Catholics, in the past, have been strong supporters of Democrats. In the 1960 Presidential election, Catholics voted 78-22 for John F. Kennedy (Democrat) for President. In 1964, Catholics voted pretty similarly for Johnson, with a vote of 76-24. In 2012, Catholics voted a much closer 49-48 for Democrats. With 3 exceptions, a majority of Catholics have voted Democrat since 1952.
However, it may be time for a change: the Republican Party is much closer to the Catholic Church on social issues than the Democrat Party, and Catholics should vote Republican instead of Democrat.
Abortion. Abortion issues are one of the more obvious reasons why Catholics should vote for the Republican Party. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the Republican Party platform has consistently had a pro-life plank. In 1976, the first Presidential election after Roe v. Wade, the GOP wrote in to their party platform the following statement on abortion:
We protest the Supreme Court’s intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents’ obligation and right to guide their minor children. The Republican Party favors a continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the efforts of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children. Additionally, the GOP has been the party fighting to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding and to protect the unborn. With a few exceptions, such as the Caseys and the Lipinskis, the Republican Party has been the drivers of pro-life legislation.
In a statement on faithful citizenship, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Bishops begin part three on issues to guide Catholics when voting. The number one principle is the protection of the unborn from abortion, which the GOP has clearly done a far better job doing than the Democrat Party.
Marriage. As the Democrats have given up defending traditional marriage, the GOP is the only major party left supporting traditional marriage. While Democrat leaders used to support traditional marriage, they have decided instead to stay in keeping with their changes-with-the-winds approach to issues: supporting gay marriage is “cool” now, so everyone must support it and those who do not are “clearly” homophobes.
In 2012, the GOP platform stated:
[T]he court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States… is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.
School Choice. On April 15, 1982, Ronald Reagan delivered a speech in Chicago to the National Catholic Education Association, calling for tax credits for low-income to middle-income families, so that they may “secure the parental right to choose” schools for their children. The 2012 GOP platform stated:
Parents are responsible for the education of their children. We do not believe in a one size fits all approach to education and support providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level. Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education, with high standards, in which all students can reach their potential. Today’s education reform movement calls for accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of State and local control of our schools, and it wisely sees consumer rights in education – choice – as the most important driving force for renewing our schools.
We know that competition works, and we know that Catholic schools support this issue. Many Catholic schools operate in areas where the only other option is a failing public school. The Jesuits, for example, operate the Cristo Rey network, building and running schools in cities like Chicago, New York, and Houston. Catholics, especially parents concerned with their public school options, should support the GOP because we will promote tax credits and school choice, like the programs seen in Louisiana and Indiana.
Now this is not to say that every Republican position is consistent with the Catholic party. There are some social issues, such as the death penalty, welfare, and unions where the Republican party seems at odds with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. I argue however that each position is either not as central to our party, or is not in practice inconsistent with Church teaching.
Death Penalty. The Republican Party does support the death penalty, but it is not a defining position of the party. There are no efforts to make the death penalty a national policy: Republicans respect each state’s right to make their own decision on the death penalty. While most states that have the death penalty are red states, blue states including California, Delaware, Oregon, and Colorado also have the death penalty. Democrats, further, have not been the only ones to abolish the death penalty: former Governor George Ryan (R-Illinois) placed a moratorium on executions in Illinois, and it stayed in place until Pat Quinn (D-Illinois) eventually signed legislation eliminating the death penalty in the state.
Welfare. Democrats do support public welfare programs for the poor more than Republicans. However, unlike laws on marriage and abortion, Republicans’ attempts to cut welfare spending does not interfere with the Church’s mission. The Church is still free to run their own charities and social service programs. However, under Democrats like Pat Quinn in Illinois, Catholic Charities has been forced to forfeit their contract with the state to assist in adoptions: the Catholic Charities did not want to place children with gay couples due to religious concerns, and this was apparently unacceptable to Democrats. Republicans do not interfere with efforts by the Church and affiliated organizations to provide assistance to those in need, but the Democrats do when those efforts don’t conform to their idea of what is proper.
Unions. It is no secret that the GOP is not as pro-union as the Democrat Party. Every state which has right-to-work laws on the book are traditionally Republican states (with the exception of Virginia) including Texas, Utah, Kansas, and Mississippi. In the encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII discussed many labor related issues, including living wages and unions. He noted the following:
Others, again, strive to unite working men of various grades into associations, help them with their advice and means, and enable them to obtain fitting and profitable employment. The bishops, on their part, bestow their ready good will and support; and with their approval and guidance many members of the clergy, both secular and regular, labor assiduously in behalf of the spiritual interest of the members of such associations (Section 55).
The Church does support unions, or “associations” as they are commonly referred to in Rerum Novarum. But the Church supports unions insomuch as the unions are grounded in a respect for religion and morality. Additionally, associations are supposed to be free for individuals to join or leave, and right-to-work laws only affirm this option. Therefore, right-to-work laws conform to and promote Pope Leo XIII’s position in Rerum Novarum
Taken together, all of the above issues demonstrate just how far the Democrats have gone from respecting the values of their Catholic supporters. Under Democrat rule, charities are forced out assisting in adoption, religious organizations are sued over objections to birth control, and millions of children are aborted. Republican principles, however, leave Catholics to freely engage in acts of charity and service under Republican principles, and their religious values are both respected and protected. The writing on the wall is clear: Catholics should vote Republican.
Matthew Lamb | Loyola University | @mlmb24