Race/Religion Matters: African-American Catholics Face Moral Dilemma In Whether Or Not To Vote For Barack Obama

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Categories: Bolitics, For Discussion, News, Race Matters

barack obama and pope

Should one base his or her political vote on the candidate who shares the same faith and beliefs, or the one who is most properly suited to run our country?

According to NorthStar News:

Black Catholics confront a moral dilemma in the upcoming presidential election: vote with their church or vote with the party that they have long preferred to keep the first African-American president in office four more years. Three million black Catholics lived in the United States as of 2005, according to the Catholic African World Network, a fraction of the 44 million African Americans counted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011. (However, people of African descent constitute one-fourth of the world’s one billion Catholics.)

While African-American Catholics are relatively few in number, they may represent enough of the black vote to make a difference in the outcome if they choose to bestow or withhold their support. Obama took 96 percent of the black vote in 2008, according to exit polls. In 2012, the question for black Catholics is whether to vote black or Catholic? That is hard to say, but a recent survey suggests that black Catholics identify as Catholics even more than white Catholics do. The 2011 National Black Catholic Survey found that black Catholics were more religiously “engaged” by significant margins, than white Catholics were, and identify strongly with the church. As evidence of that, it found that 48.2 percent of African American Catholics attend church at least once a week, compared to 30.4 percent of white Catholics.

With most national polls showing the two leading party nominees a hair’s breadth apart in mid-October, Catholics as a whole are seen as an increasingly crucial slice of the pie, representing a quarter of the electorate and generally concentrated in swing states. According to NPR, “since 1972, every single presidential candidate who has won the popular vote has also won the Catholic vote. A Pew Research Center report in August said, “about half of Catholic voters (51 percent) say Barack Obama best reflects their views on social issues such as abortion and gay rights; 34 percent say Mitt Romney best reflects their views on these issues. Obama’s lead on social issues among Catholics is about as wide as his lead among all voters (50 percent to 36 percent).”

These figures indicate Catholic followers do not always side with the church’s positions. In August, the Obama campaign unveiled its “Catholics for Obama” team, a 21-member group of prominent Catholics that includes Sister Jamie T. Phelps, a professor of systematic theology and director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans. As such, she is probably one of the most visible, respected black Catholic leaders in the United States.

Some black protestant leaders have urged their constituents to stay home on Election Day, largely because of the same-sex marriage issue. In contrast, at a national gathering of black Catholics this summer, a prominent black bishop warned 3,000 of the faithful not to abandon their “essential participation in democracy and become a part of the sad statistic of nearly 45 percent of Americans who are eligible to vote in a presidential election and abdicate this important civic and Christian duty.”

“No matter how flawed you may think the candidates are, you have an obligation to participate,” Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., said at the opening Mass of the 11th National Black Catholic Congress on July 19 in Indianapolis, Ind. “Both candidates are imperfect human beings,” he said. “The American political system does not produce saviors for the nation or knights in shining armor who fulfill all of our hopes and expectations. Neither President Obama nor former Governor Romney espouses positions consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church on important moral, social, and economic issues.”

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