Courting the Catholic Voter

A new book tells the fascinating story of how America's Catholics decided past elections.


If the polls are relatively accurate, this year's presidential election looks to be another razor-thin race. So it's no wonder our political parties are anxious to avoid a repeat of 2000. But ensuring voters make it to the booths on November 2—and actually vote for the candidate they thought they were voting for—may not be the biggest story of 2004. According to journalists like Reuter's Ellen Wulfhorst, the story we should really be paying attention to is what the American Catholic voter is thinking.

Senator John Kerry has made no apologies for running as a Catholic—even when American Catholic archbishops like John J. Myers of Newark warned the faithful that their obligation to oppose abortion outweighed any other issue. For months now, Republicans have been hoping to capitalize on Catholics disenchanted with secular liberals in the Democratic party.

But Kerry's conflict with his own church reveals a shift that goes beyond just the battle over abortion. John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign created significant Protestant angst over a Catholic occupying the White House. And while Catholics voted overwhelmingly for Kennedy (70 percent), a majority of Protestants voted against him. To understand how much has really changed over the past 40 years, let's go back to the nation's early history for a peek at just what Protestants and Catholics thought of each other.

No Room in the Colonies for Catholics

George J. Marlin's The American Catholic Voter (St. Augustine's Press, 2004) is a reliable guide told from his Catholic perspective. Marlin's book takes his readers on a time trip to the British colonies, where American colonists ...

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