Editorial: Election results show we live in a new America
People wave flags as they listen to President Barack Obama give his victory speech Wednesday in Chicago. (CNS/Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
NCR Editorial Staff | Nov. 7, 2012
Welcome to the new America, in which a black man wins a second term as president, in which it is no longer possible to pile up enough of a lead among whites to assure victory, in which the fastest-growing minority, Latinos (overwhelmingly Catholic), vote for their most pressing interests, ignoring the warnings by some Catholic bishops that they were endangering their very souls.
President Barack Obama's impressive win, in which he captured all but two of the states he won four years ago, was accomplished with a broad coalition of minorities, including Hispanics, Asians, women and young voters.
Strategists already are marveling at the dimension and precision of the Democrats' strategy that identified those groups, persuading them both of the cause and to get out and vote, while the punditocracy focused on "independents."
The results are further evidence of the browning of America, and by extension, the Catholic church. The irony, of course, is that the very group that helps the church maintain a steady bottom line when it comes to membership is the very group that probably more than any other element pushed to victory the candidate so vociferously disparaged by a fringe group of Catholic leaders.
The contrast in images tells the story. Romney's rallies and his final event in Boston on Tuesday were overwhelmingly white. Obama's rallies and his victory celebration in Chicago were a reflection of the new America, a multi-hued, multi-ethnic reality that came into sharp focus during this election season.
That new reality has implications for both civil society and the Catholic church in the United States.
The bishops clearly need to rethink their political alliance with the Republican Party and their emphasis on making abortion and gay marriage illegal as the principle marks of Catholic identity. On the first matter, the shameless pandering to Republican talking points and budget rationale by some of the bishops further compromised the already seriously damaged moral authority of the church's leadership in this country.
The self-indulgent tantrums of some bishops -- comparing the president to Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, warning Catholics that their souls are in danger should they mark their ballots for certain candidates, grossly overstating the threat to religious liberty and playing loose with such terms as "intrinsic evil" and "prudential judgment" -- become public embarrassments.
The Vatican needs to take note that some of its appointees in the episcopal ranks in this country -- a minority, to be sure, but they grab the headlines with their incendiary bombast -- make it difficult for more responsible members of the hierarchy who have to regularly deal with legislators and the White House.
The insistence by Catholic officials on measuring all political actors on whether they advocate overturning Roe vs. Wade and oppose abortion in all circumstances eliminates any opportunity to more creatively deal with making abortion rarer and, ultimately, unthinkable. The polls during the last 40 years show the bishops have not only been unsuccessful in persuading anyone but the already converted to their cause; their actions have hardened the divisions and played nicely into the political agenda of the extremes.
The bishops and such allies as the Knights of Columbus have poured untold millions into fighting against referendums allowing same-sex marriage and for constitutional amendments that would define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
Three states approved same-sex marriage and one turned down an attempt to narrowly define marriage on Tuesday, election results that should be instructive. Again, our religious leaders are persuading no one, and the tide of young voters and the gradual march off the political stage of an aging white population should make the future clear. Same-sex marriage in the civil realm is not perceived as a threat to conventional marriage and is, furthermore, a non-issue for those who will increasingly make up the voter population.
The ultimate question is whether the bishops will continue to define themselves as a group by what they are against or by the ways in which Catholicism, in its deepest sacramental instincts and in its richest imagination, can leaven the goodness in the culture.
Dan Morris-Young | Nov. 8, 2012
Voter approval of a Washington state referendum legalizing same-sex marriage was greeted by a call for "real and respectful dialogue in our church" by the organization of Catholics supporting Referendum 74 -- and by bishops' statements their sees to stronger catechesis on traditional and sacramental marriage.
"We are very proud that Catholics around the country followed their consciences rather than the rigid position of the hierarchy, and their voting reflected the spirit of Catholic social teaching," said the statement from Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington, alluding to other successful popular votes legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland.
"Sadly, our bishops chose to ignore both Gospel and pastoral wisdom in their aggressive opposition to civil marriage for all God's children," the statement added. "They also failed to stand up for deep Catholic American respect for proper separation of church and state and for simple fairness to all."
Maryland Catholics celebrate passage of same-sex marriage referendum
Nicole Soojung Callahan | Nov. 7, 2012
Ryan Sattler woke up Wednesday with a smile on his face.
Sattler, 68, of Baltimore, spent months working to pass Question 6, Maryland's referendum on same-sex marriage, focusing his efforts on his fellow Catholics and "trying to touch people's hearts and convince them to support equality."
On Tuesday morning, he and his wife, Joan, were at their local polling place by 6:15 a.m. Proudly wearing their "Catholics for Marriage Equality" T-shirts, they spent Election Day handing out information and talking with voters about Question 6.
"Most people we talked to already had their minds made up, but we did have a few good conversations with undecided voters," Sattler said. "Most of them asked about the law's protections for churches and other religious organizations. I hope we were able to address some of their concerns."
Media reports shine light on emerging discussion of women deacons
Lynne Mapes-Riordan takes part in a Sunday Mass procession at St. Nicholas Church in Evanston, Ill., July 15. At right is visiting priest Fr. Casmir Damor. (LANDOV/MCT/Chicago Tribune/Chuck Berman)
Porsia Tunzi | Nov. 7, 2012
Recent declarations from the Vatican followed by assenting decrees from a number of bishops make it clear that Roman Catholic hierarchs will not entertain questions about ordaining women priests.
They've underscored their decrees with excommunications, notably Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois and the women who have been ordained as part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement.
While priestly ordination is seemingly off the table and out of bounds, what is emerging is a fairly open discussion about ordaining women to the permanent diaconate.
Three recent media events have drawn attention to conversations fermenting in church circles for some time already.
- The Chicago Tribune reported on an ongoing conversation about the diaconate at St. Nicholas Parish in Evanston, Ill., taking place among the pastor, laypersons and Chicago's cardinal.
- America magazine featured an article by retired auxiliary bishop of the Rockville Centre, N.Y., diocese, Emil A. Wcela that makes a strong case to open the diaconate to women.
- Newsday highlighted Msgr. John Alesandro, a canon lawyer, who discussed the ability for canon law to change with regard to women and the diaconate.