Saturday, November 12, 2022

Robert P. Jones on Recent Elections and Abortion Issue, and My Question Again: Whither U.S. Catholic Leaders Now?

I headed the posting I just made about two valuable upcoming discussions of white Christian nationalism in the U.S. with a video from Joy Ann Reid's MSNBC "ReidOut" program. The video features a discussion between Reid, journalist Tim Miller, and Robert P. Jones of PRRI. In the video, Jones talks about how drastically out of step the Republican party, with its plans for a national ban of abortion, is with the American public, as only 1 in 10 Americans supports such a ban. 

Here's more from Jones on this topic, in a statement entitled "Will Republicans and White Evangelicals Take this Losing Moment to Break with Trump?":

The midterm results were also a reminder that an overwhelming majority of Americans do not favor extreme policies like bans on abortion. Even in a red state like Kentucky, voters rejected an anti-abortion amendment. That result clears the way for the possibility of abortion access to be restored in that state, which has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.

PRRI’s pre-election American Values Survey and the national exit polls reveal that nearly seven in ten Americans and six in ten midterm voters say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That is the mainstream view on abortion.

Only about 1 in 10 Americans and midterm voters believe that abortion should be illegal in ALL cases. Most notably, support for complete bans on abortion has fallen dramatically, even among Republicans and white evangelical Protestants, since the Supreme Court abolished half a century of precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade in June:

• Among Republicans, the percentage saying abortion should be illegal in ALL cases has dropped from 23% in 2020 to 11% in late 2022.

• Similarly, among white evangelical Protestants, the percentage saying abortion should be illegal in ALL cases has dropped from 33% in 2020 to 18% in late 2022. …

[H]ere is one way of understanding these dramatic declines in support for extreme abortion policies. For decades, the security of Roe v. Wade allowed abortion to function for conservatives as a kind of morality play. But post-Dobbs, the issue has moved from the realm of abstract morality to the concrete world of policy, a place with consequences that can harm vulnerable, real people. For many, the shift in the legal landscape has forced a reconsideration of whether the personal emotional rewards that flow from a self-righteous embrace of a black and white morality are commensurate with the consequences (even if unintended) of a policy that lacks a connection with or compassion toward the lived circumstances of real people.

As I reflect on the election results as they relate to the issue of abortion and on good analysis like that of Jones, I continue to ask: Whither American Catholic leaders? The U.S. bishops have for years now invested heavily in an alliance with white evangelicals and the Republican party, and have been singleminded about pursuing a national ban on abortion — regardless of what the majority of Americans think about abortion or want as abortion policy.

And regardless of what American Catholics think or want: survey after survey shows a majority of U.S. Catholics favoring laws that permit abortion as a matter of a woman's personal choice in consultation with her doctors. The same surveys show only white evangelicals wanting such laws overturned. The U.S. Catholic bishops, with support of the two popes prior to Pope Francis, shut down all intra-ecclesial discussion of the issue of abortion, silenced moral theologians who called for such abortion to continue, and in every way possible, instructed U.S. Catholics to make abortion — and enacting a national ban on abortion — paramount as they cast their votes.

Shamefully, many U.S. Catholic intellectual leaders in the Catholic academy and journalistic sector have walked lockstep with the bishops as they endorsed a single political party as "the" Christian party and the only party for whom a "real" Christian can vote, and as the obsessed about abortion and made it the litmus test of Catholic identity. At the heart of the Catholic crusade against abortion in the U.S. is a frank anti-democratic impulse.

When the majority does not agree with your minority position on an issue like abortion, the only way you, the minority, can impose that position on the majority is through undemocratic means — courts and legal coercion. This is the path Catholic leaders have chosen in the U.S., and the consequences for American democracy cannot have been more dismal.

Will this election cause U.S. Catholic leaders to reconsider their undemocratic approach to this moral issue, their refusal to permit open dialogue within their own Catholic community about the morality of abortion, their inability to convince a majority of Americans to adopt the Catholic magisterial perspective about abortion, their unethical choices as they have colluded politically with groups promoting racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, to pursue the single goal of outlawing abortion nationally?

Sadly, I doubt it.

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