October 9, 2008
Will the Church Split Along Red and Blue Lines?
An Obama victory on November 4 is far from certain, but the momentum behind his campaign prompts me to wonder: What impact could an Obama administration have on the Catholic Church?
The Bush victories in 2000 and 2004 brought a flood of commentary on the so-called red and blue states. If Obama wins in 2008, I would not be surprised to see the emergence of a similar division among Catholics.
Many will finally realize, and admit to, the power of the political Left in their Church. This may lead to a kind of red state, blue state divide among Catholics in the United States. Such a divide could extend to the dioceses, reflecting both regional differences and the leadership of present and past bishops.
Most Catholics miss the institutionalized dissent, political liberalism, and Democratic Party alignment that exists throughout parts of the Church in this country. It exists in a network that includes parts of the USCCB and extends through chanceries, universities (especially Jesuit), Catholic organizations, and much of the Catholic media.
This network has become adept at cloaking its dissent, its political intentions, and its disdain for the agenda of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It’s a well-chronicled story that is gaining traction with more Catholics because of events surrounding this election.
Some evidence of the red-blue separation is anecdotal. I have received many reports of priests touting the virtues of Obama from the pulpit. These are the same parishes where Respect Life Sunday was completely ignored. People are shaking their heads in disbelief; they didn’t realize it was “that bad,” they told me.
But there have also been public indications of this red/blue tension. This election year, a record number of individual bishops (see the list below) have made public statements in response to Catholic supporters of Sen. Barack Obama. All of them have reminded Catholic voters of the Church’s teaching on when life begins, and the issue’s relevance in politics.
Although the number of bishops speaking out is remarkable, there are another 200-plus who have said nothing individually. Furthermore, Catholic supporters of Obama are referring to the outspoken bishops as a “rogue group” and are lecturing “one-issue bishops” on the “correct” interpretation of Catholic teaching.
The aggressive style of Obama Catholics in this election was presaged back in February when a prominent Catholic journalist wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post ending with, “Sounds like I’ll be voting for the Democrat [Obama] — and the bishops be damned.”
There is no public record of how the bishops responded, but the still-growing list of prelates who have publicly corrected Biden, Pelosi, or defended life in this election suggests they are not cowering.
Some of these bishops come from blue states like New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Illinois — a fact that might prove my thesis about the coming divide wrong. Yet the Catholic vote in these states has consistently been in support of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. These heavily Catholic states are blue because Catholics have made them so.
If Catholic voters help to elect Obama, it will be a wake-up call for some in the Church and a cause for celebration to others. The theological and political divide among Catholics, along with regional differences, could be exacerbated. Dioceses may begin to appear more red or blue as a result.
The following is a list of those bishops who have made public statements about Catholics in politics in this election. Regarding those bishops not on the list, it should be mentioned that the joint statement by Justin Cardinal Rigali, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, Chair of the Committee on Doctrine — as well as the follow-up statement from Cardinal Rigali and Bishop William Murphy — carries the unified voice of all the bishops.
1. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver
2. Bishop James Conley, auxiliary of Denver
3. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.
4. Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities
5. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine
6. Edward Cardinal Egan of New York
7. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo
8. Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh
9. Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs
10. Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio
11. Bishop Oscar Cantu, auxiliary of San Antonio
12. Bishop William Murphy of Rockville
15. Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin
17. Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando
18. Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul/Minneapolis
19. Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, President of the USCCB
20. Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker
22. Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland
25. Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles, LA
26. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn
27. Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton
28. Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
30. Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte
31. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh
32. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, KS
33. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MI
34. Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, WS
35. Bishop Ronald Gilmore of Dodge City, KS
36. Bishop Paul Coakley of Salina, KS
37. Bishop Michael Jackels of Wichita
38. Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach
39. Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth
40. Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford
41. Daniel Cardinal Dinardo of Houston
42. Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden
43. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Patterson, NJ
44. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Harrisburg, PA
45. Joint Statement by the bishops of New York State (22 bishops)
(Please let me know if I have left any bishops off this list.)
The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.