pill to rape victims because of religious or moral objections. A statute passed in previous years said that privately run hospitals could not be forced to provide abortions or contraception, and indeed, Article II of the Massachusetts Constitution guarantees such freedom of religious practice.

When pro-choice groups complained, Romney immediately caved-in – or “flip-flopped,” as Massachusetts Democrats described it, saying that after legal review, his own lawyer found all hospitals in the state would be forced to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims.

On December 9, 2005, the Boston Globe reported, “Governor Mitt Romney reversed course on the state’s new emergency contraception law… The decision overturns a ruling made public this week by the state Department of Public Health that privately run hospitals could opt out of the requirement if they objected on moral or religious grounds.”

Why did Governor Romney not simply abide by the state constitution and the decision of his own Public Health Department? He instead abandoned Catholic hospitals, setting them up for possible court battles if they upheld their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.

Romney on Gay Rights

Romney has become a crusader against same-sex marriage and activist judges. But his gay-friendly positions from his 1994 campaign against Senator Kennedy have recently come back to haunt him, and documents held by Massachusetts pro-family activists and the Boston-area gay newspaper, Bay Windows, show how Romney’s pro-gay actions as governor have not matched his conservative rhetoric.

Romney’s previous comments reported by the New York Times, Boston Globe, and other papers are troubling on their own. In 1994, Romney won the endorsement of the gay-advocating Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, saying he would be a stronger advocate for gays than Senator Kennedy. “We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.”

During his 2002 run for governor, Romney supported full domestic partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples, which had been opposed by Democratic legislative leadership, and his campaign distributed pink flyers during Gay Pride events promoting equal rights for all citizens regardless of their sexual preference.

During that same 2002 run, Romney also denounced as “too extreme” an effort by pro-family groups to enact a state Marriage Protection Amendment banning gay marriage, civil unions and same-sex domestic-partnership benefits which could have preempted the November 2003 same-sex marriage court decision.

Romney’s inactions as governor that allowed the gay agenda to advance among young people are even more troubling. For example, the Governor’s Commission for Gay and Lesbian Youth promotes gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) education in schools via speaking presentations, films, books, dances (such as transgender proms), handouts, and establishment of GLBT clubs.

Although Romney had legal control over the entity, he never tried to limit its use of funding, impact the membership, or dissolve the commission until after the legislature created a redundant commission several months before the end of his four-year term in office. In fact, Romney’s fiscal 2006 budget included $250,000 for the commission, twice what he proposed spending in 2005. Romney signed annual proclamations recognizing Youth Gay Pride Day.

Romney’s Department of Public Health supported publication of “The Little Black Book: Queer in the 21st Century,” a pamphlet that includes graphic instructions about safely performing gay sex acts, which even liberal Boston Herald columnists described as “filled with crude vulgarities” and a “vile little pamphlet… dirt, dummied-down poison to the mind.”

Romney’s Department of Education provides extensive instructions to schools on forming Gay/Straight Student Alliances; advocates that school children attend gay pride parades; proposes agendas for a gay/lesbian “Day of Awareness, including a panel of transgender individuals talking about transvestite/transsexual issues; and suggests top ten Gay Straight Alliance meeting topics such as “What would the world be like if 10 percent of its people were straight and 90 percent were gay?” and “What would it be like if parents wanted their children to grow up gay?”

Romney on Judicial Appointments

For all of Romney’s rhetoric about activist judges, his own judicial appointments also leave much to be desired. The Boston Globe reported in July of 2005 that Romney had “passed over GOP lawyers for three-quarters of the 36 judicial vacancies he has faced, instead tapping registered Democrats or independents – including two gay lawyers who have supported expanded same-sex rights.”

In May of 2005, Romney selected for a district court judgeship Stephen Abany, a former board member of the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association who organized the group’s opposition to a 1999 bill to outlaw same-sex marriage. The MLGBA is “dedicated to ensuring that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision on marriage equality is upheld, and that any anti-gay amendment or legislation is defeated.”

Ironically, the Globe reports that two days before Abany’s nomination, Romney was lamenting the liberal tilt of the state’s bench, telling Fox News that “our courts have a record here in Massachusetts… of being a little blue and being Kerry-like.”

Catholics would no doubt also be surprised to hear another Romney choice for the bench was Marianne C. Hinkle, who described herself as a longtime active member of Dignity/USA, a group that wants to reform the Catholic Church’s views and teachings on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender activity.

Romney on Gay Adoption

Massachusetts Catholics say that Governor Romney’s positions on adoption of children by homosexual couples are contradictory at best, and that inaction on his part contributed to Catholic Charities of Boston exiting their adoption ministry in 2006 after more than 100 years of service.

In terms of his public rhetoric, Romney tries to have it both ways. He has been dismissive of same-sex parenting to South Carolina Republicans, saying sarcastically that some gay and lesbian couples “are actually having children born to them,” while in Massachusetts, he says he recognizes that homosexual couples “have a legitimate interest in being able to receive adoptive services.”

Romney’s action and inaction on this issue has been different from his stated position. In late 2005 and early 2006, when Catholic Charities of Boston was under fire for having complied with a state regulation requiring adoption agencies to broker adoptions for homosexual couples, Romney initially claimed he could not unilaterally exempt them, as an exemption would require legislation “and would not be something I would be authorized to do on a personal basis.” Since legislative leaders had previously declared such legislation would be effectively dead on arrival, Catholic Charities proceeded to exit the adoption business, and Romney’s subsequent decision to file legislation asking for the exemption indeed went nowhere, with zero benefit to the agency.

Romney refused to use his executive powers to change the regulation, and even former Gov. Michael Dukakis weighed in to say Romney’s legislation was “unnecessary,” in that “the state’s anti-discrimination statutes do not preclude an exemption for the Catholic organization.” Abortion is constitutionally protected, yet Catholic hospitals that do not perform abortions on religious principle are not prevented from being reimbursed for Medicaid-eligible services.

The liberal Governor Dukakis, who signed the original gay rights bill during his tenure, said there was nothing mandated in this area and observed, “Governors can change regulations if they want to, that’s up to them.” So why did Romney back down?

Romney on Gay Marriage

On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in Goodridge vs. Dept. of Public Health that same-sex couples should not be denied the right to marry in Massachusetts. Since that time, Romney has pushed aggressively for a marriage-protection amendment in Massachusetts. This amendment passed its first round in the legislature on January 2, 2007, but failed to pass in June of 2007, killing that amendment and hopes of any rollback of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts for at least four years, if not forever.

Governor Romney, however, previously opposed a 2002 marriage-protection amendment that would have preempted the court ruling of November 2003.

Romney has also been one of the more outspoken politicians on the national scene in favor of defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and against activist judges whose rulings paved the way for gay marriage.

But what many people don’t know, and what is most overlooked by the media, is that John Adams had the foresight in 1780 to write specific provisions in the Massachusetts Constitution, the world’s oldest functioning written constitution, to prevent judicial activism of this sort.

Unfortunately, Romney made no attempt to exercise most of his constitutional options in order to block same-sex marriages before they began or stop them while in office, and Catholic activists would like to know why.

Romney could have declared the ruling null and void, and therefore unenforceable, immediately after it was handed down in November of 2003. How? Article 5 of the Massachusetts Constitution says, “All causes of marriage, divorce, and alimony… shall be heard and determined by the governor and council.” Romney could have said that the court simply had no jurisdiction to rule over the definition of marriage.

The Massachusetts Constitution also has specific provision for removing judges without cause via a “bill of address.” Instead of responding to a problem of activist judges by going through a lengthy process of amending the Constitution, the offending judges can simply be removed from office for distorting the Constitution to impose their own views.

Such a procedure has been successfully used several times in the past in Massachusetts. In the spring of 2004, Romney could have supported the active grassroots effort and Democratic-sponsored legislation to remove the judges who wrote the Goodridge decision.

If Romney was genuinely troubled by the role of “activist judges” in the same-sex marriage issue, why did he refuse to support this move in 2004?

Interestingly, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire on November 24, 2007, Romney publicly called for the resignation of a Massachusetts judge after the judge released a violent criminal who then apparently murdered a Washington state couple. Should Catholics assume that the Goodridge judges’ radically unconstitutional redefinition of marriage for all of society is not sufficiently serious a matter for Romney to have called for their resignation any time in the past four years?

Next, Romney could have followed the precedent of Abraham Lincoln in the 1857 Dred Scott case – which Romney himself referred to in a Wall Street Journal editorial – and respected the decision of the Court with regard only to the litigants in that specific case.

As Hadley Arkes explained in National Review, Lincoln and his party did not try to set the slave Dred Scott free once the Supreme Court had confirmed him to remain in slavery. Lincoln only accepted the ruling for the parties in the specific case, and he did not allow the public policy of the whole country to be affected by the Supreme Court’s decision.

Romney could have announced that he would respect the decision for the plaintiffs, but he could have insisted then that clerks issue licenses of marriage only to couples who had come through comparable litigation and received a comparable order from a court.

If Romney was such an enthusiast for Lincoln’s response to the Dred Scott decision and so determined to block same-sex marriage, why didn’t he pursue the same strategy to try and block same-sex marriage from propagating beyond the small group of Goodridge litigants?

Finally, and most importantly, since the ruling stopped short of changing the previous marriage law, a strong governor could have simply refused to do anything.

Article X of the Massachusetts Constitution provided Romney clear justification for ignoring the court order. “The people of this Commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent.” And Article XX says, “The power of suspending the laws, or the execution of the laws, ought never to be exercised but by the Legislature.”

The justices who wrote the Goodridge decision knew this – which is why they specifically did not strike down the previous law. The legislature was then given 180 days in which to act.

GLAD Attorney Mary Bonauto, representing the seven gay couples who sued the state, said immediately after the 2003 Goodridge ruling, “The only task assigned to the Legislature is to come up with changes in the law that will allow gay couples to marry at the end of the 180-day period.”

All three branches of government concurred. The SJC clarified their ruling in February of 2004, writing to the Senate: “The purpose of the stay was to afford the Legislature an opportunity to conform the existing statutes to the provisions of the Goodridge decision.”

Romney himself in April of 2004 said, “The Legislature has yet to follow a directive from the SJC to change the state’s marriage laws. I believe the reason that the Court gave 180 days to the Legislature was to allow the Legislature the chance to look through the laws… and see how they should be adjusted… for purposes of same-sex marriage; the Legislature didn’t do that.”

And State Sen. Bruce E. Tarr, a gay-marriage supporter, said in April 2004 that he believed the legislature would ultimately pass bills that would insert gender-neutral language into the state’s marriage laws in time for the May 17, 2004, deadline. “No one should interpret inaction thus far with the idea that no action is forthcoming.”

But the Massachusetts legislature never acted to change the law. What happened between April 2003 and May 2004 when Romney decided a “new law” existed and ordered town clerks to follow it by issuing same-sex marriage licenses?

And since the court ruling never ordered the governor to do anything, why did Romney order justices of the peace to perform the unions or resign their positions if they objected on moral grounds?

Even if some people not familiar with the Massachusetts Constitution felt that somehow the court did change the law, since the court had violated its constitutional authority, what would have happened if Romney had had the courage to stand up and defy it?

Virtually every pro-family conservative in the country urged Romney to stand strong at the time and defy the court. The Family Research Council said, “Most important right now is for the governor to stand firm [and] not allow any marriage licenses to be handed out on May 17.”

Concerned Women for America urged Romney to intervene via executive order and “put the brakes on this madness. He needs to make it clear that the law has not changed, and that on May 17 homosexual couples cannot make a mockery of God’s institution of marriage.”

Patrick Buchanan called on Romney to declare, “There is no basis for it [the court’s decision] in law… in the letter or spirit of the Constitution of our Commonwealth… And as I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the Commonwealth, I intend to disregard the court order of last November.”

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference went on the record saying the SJC “exceeded their authority,” and Governor Romney failed in his duty to “uphold the Constitution.”

Instead of standing up for his supposedly strong beliefs on marriage and defending the Constitution, Romney exercised his leadership by ordering justices of the peace to perform same-sex marriages.

This is consistent with his 2002 campaign promise to the Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans, who, according to the New York Times, Romney courted at a gay bar and promised if a same-sex marriage court case worked its way through the judicial system, he would “obey the court’s ultimate ruling and not champion a fight on either side of the issue,” telling those gathered that he would “keep [his] head low,” according to one participant.

Romney has countered that he was “forced” into implementing homosexual marriages, but he refused to pursue other options backed by pro-family conservatives and his own state Constitution.

Now Romney campaigns against the same-sex marriages he himself, not the court, made a reality. In short, he is campaigning as a social conservative against, and in spite of, his own record as governor.

Pro-life Catholics in Massachusetts are increasingly bitter that social conservatives are ignoring Romney’s record and listening only to his promises. I can’t blame them.

Robert Novak–The Catholic Vote: Does It Swing?

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.

Political History

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.

‘The Right Is Mean, and the Left Is Foul’

Deal W. Hudson
Published April 2, 2009

The rising temperature of the debate over President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Notre Dame has created some heated rhetoric on both sides. Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg criticized Notre Dame’s decision but was himself criticized for complaining about the “uncivil and venomous” comments made by those opposing the honor being bestowed on President Obama.

Bishop Lynch is exactly right in raising this concern. Here is what he says:

The rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child, and they do not wish to be any part of that, and ill-serves the cause of life (emphasis added).

Granted, some will label as uncivil any assertion about the truth of the Catholic Faith. These tactical accusations of incivility are exactly what they appear to be – an attempt to silence and discredit all who defend the Church. Putting that tactic aside, it does weaken our case for orthodoxy when it is couched in vicious name-calling, profanity, and unsupported generalizations.

Some say the coarseness of their rhetoric is justified by the truth they speak or by the crimes they decry, such as abortion. In my opinion, they either don’t care about persuading anyone who’s listening, or they don’t know they’re providing an excuse for people to ignore what they say. A good illustration of that approach is the effort of Randall Terry at Notre Dame. Terry has gone to such an extreme that Archbishop Raymond Burke had to dissociate himself from the use Terry was making of his comments.

The last thing orthodox Catholics need to do is bring discredit to a bishop who has the courage to speak his mind.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, another bishop who speaks his mind, recently spoke in an interview with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life about his experience with e-mail rudeness. He attributes the vitriol to the “immediacy” of Internet communication, “which means we immediately speak out of our emotions rather than write a letter.” Just as important is anonymity behind which most people hide when making comments or posting on Web sites.

Some of the most vicious e-mails Archbishop Chaput has received, he says, are from “Catholic conservatives” who want him to excommunicate pro-abortion Catholic politicians. But he has noticed an interesting difference between how conservatives and liberals are impolite.

“The Left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. The Right is meaner, but they’re not as foul.”

The Right is mean, and the Left is foul – that observation matches my experience in the virtual world. The Left often resorts to expletives to express their disapproval; whereas the Right, including Catholic conservatives, will indict your faith, your intelligence, and your love for your mother if you happen to disappoint them.

Rudeness has nearly become the rule, rather than the exception, on the Internet. Blogs, forums, e-mails, and comment sections are hothouses for the unedited savagery of the miscreant, the coward, and the Pharisee. Yet it is the place where we have chosen to speak with a Catholic voice. As Archbishop Chaput has said of his own reaction to hateful e-mails: “The Lord reminds us that we are sheep among wolves, but it’s important for us not to become wolves ourselves because of our experience.”

It’s a sore temptation to respond in kind to such attacks. Most Catholics will agree with Bishop Lynch and Archbishop Chaput that our best chance for changing minds and being successful evangelists is speaking with a tone of voice that offers no excuse to turn away.

Gov. Christie–A Politician Who Understands Subsidiarity

Deal W. Hudson

Because of the ongoing furor about who caused the holiday traffic jams in Northern New Jersey, much of what Gov. Christie has done well as governor has been forgotten. But, as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has distinguished himself in two ways as a Catholic politician. Not only he is pro-life, but he has aggressively pursuing a set of policies grounded in the principle of subsidiarity.

At a time when most prominent Catholic politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, have advocated federal government solutions to problems like health care, Gov. Christie led in the opposite direction in 2010 by releasing a New Jersey Privatization Task Force Report.

In the 57-page report, the Task Force proposes privatizing the state’s motor vehicle inspections, housing construction inspections, turnpike toll booths, state parks, psychiatric hospitals, as well as contracting for highway maintenance work, and outsourcing worker’s compensation claims and all pension, payroll, and benefit payments systems.

These recommendations, according to Christie, have saved New Jersey taxpayers over $200 million a year.
Next to the humanity of the unborn life, the principle of subsidiarity is the tenet of the Church’s social teaching most ignored by Catholic politicians.

However, unlike the 6th commandment – “thou shall not kill” – subsidiarity must be applied prudentially. The principle itself is simple, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains,

A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good. (CCC #1883)

Indeed, the Catechism is unambiguous in its claim that Catholics should uphold subsidiarity to offset one of the dangers of socialization, i.e., an “excessive intervention by the state” threatening “personal freedom and initiative” (CCC#1882-1883).

Christie has also sought to keep the burden of funding government from growing any further – he has proposed a constitutional amendment capping property tax increases at 2.5 percent above the prior year’s receipts. Christie explains, “That’s 2.5 percent growth in total for everything — municipal tax, county tax, and school tax. There is only one exception to this cap – to pay required debt service.”

The New Jersey governor’s further reliance on subsidiarity can be found in his 2010 speech supporting “parental choice” in education at American Federation of Children’s National Policy Summit Dinner in Washington, D.C. Legislation has already been introduced that would provide vouchers to students at “chronically failing schools,” like the ones in Newark that Christie described as “absolutely disgraceful.”

There were doubts raised during the campaign about Christie’s pro-life commitment, but those credentials were solidified by his eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood from the 2011 New Jersey budget. State Democrats are already pushing to restore the more than $7 million in funding despite an $11 billion dollar deficit next year (the state has been on the verge of bankruptcy).

It’s often said that some Catholic commentators focus too much on life and marriage issues, relegating prudential matters too far into the background. Gov. Christie’s performance provides an opportunity to reflect on the longer view of a Catholic in politics, as well as a good reason not to count Christie out for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Gov. Christie represents a pro-life Catholic politician drawing upon the principle of subsidiarity to make budgetary and policy choices that look to the private sector, not the federal government, for solutions to pressing problems.

Those Catholic members of Congress, well over a majority of them, who supported the president in his passage of Obamacare, the 2010 Patient and Affordable Care Act, however, ignored the principle of subsidiarity, and now that the sign-up “deadline” has now passed the insurance debacle is a matter of public record.

I think of what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his eloquent passage about subsidiarity in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

Subsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies. Such assistance is offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own, and it is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others. By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state.

The Holy Father here articulates precisely the fear among many Americans fostered by the new health-care legislation in 2010, fears now becoming a reality as reports come in daily about the impossibility of jointing online and the dramatic rise of individual, family, and business health insurance. Any solution to the problems in our nation’s health-care system that eliminates personal responsibility and participation is the opposite of what subsidiarity demands, and that solution is destined for failure.

Human well-being, as taught in the Catholic tradition, is always a product of action, of an individual’s active participation in the acquiring of the basic goods necessary to life. Subsidiarity begins with the recognition that, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative” (1883).

One final point: Some commenters have muddied the waters by comparing the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity to the non-negotiable moral teachings on abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage, implying that Catholics need not always add subsidiarity to their judgments about foreign policy.

It’s true that the principle of subsidiarity is not a moral act, and thus is not comparable to an act like abortion. But it should never be ignored as a way of viewing the relationship between individual well-being and the various levels of institutions and governments that exert influence and authority over our thoughts and actions. Gov. Christie’s success due to employing subsidiarity in contrast to the massive failure of Obamacare, due to its rejection of subsidiarity, prove once again the wisdom of Catholic social teaching.
If subsidiarity is forgotten, if individual liberty and responsibility are not protected, then tyranny is inevitable; and with tyranny will come heinous moral crimes as well. Subsidiarity acts as a kind of nonstop watchman of, and advocate for, human freedom.

Thus, to ignore the Church’s principle of subsidiarity is no moral crime per se, but it encourages habits of dependency and the avoidance of responsibility that undermine human dignity.