Who are the “Catholics for Romney” co-chairs?

Who are the “Catholics for Romney” co-chairs? August 8, 2012

This ia a follow-up to yesterday’s post. Obviously, Catholics for Romney is trying to establish its credentials by having six former ambassadors to the Vatican as its co-chairs. But let’s look behind this curtain. Five out of six were chosen by Republican presidents, and so would be expected to lean Republican. But many are more than casual sympathizers. One is associated with the Heritage Foundation. One is heavily active in the GOP and was a “Bush ranger”. Another, Mary Ann Glendon, has strong ties to the ‘Weigel wing” of the Catholic Church in America, and its alliance with the evangelical Republican right.

Only one – Ray Flynn – was chosen by a Democrat (Bill Clinton). The other two Democratic ambassadors (one from Clinton and one from Obama) did not join the fun. So when you look into it, what you see is no surprise. It is most certainly not an indication that Catholics are swaying toward Romney.

There’s something else I noticed. An unfortunate part of the current partisan divide in the United States is how it falls along racial and age lines. The Republican party is basically the white party – 77 percent of minorities, including 67 percent of Hispanics, are supporting Obama in the latest polls. That Romney can hold his own comes solely from his capture of a significant majority of white voters. The Republican party also skews older – while it is not as stark as in 2008, younger generations lean more Democratic and tend to support Obama more.

Back to the Catholics for Romney: what do we have here? Six white people, including five white men. The only Hispanic ambassador, appointed by Obama, is obviously absent. Two people in their 80s. Three people in their 70s. One baby boomer, a sprightly 59-year-old!

So here we have it. Forget that they are Vatican ambassadors. What stands out more is that the Catholics for Romney co-chairs are old, white, and most likely pretty wealthy, people – and nearly all men. How does this compare to the complexion of the US Catholic Church today? How about in 30 years time?

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  • Kurt

    They do represent the future of the Catholic Church in the USA — old, white, well-educated, affluent, establishment, and conservative on economic issues. Ray Flynn represents the exception, a throw back to Irish-Catholic, pro-union Democrats. But with the Church’s pastoral abandonment of the white working class, it is an element that is not renewing itself.

    • Smith

      I have seen you say this before but the more I think on it I can not agree. The make-up of the US Church is going to be increasingly Hispanic (across demographics).

      • Kurt

        It will be. The white working class is leaving the Catholic Church so fast a revolving door is needed. While the 1980s was an interesting (and largely unnoticed) springtime of African-American Catholicism, that has also now run its course and a decreasing proportion of African Americans are Catholic.

        Among upper middle class white Americans, the Catholic Church is seeing some stability, although this is a group with a low birth rate.

        Now, in addition to these trends there is a sizable immigration of Hispanics. This is not any new evangelization but simply moving an existing Catholic from one side of the Rio Grande to the other. Hispanics come here 90% Catholic. Among their children, 75% are Catholic. By the next generation, 65%. Adn they are the most pastorally udnerseved immigrant groups ever to come itno this country and the most pastorally underserved group in teh country today.

  • Reading this post made me wonder what the make up of the equivalent Catholics for Obama leadership was like. Surely it must be a diverse group of people of all races, ages, and income levels. So I did a quick Google search. As best I can tell, all seven of the board members of Catholics for Obama are white, with an average age in the sixties. All are former or current Democratic party operatives. And while the board bios don’t list income, I suspect that they are probably a pretty wealthy group overall as well (two are Kennedys).

    Unlike MM, I don’t think any of this is significant. But since he devoted an entire post to the demographics of the Catholics for Romney co-chairs, I figured it was worth noting.

    • Ha! I’d never heard of “Catholics for Obama” so thank you for drawing my attention to it. Although I wonder how current it is, given references to “Senator” Obama on the front page..

      No, this is not much more representatiive than the Romney group, except perhaps on the woman front (perhaps the average age is younger too, but I can’t prove that).

      Here’s the point: the Romney people are using the label of “Vatican ambassador” deliberately to give the impression the endorsements are weightier than they actually are. On both side, we see a group of partisan activists supporting their teams. That’s fine. Just don’t pretend it is anything more than that.

      • Mark VA

        “Just don’t pretend it is anything more than that” – et tu, MM.

      • You say, “Here’s the point . . . ” But it was not the point of your post at all. The point of your post was apparently that these Republican Catholics represent an older, whiter Church, one not in keeping with the times and perhaps racist as well. When asked about a comparable group of Democratic partisans, you changed the subject.

  • Dave

    I don’t get it. Morning Minion seems to think there is something wrong with being white and male and old. As an elderly white male myself, I wonder: what’s wrong with me?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Dave, there is NOTHING wrong with being white, male and old. Why some of my best friends are…..okay, sorry, an old joke. I infer that MM is making the point that such groups tend to be insular and view the world from a very particular perspective which overlooks or marginalizes the views of women, minorities and the young. This is not always the case, but it happens often enough that it is a legitimate concern.

  • kara

    I am mixed race, Catholic, 20 and support Romney, it is impossible to support Obama given Catholic teaching. Who cares about the age and race of these people, this is a disturbing post. Pope Benedict is old and Caucasian, so? Does that mean he can not lead the Church?

    • Kurt

      it is impossible to support Obama given Catholic teaching

      Not at all impossible. Watch me do it.

  • This, in a nutshell, is why I don’t buy your “we must vote for who will do the least harm” approach to electoral decisions.

    These people have associated themselves with Republican Administration, perhaps for similar “least harm” reasons for why you support President Obama, and now their voices mean less to you than they would otherwise.

    Over the past four years, in many places including this site, I have seen Catholics minimize the wrongness of abortion. I have seen them associate themselves and apologize for groups like Planned Parenthood. I see them minimizing the harms of things like indiscriminate drone strikes. This weakens their voice when they talk about other injustices. And it also changes the cultural context regarding what is reasonable.

    Of course the same thing happened during the Bush Administration, where prominent Catholics were defending pre-emptive war and torture. And their voice was weakened, and the cultural ground moved so that what was once unthinkable became thinkable.

    The salt has lost its flavor.

    To me, these harms are greater than any delta in harms between the two candidates policies. When we give our support to one candidate or the other, we begin to self-identify with those candidates, and see attacks on them (even correct ones) as attacks on us and go on the defensive.

    This severely weakens our ability to effectively be the witnesses we need to be in the world, and maintain a culture that respects the dignity of all human life.

    Is it possible to vote for a candidate and not be so co-opted? I suppose, but the evidence I see here and elsewhere is not encouraging.

    • Kurt


      I appreciate your post and think it contributes to the discussion. I have a more optimistic view that you about political participation and have long hoped that rather than being discouraged and drop out, that Catholics would simply be involved in both parties and witness Catholic values within the parties.

      I do have to say that I have not found any significant questioning of the wrongness of abortion by writers and commentators here.