Catholics and Politics

The Dynamic Tension Between Faith and Power

Kristin E. Heyer, Mark J. Rozell, and Michael A. Genovese, Editors

"This outstanding anthology of a dozen essays on Catholics in U.S. politics by political scientists fills a void in political science literature."
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Catholic political identity and engagement defy categorization. The complexities of political realities and the human nature of such institutions as church and government often produce a more fractured reality than the pure unity depicted in doctrine. Yet, in 2003 under the leadership of then-prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life." The note explicitly asserts, "The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust one's responsibility toward the common good." Catholics and Politics takes up the political and theological significance of this "integral unity," the universal scope of Catholic concern that can make for strange political bedfellows, confound predictable voting patterns, and leave the church poised to critique narrowly partisan agendas across the spectrum.

Catholics and Politics depicts the ambivalent character of Catholics' mainstream "arrival" in the U.S. over the past forty years, integrating social scientific, historical and moral accounts of persistent tensions between faith and power. Divided into four parts—Catholic Leaders in U.S. Politics; The Catholic Public; Catholics and the Federal Government; and International Policy and the Vatican—it describes the implications of Catholic universalism for voting patterns, international policymaking, and partisan alliances. The book reveals complex intersections of Catholicism and politics and the new opportunities for influence and risks of cooptation of political power produced by these shifts. Contributors include political scientists, ethicists, and theologians. The book will be of interest to scholars in political science, religious studies, and Christian ethics and all lay Catholics interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the tensions that can exist between church doctrine and partisan politics.

Table of Contents

Kristin E. Heyer and Mark J. Rozell

Part I: Catholic Leaders in U.S. Politics

1. The Politics of the U.S. Catholic Bishops: The Centrality of Abortion
Margaret Ross Sammon

2. Political Marriage of Convenience? The Evolution of the Conservative Catholic-Evangelical Alliance in the Republican Party
Mark J. Rozell

3. One Church, Many Messages: The Politics of the U.S. Catholic Clergy
Gregory A. Smith

4. Catholics in the Political Arena: How Faith Should Inform Catholic Voters and Politicians
Kristin E. Heyer

Part II: The Catholic Public

5. Between Church, Party, and Conscience: Protecting Life and Promoting Social Justice among U.S. Catholics
Mark M. Gray and Mary E. Bendyna

6. The Myth of a Distinct Catholic Vote
Matthew J. Streb and Brian Frederick

7. Politics y la Iglesia: Attitudes toward the Role of Religion in Politics among Latino Catholics
Adrian Pantoja, Matthew Barreto, and Richard Anderson

Part III: Catholics and the Federal Government

8. Catholicism, Abortion, and the Emergence of the "Culture Wars" in the U.S. Congress, 1971-2006
William V. D'Antonio, Steven A. Tuch and John Kenneth White

9. Catholics and the Supreme Court: From the "Catholic Seat" to the New Majority
Barbara A. Perry

10. White House Outreach to Catholics
Thomas J. Carty

Part IV: International Policy and the Vatican

11. The United States—Vatican Relationship: "Parallel Endeavors for Peace," Competing Visions of Justice
Paul Christopher Manuel

12. Reforming the Vatican: The Tradition of Best Practices
Thomas J. Reese


"This outstanding anthology of a dozen essays on Catholics in U.S. politics by political scientists fills a void in political science literature."—Voice of Reason

"This readable and impressive collection advances the study of religion and politics by accomplishing, as does no other existing volume, such a thorough analysis of the behavioral patterns, constraints upon action, and possibilities for innovation that American Catholics and especially Catholic politicians face."—Theological Studies

"Important addition to the discussion regarding the role of Catholics in American politics."—American Catholic Studies

"A comprehensive analysis of the empirical and normative, the historical and contemporary, and the domestic and international dynamics of Catholics and political life. An invaluable resource for theologians and political scientists."—Clarke E. Cochran, Covenant Health System

"An excellent collection of diverse essays that does justice to the remarkably complex role that Catholics and the Catholic Church play in U.S. politics. Going well beyond facile notions of a unified 'Catholic vote,' the contributors show us that Catholics, Catholic institutions, and Catholic ideas permeate nearly every facet of contemporary American politics. This volume is an indispensable sourcebook for anyone seeking to understand the political role of this unavoidable religious community."—Timothy Byrnes, professor of political science, Colgate University

"From the courts to Congress, pivotal for both political parties, swelling with the influx of Latino, Asian, and African immigrants, and with former waves of European ethnics now fully assimilated in education and wealth, Catholics have never enjoyed such a vantage of numbers and position. . . . A must have text for any assessment of these new Catholic realities."—Stephen Schneck, director, Life Cycle Institute, The Catholic University of America

"One of the few books that systematically and effectively takes account of Catholic politics in its multifarious forms. It achieves a rare balance of providing an excellent and comprehensive overview of that complex world, while also offering a theory to better understand this important and diverse religious and political phenomenon."—J. Christopher Soper, Pepperdine University


Richard Anderson, University of Washington Matthew Barreto, University of Washington Mary E. Bendyna, Georgetown University Thomas J. Carty, Springfield College William V. D'Antonio, University of Connecticut Brian Frederick, Bridgewater State College, Massachusetts Mark M. Gray, Georgetown University Kristin E. Heyer, Loyola Marymount University Paul Christopher Manuel, Saint Anselm College Adrian Pantoja, Pitzer Colege Barbara A. Perry, Sweet Briar College Thomas J. Reese, former editor in chief of America magazine Mark J. Rozell, George Mason University Margaret Ross Sammon, The Catholic University of America Gregory A. Smith, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Matthew J. Streb, Northern Illinois University Steven Tuch, The George Washington University John Kenneth White, The Catholic University of America

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Kristin E. Heyer is Bernard J. Hanley Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University. She is the author of Prophetic and Public also published by Georgetown University Press.

Mark J. Rozell is professor of public policy at George Mason University.

Michael A. Genovese holds the Loyola Chair of Leadership at Loyola Marymount University.

248 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-216-5
Oct 2008

248 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-215-8
Oct 2008

248 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-653-8
Oct 2008

Religion and Politics series
John C. Green, Ted G. Jelen, and Mark J. Rozell, series editors

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