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'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

Trump, Sanders win with commanding leads in New Hampshire - but what happens next? Watch

Image of Trump and Sanders easily won the New Hampshire primary with large margins.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Both Trump and Sanders are riding high this morning following stunning victories in New Hampshire. Republicans reported massive turnout, shattering any previous turnout record. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The New Hampshire primary has finished with Donald ... continue reading


Deal with the Devil or practical politics? Is there a pro-life case for Bernie Sanders? Watch

Image of Would a pro-life strategy that involves Bernie Sanders be a deal with the devil, or a practical strategy?

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A lot of Catholics like Bernie Sanders. Recently, we saw an outpouring of support of the candidate in the comments under an excellent article written by Deacon Keith Fournier. Many Catholics appreciate Sander's stance on some social issues - after all, he is a ... continue reading


Bernie Sanders surprises many with sudden surge in New Hampshire Watch

Image of Maintaining a low profile for presidential candidate Bernie sanders is more difficult now, as he comes to the forefront. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Seen by many as a humble Senator with big ideas, the relatively unknown, until recently, Bernie Sanders seemed at first to pose no threat to Hilary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race. That has changed noticeably - Sanders is ... continue reading


What's going on with the New Hampshire primary? Watch

Image of New Hampshire kicked off the primaries this year and so far Bernie Sanders is in the lead (iStock).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The first votes have been cast in the New Hampshire primary. In keeping with tradition, the voting began at midnight, as it has for every primary since 1960.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Today marks the beginning of an exciting political shift in the ... continue reading


CURTAIN CALLED: GOP debate starts hilariously as candidates fail to appear on cue Watch

Image of When candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush's names were announced, the two men were still blocking their way. Sneaking past, Jeb grinned and bumped Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of ABC News.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

It is a bit trivial to say about such an important event - but the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire this weekend could have done with a bit more rehearsal. Candidate Ben Carson came out too early, Donald Trump stood with Carson, and candidates Marco ... continue reading


'Faith is the great cure for fear': Obama speaks at annual National Prayer Breakfast in WA Watch

Image of At the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Obama spoke against Muslim stereotypes and hatred (AP).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

During the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, President Barack Obama spoke of God, fear and love. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At the breakfast, both Democrats and republicans set aside their differences to build relationships based on their ... continue reading


After Iowa fail, Donald Trump vows to 'beat the ____ out of ISIS' Watch

Image of Many noted that Donald Trump seemed unusually subdued in New Hampshire. He claimed that he remained optimistic after his second place finish in the Iowa primary. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

While he faced defeat in the Iowa caucuses, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was full of his usual bluster in New Hampshire. Never one to mince words, he vowed to "beat the ___ out of ISIS" if he was elected president. LOS ANGELS, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


'Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa, he stole it': Trump furiously rants on Twitter about Cruz's win demanding a new Iowa 'election' Watch

Image of Donald Trump calls for a new election or to nullify Cruz's results (Reuters).

By Thomas Heed (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

When news of the Cruz campaign "mistake" concerning Ben Carson at the Iowa caucus reached Donald Trump, he was furious. The business tycoon took to Twitter to call for a new election or to nullify Cruz's results. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Despite his initial ... continue reading


Republican Candidate Drops Out of Presidential Race: But who was it? Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Following a disappointing show in the Iowa caucus, with only 4.5 percent of the votes, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has officially dropped out of the 2016 presidential race. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "It's been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign ... continue reading


Political sabotage: Ted Cruz pleads GUILTY to wronging Ben Carson at Iowa caucus Watch

Image of Ted Cruz admitted his campaign started the lie that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race prior to the Iowa caucus (NY Times).

By Thomas Heed (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In a shocking admission, Ted Cruz admits his staff spread rumors of Ben Carson dropping out of the runnings just before the Iowa caucus voting began. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As previously reported, the Iowa caucus was filled with surprises that included ... 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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 30:15-20
15 'Look, today I am offering you life and prosperity, death and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:22-25
22 He said, 'The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 11th, 2016 Image

St. Paschal
February 11: Paschal was the son of Bonosus, a Roman. He ... Read More