Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

3/13/2014 (4 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 (4 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 July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

As hundreds of bills languish on his desk, push is on to 'fire Harry Reid' Watch

Image of The GOP now hopes to use those examples to build a case against Harry Reid and argue that his procedural stranglehold is the reason for the Senate's painful levels of gridlock.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The GOP is now calling for either the resignation or firing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Republican National Committee is launching a two-week "robo-call" campaign in efforts to nationalize Senate races across battleground states, arguing that each ... continue reading


DOES the President have the unilateral power to legalize illegal aliens? Hoyer: No Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Does U.S. President Barack Obama have the unilateral right to convert countless illegal immigrants to legal status? House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that President Obama "can't legalize" the illegal aliens, but added that the president "can ... continue reading


RATCHETING UP SANCTIONS: U.S. Europe increase sanctions against Russia Watch

Image of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that he is not considering adding new sanctions. Australia lost 28 citizens on Flight MH17. Abbott said that at the moment

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

New economic sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy have been announced by U.S. President Obama. It's all part of Washington's latest efforts to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his support for Ukrainian rebels. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


'Achievements and contributions… to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy,' Obama celebrates achievements of Muslims Watch

Image of A recent survey found that 72 percent of Muslim-Americans approve of the President, more so than any other religious group.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the persecution of Iraqi Christians at the hands of Islamic jihadists continued, President Obama and First Lady Michelle released a statement this past weekend thanking Muslim Americans for their many "achievements and contributions...to building the very ... continue reading


U.S. Bishops say Obama's executive order 'implements discrimination' Watch

Image of Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, pictured, and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo in a statement noted that the executive order, which will impact a fifth of the U.S. workforce, discriminates against faithful Catholics.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new order by U.S. President Obama that forbids federal contractors from discriminating "on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," has been denounced by U.S. bishops as "unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed" and, in effect, ... continue reading


Israel harshly critical of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, called 'an Alien' Watch

Image of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's apparent decision to use Qatar as a conduit through which to communicate with Hamas, effectively ditching an earlier Egyptian proposal which the group had rejected has stirred the pot.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United States and Israel have been the staunchest of allies since Israel reached statehood following World War II - but this doesn't mean that the nations have always seen eye-to-eye. Indeed, the right-wing faction of the Israeli government are harshly ... continue reading


President Obama is 'mailing it in', bought the farm - spending lots of time golfing and goofing off Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Lackadaisical. That word is used to define "lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy." Lackadaisical appears to described U.S. President Barack Obama as of late. The president is pending an awful lot of time playing golf while the nation and the ... continue reading


In President Obama's war on religious freedom the people suffer another loss Watch

Image of A July 21 executive order has dealt a huge blow to the cause of freedom of religion in the United States.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama's July 21 executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual-self-identification has lead to strong criticism from several prominent U.S. bishops, calling the executive order "unprecedented and extreme." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Efforts against female genital mutilation could be thwarted by population growth Watch

Image of Due partly to community activism and legislation, the prevalence of FGM, which involves the cutting away of the external female genitalia, and the marriage of girls under the age of 18 has decreased slightly over the last 30 years, UNICEF said.

By Lisa Anderson, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Advances in fighting female genital mutilation, or FGM and child marriage could be offset by population growth unless the rate of progress increases, according to new data released Tuesday by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). (Thomson Reuters ... continue reading


FREE SPEECH VIOLATED: Tea party groups' lawsuit against IRS proceeds Watch

Image of Among the individuals named in the lawsuit is Lois Lerner, who headed the division that processes applications for tax-exempt status at that time.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

They're not going to take it - and they're taking their claims to court. A federal judge has allowed a lawsuit by 10 tea party groups to move forward against the Internal Revenue Service. The judge rejected a request by the federal government to dismiss all the ... 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, Jeremiah 26:1-9
1 At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 69:6, 8-10, 14
6 Those who hope in you must not be made fools of, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:54-58
54 and, coming to his home town, he taught the people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 1st, 2014 Image

St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
August 1: Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the ... 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