Hey! Politico! The Catholic Vote Isn’t Monolithic

News: Commentary
by Kristine Christlieb  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 16, 2020   

Secular media lost in Catholic landscape

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Politico says after Donald J. Trump's election in 2016, Catholic voters "hardly heard from him."

Then they claim "rarely does [Trump] engage with outside Catholics in the same way he does with evangelical leaders."

They also say polls show the president "could encounter roadblocks in his outreach to Catholic voters if he sticks to his standard stump speech for religious audiences, which is loaded with references to religious freedom, job growth, the judiciary, foreign policy and his ongoing trade negotiations with China."

Wrong. Wrong. And probably wrong.

Politico got things so wrong because they fail to understand two important facts about Catholics.

Catholic 'leaders' do not want to engage with President Trump.

Just as Protestants are divided between so-called "mainline" Protestants and the more politically and theologically conservative evangelical Protestants, the Catholic Church in America is similarly divided between conservatives and liberals. Naturally, there are exceptions. Christianity Today's former editor Mark Galli — who called for Trump's removal — clearly lost his way and wandered off the evangelical map. But the exception, as always, proves the rule.

Among Catholics, there is a further complication. It's not just that there is a political/theological divide among Catholics. Oh, if that were the only problem! Not only is there a divide, but the Catholic Church's power center (the bishops, the Catholic university presidents, the Catholic politicians) worldwide and in the United States, is almost monolithically liberal both politically and theologically.

When Politico says Trump rarely engages with Catholics in the same way he does with evangelical leaders, the reason is obvious. Catholic "leaders" do not want to engage with President Trump. A telling comparison is how Trump was "received" at Notre Dame versus how he was received at Liberty University.

Notre Dame vs. Liberty University

It is a long-standing custom at Notre Dame for a newly elected president of the United States to deliver the university's commencement address in his inaugural year. Even though there were outcries of protest because he was a supporter of abortion, former President Barak Obama was allowed to deliver the commencement address at what many would have called the nation's sentimental favorite Catholic university, Notre Dame. Our own Michael Voris, who is a Notre Dame graduate, counts Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame "the watershed moment for this apostolate." Watch his Vortex on the topic.

Notre Dame University President Rev. John I. Jenkins (L)
and Barack Obama

In 2016, the controversy took a different turn. Trump, who won the presidency running on a pro-life platform, was publicly snubbed by the Catholic hierarchy; his vice president was instead invited to address the graduates. The university would not confirm whether the president of the United States was even invited to attend the ceremony in which his vice president was the featured speaker.

To add further scandal to the ridiculously politicized event, some Notre Dame students staged a walk-out during the commencement ceremony. This is the same university that refuses to rescind homosexual predator Theodore McCarrick's honorary degree.

President Trump has spoken at Liberty University twice — in 2016 and 2017 where he was warmly received. The contrast just couldn't be greater.

More about Being Wrong

Back to being wrong; it would be wrong to conclude from the above comparison that Catholics don't support President Trump. A more accurate conclusion is that Catholic leaders don't support President Trump, and that fact is upsetting to a lot of conservative Catholics.

Former GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a senior political adviser for CatholicVote.org says Catholics are excited about the president's position on abortion and other social issues. He includes praise for Trump's economic policies as well.

Further, he notes how well the White House is delivering on its promises — appointment of conservative judges, religious liberty policies. But his job isn't to point Catholics to any particular candidate. It's to get out the vote. Huelskamp tells Church Militant, "There are literally millions of Catholics who are eligible to vote. They have the power to make a difference in this election."

So, have Catholic voters heard from President Trump? And what would you say about how Catholic leaders interact with President Trump? Would Trump's "references to religious freedom, job growth, the judiciary, foreign policy and his ongoing trade negotiations with China" be a roadblock to Catholic voters? You decide.

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