Voting by Roman Catholics opposed to abortion
1. What do individual Catholics really
A book review
What do individual Catholics really believe?
It appears that there is a wide gap between the church's teaching and the
beliefs of the laity.
A survey by the Knights of Columbus was released on 2008-OCT-14, about
three weeks before the 2008 election. It found that:
- 39% of Roman Catholics are Democrats; 30% Republicans; 29% independents; 2%
- 48% identify themselves as pro-life; 47% as pro-choice; 5% were uncertain
Subjects were also asked to what degree -- if any -- a pregnant woman should
have access to abortion. They responded:
- 17% would ban all abortions, even if needed to save the woman's
- 11% would allow abortions only in order to save the woman's life.
- 35% would allow abortions only in case of rape or incest or to save the
- 26% would freely allow abortion during the first three months of pregnancy.
Only 17% of Catholic laity would support the Church's position: that it is
always immoral to perform an evil deed (e.g. kill a fetus via abortion) even if
reluctantly done to achieve a good end (e.g. allow the woman to live.)
The Church's teaching typically would produce a dead fetus and a dead woman.
Allowing an abortion would generally result in a dead fetus and a living woman
who could go on living, continue to be a parent to her children (if any) and
continue to be a spouse to her husband or wife (if
she is married). This teaching is quite consistent with the Church's moral
teaching. However it must be a very difficult sell to the laity.
813 persons who identified themselves as Catholics were surveyed. The poll's
margin of error was ±3.6 percentage points.
A book concerning abortion and the Roman Catholic vote:
"Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Questions about Barack Obama
by Douglas W. Kmiec, Penguin, (2008). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Reviewer's comment by Martin Sheen:
"Douglas Kmiec’s 'Can a Catholic Support Him?' may very well become the
most important comprehensive document written to date on American Catholics,
abortion, and candidates for public office.”
On April 18, 2008, Douglas W. Kmiec was denied Communion at a Catholic Mass in
Westlake, CA. Ironically, Kmiec had been invited by a Catholic business
group to give a dinner address on the Bishop’s teaching of “Faithful
Kmiec had served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel for both
Ronald Regan and George H. W. Bush. But now, he found himself rejected by his
faith—simply for endorsing the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama.
"Can a Catholic Support Him?," Kmiec offers us a thoughtful explanation of his
rationale. He addresses the difficult questions at the core of his decision: Can
a Catholic support a Pro-Choice candidate? Can there be a reverence for life
that embraces a larger set of values? How does a Catholic citizen balance his
obligations to the Church and to community? In asking these questions, he
challenges those whose partisan interests are provoking a false rift between the
Catholic Church and the Democratic party. This inquiry could hardly be more
timely. Catholics have been on the side of the top vote-getter in the last nine
presidential elections, and make up roughly one fourth of the electorate. This
provocative book—at once a legal and religious treatise and a sincere and
personal journey of faith—will be an irreplaceable contribution to the
conversation, in 2008 and beyond.
About the Author:
Douglas W. Kmiec is the
Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University’s School of Law, and
has previously held prestigious positions in the law faculties of The Catholic
University of America and of Notre Dame. He served as head of the
Legal Counsel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Mark Pattison, "New Knights' survey outlines Catholic views on host of moral
issues," Catholic News Service, 2008-OCT-15, at:
- A margin of error of 2% means that an individual datum is
accurate to within ±2 percentage points, 19 times
out of 20. i.e. if the poll were repeated 20 times, with the same number of
contributors, then a given value would typically be within 2 percentage, for 19 of the repeats.
"The margin of error in a sample = 1 divided by the square root of
the number of people in the sample." Thus, with 1,865 responses, the
margin of error is 1/ 1865 exp -0.5 = .023 = ±2.3%.
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2008-OCT-26
Updated and reviewed: 2008-OCT-28
Author: B.A. Robinson