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Description: The Catholic left hopes to disentangle Catholic morality from the church hierarchy.
Conservatives, Catholic and not, did not appreciate the criticism.
"The forces of the left are in the process of trying to tear down and destroy every institution in America that stands for something other than big government," Rush Limbaugh recently said on his radio show. "The Catholic Church is despised by the left for its abortion stance ... because it is a religion other than the earth, a religion other than liberalism."
Catholics are an important swing-voting constituency forboth parties, with healthy representation on both sides of the political divide. Since 1984, Catholics have chosen the Democratic presidentialcandidate over the Republican candidate by slim margins, according toGeorgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.Republicans have an advantage among white non-Latino Catholics, carrying that group since 2000. The growing, and largely Catholic andDemocratic-leaning, Latino community has kept the Catholic vote roughlyevenly divided.
This internal tension shouldn't surprise: generallyspeaking, the church's teachings lean conservative on cultural issuesand liberal on economic concerns. For every conservative quotingLeviticus, there should be a liberal quoting the Sermon on the Mount.Many non-Catholics may assume that the laity's views generally mirrorthose of the church: antiwar, in favor of economic equality, butintensely socially conservative. In fact, Catholics are no more againstabortion rights than the population as whole. Last fall, Catholics forChoice commissioned a poll that showed that only 14 percent of Catholicsthought abortion should be totally illegal, and 50 percent thoughthealth insurance should cover abortion whenever a woman and her doctorthink it is appropriate.
But conservatives have done much more to ally themselveswith church institutions, thanks to the increase in recent decades ofpolitical organizing around the issue of abortion, leaving more liberalCatholics feeling out in the cold. While pro-abortion-rights politicians are occasionally denied communion, those who supported the war in Iraqagainst the wishes of the pope suffer no such public indignity. It'sworth noting that of the nine justices on the Supreme Court, the fiveconservatives are all Catholic.
The recent battle over health-care reform has exacerbatedthis partisan feeling, with liberal Catholics who supported universalhealth careâ€”long a goal of the churchâ€”feeling scorned by the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops' opposition to the bill. The conferencewas dissatisfied with an agreement that promised to prevent public funds from paying for abortion, and so ultimately opposed the bill. America, a Jesuit-run Catholic magazine, recently published an article byNicholas Cafardi, the former dean of Duquesne University's law school,who concluded that "the damage to [the bishops'] credibility in beingtruly pro-life, and not merely pro-life for partisan purposes, isimmense."
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