Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

3/13/2014 (10 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When Obamacare ignited a debate over religious liberty in 2011, especially among Catholics, it hit the same nerve that motivated Evangelicals to become politically active 40 years ago. Catholics, however, rattled their sabers but never stepped onto the field.

There is nothing more clarifying to a group or an individual than an apocalyptic moment - when the choice you make in response to that disaster reveals the bottom line, what really matters. Once such moment occurred with the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, out of which the very powerful and lasting pro-life movement was born.  But we need to witness the birth of a larger, more audacious movement, a cultural movement, one that reorients the political towards a higher, more fundamental goal.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/13/2014 (10 months ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Crisis Magazine, Barbara Comstock, faithful citizenship, abortion, contraception, moral coherence, conservatism, National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru, sophistry, culture, catholic action, catholics and politics, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - The so-called "Christian Right" was born in the late 70s as a protest against the power of the federal government in regulating Christian schools across the South.  It was not initially about abortion, gay marriage, or any of the "life issues" but about pushing back against government encroachment on religious liberty. I tell the complete story of the birth and development of the "Christian Right" in my book, Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon & Schuster, 2008). 

When Obamacare ignited a debate over religious liberty in 2011, especially among Catholics, it hit the same nerve that motivated Evangelicals to become politically active 40 years ago.  Catholics, however, rattled their sabers but never stepped onto the field.  It was another chapter in the ongoing saga of angry Catholics who denounce cultural and national decline among friends but wait for the "bishops" or the "Church" to do something about it. 

When these angry Catholics are told it's their responsibility, the responsibility of the laity to forge political change, they look confused and start complaining about the bishops and clergy again - "Why don't they do something? Why don't they speak out?"

After 15 years of intense involvement in Catholic political matters, I've come to  the conclusion that the clerical mentality of America's Catholics is so deeply embedded in their religious self-understanding it will take more than Obamacare to blast them out of their deceptions and excuses for inaction.  That such an event is coming, there is no doubt. But, by the time it arrives, the Church in this nation may have lost so many teeth that its bite will hardly be felt by the offending parties. 

I've led Catholic outreach for two presidential elections, both successful, advised on another one, unsuccessfully, and spoken to groups in nearly all 50 states on the Church's teaching in regard to political participation.  At the beginning of each event, I tell the audience that I will not entertain any questions about "the bishops or allow any "bishop bashing."  Then I explain that their finger pointing at the clergy is either a misunderstanding of their unique responsibility as laity in the political process or a technique of avoiding that responsibility.  It's my observation that most Catholics are genuinely surprised to find out it's not the bishops who are to carry the political football. 

Clericalism has created a myopia that only an apocalyptic event can remove.  I had hoped that the successes of 2000 and 2004 in mobilizing Catholic voters towards a pro-life, pro-marriage candidate, and away from two candidates who espoused precisely the opposite, would create a pattern to be followed. My hope was that religiously active Catholic activists and voters would offer their support to candidates only if they affirmed the settled, or non-negotiable, issues of political significance.

The last two national elections have shown that moving Catholic voters cannot be based upon the tactics of social conservatism alone. Especially when many prominent Catholics, including political leaders who were involved with me in the Catholic outreach effort of 2000 and 2004, have evidently decided that affirming the settled issues of the Church is no longer necessary before endorsing a Catholic candidate (See my earlier columns on the 10th District Virginia congressional race.) http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=54213

There is still time for these highly respected leaders to withdraw their endorsements, but it appears the power of the GOP is beginning to trump the faith of the Church, with the result that Catholics in the Republican Party may well be starting to take the path tread by the Democrats for the past four decades. The examples of Congressmen Henry Hyde and Chris Smith and Senators Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum may no longer be serving as role models for Catholic candidates and their Catholic supporters. 

There is nothing more clarifying to a group or an individual than an apocalyptic moment - when the choice you make in response to that disaster reveals the bottom line, what really matters. Once such moment occurred with the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, out of which the very powerful and lasting pro-life movement was born.  But we need to witness the birth of a larger, more audacious movement, a cultural movement, one that reorients the political towards a higher, more fundamental goal.

If we put all our chips on the political table we are bound to lose sooner or later - on their turf the politicos play the game of compromise, by necessity to a great extent but also out of cowardice. When we speak of a cultural form of conservatism we are not abandoning politics or the social issues, we are putting them back into the larger context where they belong: the norms and values, the human aspirations that shape our lives, our families, our institutions, our nation, and our care for the world.

Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

Turning off spigot: Obama aims to possessively guard oil-rich Alaskan coastline from development Watch

Image of Alaska's coastal plain has been at the center of a fight between conservationists and advocates of greater energy exploration in the U.S. for a very long time.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Just because there's been relief at the corner gas pump doesn't mean that the United States won't need any more oil in the near future - far from it. As such, many are infuriated that U.S. President Barack Obama seeks to designate the vast majority of Alaska's ... continue reading


And the field gets thicker! Rubio joins Bush, Romney, Walker and Christie as 2016 presidential hopeful Watch

Image of Marco Rubio, a Senator from Florida may be crafting a campaign team for a potential 2016 bid.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A fifth Republican is making noise that could be interpreted as intent to make a 2016 presidential run. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Florida Senator Marco Rubio is possibly gathering a campaign team, planning out a slew of state visits starting in February, and ... continue reading


Scott Walker enters the 2016 Republican nomination ring with speech attacking Obama's failed policies Watch

Image of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gave a speech in Iowa, a move which may put him in the running for the Republican nomination.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney may have been the first Republicans to make it clear-though still unofficial-that they intend to run for the Republican nomination in 2016, but ... continue reading


Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney hold summit meeting: Are they plotting election strategy? Watch

Image of There have been stories in a number of outlets that Jeb Bush proposed the meeting weeks ago, in order to thank Mitt Romney for his past party leadership.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former governors Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are having a summit meeting. The meeting will be in Utah. Speculation swirls about what the meeting will entail. Some GOP party officials hope "the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns ... continue reading


An average of 27 late-term abortions happen every day in the United States; the bill to protect the unborn from this cruel pain was dramatically dropped by the GOP Watch

Image of 10,000 babies are killed each year through late-term abortions.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An estimated 10,000 unborn babies are killed each year through late-term abortions. This averages out to 27.4 abortions taking place 20 weeks or later per day or 1.14 per hour, according to the Congressional Budget Office. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pain ... continue reading


Father Frank Pavone on Pope Francis, Politics, and Catholic Social teaching Watch

Image of Fr Frank Pavone - Fidelity to the Gospel requires that we be able to prophetically challenge the positions of all political parties, and that our loyalty to Christ and his teaching supersedes our loyalty to any political party, although such loyalties are not per se incompatible with being a Christian.

By Matt C. Abbott

It remains true that the right to life is the most fundamental right and that the duty to defend it is a more urgent priority than other social justice priorities. But to what extent that fact helps or hurts a political party depends upon the party, and his ... continue reading


President Obama fiercely hits the country with proposed $320 billion tax hike, explained in his annual State of the Union Watch

Image of Obama plans on spending his remaining two years in office helping the middle class experience the prosperity of the recovery.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Two years before President Obama's departure, he has vowed to spend his remaining time "playing offense." In his annual State of the Union, Obama will address his proposal to increase tax hikes on America's "one percent." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Parts ... continue reading


Attorney General Eric Holder denounced as 'coward' and 'hypocrite' by former FBI agent Watch

Image of A former FBI agent says that Attorney General Eric Holder has used the

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former FBI agent K. Dee McCown, who left the agency in 2008, has written a strong letter to Attorney General Eric Holder where McKown denounces Holder as a "coward" and a "hypocrite." McCown says he was compelled to write after the shooting deaths of two New ... continue reading


President Christie? New Jersey governor builds PAC for 2016 run Watch

Image of New Jersey Governor Christ Christie is likely seeking to run for president in 2016, setting up a political action committee that may be up and running as soon as February.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's actions have already made it abundantly clear that he intends to run for president in 2016, but the most recent sign from the Republican should silence all deniers. Christie is organizing a political action committee which ... continue reading


Romney gears up: Campaign staff mobilizes as 2016 presidential election approaches Watch

Image of Mitt Romney is making noises that hint strongly to a bid for president in 2016, entering a ring that is filled with numerous, divisive Republican candidates.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Despite numerous polls showing that he had backing from the majority of Republicans and conservatives and requests from several high profile Republicans, Mitt Romney spent all of 2014 claiming that he was not considering running for president a third time in ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 9:15, 24-28
15 This makes him the mediator of a new covenant, so ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm] Sing a new song to Yahweh, for he has ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 3:22-30
22 The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 26th, 2015 Image

St. Timothy
January 26: Born at Lystra, Lycaenia, Timothy was the son of a Greek father ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter