I have often been asked to explain Catholic Citizenship, a voter education movement committed to the values and teachings of the Catholic faith. Its guiding principle is to advance policies that are pro-life, pro-family and pro-poor.
When we first realized the need for an entity such as Catholic Citizenship, it seemed like every time elections rolled around, we would hear candidates for political office, especially for US President, publicly discussing how their religious values were so important to them. This applied to both Democratic and Republican Party candidates.
A historic example of this was former Vice President Gore's 45 minutes, 'pouring out his heart' interview with reporters at the White House. This was the second such occasion that Mr. Gore chose to focus attention on religion in one week. A few days earlier he had revealed his deeply held religious principles at a Salvation Army Center in Atlanta. Gore talked about a "new partnership between government and faith based organizations," and said that he would even give these groups more federal money. Mr. Gore said to the audience, "If you elect me president, the voices of faith based organizations will be integral to the policies set forth in my administration. Faith is the center of my life. I turn to my faith as the bedrock of my approach to any important question in my life".
A question I believe needs to be answered by Catholic voters in this country: Do Catholics no longer care, that unlike other groups in America such as Jews, blacks, women, the Hollywood elite, gays and lesbians, etc., that Catholic voters, as a bloc, are no longer taken seriously? They are either taken for granted or ignored by both Republican and Democratic parties except during campaign season when the candidates give Catholic voters 'lip service' about how concerned they are about their issues.
My observation is despite the fact that the Catholic vote is potentially one of the largest and most important voting blocs in America today, our potential influence has been reduced to one of almost non-significance. The editors of a prominent Catholic magazine recently noted "that Catholic voters seem fragmented and not motivated by their religious beliefs when they enter the voting booth."
Syndicated journalist Robert Novak once said that Catholics should be put in two voting categories, active and inactive. I'd add a third, "just don't care." Active Catholics are usually older; more dedicated and practice their religion. They vote and they are committed to the principles of Catholic social teaching. They also faithfully listen to their church leaders closely. The non-active Catholics are usually younger, more influenced by secular society, the media and political correctness. If we can educate the youth to vote values first and party second, we could transform America and advance a culture of life instead of continually promoting policies that export abortion and hurt the working class economically.
There are over 65 million Catholics in the United States. My suggestion is, that concerned Catholics actively get involved in civic and political affairs to impact these important public policy issues, which speak to the core values of our Catholic faith. We should withhold our support for candidates, until they start demonstrating their respect for the principles and teachings of the Catholic faith. It's also time we let our elected officials know how we feel, and more importantly, what we believe. If they ignore us, as some of our present Catholic elected officials do, we must be ready to make them pay the price at the ballot box. We must hold their feet to the fire like other groups. If we don't hold politicians accountable, why wouldn't they continue to ignore us and our strongly held beliefs. We should, just like my Irish forbearers did, learn to use the voting booth to send a clear message.
Raymond L. Flynn
Founder and Chairman Emeritus
Read more about Ray Flynn in:
Speech at the 2006 March for Life Rose Dinner
Catholic Men's Quarterly
South Boston Online