I was reading in some old newspaper articles today (part of my job is reading old paper clippings and filing them, so I spend a lot of time with the newsprint) that Democrats in my state are getting together to form the "Ohio Democratic Catholic Conference" to focus on "social justice" issues in politics. This is just more code for "we're going to try to distract Catholic voters in Ohio by telling them that abortion and gay marriage aren't the only 'Catholic' issues and we should focus instead on poverty, hunger, and the environment!"
( Exhales very, very loudly. ) OK. Let's go back to some basics, here. First of all, to be Catholic you can encompass (and probably should) all of the beliefs listed above. Here's something that people need to pick up on: Catholicism is not a buffet. Repeat that five times. You cannot go through the Catechism like a menu and say, "well I'm believing the part about the death penalty, but I'm rejecting the whole abortion thing 'cause you know, that's just too much for me. Can't stomach it." Or, "I only believe the 'progressive' tenets of Church doctrine, so I'm against the ban on gay priests but I think women should be ordained." It doesn't work like that. You have to buy the whole package, part and parcel, the kit and caboodle. Not just the kit. Or the parcel. Get it?
The problem the Dems have with trying to play up the "Catholic" part (and the problem Liberal Catholics--a term that makes me cringe--have too) is that they forget the big guns of doctrine to focus on the smaller points. Now I'm not saying that poverty is small or that we shouldn't worry about homelessness or things like that. We are called to change those things as Christians and to be good stewards of what we have. Abortion is a BIG issue. It's a defining issue. It's one where the Church says here is right and here is wrong and you better believe the right or you're in trouble. Cardinal Arinze has said that denying communion to politicians who support abortion is essentially a no-brainer (his actual response on Catholic Exchange yesterday was that this is something you could ask a child--why ask a cardinal?). This is a BIG issue that you sort of have to go with if you're going to call yourself Catholic. It's like not using contraception. In the words of Tea Leoni in Spanglish , "Get on board, pal!"
The article says that this will allow a place for "pro-life Democrats" in the party, but I'm skeptical. The ONE THING holding the National Democratic Party together is the abortion lobby. To go against NARAL and their ilk is akin to political suicide in the Democratic party, unless it's a smoke-screen for voters just to get someone elected (which in most cases it probably is--yes I'm cynical). I had a friend in college who was a pro-life Democrat, and I just couldn't understand how he could support politicians whose policies he was morally opposed to. I just couldn't do it. I won't vote for a pro-choice Republican! That's my big issue.
For this to work, the Democrats need to realize that they need to be "on board" on the big issues and the other issues. They've got to be pro-life in the womb before they can be pro-life on the street and lobby for better health care and to change hunger and homelessness policy. Democrats often say that Republicans don't care about the babies once they're born. But you've got to allow them to be born before you can help anyone.