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Catholics and Politics

The Dynamic Tension Between Faith and Power

Publication Year: 2008

Catholic political identity and engagement defy categorization. The complexities of political realities and the human nature of such institutions as church and government often produce a more fractured reality than the pure unity depicted in doctrine. Yet, in 2003 under the leadership of then-prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life." The note explicitly asserts, "The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust one's responsibility toward the common good." Catholics and Politics takes up the political and theological significance of this "integral unity," the universal scope of Catholic concern that can make for strange political bedfellows, confound predictable voting patterns, and leave the church poised to critique narrowly partisan agendas across the spectrum. Catholics and Politics depicts the ambivalent character of Catholics' mainstream "arrival" in the U.S. over the past forty years, integrating social scientific, historical and moral accounts of persistent tensions between faith and power. Divided into four parts—Catholic Leaders in U.S. Politics; The Catholic Public; Catholics and the Federal Government; and International Policy and the Vatican—it describes the implications of Catholic universalism for voting patterns, international policymaking, and partisan alliances. The book reveals complex intersections of Catholicism and politics and the new opportunities for influence and risks of cooptation of political power produced by these shifts. Contributors include political scientists, ethicists, and theologians. The book will be of interest to scholars in political science, religious studies, and Christian ethics and all lay Catholics interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the tensions that can exist between church doctrine and partisan politics.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Series: Religion and Politics series


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-8

In early 2003 under the leadership of then-prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a “Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life.” The note asserts, “The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate...


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1. The Politics of the U.S. Catholic Bishops: The Centrality of Abortion

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pp. 11-26

The political activity of the American Catholic bishops has been guided by the words of John Carroll, the first bishop of the United States, who asked that Catholic priests avoid political involvement unless the interests of the Church were in danger. Leaders of the Church adhered to this request, but when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized...

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2. Political Marriage of Convenience? The Evolution of the Conservative Catholic–Evangelical Alliance in the Republican Party

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pp. 27-42

In 1995 the Reverend Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, then the nation’s leading religious conservative political organization, announced its launching of a new affiliate group called the Catholic Alliance. Christian Coalition political director Ralph Reed said that the purpose of the new group was to forge a stronger bond between conservative evangelicals and Catholics...

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3. One Church, Many Messages: The Politics of the U.S. Catholic Clergy

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pp. 43-59

Roughly one in four adults in the United States is Catholic, making this group a vitally important segment of the American electorate.Accordingly, an important part of the burgeoning research on religion and politics has focused on understanding the political attitudes and voting decisions of American Catholics, which has shed a great deal of light on the religion-politics connection within this group. ...

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4. Catholics in the Political Arena: How Faith Should Inform Catholic Voters and Politicians

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pp. 61-72

Speculation about how the “faith factor” will transform the American political landscape in the 2008 presidential election began nearly two years in advance, in a race that included Catholic hopefuls as diverse as Sam Brownback, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Rudy Giuliani ...


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5. Between Church, Party, and Conscience: Protecting Life and Promoting Social Justice among U.S. Catholics

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pp. 75-92

As the statement by the U.S. Catholic bishops above indicates, the teachings of the Catholic Church as well as pronouncements made by its leaders are often at odds with the partisan and ideological organization of the U.S. political system. The Church is opposed to abortion, euthanasia, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty...

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6. The Myth of a Distinct Catholic Vote

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pp. 93-112

In a june 2006 article in Sojourners magazine,Maurice Timothy Reidy asks the question, “Who owns the ‘Catholic vote’?”1 “Roughly 40 percent of Catholics are reliable Republicans, and 40 percent are reliable Democrats,”writes Reidy. “The rest could go either way. That makes Catholics the ultimate swing voters.”2 ...

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7. Politics y la Iglesia: Attitudes toward the Role of Religion in Politics among Latino Catholics

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pp. 113-126

The U.S. Constitution prohibits government from establishing or promoting a particular religion or intruding on citizens’ religious beliefs or activities. Although the constitutional wall separating church and state was designed to keep religious conflicts and influences at bay, the American political and legal landscape is not free from religious strife and influences. ...


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8. Catholicism, Abortion, and the Emergence of the “Culture Wars” in the U.S. Congress, 1971–2006

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pp. 129-153

Much scholarly attention has been devoted in recent years to the polarization resulting from the so-called culture wars that have wracked American society during the latter part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.1 According to proponents of the culture wars thesis, conflict over social and moral issues such as abortion, homosexuality, affirmative action...

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9. Catholics and the Supreme Court: From the “Catholic Seat” to the New Majority

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pp. 155-174

In June 1963 President John F. Kennedy made a sentimental pilgrimage to Ireland, the land from which his family was only three generations removed. JFK, not noted for the public emoting that is seen with annoying frequency from our politicians in the twenty-first century, told a gathering in Limerick...

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10. White House Outreach to Catholics

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pp. 175-198

In april 2005 the Republican president, George W. Bush, knelt in front of the deceased Pope John Paul II, and by doing so, Bush became the first U.S. president to attend a papal funeral.1 By November 2006 this precedent-setting sign of respect for Catholicism seemed a distant memory for American Catholics. ...


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11. The United States–Vatican Relationship: “Parallel Endeavors for Peace,” Competing Visions of Justice

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pp. 201-211

During his May 2007 visit to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI denounced the opposing economic systems of Marxism and capitalism. Benedict bemoaned “the painful destruction of the human spirit” done in the former communist countries, and he was equally harsh regarding contemporary capitalism and globalization, warning people against its “deceptive illusions of happiness.”1 ...

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12. Reforming the Vatican: The Tradition of Best Practices

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pp. 213-219

Too often, when anyone proposes the reform of church structures, the reformer is attacked for borrowing from the secular political field, as if this were intrinsically a bad thing. Such attacks are theologically unsound and historically ignorant. ...

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p. 221

Several of the chapters in this book are based on papers delivered at the sixth annual “Dilemmas of Democracy” conference (February 12, 2007) sponsored by the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.We wish to thank Loyola Marymount University for its generous support for this conference...


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pp. 223-225


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pp. 227-239

E-ISBN-13: 9781589016538
E-ISBN-10: 158901653X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589012158
Print-ISBN-10: 1589012151

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Religion and Politics series
Series Editor Byline: John C. Green, Ted G. Jelen, and Mark J. Rozell, series editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 503447284
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Catholics and Politics

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Subject Headings

  • Christianity and politics -- United States.
  • Catholic Church -- Political activity -- United States.
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