“Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?”

Former RI Senate Majority Leader and CCRI Professor David Carlin (D, Newport) has written a new book, Can a Catholic Be A Democrat. Here’s a summary:

When author David Carlin was a young man, it was scandalous for a good Catholic to be anything but a good Democrat. In the pews, pubs, and union halls of America’s cities, millions of poor European immigrants and their children pledged allegiance to the Church of Rome and the party of FDR. All that changed in the 1960s, with the rise of a new kind of Democrat: wealthy, secular, ideological….So complete this transformation has been that we no longer speak of a natural alliance between Catholics and the Democratic Party. Indeed, Carlin here asks whether today it’s even possible to be both a faithful Catholic and a Democratic true believer….On issues of human life, sex, faith, morality, suffering – and the public policies that stem from them – the modern, secularist Democratic Party has become the enemy of Catholicism; indeed, of all traditional religions. Carlin shatters the excuses that Catholic Democratic politicians employ in a vain attempt to reconcile their faith and their votes, and then, with what he calls the “political equivalent of a broken heart,” he examines his own political conscience. As a faithful Catholic and a Democrat approaching his seventieth year, must he now leave the party he’s called home since birth? David Carlin’s arguments challenge all religious Democrats to ask themselves the same question.

Here’s a review.

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Bobby Oliveira
14 years ago

If a Catholic leaves the party of the poor, he must join the party of rich monied interests and war. That is a better choice?
David Carlin is nothing more than a self-important egoist dinosaur who is much behind where many of us Catholics are on issues of science. Since Rome knows the economic consequences of pushing theses issue, they don’t.
If you wish to believe in odd interpretations (can we say double rapture) of Scripture that allow for intolerance, racism, sexism, and really bad science (let’s start with the concept of a “young earth”), I’m sure there’s a fundementalist sect that would love to have you.
Most Catholics have obviously evolved. Too bad Mr. Carlin has not.

rhody
rhody
14 years ago

Carlin is an embarassment not just to the Democratic Party, but to the Catholic Church. His holier-than-thou attitude disgraces both institutions.
One of the problems of one-party rule in this state is that he probably aligned himself with the Democrats just because they represented an easier path to enter political office. I attended a Catholic high school with two faculty members in the House (one from each party), and I’d be willing to bet they could see through this guy.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Yeah, Democrat Catholics have evolved alright… right out of their own faith. Tell yourselves what you want, but facilitating moral decline — including the clinical massacre of tens of millions of unborn children — can only be rammed under the identity of Catholic with a soul-destroying dose of delusion.
Speaking of which (delusion, that is): Sure. No rich monied interests in the Democrat party! Especially in Rhode Island.

brassband
brassband
14 years ago

I read the book and I thought it captured fairly well some of the most critical ways in which the Democrat party has sold its soul to groups with positions at odds with Catholicism.
This situation has led to some fairly absurd conduct by party leaders. For example, Sen. Harry Reid voted FOR the federal ban on partial birth abortions before he became Dem. leader in the Senate.
But now-Majority Leader Reid criticized the Supreme Court for upholding the ban for which he himself had voted. Had he changed his mind? No, but his present position depends upon support from pro-abortion groups.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Not to speak out of turn, here, but I’ve been shaking my head at the “party of the poor” phrase. More like the party of the manipulating-and-exploiting-the-poor.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Carlin is 100% right.
To those who call themselves Catholic, but say “I agree with these teachings, but not those teachings” all I can say is that someone who calls themself Catholic but supports partial birth abortion isn’t really a Catholic. You can be “born” Catholic and attend Catholic schools. That doesn’t make you Catholic.
Catholicism is a set of beliefs and the Democrat Party has clearly abandoned what was once its Catholic base. If Amanda Marcotte, John Edwards’ blogmaster, had written the anti-Catholic drivel 40 years ago, Edwards would have jettisoned her.
Take this quote from Marcotte’s blog:
“Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit? A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.”
So this is acceptable? This is what John Edwards is willing to defend?
I’ll go further than Justin. I think many Catholic Democrats have not only compromised their faith in many cases, they’ve allowed members of their party to engage in anti-Catholic bigotry to garner more support among the left-wing.
Bobby, the Republican Party may not always be 100% correct and in keeping with the Catholic Church on some social justice issues. But I’ve never heard the Catholic faith itself denigrated by Republicans. Very few Catholic Republican will say “I’m Catholic, but I disagree with majority of Catholic theology.”

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

When a Catholic is elected to public office, he or she is representing everyone in the district, not just Catholics (the crucial distinction JFK made). If a Catholic has trouble making that distinction, maybe he or she ought not to run for office.
I believe Harry Reid makes the distinction, realizing that he is representing people other than Mormons, as does Congressman Ellison(IIRC) in Minnesota who represents constituents who don’t share his Muslim faith. On the Republican side, Arlen Specter seems cognizant he represents gentiles.
Separation of church and state is a great advance the American government created by our founding fathers made over the British model. Does Carlin believe separation of church and state should go the way of dial-up?

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Rhody,
I don’t think that Carlin was suggesting an abandonment of separation of church and state. The original purpose of the separation was to prevent a state-sponsored religion from developing in the US as was the norm in Europe. We are a long way from that ever happening.
Carlin is saying a Catholic should hold true to his or her beliefs. Here’s a novel concept: if a Catholic politician is unable to get elected without abandoning one’s faith, that person would be best switching to a different party that does not require such a moral compromise, changing districts, or not running.
If you are a true Catholic and you have a choice between observing your faith or obtaining political power, you should observe your faith not seek power.
Abandoning your faith and using the argument that you have to do so in order to represent your constituents may make you a better politician. But does it make you a better person in the eyes of God?

brassband
brassband
14 years ago

Some issues are so serious that a Catholic who cannot harmonize his or her beliefs with the requirements of office must make a choice. Does he or she want to hold office, or want to remain true to his or her faith?
Abortion is one of those issues.
No one is saying that, as an elected official you cannot do what your constituents want. But what they are saying is that you shouldn’t consider yourself a faithful Catholic when you don’t believe what the Church teaches on a fundamental issue like abortion.
If you DO believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, how could you vote in favor of it? Even if that is what your constituents want?

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

I get a laugh out of the contrast to 40 years ago. When JFK ran, Republicans were afraid he’d tear down the separation of church and state. It seems it’s conservatives who want to knock that separation down today, and enjoy seeing Bush and Rove use the Vatican as an ideological enforcement agent (the Catholic Church I grew up in was not obsessed with abortion and gays to the exclusion of other social justice issues).
Catholic Democratic candidates should not be intimidated by this argument. Neither should Rudy Guiliani.

Bobby Oliveira
14 years ago

Dear Anthony,
The disagreements are not about “theology.” They are about science. A fetus is simply not a child, being gay is at least in part biological making it a matter of creation.
Get ready for Galileo part II.

David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

A fetus is simply not a child.
Get your head out of your ass or you have never seen an ultrasound. My 3 children were clearly “A CHILD” from the moment I first heard the heart beat.
To you and your poverty pimp party children have become a commodity. I don’t know why we haven’t started trading them on the market yet.

Bobby Oliveira
14 years ago

Dear David Davis,
Let’s do this:
Stick with that message since it works so well with regards to winning elections.
In the meantime, I continue to support science which always wins in the end.
Let’s see how we do.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Paraphrasing: “Science always wins in the end.” Sounds like quite a religion in the making. (“Well, look, we’ve tested the wine again and again, and I’m sorry to say that it’s only wine.”)
You know, I converted to Catholicism because I believe its teachings and general approach to religion to be correct. I’ve a sense that many liberal Catholics feel they’ve an ethnic right to be Catholic and that the Church must conform to what they want to believe. There’s a passage about Jews, gentiles, and salvation…

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Rhody,
You point out the problem.
The values of the Catholic Church have not changed. The Catholic Church didn’t have to voice a position against abortion years ago, because years ago no one would have thought to legalize the killing of unborn children.
Yes, Republicans did question whether JFK would be taking orders from Rome back when he was first running for office. That’s why most Catholics were Democrats. As Carlin writes, years ago you could be a faithful Catholic and a Democrat. In fact, if you were Catholic, you probably were a Democrat. Today, pro-life candidates are shunned by other Democrats. Those who follow the teachings of their Catholic faith are accused of violating a “separation of church and state” or simply being naive.
Bobby, science and religion are not mutually exclusive, they are mutually supporting. Technology has given us to opportunity to learn more about human development. It has given us the ability to perform human medical surgical procedures on an unborn baby still in the womb. It has given us the ability to identify when a human heart begins to beat. If anything, science has reconfirmed that a fetus is a human being.

Bobby Oliveira
14 years ago

Dear Justin,
The beauty of science winning in the end is that the Church always accepts the science, as Saint Thomas Aquinas taught us to do, at that time. Some things just take a little longer.

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