A recent Pew study has Catholic support for President Obama at 51 percent, with 42 percent supporting Mitt Romney. That compares to the Pew exit poll in 2008, with 54 percent of Catholics voting for Obama versus 45 percent for McCain.
Given all that has happened in the past three plus years and his attacks on the Church and religious liberty, and his positions on moral issues, it amazes some Catholic bloggers and social media users that President Obama still has a lead among Catholics.
Why is he still ahead?
There are many reasons.
First, a lot of people do not read newspapers or periodicals in general – except maybe sports, horoscopes and anything salacious or gossipy. That’s evident by the number of newspapers and periodicals shutting down. And when it comes to Catholic newspapers and periodicals, the numbers are even more stark. A number of them have indeed ceased publication, or reduced their schedules. The Catholic newspaper where I used to work, for example, went from a weekly to a monthly. Catholics, like the population in general, are uninformed, and are not particularly interested in being informed.
There are various Catholic-oriented social media outlets – blogs, Facebook, etc. – where what Obama has done is regularly discussed. But that readership is relatively small – especially when compared to more secular blog and outlets - and often consists of many of the same people. Some of the blogs I read are written by Facebook friends, for example. Thus the information we share churns among the same small group of people.
The study showed that those Catholics who attend Church weekly do not support Obama. That’s good. The percentage could improve, though. But only about a third of Catholics attend Church weekly. The other two thirds – who are probably included in the survey – support Obama. So the results of the survey may be a bit skewed. It seems clear that the majority of practicing Catholics don’t support Obama.
Most Americans don’t bother paying attention to the election until it’s almost upon them. When the debates occur they start to look. But even then, only between 50 to 60 percent of the eligible voters bother to vote. Catholics figures would be in line with the general population ones.
Some Catholics support Obama because they either don’t care about the issues, or agree with his positions and actions. There are a number of Catholics who are not concerned about abortion, or homosexual marriage, or embryonic stem cells research – or even favor them. They tend to support Obama.
Other Catholics have been led astray by progressive Catholics who undermine the Church teachings, or misrepresent what Obama has really said or done.
I could come up with more, but that’s a start.
As for what to do: We need to follow the lead of the political parties and advertising agencies. Inform people, inform them again, and then repeat it. Again. And again. And again. If we put out the information time after time, eventually some of it will begin to seep through.
Get out of our comfort zone. We should not just be repeating the same information to the same people on blogs and Facebook – they often already agree with us. We need to put it out there where other Catholics and the general public can see it. Letters to the editor. Media blogs and websites. Blogs and websites devoted to other concerns – parenting, health care, hobbies, whatever. We need to talk to people besides the usual suspects. But that also means we risk angering people, encountering people who want to argue and debate, maybe even facing ridicule and insults.
But isn’t persecution a potential part of the package for people who really practice their faith?
We need to encourage our Church leaders to keep on speaking out on the issues. If some people hear enough times that Catholics should not support pro-abortion, pro-stem cell research, pro homosexual so-called marriage candidates, and then make the connection with Obama, they might realize they can’t in good conscience vote for him.
We must be careful how we do all this, though. We must inform and even argue with respect for others. We have to be careful not to resort to name-calling and insulting back. We have to be well-informed ourselves, so we need to do our research.
It will take some work. But who said defending the faith was easy?
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.” (MT 10: 34-36)
Pax et bonum