If you are Catholic and have a few years under your belt (I have 58 so far), and if you have had at least a passing interest in politics, you know that religion comes up for discussion and rather frequently when it comes to elections. When I was very young, it was the presidential election of John F. Kennedy that really brought religion and in particular Catholicism to the forefront. And it got downright ugly sometimes.
During that 1960 campaign, people openly worried in a non-politically correct manner whether Kennedy, a Catholic, would take his marching orders from the Pope if he were elected president. And Kennedy had to basically put some distance between himself and his faith in order to convince people that he would not be dictated to by the Vatican if elected president.
It was not the first time a Catholic had tried for the highest office in the land. In the late 1920s, Al Smith, governor of the State of New York, ran for president and received the same kind of caustic contemplation from the electorate at large. He was defeated. Herbert Hoover was elected.
But Catholic politicians took a lesson from these elections and in my opinion an unfortunate one. It seems that in order to hold office in the United States, if one is Catholic, one needs to kind of “apologize” for this and assure people that one’s loyalty is first to the country, second to the Church, and that if elected one will not let one’s Catholicism interfere with one’s duty or decision-making as President/Senator/Congressman, etc.
Folks, with all due respect to any who might be offended by what I am about to write, this kind of thinking is nonsense. It is patent nonsense. Please read on.
Catholics make up the largest voting block when it comes to religion in the United States. Catholic men and women serve in the military. Many have died for this country. Many more have suffered grave physical, mental and emotional wounds in armed service for the United States.
Catholics serve in police forces, keeping our cities and states safe. They serve in fire departments. They teach in schools. The Catholic Church has built hospitals and clinics where poor people, regardless of their religious affiliation, can receive care. We operate food pantries and feed poor families. We help women in crisis pregnancies.
In short, we do a lot for this nation and its people. And we need to stop seeing our identities as Catholics as something which needs to be “explained” and/or “clarified” when it comes to public office.
But we Catholic voters have been “trained” to think differently when it comes to voting, I believe, based on those earlier presidential elections. Allow me to explain.
In the last several presidential elections, the “Evangelical” vote has come to light. Pundits on television, radio and in the newspaper discuss what this Evangelical block of voters will do, especially about who they will support. And there’s something very interesting in this. Very interesting.
Evangelical voters have no issue at all stating that they will back a candidate who holds their same religious views. If a voter of this block is asked on camera, he or she has no qualms stating “I’m for so-and-so because he/she is someone who shares my same faith values.”
And now we come to Catholics. I have spoken to many Catholics, good, practicing Catholics, who if suggested that they should vote for a candidate who is Catholic, will answer in a heartbeat “I don’t vote for someone just because he/she is Catholic.”
I think Catholic voters should rethink this. Certainly, there are candidates who wear their Catholicism like a thin, cheap t-shirt. But there are others who don’t. There are men and women who have pursued public office who are good people, faithful Catholics, who have endured anti-Catholic rhetoric and insults and still go forward trying to make a difference in our nation.
Why can’t we support them? Why can’t we say “She’s a good candidate, but he’s not only a good candidate but a practicing Catholic. I’m voting for him!”
I am simply amazed at how many of my fellow Catholics ignore a candidate’s Catholicism. They will sacrifice to put their children in Catholic schools, they will be involved in Men’s Clubs and Altar Societies and help Youth Groups and sing in the choir, but ask them to consider a candidate’s Catholicism, and they will normally give a sharp and negative retort that religious affiliation does not play into their decision in voting.
I just don’t get it. I really, really don’t.
Our country is simply chewed up by the devil. Abortion, divorce, drug use, pornography, and the list goes on. As Catholics we believe we are part of the Body of Christ, part of the Church that Jesus Christ Himself founded on the rock of St. Peter. We believe we have the full truth of Christ’s revelation.
Yet we don’t want to “impose” this on others. We don’t want our religion to play a part in our civic life and the fulfillment of our duty as Americans.
Come on. Voting Catholic is indeed an option, a choice. If a candidate runs for office, and stands for Catholic principles, vote for him or her. Support your brother or sister. Yes, vote for him or her because he or she is Catholic, and a good Catholic.
And those who read this who aren’t Catholic who still “worry” about the Pope running the country, let me let you in on a little secret. The Catholic Church has been around longer than any existing government on Earth. It has lasted longer than the Roman Empire by several centuries, for example.
The Pope has a whole lot more and better things to do than try to tell government leaders how to run their countries. He speaks as a spiritual guide, he speaks truth, but he doesn’t have the time, interest or intention to try to run the United States. Any opinion to the contrary is not worthy of consideration or respect.