By: Deal W. Hudson & Matt Smith
In the wake of the 2004 defeat of John Kerry, leftwing Catholics, aligned with the Democratic Party, got down to serious work. The result was a coalition of organizations, publications, writers, academics, and activists that helped convince a majority of self-identified Catholic voters to vote for the most pro-abortion presidential candidate in history, Barack Obama.
That same coalition met late last week at a Washington Briefing hosted by the National Catholic Reporter. Coming on the heels of their victory in passing the abortion-funded health care bill, the standing ovation given to Sr. Carol Keehan comes as no surprise. The recipient of personal attention from the President, Keehan used her Catholic Health Association, a trade association of Catholic hospitals, to pronounce the health care legislation acceptable for Catholics. Her role was aptly rewarded when she was given one of the pens used by President Obama to sign the pro-abortion health care law.
Prior to the election, the media accurately reported that Sr. Keehan’s support of the health care bill was in opposition to that of the Catholic bishops. The bishops explained repeatedly they would not support a bill containing federal funding for abortion. Sr. Keehan refused to admit the presence of the funding along with her other differences with the bishops. Indeed, at the briefing she reiterated that she was in agreement with the bishops on the bill and on the non-presence of abortion funding.
Other leaders of the health care revolt against the bishops spoke at the briefing, including Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, who organized the religious order letter supporting the health care bill praised by Nancy Pelosi; Morna Murray, President of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; Patrick Whelan, President of Catholic Democrats; and Speaker Pelosi herself who was there to rally her Catholic troops to help deliver on immigration.
It’s no surprise that Trinity University in D.C., a private, all girls, progressive Catholic University would host a forum of this nature with the liberal and Democrat-aligned National Catholic Reporter. It’s the alma mater of Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius, both of whom are featured prominently on the Trinity University website.
When Pelosi was first elected Speaker a special Mass was celebrated at Trinity with Rev. Robert Drinan, S. J. as homilist. There could have been no more appropriate choice to honor Speaker Pelosi, since Father Drinan was the central figure in the creation of the pro-abortion Catholic politician. That creation now outnumbers pro-life Catholics among members of Congress.
The issue of dissent by Catholic politicians, over abortion and marriage, has become increasingly contentious in recent elections. Republican Catholic Outreach was successful in 2000 and 2004 in securing support for the pro-life GOP candidates over the pro-abortion candidates put forward by the Democrats. The 2008 Catholic effort for McCain-Palin failed to take advantage of the momentum of previous presidential campaigns and the present RNC has done next to nothing to rebuild the effort.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele, himself a Catholic, did find the time, however, to appear at the Washington Briefing to make some remarks. That was probably a wise choice because it brought him face to face with the coalition that must be beaten for a pro-life candidate to take back the White House in 2012. The leadership of this Catholic Left coalition supports, helps elect, and provides cover for elected Catholic officials who routinely dissent from Church teaching. In short, the priorities of the Democratic Party are put ahead of the Church.
Considering ourselves to be Catholic first, Republican second, we have both worked successfully on behalf of the Republican Party and candidates to reach out to Catholics. We are regularly attacked by progressive Catholics for our involvement in politics and for engaging Catholics and Catholic politicians who seek to compromise on non-negotiable teachings of the Church for the sake of social justice arguments. We shake our heads at the charge of being GOP shills against Catholics who uphold the Church’s teaching on abortion.
RNC Chairman Steele spoke to the Catholic Left coalition about his faith. But, the leadership in this coalition has no interest in changing its mind on abortion and related issues – the Church’s message on life has been explained to them by John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Cardinal George, Cardinal O’Malley, Cardinal Rigali, and Archbishop Dolan, among many others. When the National Catholic Reporter, the Catholic Health Association, and the Catholic Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious endorsed the health care bill they knew exactly what they were doing.
GOP leadership would be well-advised to stop speaking to deaf ears and study how these groups and their leadership spearheaded the Catholic effort for Obama in 2008. Their effort on Obama’s behalf in 2010 promises to be even bigger and better funded. GOP indifference to this effort is just another instance of what fuels the tea party phenomena and why a similar attitude is spreading among faithful Catholics.
We at Catholic Advocate are educating grassroots Catholics about the importance of keeping their eyes not only on who gets elected but those groups and individuals who feed and protect them in office. We are telling Catholic voters to make both parties earn their votes, or they will be taken for granted.
Part of the overarching problem is with the Church itself. As we are seeing in the aftermath of the health care debate, there are no consequences within the Church for groups that actively work among Catholics to promote abortion. Sr. Keehan and Speaker Pelosi, like most Catholics, are not used to being held accountable. Lay Catholics, however, may well use their votes this coming November, and in 2012 to do what the bishops are so reluctant to do.