Co-authored with John Jalsevac

Washington, D.C., November 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews) – Despite the Obama administration’s attacks on freedom of religion, and Obama’s support for abortion, embryonic stem cell research and gay “marriage,” the president still took home exactly half of the Catholic vote, slightly ahead of Romney’s 48%.

According to CNN exit polling, self-professed Catholics made up 25% of those voting in Tuesday’s election, 50% of whom voted for President Barack Obama. This was a 5% decrease compared to 2008, but not enough to hand challenger Mitt Romney the critical Catholic vote.  Romney earned the votes of only 48% of Catholics, while two percent voted for third party or write-in candidates.

The CNN poll did not distinguish between practicing and lapsed Catholics. However, a FOX News exit poll did, finding that Catholics who attended mass weekly favored Romney over Obama 57 to 42 percent.

Catholic Church leaders were unusually vocal in this year’s election, in light of the HHS birth control mandate, which has been described as an unprecedented attack on freedom of religion, particularly that of Catholics.  Some spoke out against same-sex “marriage” initiatives, which were on ballots in four states Tuesday.  A few bishops warned their flocks that voting for candidates who favor legalized abortion or other immoral policies could place their souls in jeopardy.

But according to Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, this wasn’t enough. “The collision course of the Obama Administration with the Catholic Church could have been averted yesterday, but now it is assured instead,” Pavone said.

“Many in Church leadership failed to connect the dots between personnel and policy. They prayed and preached against the HHS mandate, but then were silent about the election, and called the police to remove citizens who leafleted the Church parking lot trying to inform voters about where the candidates stood on this issue.”

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Deal Hudson, President of the Pennsylvania Catholics’ Network, agreed that more needs to be done. Obama won Pennsylvania with 52% of the vote.

“We needed a bigger shift of Catholic voters,” said Hudson in an e-mail to supporters. “We do not yet have the breakdown of religiously-active Catholic voters, but you can be sure it was close to 60% for Romney.”

Hudson partially blamed changing demographics on Obama’s strong overall performance among Catholics, specifically the continuing increase in the number of Latino Catholics, who represented 10% of the overall vote this year.  Latino voters went 69% for Obama and only 30% for Romney.

Hudson also had criticism for Catholic leaders whose activism he felt may have been too little, too late. “We … could have used louder voices among our clergy and our bishops—fewer alphabetical voter guides and more insistence on the civilizational issues at stake,” he wrote.

He said he hoped the election would be a “wake-up call” to faithful Catholics who may have sat on the sidelines as their fellow Catholics took up the fight for religious freedom.  He said he hoped that “those who need to lead, start leading, until those who feared joining the fight, join.”

Notably, a number of vocal Catholic dissenters from Church teaching were elected or re-elected on Tuesday.  Vice President Joe Biden, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator-elect Tim Kaine (D-VA) are some of the high-profile Catholic dissenters who won their races.  All are ardent supporters of legalized abortion and favor federal funding of the procedure, in direct conflict with the teachings of their faith.

Obama has actively courted the support of dissenting Catholics, particularly through his Catholics for Obama group. He has also named a number of public Catholic dissenters to prominent positions in his administration. One of these is Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary who issued and continues to defend the controversial birth control mandate.

Canon law states that such public dissenters should not be given Communion, a position that Pope Benedict XI, in his prior role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reiterated when another prominent Catholic pro-abort, John Kerry, ran for president in 2004. Nonetheless, many bishops have been reluctant to comply with the law, citing their concern that refusal to offer Communion to a politician could be seen as political activism. 

Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Catholic Church’s highest court, calls their concern “nonsense” and says that the opposite is true. He argues that dissenting Catholic politicians who make sure they are seen receiving Holy Communion are using their reception as a political tool to confuse Catholic voters. 

In a 2009 interview with LifeSiteNews, the then-Archbishop pointed to the several occasions when Senator Kerry was pictured in Time magazine receiving Communion from Papal representatives at various public events. Burke said it was obvious Kerry was using his reception of Holy Communion to send a message.

“He wants to not only receive Holy Communion from a bishop but from the papal representative,” Burke told LSN. “I think that’s what his point was. Get it in Time magazine, so people read it and say to themselves, ‘He must be in good standing’.”

“What are they doing? They’re using the Eucharist as a political tool.”