We should not at all be surprised to find that a majority of Catholics voted for Obama and that many still support him for the 2012 election. Long ago, at a time when Catholics were discriminated against in the U.S. as many of them were immigrants from Poland, Ireland, and Italy, there were no support systems for these common folks, laborers, who came to this country to start a new life, working everyday and raising their families. It was the Democrat party that took them under their wing and became the party for workers.
The Republicans were considered more the party that supported businesses and was comprised mainly of an electorate that was then considered WASPs. Many Church leaders of the day were also Democrats and supported this political party for the work they were trying to do for the poor. This support was solidified when JFK became the first Catholic President and for many Catholics, now Democrats, this president and his party could do no wrong.
Since the time of JFK, the Democrat party began to move in a direction that was increasingly at odds with Catholic teaching on abortion, social justice for all, immigration et al. Even though it became apparent that there was an inconsistency in the Democrat agenda and what the Church taught, bishops, priests and a majority of Catholic laity continued to vote for and find a voice with the Democrat party. Many Catholics at the time simply did not want to see or didn't understand the moral dilemma of voting for a politician that supported abortion rights for a woman, rather, they looked at the broader spectrum of issues of the day and felt justified in voting for a pro-abortion politician.
A mere twenty years ago, Church leaders were still not very clear in their guidance to Catholics in how to use their "Voting Conscience" when it came time to enter the ballot box. Their guidance was vague and left big holes in how a Catholic could vote. Indeed, many of the Church leaders still supported Democrat politicians that made no attempt to hide their pro-choice views, because they themselves believed this party best supported Catholic teaching in many other issues. The Catholic in the pew followed their bishop's lead.
After generations of voting Democrat, many Catholics found it very difficult to move away from their party of choice, and to admit they were supporting a party that did not see eye to eye with what the Church taught in terms of social issues. Yet, bishops continued to support this pro-choice party. Then the tide began to turn as a few courageous bishops began to speak out against pro-choice politicians and to publicly say they could no longer be affiliated with the Democrat party. Too little too late for the majority of Catholics. We saw the results of this in the last general election with the Catholic swing vote going to Obama. Despite this turning tide, we found the bishops supporting Obamacare as long as it didn't use taxpayer funding of contraception and abortion.
I'm not sure where the Church leaders gather their information when bills are introduced to legislation, but when Pelosi tells them that the health-bill has to be passed in order to know what it is in it, that should have tickled the bishops' antennae. It didn't. Even when they won the concession that abortions would not be publicly paid for by the taxpayer, (which naively the bishops believed) they supported the bill knowing (or unknowing?) the far reaching tentacles of a government paid health-care bill would have to control the life styles of the people that the insurance covered in order to control costs. The bishops left the impression that losing a few rights was worth it if all were covered by health insurance. Many Catholics in the pews, seeing the support the Church gave this bill, went along.
For whatever reason, the bishops in this country have had a hard time being clear in certain issues as to what the Church teaches. They teach abortion is wrong, yet many Church leaders would vote for a Democrat that was not profoundly pro-life. Is this not a confusing message to the rest of us?
In terms of social justice, Church leaders seemed to be in bed with the liberal idea of social justice, and very seldom made any reference that the Church taught social justice for all people, including the unborn. I would cringe time and again when I heard a bishop praise a liberal Democrat who fought for social justice in this country and not say a word about including the unborn and the care of the elderly as part of true Catholic social justice. It seemed as though they thought Catholics in the pews would know this through osmosis. Above all, Catholic bishops seemed to want to believe the promises of Democrats to fight for all injustice even though their track record spoke otherwise.
A good example in the lack of clarity in how the Church leaders teach is in the recent clerical abuse scandals. When the stories from Boston first came out, I heard words like, "lack of discretion by priests", failure to uphold their vows, a failure of trust to the children and so on from Church leaders. Bishops taught Catholics the sinful nature of sexual activity outside of marriage, but I had to wait a long time to finally hear a bishop say that sexual abuse of children by priests was grievously immoral, a high crime against God and nature and that it was a mortal sin. We all knew this was gravely wrong, but why were the bishops so reluctant in spelling it out? Why cover up the moral gravity of this sin in petty language instead of being plain in that it was a grave, mortal sin? Again, they left the impression that it was only a matter of law and not a grave sin.
I believe it is for this reason the majority of the Catholic vote went to the most pro-abortion president in our history: A total lack of clear-cut teaching by the bishops and their own voting records. Bishops need to realize that there are still many Catholics that take their lead from them. What they do and say is regarded by Catholics who seek their leadership in what the Church teaches.
American bishops, either because of their naivete, ignorance or just bad judgement on their part now have a major fight on their hands with a president that is intent on destroying religious freedom. This is a fight of the bishops' own making and they have no one but themselves to blame. They have supported liberal Democrats for years, while decrying abortion and contraception. They have accepted money from the government for Catholic Charities but are shocked to hear that the government expects them to compromise their faith. They supported Obamacare and all of a sudden they are again surprised at the governments insistence that all employers provide coverage for abortions and the like at the expense of Catholic conscience.
The majority of Catholic voters for Obama are also to be blamed in part on the Church leaders' by seemingly giving the Catholic voter wide berth in how they should vote. Bishops should have been crystal clear that any politician supporting abortion should not be considered for the Catholic vote at all, and by voting for a pro-choice candidate, the voter was putting him or herself in immoral dire straits. By not emphasizing the importance of voting pro-life and giving too much elbow room in considering the most important moral issue of our day in their guidelines, Catholic voters went to ballot box thinking they were justified in voting for Obama. And they did, big time.
The Catholics that voted for Obama cannot be without blame. In today's' world, information can be had practically anywhere and anytime over the internet. To know what Obama believed and what his agenda was could have been learned by anyone willing to take the time to do a little research. The "I didn't know" excuse is just that: an excuse. If their source of news was mainstream media, then they got half the story and truth about Obama, and the other half was deception, knowing what we know today about liberal media bias. There are many fine Catholic websites that deal in politics, what politicians espouse and what the Church teaches concerning certain issues. It's all there at our finger tips. If Catholics find themselves paying for abortions or contraception through their taxes and are horrified by that, they should be more horrified to have believed the lies of this administration and supported it by voting for Obama.
I don't believe the Catholic voters are stupid. Lazy or apathetic, perhaps. They can and do make their own decisions in many things without bishops having to guide them, but when it comes to faith and morals, the increasing confusion of moral issues by those willfully blurring the lines of truth and how to approach a certain candidate, then they need to and should be able to turn to their Church for clear guidelines. Those Catholics that did turn to their leaders were let down for the most part by a less than clear message.
So, we have come to the point where the Bishops now have to backtrack, fight what they inadvertently supported through Obamacare and try to sue this government to retain religious freedom of conscience. They also have to be increasingly clearer in teaching Catholic doctrine with no ambiguity at all if they want Catholics to vote along Catholic teaching on social issues, and that won't be done overnight. The American bishops however, have to lead the way with their teaching and their actions at the ballot box. They are after all the shepherds of the Catholics in America.