By: Alex Hale ~Staff Writer~
If you ask me to name the three things off the bat that I would want someone to know about me, first I would say I’m a Catholic, then an advocate for social justice and finally that I am a progressive Democrat.
I have worked around all three of these themes in many different ways. After a year of working for various Democrats, I have learned that many feel lost within their churches. In the public sphere, the church is viewed often as a conservative organization. This is an unfair assumption to make, as there are a number of conservative issues that go directly against Catholic social teaching (such as reactions to refugees, militarization and environmental justice to name a few). This isn’t saying that the Church is liberal by any means. Catholic social teaching preaches against gay marriage, abortion and contraception, all of which are liberal positions. Rather, the Church is neither liberal nor conservative, progressive nor tea-Party, Democrat nor Republican. It is a complicated organization that is meant to do the business of God, not the politics of man.
However, in Cincinnati, I have heard from numerous Democrats that when they go to church, they get glares because they are Democrats. When the congregation is singing “All Are Welcome” some look to the closest Democrat they know and wish to shame them for their beliefs. This is unacceptable to a church that is supposed to be an open place for all to come and love our God. I want to be clear, though – I love my church, and I make this critique with love.
Back in Detroit, I was welcomed because my ideology brought something new to the table, not despite it. We have to be open to ideas we disagree with and use our faith to walk us through our beliefs. That makes us a stronger community. To be fair, many of the Democratic friends I have will admit that Bellarmine Chapel and St. Xavier Church are fairly welcoming environments, and I would largely agree with that and applaud those communities.
However, outside of these organizations, my colleagues have felt blatantly left out and judged. A Catholic Democrat had a conversation with me and said that when he or she goes into his or her family parish that he or she had grown up in, he or she is given glares because people know that he or she is an elected Democrat. I wish that I could say that this is a rare phenomenon, but I don’t think that that is the case.
The Atlantic recently released an article and a video about how Democrats have a religious problem. There has become a disdain for religion with the Democratic Party, but I would argue that it’s not because Democrats naturally hate religion. Rather, they have seen their LGBT friends be condemned by religious leaders. They have been told that if they ask too many questions about faith, then they are simply being troublemakers. Democrats rarely throw away spirituality, which goes to show that though they disagree with how these faith communities have made them feel, they are longing for something to connect to. This could result in the major loss of Catholic priests.
According to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Church lost 10,000 priests from 1995 to 2012. What if this is because the group that sings “All Are Welcome” is actually not welcoming? At the same time, Democrats have stopped welcoming religious people’s views. I think that there is a place for religious people in the Democratic Party, and I think that Democrats have a place in the Church as well. There is a lot of work to be done in healing these relationships, but above all, there must be dialogue, and both sides must avoid complete certainty that they are right and the other is wrong. If the Church and the party welcome some dissonance in belief, I only see the world becoming a better, holier place.