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The Catholic Church in America is a sleeping giant. Catholics comprise nearly 25% of the total population—over 81 million people—of the United States, more than any other religious body today. This makes Catholics one of the most influential body of voters in our country. They, more than anyone else, have the power to shape the country for the better…. or for the worse…
Today, I fear, the later outcome may be imminent. Normally, Catholics tend to be divided in their vote, with a notable favor toward the Democratic party. But now, for the first time in recent history, Catholics are heavily favoring one candidate over another. This is not a good sign (Historically, the candidate that Catholics favor in close elections, is the candidate that always gets elected). And the candidate that they are favoring today, also happens to be the one whose platform is fundamentally opposed to Catholic values. As EWTN News indicated in its airing on September 1st 2016, the margin currently between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is almost 25%.
This is unprecedented.
The last time an upset like this happened, was during the 1964 elections with Lyndon B. Johnson, who received 76% of the Catholic vote. Yes. That’s right. 76% of Catholics voted for LBJ—the same LBJ that passed the “Johnson Amendment,” the law that silences clergy from mentioning politicians’ names from the pulpit; the law that threatens the removal of churches tax exempt status if say the wrong words in their homilies. In other words, Lyndon B. Johnson passed one of the most anti-Constitutional violations of religious liberty of our time. And Catholics voted for him 4-to-1.
And now, Catholics are poised for another candidate who poses a potentially greater threat to religious liberty and the culture of life; a candidate who said “religious values need to be changed,” who is pushing to have tax payers fund abortions, who has promised to channel millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood, and who intends to appoint liberal supreme court justices who will defend Roe. vs. Wade.
Suffice it to say, these current polls are not a good sign for the Church in America. Somehow, some way, Catholics have turned in to their own worst enemies. They profess to be Catholic, and yet they are set to vote against their own Church’s principles, including the sacred dignity of the human person.
Granted, Catholics have always been divided in presidential elections (though, as we mentioned, slightly favoring Democratic candidates, such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, etc.). But this current election season has brought a sudden and disturbing shift. A shift that no one expected. And I am left wondering, why? Why do Catholics fight so much against the same Church they profess to be members of?
At first glance, one might be tempted to become angry with the laity. After all, they are the ones who ultimately cast the vote. But I don’t think we can assign blame entirely to them. After all (now put on your moral theology thinking caps), when determining culpability, those in a higher position—those with more power and influence—tend to bear the greater burden of responsibility. So no. I do not blame Catholics, so much as I blame Catholic leaders, and Catholic media. If Hillary Clinton gets elected, the responsibility will fall mostly on the shoulders of our Catholic leaders, the same leaders who talked about both candidates as being equally undesirable; the same leaders who, in an attempt to be fair and balanced, give Mrs. Clinton equal airtime, and present her as a viable candidate. And this has been the failure of Catholic media during this election season.
In fact, if my only source of news was watching EWTN News and The World Over, I would get the impression abortion and the culture of life is just not really that important to Catholics, and that Trump’s somewhat abrasive personality is more deserving of airtime and headlines. I would even get the impression that Catholics are poor judges of character, who tend to place more value on appearances than on policy. Granted, Trump’s language can sometimes be crude and insensitive. But this does not make him the racist bigot that the mainstream media has painted him to be, nor does it make him unfit to be president. As Fr. Frank Pavone has said, Trump is by far the better candidate in this election season than Hillary Clinton. Where Trump’s words can sometimes get him in trouble, Hillary’s actions have certainly proved she is opposed to everything we hold dear as Catholics.
To be sure, I am not saying Catholic media should go in with guns blazing against Hillary Clinton. Catholic news should not necessarily be partisan. But when they report news, it is important that they at least report news that is relevant to Catholics, and based on Catholic principles.
“But” one may object, “Catholic media has reported on the abortion issue.” Yes, it has. But disproportionately so. The reports are relatively rare and insignificant compared to significance of the abortion issue. I have watched EWTN News nearly every night this year, and I can count only on one hand when abortion and the culture of life was discussed. It should not have taken Carl Anderson (the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus) to spend his convention speech on this issue. He seemed more like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, rather than one in a chorus of voices that should be echoing from every corner of the Church for the unborn.
Rather than watching news commentary that regularly takes subtle quips against Mr. Trump’s character, I would rather a higher standard be set for EWTN—one that is more scholarly, noble, and faithful to the truth in its reporting; one that reports primarily on policy and platform than on personality. For example, I have not once seen a comparison of Trump’s pro-life platform to Hillary’s, nor has much been mentioned about the importance of the supreme court (What has surprised me most about EWTN News, is nothing they report on Trump ends on a positive note, even the good things he has done, like appoint a pro-life advocate to the supreme court, or draft a list of 12 supreme court justices. They always feel the need air Mrs. Clinton’s counter-responses at the end of every report of Trump, which always casts the good things he does a negative light).
Granted, EWTN is a relatively benign and innocuous source of news compared to its mainstream counterparts—I have lost all hope for honest journalism prevailing in the likes of MSNBC, CNN, and the New York Times. And, to be fair, Catholic media is also run by laity, who ultimately take their cues from our bishops and priests in America. So we cannot necessarily blame the laity, just as one cannot blame sheep for indecisive shepherds.
So ultimately, who is to blame if Mrs. Clinton gets elected come November? I cannot see how the responsibility would not fall mostly on our shepherds, who ought to be those lone voices crying out in the wilderness.
As long as our shepherds in America continue to place immigration and social justice at the forefront of their concerns, while omitting the more fundamental and pervasive threats to Catholic civilization (namely, the legalized murder of innocent children by their own mothers), the Catholic vote in America will continue to be divided. And not only divided, but heavily weighted in the wrong direction.