(CNSNews.com) - Catholic activists say Democratic politicians who claim the Catholic banner but who vote against Church doctrine on homosexual issues are part of the 'unfortunate' legacy of President John F. Kennedy.
According to www.yourcongress.org, 144 members of the 107th Congress identified themselves as Catholic: 15 Democrats and 9 Republicans in the Senate, and 71 Democrats and 42 Republicans in the House of Representatives.
In a political scorecard measuring the voting records from the 107th Congress, the homosexual activist Human Rights Campaign gave all 15 Senate Democrats, one Republican senator, 61 House Democrats and 2 House Republicans perfect or near perfect scores for siding with homosexuals in legislative votes.
"This is all part of the unfortunate legacy of John F. Kennedy, who perhaps paid too high an admission price to enter the race for the presidency in 1960 by basically telling people that he would never bring his religious values into American public life," C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Action League told CNSNews.com Friday. "Looking back on it, the election of Kennedy in some ways represented the empowerment of the Catholic elite but a defeat for Catholic values."
Doyle said when politicians say they are not going to let the Church tell them what to do, it really means that interest groups, media institutions and the "big money campaign contributors that make their careers possible" will call the shots for them instead.
"When they say that they're deeply concerned about the separation of church and state, what that really means is that they're going to do exactly what the polls tell them to do. The response of the vast majority of politicians in this case is going to be both cynical and cowardly, and intellectually dishonest," Doyle said. "It isn't that our politicians have the wrong principles, it's that as a class, elected politicians, including Catholic politicians, have no principles. As a class, they are self-serving careerists."
Louis Giovino, director of communications for the Catholic League, pointed out that lawmakers serve the "common good" and should therefore adhere to the religious doctrine of the church. The biggest problem, Giovino explained, are those politicians, particularly Democrats, identifying themselves as Catholic, who "wear their Catholicism on their sleeve" and vote against Church doctrine for "political expediency."
"We can talk in a general way about what has happened in the American political scene with Catholics, and it does seem that one of the parties, Democrats -- which has been the home for Catholics for decades -- they have issues that seem to be at variance with Catholic teachings," Giovino told CNSNews.com . "The thing is, are Catholics welcome there?"
This issue came to prominence Thursday when the Vatican issued a message to Catholic politicians, telling them it was "gravely immoral" to vote in favor of recognizing same-sex unions. Giovino called it a "very strong" document that should send a signal to those politicians claiming to be Catholic on how Catholics need to fight against homosexual unions.
"We could also draw the parallel between this and abortion because these are fundamental issues. They are not peripheral, they are major, very important issues," Giovino said. "That's why this document was so strong because marriage is the basis of society. So if you're trumpeting that you're Catholic and then you are flouting the teaching of the Church, it raises very serious questions about their commitment and their religiously informed conscience."
However, secular activists see no problem with the trend and some actually see the Vatican message having the opposite effect of what was intended.
"The Vatican shoots itself in the foot with these kinds of heavy-handed statements because it forces every Catholic politician in America to make a declaration of whether they're going to abide by that or not," Robert Boston, assistant communications director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State told CNSNews.com . "Most politicians are savvy enough to realize that if they are perceived as pursuing the narrow interests of one religious group, the voters may not react favorably to that and they may lose their seat."
Boston also drew the parallel between same-sex unions and abortion and how Catholic politicians deal with the issues.
"The Vatican and the American bishops often put out statements calling on all Catholic politicians to vote against legal abortion in all cases yet very few actually do so," Boston said. "It puts Catholic politicians in a very difficult position and I think in the long run it hurts the Church."
Boston said one reason why there has not been another Catholic president since Kennedy is that the Church undercuts Catholic candidates who are moderate on same-sex unions, abortion and other social issues, especially if they are liberal Democrats. He pointed to the selectivity of the Vatican in emphasizing certain social issues over others, noting that the bishops have never held any Catholic politician's "feet to the fire" over being pro-death penalty.
Doyle disagreed, viewing the Vatican message on Thursday as a "call to fidelity" directed at Catholic politicians. He said politicians claiming faith to the Church ought to have the "integrity" to act more Catholic in their public lives.
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