February 10, 2012
* Contends that “the positions of the Democratic Party” are “consistent with Catholic Social Teaching” because they tend to promote “justice and peace in the political world”
Founded in 2004 as an outgrowth of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Call to Faithful Citizenship,” Catholic Democrats (CD) is a national nonprofit organization claiming to represent “a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and a voice for the Democratic Party in the Catholic community.” CD’s foundational belief is that “the positions of the Democratic Party” are “consistent with Catholic Social Teaching” because they tend to promote “justice and peace in the political world.” With members in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, CD offers the following perspectives on various issues of social and political import:
Economy and Labor: Demanding that employers pay their workers “just wages” as a means of promoting “economic justice” and “the common good,” CD endorses the Democratic Party’s calls for minimum-wage hikes and/or a mandatory “living wage.”
Poverty: Describing America as “an affluent society where too many live in poverty and lack … necessities of life,” CD declares that “those who are weak, vulnerable, and most in need deserve preferential concern” in the form of “public assistance” designed to “help lift low-income families out of poverty.” The organization is in accord with the Democratic Party’s assertion that such an objective can be achieved only with a “sustained commitment” of resources from the federal government.
Health Care: Characterizing accessible healthcare as “a fundamental human right,” CD characterized the enactment of “Obamacare” in 2010 as “an exhilarating accomplishment for us as Catholics.”
Discrimination and Racism: CD views the United States as a country “where the effects of past discrimination persist” and have created a “legacy of injustice,” particularly against women and nonwhite minorities.
War and Peace: CD concurs with the Democratic Party’s contention that in order “to empower forces of moderation” in the Muslim world, “America must live up to our values, respect civil liberties, reject torture, and lead by example.”
Iraq War: Demanding that the U.S. “reallocate resources from war to the urgent needs of the poor,” CD accepts the Democratic Party view that “Iraq was a diversion from the fight against the terrorists who struck us on 9-11, and incompetent prosecution of the war by civilian leaders compounded the strategic blunder of choosing to wage it in the first place.”
Middle East: “The United States should actively pursue comprehensive negotiations leading to a just and peaceful resolution that respects the legitimate claims and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, ensuring security for Israel, a viable state for Palestinians, respect for Lebanon’s sovereignty, and peace in the region.”
Weapons of Mass Destruction: “The United States has a responsibility to work to reverse the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and to reduce its own reliance on weapons of mass destruction by pursuing progressive nuclear disarmament … and [to reduce] its predominant role in the global arms trade.”
International Development: CD exhorts the U.S. to “take a leading role in helping to alleviate global poverty through substantially increased development aid for the poorest countries, more equitable trade policies, and continuing efforts to relieve the crushing burdens of debt and disease.” As a means of realizing this goal, CD endorses the Democratic Party’s call for “sharing more of our [American] riches to help those most in need”― particularly through the U.N. Millennium Project, a massive redistributive plan calling for the governments of wealthy nations to commit a portion of their GNP to promoting “the economic development and welfare of developing countries.”
Environment: CD calls on all governments worldwide to “seriously address global climate change,” which it describes as an “epochal, man-made” phenomenon that represents “the planet’s greatest threat.” Reasoning from the premise that America should pay restitution for the damage which its own industrial enterprises have already done to the air and water quality of developing countries, CD urges the U.S. to take the “lead in contributing to the sustainable development of poorer nations and promoting greater justice in sharing the burden of environmental blight, neglect, and recovery.”
Immigration: Asserting that “the Gospel mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ requires Catholics to care for and stand with immigrants, both documented and undocumented,” CD demands “comprehensive reform” that will emphasize “a path to permanent residency” and a “fair legalization” process for people now residing in the United States illegally.
Criminal Justice and the Death Penalty: Favoring “a remedial, rather than a strictly punitive, approach to offenders,” CD rejects the death penalty as an inhumane punishment that is applied with “unfairness and injustice”―particularly against African Americans.
Abortion: CD’s contention that “the direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong” stands in sharp contrast to the Democratic Party’s unequivocal support for Roe v Wade. Nonetheless, CD impugns “religious conservatives” who “cling to the notion that the only acceptable moral approach to abortion is criminalizing it” and lauds left Democrats like Barack Obama as “pro-life” because they advocate “a broad set of ‘pro-life’ issues, often forgotten by Republicans,” such as “universal health insurance,” “health care for pregnant women,” “better infant care,” and “day care and job training.”
In 2008, CD sponsored a vigorous media campaign which contended that supporting Barack Obama for President would be the best course of action for Catholic voters. As part of that initiative, the organization launched the website CatholicsForObama.org and collected thousands of signatures on a petition backing Obama.
The president of CD is Patrick Whelan, a pediatric rheumatology specialist at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, and an active figure in Democratic Party politics.