Morrissey on Converts, Faith and Politics

Ed Morrissey had a great post inspired by the conversion, so to speak, of Jo Ann Nardelli. She is the former Democratic party official in Pennsylvania who left the party, prompted in part by the Democratic party’s embrace of gay marriage. Joe Biden’s appearance on Meet the Press sealed the deal. As a result, she has not been treated kindly by former colleagues.

The longtime Democrat from Blair County quit the party and registered as a Republican, and then boldly walked in a Memorial Day parade in support of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“A couple of people who I thought were friends turned their backs on me, literally, as I was walking in the parade,” she said on Tuesday. “I have to admit it made me sad, but that is the way it is.”

Morrissey discusses this as well as the case of Artur Davis, who also has quit the Democratic party. Then he explains, in very charitable terms, the reasons that some Catholics remain in the Democrat party, despite it holding positions that are antithetical to the Catholic Church on most social issues. He does a great job of explaining the nuances of Catholic economic teachings to an audience that is mostly non-Catholic. The following succinctly captures the tone of Morrisey’s post:

However, even while we do our best on a personal and institutional level within the church, our community, state, and nation have an impact on the scope and depth of the societal and human ills we hope to alleviate.   Some Catholics feel that significant involvement of representative government represents the best and most direct way to achieve our mission, and support the political party that more closely aligns itself with that philosophy and agenda — Democrats.  Others feel that the mission is best directed at a personal and institutional level and oppose significant government involvement as wasteful, impractical, and counterproductive, and those Catholics are more likely to be Republicans.

As such, these fellow Catholic liberals (many of whom do oppose abortion) do not deserve our scorn or a condescending attitude; they come to these positions honestly and faithfully.  We may disagree on the best approach to the mission at hand, but we are at least united on the mission itself.

In a sense it might be more difficult for conservative Catholics to accept this than for conservative non-Catholics, particularly because we are so close to the issue. We can get easily frustrated by fellow Catholics who persist in supporting a party that upholds so many terrible positions on life and death matters. And I do think that a handful of left-leaning Catholics offer up merely token opposition to their party on social issues, but who largely ignore these matters so as not to distract from the more important (to them) economic issues. Yet there are leftist Catholics  who are genuinely committed to the pro-life cause and who struggle with their party’s stance on social issues. And it is with regards to these individuals that we ought to heed Ed’s words.

Another thing strikes me about all this, and it’s that many of these political conversions have occurred due to differences of opinion on social issues. We have been told more times than I can possibly count that this election is all about the economy, and nothing but the economy. Yet we’re seeing more and more Catholics leaving the party that has been not only their home, but likely their parents’ home and their grandparents’ home. And they aren’t leaving the party because of its stance on income taxes. For those who insist that social issues are a losing proposition for conservatives and the Republican party, they might want to reconsider that position in light of the mounting evidence.

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Dante alighieri


  1. Amen, and amen!

    I’m an Black Catholic. Born and raised in the South (Archdiocese of Atlanta). I’m old enough to remember seeing the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s play out on the evening news. My mom spied on the Klan for the SCLC because she could “pass”. And I was a life-long Democrat…until my heart changed on *social* issues.

    THis is hy I stopped supporting the Democrat Party’s candidates. And it is, incidentally, why I don’t support the Republican Establishment’s candidates either.

    The patry would do well to learn something from the experience of people like me…

  2. What about the republican party do you oppose? I know that I certainly find very little in the Democrat party as tasteful for example the idea that the government gets to rule how people run their land and now even their religion.

  3. I am from Europe and I know how insane and awful socialism and bureaucratic governments are.

  4. I think it is a huge mistake to think about these things in terms of parties which seem to be more like cliques.

  5. God Bless you Deacon Chip. I have been a lifelong Republican who has wanted to leave the party for a very long time, but for those social issues where the Republicans are “less bad” than the Democrats. I’m convinced the Republicans only give lip service to them. In my state a pro-choice Republican got the nomination in the last election. I wrote in Alan Keyes in the primaries. I’m of the opinion that Romney is only “Reduced Calorie” Obama. So I will once again vote for the lesser of two evils. I’d register with the Constitution Party because I like their platform, but those people are nuts. One of the people in my state connected to the Constitution Party wrote a column that states the government is watching us through RFID tags in clothing. I believe more and more that there is no home for a Catholic in current American politics. It’s a sad situation.

  6. I use to consider myself an independent but now more of a republican although I would prefer having a third party as an option. I’m a fiscal conservative but very upset about the separation of religion & state that is being ignored by this administration. I do have a close friend, who went to Catholic schools like I did, but will only vote for democrats because it is the party she was raised in. I just can’t understand why anyone would vote for a party as I vote for the person. I do like Romney & his personal life is to be admired. There is no perfect candidate.

  7. “I’d register with the Constitution Party because I like their platform, but those people are nuts.”

    Really? ALL of them? MOST of them? Or just the nut that you encountered? I’m not a member of the Constitution Party, but I’ll be voting for Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode in November. I can assure you that he is not “nuts”.

    And why register with any party? It’s not required for voting in the general election (and in many states, not even required for voting in the primaries).

  8. Thanks to Deacon Chip for sharing his experience. I can relate as I was also a committed Democrat earlier in life. The GOP, while better on most social issues, also does have its blind spots. It is time for committed Catholics to get serious about a social movement that embraces political involvment while transcending it, and moves beyond involvement and support of our two major parties, neither of which encompass what it truly means to be Catholic. We need to devote ourselves in our public witness in a way that does not require us to be muted or apologetic about who we are, but free to live the faith and witness fully as Our Lord intends us to.

  9. “Really? ALL of them? MOST of them? Or just the nut that you encountered?”

    Actually, this person received the nomination to run for governor in 2006. In addition, I wasn’t to pleased about their treatment of Alan Keyes in 2008.

  10. I am a Pacific War historian (author of One Square Mile of Hell, American Commando, and others) trying to contact Tom Looney, who has posted comments on this site before. I am researching a book about Guadalcanal and want to include material about Father Reardon. If you receive this posting, Tom, please contact me by phone (734-676-5473), email ([email protected]) or via my website (www.johnwukovits.com). Father Reardon deeply interests me, and I hope to view the first year of the war through his eyes and the eyes of three other main characters. Thanks for any help you can be.

  11. Deacon,

    Thank you for being a deacon.

    All parties could benefit from the experiences of people like yourself.

    Pray for the best outcome. Prepare for the worst.

  12. In my personal experience, among several, but not all, of the Catholic liberals I know, it is a matter of doing nothing while feeling good. People who want to “help the poor”, but are too lazy to actually get out and give their time and efforts to a worthy organization, or on a one-to-one basis, can feel so self-satisfed by pulling the lever in the voting booth for someone else to do what they don’t want to do personally. These same people, of course, tell you how open they are to people of other races, etc., but they cannot name one minority member who is a personal friend, or even been a guest in their homes. As I have always contended, if you scratch a liberal, you find a hypocrit! Just examine the words and actions of our last two democrat leaders!

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