Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

6/3/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The clerical frown, as I call it, should be retired in regard to political matters.

The solution is two-fold: Lay Catholics simply need to affirm their obligation to engage fully in the political process without asking for permission from their pastor or their bishop. The Church itself teaches that prior permission is not required but that participation should be guided by the teaching of the Holy Father and the bishops. The clerical frown, as I call it, should be retired in regard to political matters. Catholic political participation is too important a matter to be disturbed by the political party preferences of our clergy.

Deal W Hudson,Ph.D

Deal W Hudson,Ph.D

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/3/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: politics, liberal, conservative, neo-conservative, participation, faithful citizenship, republican, democrat, clerical, religious right, Deal Hudson


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - When asked in 1999 to lead Governor Bush's Catholic outreach, I assumed the chief obstacle to overcome was the deeply embedded loyalty to a distorted version of the "seamless garment" found in many of the Catholic institutions of our nation.

Under this brand, the Catholic concern for the most poor and vulnerable among us was being used if not to dismiss outright, at least hide out of sight, the issue of abortion. Why this happened to the venerable Catholic understanding of social justice has been chronicled numerous times, but the bottom line is this: When the Democratic Party made the ideological issues of secular feminism a litmus test for party loyalty, millions of Catholics including thousands of clergy had to make a choice.

As a result of this choice, the "Catholic voter" was destabilized. No longer reliable Democrats, some Catholics became registered Republicans and many became de facto independents or swing voters. Although at present there are still more self-identified Democrats among Catholic voters, the history of the presidential elections since the late sixties exhibits a level of volatility capable of swinging the election back and forth between the two major political parties.

By focusing on the swing Catholic voters who attended Mass regularly, Bush was very successful in 2000 and 2004 in regaining the Catholic support lost to the Democrats during the Clinton years. Senator McCain made little effort in this regard, while Obama's religious outreach team did an outstanding job of selling a pro-abortion candidate to Catholics as a president who would "lower" the abortion rate. (It goes without saying they will have a harder sell this time around!)

I initiated Catholic Advocate in 2006 with the hope of continuing independently the work of identifying, educating, and organizing Catholic voters, and after six years have handed it off to the next generation of leadership. But, though I hope in the future to begin addressing once again a wider range of religious and cultural issues, there is one lesson I learned that I feel compelled to share -- the problem of what I will call "the clerical frown."

There is a widespread inclination among U.S. Catholics to ask their priest or their bishop for permission to become politically active, beyond the simple obligation of voting on Election Day. Thus, the problem I describe could also be called an improper form of "lay deference," but I'm equally struck by how often those lay Catholics who sought guidance were met, not by an explicit veto, but by a gesture of disapproval, i.e., the clerical frown.

Catholics have highly developed antennae, I have learned, for when Father is displeased, and many of them allow that displeasure to shape their attitudes and action in the political sphere. Obviously when it comes to the teaching of the Church, the laity is constantly being taught and formed by our clergy and bishops. But, does the teaching of the Church extend to decisions by the laity about whether to be a Republican or a Democrat, or to become active in an independent group like Catholic Advocate, the Susan B. Anthony List, or National Right to Life?

The willingness of some clergy to employ their "frowns" to dissuade laity from certain kinds of political participation is far too common in my experience. But, I am less surprised by this than I am by the willingness of Catholic laity to care about expressions of clerical displeasure when it comes to politics. Of course, if a Catholic asks his priest if it's OK to join a neo-Nazi party then something more than a frown is called for, but there is not such an "extreme" in question here (unless there are those who consider it extreme to place abortion and marriage at the top of a political issue list!)

I am writing this to and for grown-ups. We all know that much human communication, including that between priests and laity, is exercised without the explicit language of "yes" and "no." And since priests are just as human as the rest of us, they must be allowed "gut reactions" when asked for their opinions on any topic, whether it be politics, baseball, or the latest movie sequel. But our clergy surely know the power they wield with their body language and facial expressions, much less their praise and condemnations.

The solution is two-fold: Lay Catholics simply need to affirm their obligation to engage fully in the political process without asking for permission from their pastor or their bishop. The Church itself teaches that prior permission is not required but that participation should be guided by the teaching of the Holy Father and the bishops. The clerical frown, as I call it, should be retired in regard to political matters. Catholic political participation is too important a matter to be disturbed by the political party preferences of our clergy. The Church does not care if a Catholic is a Democrat or a Republican; she cares about the work that is being done under that, or another banner.

-----

Deal W. Hudson, former Chairman of Catholic Advocate and former publisher of Crisis Magazine, is co-founder and partner in the production company Good Country Pictures and is airing his weekly radio show "Faith and Culture" over Guadalupe Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

Blank 'green Obamacards' - up to 34 MILLION - issued prior to promised amnesty Watch

Image of Obama's high numbers of illegal immigration

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Thirty-four million blank work permits and "green cards," which authorizes illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States are currently in the works. In the meantime, the White House prepares to issue an executive order after the November 4 midterm ... continue reading


North Carolina's Tillis stumbles during televised debate Watch

Image of While Thom Tillis has a dominant lead among whites (50 percent to Kay Hagan's 37), he is getting trounced among black voters: just seven percent are in his camp, compared with 83 percent for Hagan.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Congressional candidate State Legislature Speaker Thom Tillis stumbled badly during a televised debate with his Democratic rival Senator Kay Hagen earlier this month. During the televised debate on October 7, Tillis appeared at a loss for words when it came to ... continue reading


Houston: First Amendment Does not apply to Christian ministers? Interview with Keith Fournier Watch

Image of As at the tower of Babel, the confusion spreads until no progress is possible.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Houston officials fired a shot across the bow of Christian ministers, pastors and priests who they think may be encouraging their congregations to oppose the city's controversial "bathroom bill." The request is chilling and violates the First Amendment, but it also ... continue reading


New York law strips 34,500 law-abiding citizens of their lawful right to bear arms with ZERO due process Watch

Image of A New York law could be too restrictive and features virtually no due process.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A New York law may be infringing on the rights of many Americans and undermining mental health efforts in that state. The law, known as the Safe Act, requires, as part of its implementation, for mental health professionals to report the names of any people who could be ... continue reading


Why build a school when you can buy a senator! North Carolina race tops $100 million

Image of America is no longer for sale, it has already been bought.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The nation's most expensive Senate race in history is topping $100 million as the entire nation looks to a critical election in North Carolina. The money poured into the race reveals that elections are coming down to money and outside influencers have substantial ... continue reading


167,000 convicted criminal immigrants walk free within the United States Watch

Image of Deportations from the interior of the United States declined 34 percent this year from last.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With both Islamic State and Ebola posing an imminent threat to the United States through people entering the country illegally, it's distressing to note just how lax the nation's deportation laws have become. According to Breitbart, there remain nearly 167,000 ... continue reading


Obama is advancing 'brutal program' of forced abortions in China, lawmaker says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama and his administration are not only ignoring China's totalitarian edict of "one family, one child" policy but are advancing the "brutal program." That's the words of Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J., who) spoke at the Heritage ... continue reading


Four Kurdish terrorists slipped across Obama's open Mexican border, Homeland Security chief admits Watch

Image of Four members the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, were arrested in September trying to enter the United States illegally from Mexico.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The bad news: Four known Kurdish terrorists crossed into the United States. This has been confirmed by Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. The good news: Johnson says that the four were not affiliated with Islamic States. Which is good news, of a sort. ... continue reading


Evangelical tells faithful not to vote for politicians who support homosexual marriage, abortion Watch

Image of An outspoken evangelical, Pastor Jim Garlow played a major role in organizing Christian groups in support of California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in California stood before his congregation of more than 2,000 and warned his audience against voting for a candidate in who supports gay marriage and abortion. This includes candidates who are republican, including Carl ... continue reading


Obama aides knew more than they let on in 2012 Colombian prostitution scandal Watch

Image of White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Wednesday that President Obama and his advisers did not interfere with the inspector general's investigation.

By Catholic Online - (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Obama aides were given information that suggested that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member. The 2012 incident was quickly swept under the rug - but more details have since come to light. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 3:2-12
2 You have surely heard the way in which God ... Read More

Psalm, Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
2 Look, he is the God of my salvation: I shall have ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:39-48
39 You may be quite sure of this, that if the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Pope John Paul II
October 22: Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter