A “Catholic Vote” – Diversity of Opinion

If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another – Galatians 5: 25-26

In the Catholic Calendar, it is the feast of All Souls where we remember our departed dead. I thought it would be appropriate to share this week a piece of Catholic Culture along with my blog. Shepard Me O God is a recent church hymn that is synonymous with Catholic funerals. While Catholics may vote differently on different subjects. There are some things they can come together on like music.

This week the Ramonat Scholars attended a presentation by Steven Millies on his new book Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump. This presentation and this semester’s various readings has taught me a very important thing about the Catholic vote in america; its diverse. The main point that I gathered from Millies presentation is that the Catholic vote has been split since the passing of Roe Vs. Wade. While Millies seems to place abortion as the most important issue facing Catholics, our semester’s readings has shown that Catholics will vote for a variety of different issues. In the first week of class, we read “Another peek inside the Brain of the Electorate” where the author wrote that most people will vote on one or two issues. Catholics are not exempt from this phenomena.

Steven Millies’ presentation at the University of Chicago

In the conservative world, Catholics in the past were passionate about aid given to parish schools. This issue is explored in Samuel Mills’ article on Parochiaid and Abortion. While not as much of a heated issue in contemporary America, it was an issue of concern for Catholics in the past. An issue that captured Catholics attention in the past was the rise of Communism as was described in Colleen Doody’s Detroit’s Cold War. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, this issue has also taken a backseat, but you could argue that the conflict still lives on today. Many Polish Catholics continue to honor the legacy of Catholics who are commonly seen as bulwarks against Communism such as Pope St. John Paul II.

There are also issues that are still hot button issues in contemporary America. For example, the use of birth control by Catholics was controversial in the 70s and remains to be today. The diversity of American Catholic political thought is evident in an interview with Father John O’Brian by Studs Terkel. In the interview, Father O’brien responds negatively to the Pope’s recent proclamations regarding the sinfulness of birth control. The diversity of the Catholic vote is not just about what issues to think about, but also opinions on specific issues.

The Diversity of Catholic opinion spans past the ballot box. In his research on the supreme court and religion, William Blake finds that a judge’s religious preferences has a direct impact on his or her judicial rulings. While Catholic judges have a tendency to vote certain ways on certain issues such as abortion, it is important to note that there is still  a popoundence of diversity within the Catholic judicial world.

The diversity of the Catholic vote extends to liberal voters as well. One may find liberal Catholic voters fired up by the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment Laudato Si. There are also Catholics who are radically skeptical of nuclear weapons or systematic racism. With Catholics fired up about so many singular issues, it is difficult to establish a concrete view of the “Catholic vote”!

While there is a diversity within the Catholic vote, I believe that commentators on the Catholic vote overlook the voice of the modern United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Their website contains a guide for Natural Family Planning. The conference also hosted an event celebrating Humanae Vita’s 50th anniversary. This is the document that outlined the church’s opposition to birth control. The USCCB is a powerful voice in Catholic America, and it is important to note that it has concrete views on these controversial issues. Regardless of the diversity of opinion in the Catholic laity, the opinion of the hierarchy should be noted. While the hierarchy’s voice might not be important to politicians who swear independence from them, it has an important role in the ideas and thoughts of everyday Catholics. The Catholic church has a powerful hierarchy, and it should not be overlooked.

An Instagram Post by the USCCB which references their commitment to life

In sum, the Catholic vote has been defined in the past and the present by its diversity. My time has a Ramonat scholar has solidified this opinion to an even greater extent. There are so many issues that individual Catholics find value in that it is impossible to establish even an illusion of a monolithic voice. The closest thing that one gets to in regards to a monolithic voice is the hierarchy which has stated opinions on a variety of different issues. While this voice is strong, there is still a concrete diversity within American Catholic political life.

Learn More

The USCCB’s page on Marriage and Family – http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/index.cfm

Studs Terkel Interview on Humane Vite – https://studsterkel.wfmt.com/programs/interview-father-john-obrien


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