Monday, November 3, 2008

Points to Ponder: Approaching Election, Approaching Bishops' Meeting

Election times are number-crunching times.

I'm pondering some numbers of my own, as tomorrow's election nears.

And as the U.S. Catholic bishops prepare for their annual meeting in Baltimore this month.

Here are the numbers I'm pondering:

Percentage of Americans who are former Catholics: 10%*

Percentage of American adults raised Catholic who have left the church: 33%**

Percentage of American Catholics attending weekly Mass: 23%***

Percentage of bishops appearing to endorse McCain-Palin: 28% (roughly)****

Percentage of bishops found in 2002 to have shielded sexual predators: 66% (roughly)*****

Percentage of Catholics voting for Obama: 59%******

As the bishops prepare to meet, and as I ponder the preceding numbers, I'm also thinking of some observations Paul Krugman makes today in a New York Times op-ed piece entitled "The Republican Rump" (

As Krugman notes, one would like to think that, if the Republican party loses tomorrow as decisively as pollsters and pundits are suggesting it will, the party and its adherents would do some careful soul-searching. And would perhaps reorient themselves.

Krugman is not sanguine about that possibility, however. In his view, the party is likely now to transform itself into the party of the hidebound rump, the one we've seen, to the dismay of many of us, on display at Sarah Palin rallies in recent weeks:

Most of the post-election discussion will presumably be about what the Democrats should and will do with their mandate. But let me ask a different question that will also be important for the nation’s future: What will defeat do to the Republicans?

You might think, perhaps hope, that Republicans will engage in some soul-searching, that they’ll ask themselves whether and how they lost touch with the national mainstream. But my prediction is that this won’t happen any time soon.

Instead, the Republican rump, the party that’s left after the election, will be the party that attends Sarah Palin’s rallies, where crowds chant “Vote McCain, not Hussein!” It will be the party of Saxby Chambliss, the senator from Georgia, who, observing large-scale early voting by African-Americans, warns his supporters that “the other folks are voting.” It will be the party that harbors menacing fantasies about Barack Obama’s Marxist — or was that Islamic? — roots.

Why will the G.O.P. become more, not less, extreme? For one thing, projections suggest that this election will drive many of the remaining Republican moderates out of Congress, while leaving the hard right in place
Which leads me to wonder about the men who rule us in the Catholic church, and who are still fulminating, God help them, though nobody much appears to be listening. They're still shaking their croziers, a goodly number of them, and threatening Democrat-voting Catholics with eternal damnation, while a third of adult Catholics have left the church and 1 in 10 Americans is a former Catholic.

They're still hurling down excommunications and cozying up to political interest groups whose values have nothing in common with Catholic values, even though the glass house in which most bishops live was decisively exposed in 2002 when the statistics about the clerical sexual abuse crisis first broke.

Still threatening, damning, excommunicating, betraying. Still not listening. Not to anyone but each other. And the men on top of them.

Will they begin to do so in Baltimore? Given the dismal statistics with which this meditation begins, one would like to hope so.

My prediction: they will continue to follow the hidebound rump, even if it leads, well, nowhere at all. Nowhere good at all.

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*Pew Forum, March 2008:


***Results compiled by Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) as of February 2008:

****I’m using Whispers in the Loggia’s number of 90 and counting (as of 3 November), of a total of some 250 bishops:

*****Data compiled by Dallas Morning News:

******New York Times/CBS Poll:,1,3091816.column.