It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired. I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue. I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe. I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great.....
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
McCain And The Catholic Vote
THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Recently, John McCain visited the shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. He was accompanied by his wife, Cindy, Senator Joe Lieberman, and former Governor Jeb Bush. Of the four, only the former governor is Catholic. So their visit is a curious one. We could be cynical and attribute the whole thing to a political photo opportunity, but I have a feeling it was more than that. If all McCain really wanted was the Catholic vote, there are multiple ways he could attain it, without having to travel so far. Indeed, press coverage of this event was minimal in the United States, hardly the kind of public relations one would expect for someone angling for more Catholic voters. He could have easily arranged photo opts at various Catholic venues around the United States, which would have gotten him much better press coverage. He could have used talking points in his speeches aimed at gaining the sympathies of Catholics - such as immigration reform, healthcare, and option for the poor. He could have stacked his rally stages with nuns, monks and members of the clergy. In fact, there are a number of things he could have done just to get the Catholic vote. Instead however, we have this curious pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady in a foreign country, which aside from these photos, little press coverage can be found. Why?
'The Catholic Knight' considers two possibilities. It could be either one, or possibly both.
The first is that McCain himself is having some kind of religious epiphany. Though he prides himself on having a pro-life voting record, McCain does have one skeleton in his closet on the issue of life. That being his previous support of public funding for embryonic stem-cell research -- an issue the Catholic Church has come out strongly against. At the Saddleback Civil Forum McCain seemed to indicate some regret over this. While he stopped short of reversing himself on the matter, he did say that he believed future developments in the research of adult stem-cells would soon render the whole embryonic stem-cell issue to academics. From this we can glean a hint at McCain's possible presidential policy toward embryonic stem-cells. If a "President McCain" believes that the debate over embryonic stem-cells will soon be academic, it would be reasonable to assume that he wouldn't be inclined to support any future legislation toward funding such academics. Why the change? Could his previous visit to Our Lady's shrine have had some kind of spiritual impact on McCain? Our Lady of Guadalupe is venerated not only as the 'Mother of the Americas' but also the 'Defender of the Unborn.' Surely while touring the site, this message was conveyed to the Senator from Arizona.
The second is that McCain is trying to send a message, not only to Pro-Life Catholic voters, but all Pro-Life voters in general. Both presidential candidates covet the Catholic vote, make no mistake about it, but in doing so we have to ask ourselves what kind of Catholic vote does each candidate want. The Catholic vote is not uniform. Perhaps it could better be described as the "Catholic votes" in plural form. Mainly because there are really two different kinds of Catholic votes. There is the "Cafeteria Catholic vote," and then there is the "Practicing Catholic vote." The difference between the two groups has to do with attitude. Cafeteria Catholics may practice Catholicism to some degree. They may even attend mass regularly. But when it comes to the teachings of the Church, particularly on matters of social doctrine, Cafeteria Catholics tend to "pick and choose" what they wish to believe and practice. Nowhere is this more evident then in the Cafeteria Catholic who attends mass regularly, claims to be devout, and yet holds to a "pro-choice" (i.e. "pro-abortion") voting record. Conversely, the Practicing Catholic may also attend mass regularly, and claim to be devout, but when it comes time to enter the polling booth, he/she votes in accord with the social doctrine of the Church -- thus translating his/her faith into tangible political action. If Senator John McCain is trying to send a message to Catholic voters with this pilgrimage, then it's specifically to a certain kind of Catholic voter, and that would be the Practicing Catholic kind. By visiting the largest pro-life shrine in the world, McCain is not so much seeking the endorsement of Catholic voters, but rather he's saying that he endorses the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church. This action does nothing to gain him Cafeteria Catholic votes, but it does put him in good position to pick up Practicing Catholic votes. However, something else should be pointed out. Even if McCain loses the presidential race, his political career is not over. He is still a U.S. senator. If he goes back to the Senate, then he does so as a transformed man, one who has sent a clear signal to Practicing Catholic voters that he endorses the Church's teachings on human life, and we can expect him to uphold them. These images of John McCain at Guadalupe will follow him for the rest of his political career. He is bound to them, and because of that, he is bound to meet a certain expectation in his political actions. God help him if he doesn't, because nobody else will.
If we contrast this with Senator Barack Obama's bid for the Catholic vote we can get a better picture of what is going on. Barack Obama does not endorse the social teachings of the Catholic Church, especially on matters related to the sanctity of human life. Yet Obama needs the Catholic vote to win the election. Therefore, by nominating Cafeteria Catholic Senator Joe Biden to the vice presidential slot, Obama makes a direct appeal to the "cultural identity" of Cafeteria Catholics who identify themselves as "Catholic" but who (like him) oppose the Church's social teachings. You wouldn't catch Obama making a pilgrimage to a pro-life Catholic shrine, because to do so would invite criticism of hypocrisy from the Catholic Church. So Obama appeals to the "cultural identity" of Cafeteria Catholic voters, while McCain, with his very presence at Guadalupe, visibly endorses the pro-life message of the Catholic Church. Obama's commitment to the Catholic voter ends with the close of the presidential election in November, whether he wins or not. McCain's commitment to the pro-life social teaching of the Catholic Church is ongoing, whether he wins the election or not, due to the visible nature of the pilgrimage he made.