One of the things that can be quite maddening after an election is the stories about the Catholic vote and how it is used to show approval of a pro-abortion politician. Specifically in the case of President Obama. In 2008 this pro-abortion politician “Catholic vote” contingent was 54% and this time it is “51%”.
To which faithful Catholics always want a breakout of a least weekly Mass going Catholics. In 2008 this statistic turned out to be 43%, better but not exactly a figure to want to should from the rooftops. It is easy to want to blame the media and pollsters for not being more specific as to what constitutes a Catholic voter.
For example I was raised in a liberal family in a very blue state and identified myself as liberal, though I have left my liberal faith. If they used the same metric they used for Catholics concerning me I would be part of the “Liberal vote.”
Maybe that isn’t the perfect parallel since if a pollster asked me if I was liberal I would not confirm it in the context of the modern sense of the word. Apparently Catholics who have stopped practicing their faith do self-identify as Catholic. Somehow I don’t think they are making the ontological distinction of having been baptized into the faith. Being Catholic becomes more like a group identity, a cultural backdrop, something you disagree with but maintain some tenuous connection.
Really though can we expect pollsters to make distinctions between Catholics who attend Mass weekly or not? Somebody might be a faithful Protestant and whether or not they attend services weekly might have little bearing on that. So expecting pollsters to make distinctions like this is asking too much.
Besides as many have noted their is no monolithic Catholic vote. The party they are affiliated with is usually going to tell you much more than what church they are affiliated with. Mostly instead of the yeast permeating the leaven the leaven is permeating the yeast.
Maybe the positive news is that people are still willing to identify themselves as Catholics at all even if they currently have little connection with the faith. Considering the long lent of the priestly sexual abuse scandal and the relentlessly negative assault on the Church by the media this is a bit of a silver lining. Sucessful programs like “Catholics Come Home” certainly remind us that we should not be dismissive of this group of Catholics as being seen just as something annoying that messes up polling statistics. We can laugh about “Christmas & Easter” Catholics and the other labels we have seen, but evangelizing them is certainly harder than the quick joke.