Which group is the “best” Catholic?
“There are at least two Catholic votes. There’s a difference between white Catholic voters and Latino voters,” Jones said. “If you look underneath the 2008 vote, the Latino Catholic vote was 73% for Obama. The white Catholic vote was won by McCain, 53% to 47%.”
Campaigns target Catholics in many ways. This season, Catholic nuns are part of the marketing strategy.
Since modernization efforts in the Catholic church in the 1960s, Jones said a “tug of war” has ensued between one wing of the church — emphasizing social justice issues — and the other wing — stressing anti-abortion rights, anti-birth control and anti-gay marriage issues.
“One of the reasons the nuns have become a lightning rod is they gave a face to this kind of social teaching in the church, with the bishops weighing in on the other side,” Jones said.
That’s especially true this year in the wake of the Vatican issuing a report lambasting the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents about 80% of U.S. nuns. The Vatican attacked the LCWR for not doing enough to promote Catholic doctrine against abortion rights and gay marriage, and criticized the NETWORK lobby. The nuns who attended the Romney rally were members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Mich. They do not belong to the LCWR.
The Vatican critique generated an outpouring of support for the nuns under attack.
When campaigns can deploy nuns on their behalf, said Jones, it resonates with “a lot of rank-and-file Catholics, who rarely have interactions with their bishops, but have interactions with nuns at schools or hospitals.”