What Happened With the “Catholic Vote?”

I have read and heard lots of comments saying that President Obama “won” the Catholic vote. This is misleading.

President Obama won the Hispanic vote heavily. Far more than half of Hispanics are Catholics. Based on the Hispanic people I know, they are devout, church-going, family-oriented people.

I have also witnessed and fought against the repeated, racist attacks on hispanics by Republican politicians here in Oklahoma. The Republican Party used the issue of illegal immigration as a wedge issue in at least three of the elections in the past 10 years. They referred to “illegals” as if they were insects rather than people. They passed laws here in Oklahoma that tried to deny hispanic people access to basic services and their civil rights. 

They did all this despite the fact that there were plenty of laws on the books already to handle illegal immigration. These laws just weren’t being enforced. The main reason they weren’t being enforced was because the business interests that pay for Republican campaigns did not want them enforced.

Hispanic people are not stupid. They know all this. So when they voted heavily to re-elect President Obama, they were not voting against their church. They were voting against the discrimination and racism which the Republican Party had callously directed against them to win elections earlier in this century. 

Now, we are faced with pundits and commenters who keep saying that “Catholics voted for Obama” as if this was a repudiation of the Church by its own people. In truth, for the Catholic vote to have been as close as it was, and for hispanics to have voted for President Obama in the percentages they did, most other Catholics must have voted heavily for Governor Romney.

Before you go off condemning your fellow Catholics for deserting the Church, remember that statistics can be used to lie. At the very least these statistics are not be used to represent the facts in a way that would lead anyone who reads them to draw accurate conclusions.

  • Peg

    Thank you so much. I’ve already heard one caller on catholic radio blame Hispanics. The so called self deportation and all these immigration policies are so very cruel. I totally understand that vote and have discussed it with my children. Having lived in LA and served in Mayan villages in Mexico, I have been blessed to know so many holy, humble and loving Hispanic families too. Above all, I think the Republican party loses by it’s callous treatment of many classes of people that work hard and honorably in our country. Thanks

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you for this wonderful comment Peg.

  • Becca

    Rebecca ~
    The day after the election, I was disappointed to learn that there was also an increase from 2008 in Evangelical Christians voting for Obama. Honestly I have really been grappling with that. A friend and I have been going back and forth – and her main argument is separation of church and state. Because this is a safe place to ask, AND you are on the front lines, can you help me understand that? I would really like to respond, but feel woefully inadequate to do so. She feels that elected officials have NO right to impose their religious beliefs (no abortion, no gay marriage) on ALL, “separation of church and state.” She felt that the Obama Administration gives the right for each person to choose. What is a politician to do when a spiritual issue is thrust into the political arena?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Becca, this is too complicated to really answer well here in a combox. But I will say that your friend’s arguments sound like the standard pro choice position. What we are talking about here is the right to choose to kill an innocent human being. The law should never do this. As for what may guide an elected official’s decision-making, we are free to reference our beliefs and ideals the same as any other citizen. Your friend has a mistaken notion of “separation of church and state.” This, too, is a standard pro choice, pro gay marriage argument for these issues. It’s been used to intimidate a lot of people, but it has no basis in the laws of this country.

      Ask her if she feels if elected officials have the right to “impose” their beliefs about rape, child battering and bank robbery. Each of these is a “moral” issue as well, you know. I imagine that she sees no problem with violating “separation of church and state” so long as she agrees with the decision the elected official is making. What these arguments always seem to be about is an attempt to bully elected officials to vote the way you want them to. If they don’t, then they are violating some hatched-up “rule” like this misapplication of separation of church and state. Read what I posted here for more details.

      • Becca

        Thank you.

  • http://mywordwall.wordpress.com Imelda

    Thank you for making me understand this part. I was not aware of this ill treatment. But to be honest, I am quite ambivalent about the illegal immigration issue. You might find it weird considering that I myself was an immigrant once before I obtained citizenship. But I digress.

    I do not want to be a big contrarian though – but there must be a decreasing number of Catholics attending the Church and upholding all that the Church says. My basis for saying this is that in the city where I live, at least two churches I know were closed down in the last 6 years we have been here. And many other churches have been closed in this State. In addition, the surveys may not have considered the fact that many in their sample have rejected the Church but are Catholics by baptism anyway.


    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Imelda, there certainly are several facets to the immigration issue. A country that cannot protect its borders has a real problem. On the other hand, what the Republicans did with this didn’t address any real ways to fix the problem. They were demagoguing to win elections and they aimed their legislation at scapegoating and attacking hispanic people. At least that’s what’s happened here in Oklahoma. It was horrible.

      I know there is more to this statistic than any one explanation. People are falling away from the Church. At the same time, it is actually growing because of the number of converts. I think some of the reason for closing down churches has been the lack of priests. I’m hopeful that will begin to turn around in the next few years. At least, I know several young men who are entering seminary. If that trend continues, it will begin to make itself felt in the next 5 to 10 years.

      • http://mywordwall.wordpress.com Imelda

        It is great to hear about converts and young men going to the seminary. You made my night with that news.

        I remember that there is a monastery there in OK called The Clear Creek Monastery, in Hulbert. It is a traditional one but has the Bishop’s permission. I heard that that group is doing very well. Originally, there were 6 or so monks, now there are more of them. Have you heard about that group?

        You know, I feel connected to OK in some way because my husband’s family came from there.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Actually, I hadn’t heard about that monastery. I’ll check it out.

    • http://jscafenette.com Manny

      Illegal immigration is a legitament issue. Sounds like Rebecca is doing some slogan voting herself.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        Illegal immigration is a legitimate issue, true. The legislation and the campaigning which were based on inciting people to race hatred in order to get their votes were not. The Catholic Church stood strong against this legislation and this demonizing of a whole people. At least here in Oklahoma, they were pretty much alone so far as the various denominations were concerned. The cold-blooded way that the Rs did polls, identified voter discontent and then rabble roused along lines of race hatred against hispanic people in order to win elections was evil. What I saw in the Oklahoma legislature was disgusting, sordid and totally destructive. It was also useless grandstanding for the sake of politics. No one could vote for the legislation we had there without going against Christ. I saw them do it. I saw them try to preachify about how God supported them in doing it. But the plain fact is that what I saw was race hatred, evil, vile and totally, absolutely wrong. If being against it had cost me my elective office, I would have counted that an honor.

        Stop trying to justify the Rs when they are evil Manny. It’s not a question of R vs D. It’s a question of do you follow Jesus or not? The election Tuesday placed that question squarely before every Christian. As for me, I’ve already decided.

        • becca

          I don’t think your being fair there. Saying voting for Romney means your supporting his stand on immigration- is the same as saying those who voted for Obama support his stand on the unborn. Its a horrific choice.

          I voted for Romney because of the issue with not wanting Obama deciding the Supreme Court. However, I knew full well the Republicans were going to lose this election… And lose it because of their treatment of hispanics.

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            Becca I know most people who voted for Romney did so for reasons other than immigration. You are right however, that the Rs treatment of Hispanics played a big part in this election. I also think it played a big part in the “Catholic vote.”

  • Beverly

    I found this excerpt interesting. It speaks to the matter of following one’s conscience. You really have to read the whole article at http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/ratzcons.htmCONSCIENCE AND TRUTH.

    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
    Presented at the 10th Workshop for Bishops February 1991 Dallas, Texas

    Morality of conscience and morality of authority as two opposing models, appear to be locked in struggle with each other. Accordingly, the freedom of the Christian would be rescued by appeal to the classical principle of moral tradition that conscience is the highest norm which man is to follow even in opposition to authority. Authority in this case, the Magisterium, may well speak of matters moral, but only in the sense of presenting conscience with material for its own deliberation. Conscience would retain, however, the final word. Some authors reduce conscience in this its aspect of final arbiter to the formula: conscience is infallible.

    Nonetheless, at this point, a contradiction can arise. It is of course undisputed that one must follow a certain conscience or at least not act against it. But whether the judgment of conscience or what one takes to be such, is always right, indeed whether it is infallible, is another question.

    • Bill S

      “Authority in this case, the Magisterium, may well speak of matters moral, but only in the sense of presenting conscience with material for its own deliberation. Conscience would retain, however, the final word. ”

      I think this applies to Catholics who voted their consciences and felt that Obama was overall the preferrable choice and that gays should not be discriminated against. As stated, whether this conscience is infallable is another question.

      • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

        Yes, no one is saying that they violated their own conscience. The question is whether they tried to form their conscience, and if they are giving more credence to the values of the world than Christ’s teachings. Only God can judge the interior.

  • Beverly

    The link and title should have been as follows:
    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    Sounds like you’re shoring up your hispanic vote. When is your next election? But you make a good point about breaking down the Catholic vote into components. Someone should do an analysis of that.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Manny, do you honestly think I write the things I do on this blog to win elections? What I am not doing, and what I will not ever do, is excuse the Ds when they are flat-out evil in their policies and their intent as the Rs were in their use of the immigration issue.

      • Bill S

        “…do you honestly think I write the things I do on this blog to win elections?”

        There is no way you would do that! Whether we agree or disagree, what you write is strictly by Church teaching. That’s why I enjoy arguing with you. You would never win office in Massachusetts but I respect you for sticking to your principles. It is un-Romneyesque.

      • http://jscafenette.com Manny

        No I know you don’t. You are probably taking great political risks with your blog. I’ve always felt that. I can’t speak for the tone of how politicians articulate their views, but I don’t believe politicians of either party are evil or malicious. They may come across sometimes that way. That’s the Mark Shea approach to politics. Even Democrats who are for abortion are not evil.

        • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

          It depends on your definition of “evil”. Are they consciously, purposely evil? Probably not. But are they dishonest, scheming, manipulating, and caring way more about their large donors than the people they were elected to represent? YOU BETCHA.

        • Ted Seeber

          You are so lucky! Because right now, I can’t see the good forest for all the evil trees.

  • C Cooper

    So only if they are white would the Roman Catholic vote for Obama be a vote against the church?

    People vote for or against candidates for a number of reasons. Don’t assume that Latinos only voted for Obama on the immigration issue. Obamacare, equality/equal pay for women, modern, scientific and compassionate views on rape, expecting those making over 250,000 to pay their fair share, and more were also very attractive reasons for many Latinos to vote for the president.

    • Ted Seeber

      How is “murder your child and shut up about it” a compassionate view on rape?

  • Ted Seeber

    So many of us seem to forget that racism is as condemned as abortion in the list of intrinsic evils our religion opposes.

    98% of American Catholics voted for Evil. Some voted for Intrinsic Evil directly. Others voted for the Lesser of Intrinsic Evils. And certainly, compared to the genocide of abortion, the sins of economics and lack of hospitality to the stranger seem much lesser.

    But evil is still evil.

    I really need to get to confession before I allow that fact to drag me into hell, dead or not.

  • T.M

    What BUNK .
    I could punch holes in this article ALL day.
    Evil is evil if they voted for it they will pay.
    The church bishops have failed in their duty to inform the flock. Too bad.
    Many in the flock will go to hell for it

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  • Rog

    We’re Hispanics and voted Republican. Our ancestors came to this country legally. We all served in the military, are college educated, and believe our country comes first. We have experienced foreign lands and this made our love for this country stronger. Our view is that democrats/progressives do not have the best interest of the US. Without a financially healthy and moral country, we have nothing. Debate all you want, but don’t excuse personal selfishness.

  • Louis Gonzales

    Well Rebecca, first of all I am an American, hispanic by descent and did not and would not ever vote for obama. the guy is a categorical liar, when the helath reform act started, he appeased the folks, including the bishops by signing one if his infmous executive orders that he does all too often, striking any mention of abortion so the law could pass, it passed and guess what , aboortion is right in the middle so now what. bishops are asking for prayer., the law will not be overturned.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Louis, you are correct that the president lied in order to pass the Affordable Health Care Act. He reneged on the promises he made within months of the law’s passage. I believe he intended to do this all along.

      Thank you for standing with the bishops in this.

      Bless you.