by Kate Henley Averett
While the way in which I identify with is complicated (does “non-institutionally affiliated, non-Mass attending, preacher-of-the-Gospel-at-all-times with a thoroughly Catholic theological imagination” even make sense to me, let alone to anyone else?) and tends to vary from day to day, the question of Catholics and voting resonates with me a great deal. As infuriated as I get when the Church tells us who to vote for, and which issues matter at the expense of which other issues, at the end of the day, I would be lying if I said that being Catholic doesn’t impact how I vote. Because it was through Catholicism that I found social justice. And it was through learning more about Catholic social justice that I found liberation theology, and came across the idea of the preferential option for the poor and the oppressed. And it was taking myself to task, really thinking about what implications a commitment to the preferential option for the poor has for the ways that I act in the world, that has most informed the political opinions I hold today.
While my Catholicism influences how I vote, I have certainly never thought of myself as a typical Catholic voter. I was intrigued, then, to get an email this week from Catholics for Choice with some interesting statistics about Catholics and voting. Not only are Catholic voters not more conservative than the general public, the email stated, but the views and voting trends of U.S. Catholics largely mirror that of the general electorate. While less than half (43%) of U.S. Catholics rank abortion as a “very important” issue to them in this election cycle, almost all (92% and 91%, respectively) feel that the economy and jobs are the among the most important issues. Furthermore, “only 14% of Catholics in the US agree with the Vatican’s position that abortion should be illegal,” and “only eight percent of Catholics believe that the views of the US bishops are ‘very important’ in deciding for whom to vote.”
So while I probably still fall (much) further to the left of the political spectrum than most Catholic voters, I’m actually not all that atypical – I’m informed by my faith tradition, but at the end of the day, it is my own conscience, and not the commands of Church officials, that has the most influence over how I vote.
Kate Henley Averett dreams of a day when she can regularly vote for candidates who are pro-reproductive rights, pro-universal health care, anti-death penalty, anti-militarization, and deliberately and openly feminist, anti-racist, and anti-heteronormativity, with a commitment to eradicating poverty. Until then, even though she often feels more like she’s voting against people she doesn’t want in office than for people she wants in office, Kate still votes anyway.