Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

4/9/2008 (8 years ago)

Inside Catholic (www.insidecatholic.com)

Will Catholic voters overlook his position on other vital life and social justice issues?

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Inside Catholic (www.insidecatholic.com)

4/9/2008 (8 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Inside Catholic) - An editorial in the Jesuit's America magazine recently predicted that Sen. Barack Obama will profit by the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States.

The moment the Holy Father denounces the war in Iraq, it will provide a "big opening for Sen. Obama," according to Michael Sean Winters.

Winters argues that Obama can "invoke the foresight of John Paul II, a man still revered among American Catholics," while contrasting himself to Sen. Hillary Clinton, President Bush, and, most importantly, Sen. John McCain.

Winters is undoubtedly right.

The question is whether Catholic voters can be persuaded to overlook his extreme stances on the life issues, all of which are opposed to Catholic teaching, in order to register their protest against an unpopular war and those who supported it -- namely, John McCain.

Winters may not be right, however, when he predicts that "Pope Benedict will put the Iraq War, and the thinking that got us into that war, back at the center of political discussion." Such an eventuality, according to Winters's thinking, will advance Obama's cause among Catholic voters.

The trouble with his argument is simple: What Winters knows, Benedict XVI also knows. The Holy Father is well aware of the political divide between Democrats and Republicans on the life and family issues. It's no accident that just ten days before his arrival in the United States, Benedict spoke out on the "grave sins" of abortion, euthanasia, divorce, and "the culture of death."

This should be a reminder to Catholic Obama supporters that this pope embraces the same priorities of his predecessor, John Paul II. To those who are hopeful that Benedict will scold President Bush about the Iraq War, these remarks reveal what's on the Holy Father's mind as he prepares to visit this country. It is highly doubtful that Benedict will frame his criticism of the Iraq war in a way that could be construed to eclipse his regard for President Bush or Senator McCain.

Benedict will undoubtedly congratulate President Bush and all pro-life leaders on their efforts to curb and eliminate abortion, and he will very likely draw attention to the growing threat of euthanasia and those who are being deprived of a natural death.

This pope understands our culture wars. Benedict, after all, is the man who, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, prepared the 2002 "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life," which helped to solidify Catholic opposition to the candidacy of Sen. John Kerry. The Doctrinal Note became the primary Vatican document cited to remind Catholic voters that not all political issues are equal in Church teaching.

Any Catholic voter who took to heart the following words from that document would have hesitated before voting for the Catholic candidate for president, Senator Kerry:

[I]t 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.

There is no doubt that Benedict will repeat this message to American Catholics, thus setting the stage for the 2008 electoral struggle between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. Once again, the Democratic Party will pit its pro-abortion candidate against the Republican's pro-lifer. The biggest difference in 2008 is the instability among Catholic voters created by the Iraq War.

Some Catholic organizations are putting the war front and center in their efforts to influence political debate. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is one of several Catholic organizations -- including NETWORK, Pax Christi USA, and the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns --asking Catholics to sign a pledge "to Vote out the War."

Catholics United has collected 20,000 signatures on a petition calling for "an immediate and responsible end to the Iraq War." More importantly, the U.S. Catholic bishops have called several times for a withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq.

In his America editorial, Winters does not mention that the U.S. bishops could actually present a much greater difficulty for Senator McCain than the Holy Father. Whereas Benedict will speak carefully to preserve the distinction between prudential and non-prudential matters, other religious leaders will not.

Just as a number of bishops led the drumbeat of denying communion to Senator Kerry in 2004, there may be an attempt to start a similar ball rolling with regard to Senator McCain for his outspoken support for the war.

It will be up to Senator McCain to explain his support for the war in terms familiar to Catholics, the principles of just war theory. His explanation cannot be limited to supporting U.S. troops, as important as that is.

Senator McCain must convince Catholic voters that the threat from Iraq justified the invasion, that other means of dealing with the threat had been ineffective, and why he believes Iraq will be better off when we leave than it was before we arrived.

That's no small order.

Of course, Senator Obama will have his explaining to do, as well. He will need to explain not only his opposition but also his inconsistent statements about the war. His comment to the Chicago Tribune during the 2004 convention cannot be good news to Catholics who see him as the pristine anti-war candidate: "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage."

Though some defended Senator Obama by saying this remark was taken out of the context, there are other, more important questions that have been raised about Obama's position on the Iraq War that will come out in the campaign.

Winters is right that Senator Obama will have the advantage over Senator McCain on the Iraq War issue. But the 2008 election will be not be reduced to this. Benedict will choose his words carefully. He does not want his statements being used to ignore the very issues that should be given top priority by Catholics when making political judgments.


Deal W. Hudson is the director of InsideCatholic.com and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster, March 2008

---

The mission of InsideCatholic.com is to be a voice for authentic Catholicism in the public square.We believe that truth is both attractive and compelling and that in the marketplace of ideas, it will invariably win out.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

FBI investigating Gov. McAuliffe, Clinton Foundation for Chinese ties Watch

Image of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is under FBI investigation for accepting illegal campaign contributions.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The FBI is investigating Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on the grounds that he accepted illegal campaign contributions. There is overlap between his donors and donors to the Clinton campaign. Investigators have discovered that a Chinese politician made a particularly ... continue reading


American Steel v. China's Production - There is no such thing as free trade Watch

Image of American steel jobs have drastically fallen (iisssc).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

As American steel production falters, China has begun efforts to dump its excess steel at slashed prices. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute, and Chuck Schmitt, president of SSAB ... continue reading


'Shame, shame, shame': House Democrats boo Republicans Watch

Image of House Republicans halt the hostile amendment in its tracks (EPA).

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Chaos erupted as the US House of Representatives refused to pass an amendment meant to strip away religious freedom and protections for religious contractors and those who work with the federal government. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When House Democrats ... continue reading


Judge SPANKS Obama's attorneys who LIED to the court! Watch

Image of Judge Andrew Hanen shut down Obama's attorneys for lying.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

An angry federal judge has ordered Justice Department attorneys to take annual ethics classes for lying. The lies told by Justice Department attorneys tricked 26 states into filing a lawsuit against the administration. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - U.S. ... continue reading


Bill Clinton, America's favorite rapist? Watch

Image of Thew family that rapes together, destroys women's rights and justice together.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

As Hillary Clinton declares herself the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party amid the cheers of millions of millennial supporters, few people seem to remember that her husband, Bill Clinton, is an accused serial rapist. And far from being a supporter of women' ... continue reading


YES! Oklahoma votes to outlaw abortion! Watch

Image of The Oklahoma legislature has voted to end abortion in their state.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Oklahoma has outlawed abortion! The state legislature has passed a bill that would criminalize the procedure, except to save the life of the mother. The bill will now go to the governor for signing. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The final decision will be up to ... continue reading


'It's a suicide mission': Mitt Romney will not launch campaign Watch

Image of Mitt Romney will not launch a third-party presidential campaign.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has announced plans to halt all recruitment for a third-party presidential campaign. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Yahoo! News, Romney initially attempted to recruit ... continue reading


Obama 'Hope' Street Artist calls out President as failure Watch

Image of Street artist Shepard Fairey admitted his disappointment in US President Barack Obama.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Street artist Shepard Fairey, who created the iconic "Obama Hope" poster, has jumped on board the Bernie Sanders train and claims US President Barack Obama did not meet expectations. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Info Wars, Fairley stated Obama went ... continue reading


Bernie Sanders is all but out, which makes him more relevant than ever before Watch

Image of Will Bernie Sanders run as a third party candidate? His campaign says no.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

It's super unlikely that the Sanders campaign can win the Democratic nomination, short of any deus ex machina event, but that doesn't mean he plans to quit. In fact, Sanders is just getting started. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Last night, Hillary Clinton ... continue reading


'What about OUR kids?': Obama creates jobs for refugees Watch

Image of US President Barack Obama set aside a $21 million budget to create summer jobs for America's youth (wallpapercave).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

School is nearly out and summer is upon us. Students and the unemployed will be hired for summer jobs while vacationers spur the economy. Everyone is hiring and the Obama administration is doing its part as well, with a budget of $21 million to create jobs nationwide ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Prayer to Holy Michael the Archangel HD Video
  • Goodbye El Nino! Hello La Nina! What does this mean for the Atlantic ...
  • Nun fatally attacked in South Sudan
  • St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, May 25, 2016
  • Daily Readings for Wednesday, May 25, 2016
  • Benedict XVI to make public appearance?
  • Daily Reading for Thursday, May 26th, 2016 HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Peter 1:10-16
10 This salvation was the subject of the search and investigation of the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
1 [Psalm] Sing a new song to Yahweh, for he has performed wonders, his ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 10:28-31
28 Peter took this up. 'Look,' he said to him, 'we have left everything ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 24th, 2016 Image

St. David I of Scotland
May 24: David, the youngest son of Scotland's virtuous ... Read More