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11/07/2004

"Moral Values" and Anti-Catholicism

Nobody seems to have a solid grasp on what "moral values" were so important to the 22% of the population that claimed they voted on them. The conventional wisdom - gay marriage, abortion, etc. - obviously seems to have some merit. But there have been some fairly convincing rebuttals, or at least questioning, of that CW - turnout wasn't noticeably higher in states with gay marriage on the ballot, and Bush's performance wasn't better. Pre-election polling sheds no light, and the post-election picture seems only to be getting cloudier. Something energized these voters, and whatever it was, it originated in the smoke filled rectories (or whatever the parallel is in non-Catholic churches) of suburban and rural churches.

One suggestion that would have been obvious two years ago is that some people voted on anti-Catholic prejudices. A subtext of anti-Catholicism reared its ugly head throughout the campaign, most notably in Marvin Olasky's "Once Born" op-ed, but also in the reaction to some of Kerry's statements on reproductive rights, and in criticism of Kerry's discussion of his personal faith. The guy is a devout Catholic and a former altar boy, yet was branded with the scarlet S, for secular - Catholicism is not real Christianity to a significant number of evangelicals.

This argument seems implausible after the election because of how much organizational work Republicans did in Catholic parishes and the high profile effort by conservate Catholics like Chaput to deny Kerry communion or get him excommunicated. This smokescreen shouldn't be taken as evidence that significant portions of the evangelical electorate have discarded their anti-Catholic sentiment. Growing up in Kentucky, it was only ten years ago that my friends and contemporaries in the Baptist schools were being given talking points on "How to Save a Catholic" or "The Finer Points of Mary Worship" or "Catholicism and Cannibalism." I doubt those schools have changed their curriculum much.

The apparent reconciliation between conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics probably bears significant similarities to the reconciliation with conservative Jews. We'll work with them 'til Armageddon, but they're still bound for the lake of fire, which would have to freeze over before I'd vote for 'em.

 

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