Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

3/13/2014 (1 year 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 (1 year 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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks out on Obama's gay pride light show and the legalization of gay marriage Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In celebration of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, President Obama lit up the White House with rainbow colors, which garnered a response from Republican, former Arkansas governor and now presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was noted as saying that ... continue reading


Supreme Court 'unwrote laws of nature' GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declares Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Saying that the Supreme Court tried to "unwrite the laws of nature and the laws of nature's God" when it legalized gay marriage across the nation last week, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee also pointed out the fact that President Barack Obama himself ... continue reading


'They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is': Donald Trump fired from NBC for controversial immigrant statements Watch

Image of Donald Trump retired from The Apprentice after announcing his presidential bid.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

NBC has made the decision to cut ties with Donald Trump, over his political view and controversial statements regarding immigration made during his presidential announcement. Donald Trump and NBC have had a relationship, including Trump's produced Miss USA and Miss ... continue reading


When is the best time to take out Social Security? Watch

Image of 100-year-old woman.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Financial advisers usually advice their clients to take Social Security benefits at the age of 70 for maximum growth. However, it is found that most people don't take that advice, as they are likely to withdraw what they have saved up as soon as they hit retirement. A ... continue reading


IT'S NOT OVER: Freedom of Religion may trump same-sex marriage victories Watch

Image of

By Matt Hadro and Adelaide Mena, CNA/ETWN News

Friday's Supreme Court ruling against the traditional understanding of marriage may pose huge obstacles to the free exercise of religion and conscience across the U.S., the nation's bishops have said in response to the decision. Washington D.C.(CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading


Decisions on same-sex marriage, power-plant emissions now in the hands of Supreme Court Watch

Image of Six major cases, all of them affecting the American Way of Life are in front of the Supreme Court.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Six major cases, all of them affecting the American Way of Life are in front of the Supreme Court. Decisions regarding same-sex marriages, power plant emissions and execution methods will all be rendered by either Friday or early next week. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett's family has strong communist roots, files prove Watch

Image of Valerie Jarrett's father, pathologist and geneticist Dr. James Bowman, has been found to have had extensive ties to Communist associations and individuals.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Does the apple truly fall far from the tree? Recently uncovered files show that Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama and trusted confidant has family ties with those with communist leanings. These uncovered files prove that Jarrett's ... continue reading


Donald Trump surges in popularity polls in New Hampshire Watch

Image of Dismissed by political professionals, who view him as little more than a

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Dismissed by political professionals, who view him as little more than a "novelty candidate," there's no denying Donald Trump's surge in popularity in opinion polls in New Hampshire. The billionaire developer and reality TV show star comes in at second among ... continue reading


Terrorists who pose as journalists will no longer have protection from the U.S. new Pentagon manual states Watch

Image of The new manual from the pentagon is designed to reflect the fact that many fighters do not wear military uniforms or pretend to be trusted civilians to hit targets.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Pentagon has released new instructions on dealing with terrorists, or more specifically, terrorists who pose as journalists or journalists who work with terrorist groups. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The "Department of Defense Law of War Manual" is a ... continue reading


Offensive or not? University of California issues bizarre speech police to tell you what not to say Watch

Image of The University of California administration issues handout that recommend students refrain from using some words.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

University of California is providing suggestions on what to say and what not to say within the campus grounds. However, the words and statements they deem as offensive, sexist and racist are not simply explicit words with direct negative connotations. According to ... 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, Genesis 22:1-19
1 It happened some time later that God put Abraham to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 115:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
1 Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to your name give ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 9:1-8
1 He got back in the boat, crossed the water and came ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 2nd, 2015 Image

St. Bernardino Realino
July 2: St. Bernardino Realino was born into a noble family of Capri, ... 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