The Democratic Party has long been the political party of choice for most Catholics. Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts gave Catholics their first-ever occupant of the White House. I can still remember the furor this caused in 1960 as many feared the Pope would become our defacto president.
Over half a century later most people, including most Democratic Party leaders apparently, take the Catholic vote for granted. That may be about to change.
The archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is taking Democrats to task for their failure to improve schools for low-income Americans – and their unabashed support of abortion.
Support for Schools
Dolan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says the support of the Catholic Church for Democrats dates back to the 19th century when the first archbishop of New York, Archbishop John Hughes, “displayed dramatic reverence for the dignity of Irish immigrants.”
He notes the schools at the time were hostile to these immigrants so he initiated Catholic schools to provide children with a good education sensitive to their religion and to prepare them as responsible, patriotic citizens. The schools worked and many remain open today; but that may not last.
Dolan cites recent legislation in the State of New York that has repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other non public schools for their children. Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants. Democrats are fierce supporters of the teacher’s unions and oppose school choice.
Support for Life
The second issue is the sanctity of life. Dolan recalls a recent funeral of a great African- American woman, Delores Grier, who was a convert to Catholicism. Grier was named vice chancellor of the archdiocese three decades ago by Cardinal John O’Connor. She was passionate about civil rights, especially the right to life of babies in the womb.
Grier attributed her pro-life sensitivity to Rev. Jesse Jackson who preached that abortion was an act of genocide against minorities. Time has proven Jackson correct. In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York (29,007) than were born (24,758), according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The support for the sanctity of life and for good education were early values that seemed better supported by Democrats than Republicans. Dolan recalls his own grandmother telling him, “We Catholics don’t trust Republicans.”
The Modern Democratic Party
But all that has changed. The Democratic Party has come a long way from the stance of President Bill Clinton in 1992 who said abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Today it has become a litmus test for Democratic candidates. Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez recently insisted pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.
Democrats have recently proposed new legislation, called the Reproductive Health Act, which says doctors would not be required to care for a baby who survives an abortion. The newborn would simply be allowed to die without any attempt to save the child nor any legal repercussions. Abortions would be legal right up to the moment of birth. Who could have imagined that anyone would propose legislation to legalize the butchery of someone like Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who was convicted of murdering three infants born alive after abortion?
Dolan closes his comments with an apology: to Archbishop Hughes, Dolores Grier, and his Grandma Dolan – for the need to write these words. But the Democratic Party of their day that cared about educating the poor and protecting the unborn are nowhere to be found today.