Tuesday, March 27, 2012
“Because Governor Romney is Mormon, a family man, I don’t take issue with his religion,” Mrs. Willauer said. “I don’t know how the pope would feel about that, but we’re all modified Catholics these days anyhow.” -Cathy Willauer of Annapolis, MD (source: New York Times)
This is an interesting description of the Catholic vote, one that I would say is highly accurate. Many Catholics nowadays consider themselves "cafeteria Catholics," picking and choosing which aspects of the faith to practice. Because the Church has such stringent rules and hard lines regarding moral issues, it is unsurprising that Catholics do this. No one is perfect, right? Those strict guidelines present us with a standard to uphold, but, more importantly, instill in us the important sense of family and community that we all seek.
According to Katharine Q. Seelye, "A majority [of Catholics] have used artificial birth control and few attend weekly Mass. Most support either same-sex civil unions or marriage, and only a few would prohibit abortions altogether." Clearly, the majority of Catholics do not align ideologically with Rick Santorum, a fellow Catholic. This could explain his poor performance among the group, in addition to his preacher-style rhetoric that encapsulates a more evangelical style. A recent Pew study found that only 42 percent of Catholics know that Santorum is indeed a Catholic.
So, what does this tell us? The evidence suggests that Catholic voters are actually more secular at the polls than one might expect. Because many Catholics no longer adhere strictly to religious doctrine, as suggested by overall support of liberal social positions, the group is acutally an accurate representation of the overall electorate. As Seelye suggests, Catholics make up the entire political spectrum: there are conservatives who attend church daily/weekly and believe firmly in the Church's positions, while others attend less frequently/infrequently and engage in "cafeteria Catholicism." And then there are those who fall somewhere in the middle. Overall, the political split is pretty even; sounds like the American electorate to me.