by Alex Gonzalez
Nowadays, its hard to define what it means to be Catholic in America. But it is easier to tell what sort of Catholic one is not. When the question of abortion was asked to Joe Biden and Paul Ryan they both gave their opinion of how Catholicism shapes their worldview, especially on abortion and government assistance to those “who cannot help themselves.”
Ryan began, by talking about what it was like to see his first daughter on the 7-week ultrasound with his wife, Janna. “You are asking basically why I am pro-life,” he said. “It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor of course. But it’s also a factor of reason and science.”
Biden said he believes the his Catholic views shape his idea how government needs to “take care of those who cannot take care of themselves,” but that no one’s religious beliefs should be imposed on the rest of the country. “I just refuse to impose that on others like my friend here, the congressman,” he said. “I do not believe we have a right to tell other people, women, that we have a right to control their body.”
But, neither the dogmatic and, and alleged “scientific,” views or Ryan, nor the secular humanitarian—government assistance to the poor– views of Biden reflects the entire theological views of Catholics in the US, not even the views of Latino Catholics.
For instance, Catholics are evenly split on the issue of abortion. Thus, presuming that Catholicism is the driving force for abortion is a fallacy. In fact, support for abortion laws come more from rural states white large Evangelical groups. Also, these views by both Ryan and Biden would not pass the conservative test of Jeffersonian conservative constitutionalism or Waspish Anglo-Protestant conservative scholars who believe in individual’s rights (individualism) as the core value of the American identity—American-ness. So it is a misconception to presuppose that just because you are Catholic you believe in social programs for the poor, or that you oppose abortion.
For example, the most recent Pew Research Center polling conducted so far this year on Catholic views noted that, about half of white Catholic moderates identify themselves as Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party (51%), while 39% prefer the GOP. Six-in-ten white Catholic moderates say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do two-thirds of white Catholic liberals. By contrast, 57% of white Catholic conservatives say that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Hispanic Catholics are divided on the issue, with 50% saying abortion should be legal in most or all cases and 45% saying it should be illegal in most or all circumstances.
Therefore, both Biden and Ryan should not turn Catholicism as the foundation for either conservative dogmatic agenda, nor into a tool to make citizens dependent on government for their income, housing, and unemployment benefits.
The late Samuel Huntington argued in his book How Are We, that “we are a deeply and primary Christian county” encompassing many religions. Thus, “religion has been and still is a central part of our identity. “ America was founded by religious reason…. In 1787, when the Constitution was drafted, 98% of the population was broadly protestant sharing common culture and the political values embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution–principles of equality and individualism, which are central to the American character, according to Huntington.
So any constitutional conservative, who would adhere to the fundamental principles of the Founding Fathers, should never favor any religious dogma that is counter to the individual and private Natural Rights of American Citizens to make their own choices. Individualism is of the pillar of our national character. Until the Constitution is amended to change the phrase “all persons born” to all persons “conceived” in the US, Catholic conservatives should not pretend to be conservative on the abortion issue nor is it constitutional, or that those views bear the ideals of the Protestant Founding Founders. They are not. Such views have no relation to conservative Anglo-protestant views like those promoted by conservative scholars Huntington and intellectuals like “the elite Republican Party of Eisenhower and Rockefeller.” In fact, supporting or opposing abortion is more of a personal view that has nothing to do with conservative tenets.
Even the most successful conservative intellectual Catholic, William Buckley, who brought the pro-life movement to mainstream believed that “in questioning the Church’s teaching on contraception, Buckley noted that the vast majority of Catholics in the United States simply ignored it. Yet, in the end, he took the Catholic view on how to resolve such issues: “The answer, for a Catholic, has got to be: the position taken by the Pope, as spokesman for the magisterium.” He may not be convinced, but accepts. The Catholic cannot be asked to do more.
Thus, there is cultural evidence correlating Catholicism and abortion here in US. In fact, most conservative Catholics at the Hoover Institute and the National Review that celebrated the first VP debate between two Catholics, celebrated the fact that both Biden and Ryan belong to a class of educated Catholics.
As the National Review noted, Ryan and Biden resembles the “ elite catholic generation that how far America—and Catholics—have come since John F. Kennedy broke the religion barrier fifty-two years ago.” How to explain this sudden Catholic prominence in our political and legal systems? As scholars of education have long known, Catholic schools are national treasures — highly effective at turning out academically prepared youngsters. But they clearly excel at producing effective leaders,” as well.
But, Irish-American Catholics like Biden where supposed to be equalized and assimilated into the Anglo sphere of Protestantism that encouraged individualism, self-reliance, free market capitalism—not government dependency; yet Biden, instead, preaches a type of Catholicism that takes the responsibility from person and puts it in the hands of the government.
Much fanfare is geared toward the idea that Latinos are naturally conservative just because they are Catholic. However, the reality is outside the Bible belt, and Texas, Latinos have a more Jeffersonian conservative view on abortion. They believe that abortion is a private matter and neither government, nor a religious dogma, should be dictating their private lives. And this is conservative Jeffersonian tenets that believe that citizens, both man and woman, should have the right to make their own choice.
But equally important is to note that Catholic Latinos do not agree with Biden’s Catholic “social” welfare doctrine. Mexican-American Catholics believe in hard work and self-reliance, not government dependency. Most Catholic Mexican-Americans, especially immigrant cohorts, find shame in relying on government program for income, housing, unemployment benefits. And this is cultural prevailing trait because such social government programs do not exist in Mexico or in most other Latin American countries; they cannot understand concept of social programs because they never had it.
Biden wants Catholics to believe that the role of government is to provide for financial assistance. But Latinos know better. Latinos still find pride in proving for their family. So Catholicism for Latinos is personal and private spiritual norm that clearly has nothing to do with government assistance.
Thus, the positions of Joe Biden of “Catholic social doctrine of taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves” is not justification for government to foment more dependency and programs administered and funded by government. Latinos are already 70% of all Catholics in the nation and soon they will become the sole bearer of the Catholic Church; and, they too should aim at becoming the next class of an educated Catholics, the same way William Buckley did.
Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst, Founder of Latino Public Policy Foundation (LPPF), and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote. Comments to email@example.com or @