Catholics have some atoning to do. If the polling numbers are correct (will any of us ever be able to use that phrase again without cringing?), white Catholics voted for Trump at 52 percent to the 45 percent they gave Hillary Clinton.
Effectively, this means white Catholics spit in the faces of the same Latinx Catholics they have long hoped would save the American church.
It’s clear how this happened. The American church, particularly the USCCB, has swung so far right that it became a natural ally of Trump. Still, the USCCB has defended the rights of immigrants. Even if its done so as a form of self-preservation as the white Catholic church shrinks and fades, it has at least made gestures at acceptance.
On the other hand, Catholic media has been complacent, and—in the case of EWTN, which offered viewers a fawning interview with Trump, and the National Catholic Register, which fired two writers critical of Trump—have even venerated him as a serious candidate. Why? Because he was seen as likely to nominate pro-life supreme court judges. Crux’s post-election analysis, which asserted that the Trump victory sent a message that “people of faith cannot be ignored, disparaged or taken for granted,” repeatedly cited abortion as the main concern of religious voters.
Just two days before the election, Rev. Frank Pavone of the group Priests for Life put an aborted fetus on the altar and broadcasted a video of it on Facebook live in a bid to support Trump. In a particularly twisted way, it was the logical conclusion to this bizarre campaign year. Even if the diocese of Amarillo, where Pavone is located, called the act a “desecration of the altar,” the fact remains that the American Catholic church’s relentless focus on abortion would eventually lead to grotesque stunts like this.
Catholics got dragged into the Clinton email mess as well, with Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput suggesting she apologize for emails sent between Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and Sandy Newman from Voices for Progress suggesting there should be a “Catholic Spring” in which “the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church” might occur.
Chaput argued that the Obama administration had been the most “stubbornly unfriendly to religious believers, institutions, concerns and liberty in generations.” At this point in time, when a Catholic bishop uses the term “religious liberty,” he’s not talking about freedom to worship or defending the right of others to worship. He’s talking about abortion and birth control. Generally, American bishops talk about very little else, and the overwhelming majority of Catholics who use birth control have just learned to turn a deaf ear.
But this week, Chaput and the rest of the USCCB got what they wanted: a president who says he’s pro life. Right now, anyway. But they may have also lost millions of Catholics along the way.