The Catholic Thing
Obama and Catholics: Faithful and Generic Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 21 October 2011

Democrats were rightly alarmed when George W. Bush took not only the faithful Catholic vote against Catholic John Kerry but he took the generic Catholic vote, too. The Catholic vote has traditionally belonged to the Democrat.

Some, like Jody Bottum, claim there is no longer such a thing as the Catholic vote. Since it tracks so closely to voters in general, it makes no sense to consider a Catholic distinction when it comes to voting.

The parties think otherwise. Both have spent time and treasure creating Catholic outreach operations, and unique Catholic messaging.

After Bush creamed Kerry among Catholics, the Democratic Party ginned up a Catholic outreach mirroring efforts of the Republicans. They had a pretty good advantage, too. There was Bush fatigue, even among conservatives, and it was exponentially larger among the left of center. But it was more than that. Democrats developed an effective Catholic outreach that included a successful appeal to some self-identified conservatives.

And they came up with a clever argument that fit nicely with Bush fatigue. They said that Obama might not want to change Roe v. Wade, which the Republicans had failed to do all these years, but that he wanted to reduce abortions through liberal economic policies. Moreover, they said he was better on war, “torture,” rendition, Guantanamo, and the like. This was a calculated effort to show that, across the full spectrum of issues related to Catholic social teaching, Obama was superior to the Republicans. And it worked.

Will it work again?

Already reporters and pollsters are sniffing around the question: whither Catholics in 2012? Certainly Barack Obama will have a trickier time keeping Catholics in his camp this time around than he did getting them in 2008. Politics and policy have intruded upon dreams.

There was the debate over health care. Who would have thought that after the bishops’ moral authority had been tarnished over the sex abuse scandals that it would be their voices that drove the debate in its final hours? Would Obamacare fund abortion, or wouldn’t it? Even now it is a hotly debated question and one where faithful Catholics and perhaps even some “generics” stand with the bishops in their concern that it does.

        That was then: Obama honored at Notre Dame

Then, it was recently announced that the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, headed by a Catholic – Kathleen Sibelius – who has supported Planned Parenthood, has defunded the U. S. Catholic Bishop’s Migration and Refugee Service, which has assisted 2,700 victims of human trafficking since 2006. The administration gave a non-response as to why, but Catholic bishops suspect it has something to do with the lawsuit brought in 2009 by the ACLU, which tried to force the Church to make referrals for abortion in its anti-trafficking program.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB thought it had something to do with the HHS requirement that Catholic Migration and Refugee Service provide the “full range of reproductive services.”

Catholic agencies are also being denied federal funding for provision of other social services because of the homosexual ascendancy. The Church has stopped managing adoptions in Massachusetts precisely because of homosexual influences. Illinois just passed a civil-unions bill and, though supporters swore it would not touch other aspects of public policy, the state just told the Church she may no longer offer adoptions in Illinois for the same reason.

Catholic universities and hospitals are now facing pressure to provide contraception and abortion in their health insurance plans because HHS has tried to define them in ways that will not permit them to claim religious exemption.

Professor Robert George of Princeton was one of the hosts during a recent campaign debate for the Republicans and asked each candidate if the U. S. government should provide funding to states that violated freedom of religion in this way. The U. S. bishops are so concerned about these developments that they have created a committee on religious freedom headed by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport.

This is the climate into which Barack Obama will be making his plea to the Catholic voter: widespread assault on Catholic consciences and on the freedom to practice our religion, even in public policy and services. A crafty Republican will play this tune for all its worth.

What’s more, the arguments about war and Guantanamo seem unlikely to work anymore since Obama, upon taking office, discovered that there were not many viable alternatives to the Bush policies, and has consequently continued to extended them. The economy is in tatters with slim chances of improving significantly before Election Day 2012. Will the abortion rate be up or down by then, and who takes credit or blame? The fact is that Obama never met an abortion he didn’t like or at least had an excuse for.

The last time out, Catholics such as Doug Kmiec, a former Reagan official, gave Obama cover on these and other issues. Kmiec was rewarded with the Ambassadorship to France. Just kidding, nothing quite so grand for selling out the unborn. No, Kmiec went to Malta – tiny, Catholic Malta, an assignment that he quickly bungled. And he promptly bit the hand that put him there. Who will be Obama’s house-Catholic next time? 

The bottom line is Catholics, faithful and generic, now know who this man is. It is impossible to imagine that Obama will maintain the faithful Catholic vote, and he may end up losing the generics, too.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washinton, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.

The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (13)Add Comment
written by petebrown, October 21, 2011
Hi Austin.

Generally agreed with the article except for two points. You write

Would Obamacare fund abortion, or wouldn’t it? Even now it is a hotly debated question and one where faithful Catholics and perhaps even some “generics” stand with the bishops in their concern that it does.

Pete here. As a faithful Catholic I wrote an article for CT years ago disputing the basic contention that the ACA was pro-abortion funding. The issue is complicated but I do feel on the balance the prolifers got the much better deal out of the law than did the other side. I don't see any evidence that fears of federal abortion funding as a result of ACA have been borne out. Have you?

One other thing. you write,

Catholic universities and hospitals are now facing pressure to provide contraception and abortion in their health insurance plans because HHS has tried to define them in ways that will not permit them to claim religious exemption.

Pete here. My understanding is that the conscience clause is retained for abortion, but is only meant to be changed on the issue of contraception. Is this different from what you have heard?

Thanks for a nice piece overall‼
written by Jim Thunder, October 21, 2011
(1) I didn't know Kmiec had sold his soul for Wales, I mean Malta. (2) There are good grounds for Planned Parenthood to be barred of federal funding. (3) Catholic social organizations may speak of their treatment the way St Thomas More did his: “I do nobody harm. I speak none harm. I think none harm, but rather wish everybody good.. .If this not enough to keep a man alive, then in good faith, I long not to live.”
written by Manfred, October 21, 2011
Great article, Austin , as well as great comments from petebrown! There is a lot of information here. The Catholic institutions have tried to have it both ways: yes, we are Catholic but we are also secular businesses. This was done for Federal funding, but Ken Whitehead has argued for years they could retain their full Catholic identity and still qualify for aid. The next point I would make is ths administration now refers to freedom of "worship" in lieu of freedom of religion. It may seem subtle, but it is not. It makes religion subjective and not objective. There are no norms.
The battle is on and I think this persecution will unite many weak and strong Catholics as they see everything they have stood for attacked.
written by Chris in Maryland, October 21, 2011
It appears that the ugly truth in the "Catholic" hospital/university issue about contraception/abortion is that "Catholics" and others inside "Catholic" institutions are laying the track to ensure that "Catholic" institutions (1) are enabled to fund abortion and contraception; or (2) surrender to the contraception/abortion leviathan (like Boston Archdiocese did on the same-sex "marriage" / adoption case); or (3) are given the "real-politik" escuse for finally/officially separating from The Church. Those diocese that choose not to fight are put into great contrast by those that choose to fight on.
written by Titus, October 21, 2011
The word for 2012 is "Bamboozled." Example: Obama's stooges effectively bamboozled the entire Catholic population of the United States in 2008; 2012 will prove if that population is actually stupid, or just slightly gullible.


Point 1: the ACA makes appropriations outside the ordinary federal appropriations process that is covered by the Hyde Amendment. Therefore, there is no statutory prohibition on using the money allocated by the ACA to fund abortions: Hyde doesn't apply and ACA doesn't have its own prohibition. There is an executive order that ostensibly prohibits executive-branch officials from spending funds over which they have discretion so as to fund abortion. But executive orders are flimsy, ephemeral things.

Point 2: the new HHS regulations require employers, including Catholic universities and hospitals, to provide no-co-pay coverage for contraceptives, including "emergency" contraceptives that act as abortifacients. They do not, to the best of my knowledge, refer to surgical abortions. So Mr. Ruse's statement is true but might have been better phrased by use of the term abortifacient.
written by JAcob R, October 21, 2011
Why do all the "smart" Catholics try so hard to speak in the tone of a secular journalist?

Many of the commenters here are doing that... Why won't these people stop calling themselves Catholics and subverting the mission? Or why aren't they excommunicated? They are a much bigger problem than secular enemies because they confuse and mislead other would be good Catholics.

If you can't understand how shutting down entire charities is an attack upon religious freedom then you're too far gone to be reasoned with.

Pray for strong, intelligent Catholics because the bunch of spineless pushovers the last generation produced are failing pathetically!
written by Ted, October 21, 2011
Austin, Austin, Austin....

Faithful Catholics and Generic Catholics and indeed anyone who really wanted to do so could have done their homework easily to find out who President Obama was and is in 2007-2008. His record was there for everyone who wanted to look.
written by Mark Tardiff, October 21, 2011
If Obamacare doesn't fund abortion, why is the Administration opposed to the Protect Life Act which says that abortion should not be funded in Obamacare? If the door is already closed, they shouldn't be worried about some one trying to lock it. The fact that the Administration opposes the bill seems to point to a situation in which the door is still open and they don't want to see it closed.
written by Martinkus, October 21, 2011
So am I getting this right? Institutions that are supposed to be Catholic have been managed for 40-50 years by dissenters from the Magisterium, including some bishops, with the aim of making them as non-Catholic as the dissenters can get away with. Then the Federal Government tells them that they're not really Catholic and therefore must provide contraception and abortion in their insurance coverage. So these dissenters strenuously object--in order to uphold anti-contraception and anti-abortion policies from which they tend to personally dissent and which they do little to nothing to promote within their institutions. Am I getting this right?
written by Fr. Bramwell, October 21, 2011
Sadly Austin, as good as your analysis is, most Catholics that I know will vote for Obama again. I do not think that voting is viewed as an intellectual issue. It is more like buying paint, just a matter of taste.
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., October 21, 2011
The real snakes in the grass on this are the Cahotlic leaders who know perfectly well the Marxist Obama's policies will not reduce abortions by reducing poevrty and are not to bring peace but trck their followers into thinking that he will reduce the very thing that he stdns most firmly on and will strvie to define the CAtholic Church as a hate organization because it promotes "homophobia." Just as the Chinese Communists define the good Catholics as those who belong to the "Chinses Patriotic Assoication" this insidious regime and its supporters who call themselves Catholics, will demand the actions of the traitorous Paapists will be prohibited. For the time being military chaplains can decline to perform same-sex nuptuals, but that right will be taken away. And alal of this is aided and abetted by bihsops who refuse to boey Rome's call to deny Communion to pro-aborts on the hilarious grounds that they don't want to use the Sacraments as political tool, when they know fully well that it is precisely the heretics who are using their reception of Communion to desmonstarte that the Church does not take any of these issues seriously. And let us not forget the ethnic element. Many Catholics believe that it there duty to back the Abortion Party becaause of their Just look at Rhode Island, the most Catholic State (60%) which consistently elects pro-aborts and pro-homosexual officials. God bless Bihsop Tobin for telling them the truth! But what happens when it gets down to parish and college level? An instructive anecdote: I recently watched a bishop publicly present a retiring priest with a sweatshirt embalzened with "Freinds don't let freinds vote Republican."
written by Louise, October 21, 2011
The other day, I wrote about Obama's campaign committee that advised him on Catholic issues, and that all the members of that committee were dissenters. I did a search for "Obama's campaign committee, catholic issues" and I found this for one site. Anyone who did not know who and what Obama was and is, had better take his head out of the sand, or stop smoking what he's smoking. These is simply no excuse for anyone not to have known. Obama's dissenting friends advised him on how to make abortion appear to be a virtue. This author calls it "Theological Cover".

"There is the historic election of Barack Obama, a politician described by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput as "the most committed abortion rights presidential candidate of either party since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision." His election can be viewed in the context of that papal visit, for many Catholic college professors and administrators helped make his victory possible.

"On Catholic campuses throughout the campaign the case was made that abortion represented just one issue among other important social issues, including poverty, healthcare, and the war on terror. It was Catholic academics — most of them teaching on those same Catholic campuses — who made the argument that Catholics could vote "in good conscience" for the pro-abortion candidate. And despite Pope Benedict's admonition that Catholic colleges must be unwavering in their commitment to Catholic teachings, it was Catholic theologians who so distorted Catholic teachings on abortion that they managed to help convince yet another generation of voters that abortion is sometimes the best response women can make to an unintended pregnancy.

"Drawing from the work of Catholic theology professors like Lisa Sowle Cahill of Boston College and Cathleen Kaveny of Notre Dame, the media focused on their argument that when a candidate supports issues of social justice, such as the living wage and equality for women, Catholics can indeed support the pro-abortion candidate even when there is an acceptable prolife candidate running for office.

"Throughout the presidential campaign, Kaveny and Cahill served on Obama's National Catholic Advisory Committee — advising him on how to present his pro-choice platform in ways that would be palatable to Catholics. Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, documented the fact that nine members of Obama's Catholic National Advisory Committee were professors at Catholic colleges. And analysis of campaign contributions revealed that Catholic college faculty members were generous donors to Obama's campaign.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, professors at Georgetown University were ranked seventh among all US colleges and universities in donations to the Obama campaign.

"Theological Cover

"Beyond financial donations, Catholic college professors provided theological cover for the candidate. Duquesne law professor Nicholas Cafardi and Pepperdine professor Doug Kmiec, formerly the dean of the law school at Catholic University, distorted Catholic teachings in order to suggest that Obama's plan to reduce abortion by reducing poverty is a plan that Catholics can in good conscience support. Cafardi claimed that the pro-life side has "already lost the abortion battle permanently" and so should not be swayed by the prolife Republican candidate. Ignoring the fact that Obama had already promised to increase women's access to abortion through opposing the Hyde Amendment, which restricts taxpayer funding of abortions in the US, and the Mexico City policy, which bars the use of federal taxes for abortions overseas, Kmiec claimed that Obama's policies on poverty reduction would reduce abortion. Providing no evidence for his assertion that social welfare programs will reduce abortion, Kmiec dismissed the very real fact that Obama has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which abortion rights advocates themselves celebrate as a way of ending dozens of anti-abortion laws and policies at the state level, including parental-involvement and notification requirements, mandatory pre-abortion counseling and ultra-sounds, and even conscience protections for healthcare providers."

"Counter to centuries of Catholic Church teachings on the sacredness of life from the moment of conception, these professors are simply continuing the commitment many Catholic college professors have been making for decades now to debunking Catholic teachings on life issues. Daniel Maguire, a longtime Marquette University theology professor, continues to call abortion a "sacred choice" and writes that "sometimes ending incipient life is the best that life offers."

If Catholics did not know who Obama was and what his goals were, it was because they did not want to know. It just made them feel sooo good to vote for a black man. I knew what he was, for heaven's sake, and I am just an average person of average intelligence. And if I knew, then anyone could have known. The fact that he voted against the Infants Born Alive Protection Act in the Illinois Senate should have given you the first clue.
written by Graham Combs, October 21, 2011
Although not a Catholic at the time, I fell for "safe but rare" in 1992, but never again. That Catholics were conned by it in 2008 was a desperate grasp for justification to "make history" and vote for the latest American Idol. In fact, I was sitting in an RCIA class in the fall of 2008 when a classmate gushed that she and her husband were "working for Obama."

May I make one quibble here? "House-Catholic" echoes an uglier term used by many for Black Americans. In fact, it's become a kind of libel for blacks who are more independent-minded or are perceived as "middle class." Recall Rev. Wright's accusation of "middle-classism."

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