About the fifty percent of white Catholics who reported to Pew pollsters that they support Donald Trump, as opposed to the forty-six percent of white Catholics reporting that they favor Hillary Clinton:
It's Donald Trump.
I had a good discussion about these data yesterday on Facebook with a brilliant young Catholic theologian, an up-and-coming star of the American Catholic theological academy whom I admire very much. As she noted, it's not surprising to find that half of white Catholics support the Republican candidate, since that finding has been more or less consistent in recent elections.
She's right about this. But as I replied to her,
But it's Donald Trump.
Various religion-and-news commentators today are parsing the Pew data to say that Catholics represent a more progressive voting bloc in this election, since (and you can see this in the table I posted yesterday) seventy-seven percent of Hispanic Catholics are in favor of Hillary Clinton — a finding that is not in the least surprising when one takes into account Trump's ugly, outspoken attacks on immigrants, and especially Mexican ones.
But fifty percent of white Catholics favor Donald Trump.
One in two white Catholics reports that he/she will vote for Donald Trump.
Half of white Catholics in the U.S. say that they support an open racist xenophobe whose personal history and views conform in no way to the moral ideals that some Catholics wish to impose by force on everyone in the world outside the Catholic church.
This election cycle, the vote of white Catholics for the Republican candidate means something entirely different than the white Catholic vote has meant in previous elections, since
It's Donald Trump, for God's sake.
White Catholics are the people who hold the purse strings of American Catholicism. They comprise the vast majority of people sitting on the boards of Catholic universities in the U.S., on the boards of Catholic charities, on diocesan and parish councils. They are the people who run the American Catholic media. They are the Catholics who parse the meaning of Catholicism for the whole church in the U.S.
And half of those people with the most power to change things in the Catholic institution in the United States are reporting that they intend to vote for the Republican candidate this year, even when
It's Donald Trump.
This reality represents in the starkest possible way a grievous failure of pastoral and moral leadership among the U.S. Catholic bishops and among the powerful intellectual class of American Catholicism — those running its academies and dominating its journalistic sector, for whom open, frank discussion of racism even in the period after we've seen two more video clips of black men being gunned down mercilessly by police is off-limits, distasteful, not morally necessary.