In a recent article, Catholic League President Bill Donohue wrote about the prospect of having two Catholics running for vice-president in the coming elections. This is a first in American history that has been noted by numerous other commentators.
In the article, Donohue notes, "In many respects, the Catholic community today is divided into pro-life and social justice camps. That is unfortunate, and while this division can be overstated, it remains true that most Catholic activists sit in either one camp or the other; cross-over Catholics are a rare breed." Each of the two Catholics, Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Joe Biden, sit on opposite sides of this divide. Wrote Donohue, "Paul Ryan represents the pro-life wing, and Joe Biden represents the social justice wing. Indeed, both exemplify the differences, and not just on the issue of abortion. For example, Ryan’s idea of freedom of choice commits him to supporting school vouchers; Biden’s notion of choice commits him to abortion rights. Ryan is opposed to reinventing the institution of marriage; Biden wants to expand marriage to include two people of the same sex."
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Spero News, Donohue reviewed this divide among Catholics who struggle over social issues, such as abortion and homosexual marriage, but also the currently flagging economy and the burden of national debt. "Catholic activists, not necessarily Catholics in the pew...Catholic activists have broken unfortunately into two different camps: the pro-life people for whom abortion is the premier issue, and the social justice camp, for which poverty and reaching out to the poor is the central issue. One would hope that Catholics would bridge that and be on both sides."
Noting that Ryan is identified with the pro-lifers, and Biden identified with the social justice wing, Donohue said "Not all issues are equal. For example, the Catholic Church does not take a specific position on the best way, the best means to help the poor. Only that we should help the poor." He noted the "health debate" over taxation and the entitlement state, while saying that both Ryan and Biden can claim to be helping out the poor.
Identifying Ryan as consistently pro-life, Donohue noted that Biden is an "enthusiastic" supporter of abortion rights, thus putting the incumbent vice-president clearly athwart the official teachings of the Catholic Church on abortion. "The Catholic Church regards abortion as intrinsically evil," said Donohue, "So Joe Biden is defending a policy which the Catholic Church regards as intrinsically evil. Joe Biden also supports the idea of two men getting married: obviously, the Catholic bishops, the whole Catholic community rejects that formulation, and so you have a big difference."
Donohue went on to mention what for Catholics is perhaps the greatest difference between the two Catholic contenders. While Ryan has been mildly criticized by one bishop about the Republican budget proposal, said Donohue, it is Biden who has been reprimanded by bishops and priests. "Most people don't know about this," said Donohue, "Joe Biden has been summarily reprimanded by several bishops, he has been told by priest to stay away. That's not a burden Ryan carries. So, as far as I am concerned, it is very clear: Joe Biden has really dug himself a hole with the Catholic community."
The outspoken Donohue alluded to statements made by Biden in 2008 in which as a vice-presidential candidate Biden said that it is possible to be both Catholic and pro-abortion. "The Catholic Church is no more in favor of abortion than it is in favor of racism and genocide," said Donohue, adding "And Biden should know that. If he doesn't, then he's ignorant. And if he does know it, then he is not telling the truth." He added that several Catholic bishops came "thundering" down on Biden for misrepresenting Catholic teachings.
As far as the coming election is concerned, Donohue hazarded a prediction that practicing Catholics will favor Romney over Obama. Noting that Catholics as a whole went for Obama in 2008, Donohue said that practicing Catholics supported Republican John McCain by 1 percent in 2008. This time around, said Donohue, votes by practicing Catholics for Romney over Obama should be between 7 to 8 percent. The Catholic vote will be evenly split, said Donohue, adding "the total aggregate for the Catholic community will be pretty even. The gap that existed unfavorably for Republicans in 2008 will be washed away in 2012."