The Catholic vote in the long campaign

It won’t be long before results of the looooong presidential campaign of 2008 are known, but the debate over the Catholic influence on that vote is likely to continue. A quick search of Google news alerts on Catholic vote shows that it’s a subject that seems to fascinate the world.

The Times of Malta, for example, had this story yesterday. The Dallas Morning News said in this article that the election had as much to do with “Church Street” as it did with Wall Street or Main Street. A Los Angeles Times columnist proclaimed the end of the Catholic vote last week, while Medical News Today had this summary of various newspapers’ views on the subject.

We here at CNS also have had a lot to say about the Catholic vote, as evidenced by this story and this one. There will be more tomorrow, next week at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore and beyond.

Poll shows how young Catholics say they’ll vote in 2008 election

A recent survey on the political views of young Catholic voters found that they have similar views to their peers on many issues in this election.

The “Faith and Politics of Young Adults in the 2008 Election” survey, sponsored by Faith in Public Life and conducted by Public Religion Research, polled young adults ages 18-34 on issues such as the economy, immigration, the environment, torture, same-sex marriage, abortion, employment nondiscrimination, religious liberty, and the role and size of government.

“As we go forward, expect to see young people across faiths focusing more and more on issues that reflect a concern for America’s image in the world and how our government treats the least of these at home and abroad. Expect to see the dividing lines of the culture wars continue to fade,” said Katie Paris, director of communications strategy at Faith in Public Life.

You can access the entire report, including statistics on the so-called “God gap,” views of candidate “friendliness” to religion, and the candidate preference of different religious groups.

Voting and being a faithful citizen

The U.S. presidential race is being hotly debated on the campaign trail, by the water coolers in the workplace, and probably before and after church.

In an Oct. 16 column “Voting as a Faithful Citizen” in The West Tennessee Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Memphis, Bishop J. Terry Steib discusses why it’s important to study the issues, why it’s important to vote and why he won’t reveal for whom he will cast his ballot.

He also addresses why he believes clergy should not endorse candidates from the pulpit and discusses the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2007 letter “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, Mich., writes about the duty to vote and the formation of conscience, and Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu has issued a pastoral letter on the virtues of voting. In his Monthly Message, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., tells Catholic voters they should focus “more on the needs of the weak than on the benefits to the strong.”

In a homily delivered Oct. 19 at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Fargo, N.D., Bishop Samuel J. Aquila told worshippers that above loyalty to candidates and political parties, Catholics must “place the God-given alienable rights first, bginning with the right to life.”

These are just a few of the U.S. Catholic bishops who have issued statements or written columns for their diocesan newspapers or Web sites. Catholic News Service reported on a number of them in an Oct. 22 roundup story.

There’s power in numbers

When people feel disconnected and that their concerns are going unaddressed, history shows they can be a prime target for an organizing campaign. But that only works if they want to be organized and begin to take steps to right an injustice they are confronting.

A CNS report on community organizing looks at one campaign to address predatory lending in Cleveland in portraying how a campaign works.

Campaigns to right a wrong are won at the grass-roots level. It takes commitment and dedication and local leadership, as any community organizer knows. Organizers such as Sarah Nolan of the San Francisco Organizing Project and Jenelle Dame of the East Side Organizing Project in Cleveland know it’s not their job to push an agenda forward. An organizer’s job is to help train leaders in the community. It’s up to those leaders to work with their neighbors, who already know very well what wrong they want to correct.

Organizing campaigns can take place just about anywhere even though most efforts take place in low- and moderate-income communities. Face it, it’s those communities who have the most grievances with society.

Catholic San Francisco reports on one such campaign involving support for Proposition 8 to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Not every campaign will be successful. Victories, as community groups like to call them, come only when members welcome and accept a common goal and work in unison to achieve it. Campaigns are just as dependent on a well-developed strategy — at times developed to garner attention or even embarass their target. At the same time, plans must be flexible enough to change when roadblocks appear or new facts are learned.

But the key to any campaign revolves around numbers. With numbers comes power. With power comes influence. And with influence comes success.

‘Catholics have an obligation to be interested in politics’

As Canadians go to the polls today to elect a government, Catholics are being wooed by candidates and parties in much the same way U.S. Catholic voters are sought.

The Catholic Register, Canada’s oldest Catholic weekly, has been in the thick of things. A detailed article, “The spirituality of politics”, tackles what some of the nation’s Catholic groups are emphasizing as important in voting. Associate editor Michael Swan talked about politics with people from a range of Catholic organizations — from the Campaign Life Coalition, which focuses on abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, to the Catholic Worker Movement, which focuses on peace and life issues such as opposing the death penalty and supporting people with mental handicaps.

He also traces the history of the church’s involvement in Canadian politics, dating back to the 1890s, when Bishop John Cameron of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, regularly dined with Canada’s first Catholic prime minister, Sir John Thompson. That was 70 years before the United States elected its first Catholic president, John Kennedy.

The page also includes a summary of the points in the Canadian bishops’ federal election guide, which starts with this premise: “Catholics have an obligation to be interested in politics.”

More “new media” in the Catholic community

Speaking of “new media,” the editor of The Catholic Key in Kansas City, Mo., Jack Smith, has a new post on the paper’s blog titled “Facebook Bishops” about bishops who either have sites on the popular social network or have fan clubs set up by other Facebook members.

He notes that his two local prelates, Bishop Robert W. Finn of K.C.-St. Joe, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., have fan clubs on Facebook. He also points out that a whole lot of bishops may not even know they have their own Facebook fan clubs. (I discovered while putting together this post that there’s a relatively new “Goodbye Archbishop Burke” fan club established after the St. Louis prelate was appointed to a high Vatican position in June, and I also saw a fan club for Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta. I also remember seeing a fan club for Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston when he was elevated to the College of Cardinals last November.)

I suppose it would be appropriate now to shamelessly plug the Catholic News Service Facebook page established last year. We’re planning on beefing it up in the coming months — right now it only has a couple RSS feeds from CNS.

Also on the new media front, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., now has a podcast version of a letter he sent last week to the Bush administration and members of Congress on the economic crisis besetting the nation this fall. (Bishop Murphy is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.) In the podcast he explains why the bishops get involved in such issues and reads the letter sent to the White House and to Capitol Hill. His is one of several dioceses and other Catholic agencies posting material to iTunes, the popular site for iPod owners to download a wide variety of paid and free content for listening or viewing.

And since we’re talking here about Facebook and the bishops, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind readers that the bishops are using Facebook and other tools to promote their “Faithful Citizenship” election guide.

Archbishop says Democrats becoming ‘party of death’

This will set off some fireworks:

ROME (CNS) — The Democratic Party in the United States “risks transforming itself definitively into a ‘party of death,'” said U.S. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Vatican’s highest court.

(full story)

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