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Pope Francis and the Catholic Vote

By       Message Mike Rivage-Seul     Permalink
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On September 6th, the Washington Post published a report called "White Catholics Struggle to Get on Board the Trump Train." The article's assumption was that obviously Caucasian Catholics are expected to vote Republican. However, the report noted, some are having second thoughts in the light of the Trump candidacy -- presumably because of his waffling on the issue of abortion.

Unexplainably, the Post article completely ignored the overall progressive thrust of Pope Francis' teaching and the un-Republican influence it might be having on Catholic voters. Instead, it bolstered its "of course" assumption about Catholics voting Republican by puzzling over the fact that four years ago Catholics who attended Mass at least once a month favored Mitt Romney by 38 points. This year, Donald Trump's lead among such Catholics has shrunk to 17 points.

True, the WaPo article did suggest that Pope Francis might have something to do with the trends it described. After all, Francis had explicitly intimated that Mr. Trump was unchristian for intending to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Followers of Jesus, Francis said, build bridges, not walls. In response Trump dismissed the pope as "very political."

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However, the Post completely ignored the issues of climate change, a world economy based on arms manufacture, capital punishment, and world-wide income disparities -- Pope Francis' signature issues that he himself highlighted in his speech last year to the U.S. Congress.

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The Post carried on as if that speech and the pope's landmark encyclical on climate change had never occurred. It was as though the Church were still mired in the reactionary era of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, when Catholics seemed obsessed with one issue alone: abortion without connecting it (as Francis has done) to problems of poverty, war, environmental destruction, and an overwhelmingly punitive "justice" system.

That is, Pope Francis has substituted a comprehensive pro-life agenda for his predecessors' narrow pro-birth position.

So how should Catholics vote who are tuned into Pope Francis' more expansive moral concerns? According to the pope's eco-encyclical, his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel , and his address to the U.S. Congress, Catholics should vote:

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*Against climate change deniers and for those who share the pope's climate concerns.

*Against champions of dirty fossil fuels and in favor of those supporting alternative, renewable energy sources.

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Recently retired, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 40 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more...)
 

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