Obama and the Catholic vote


Thursday, November 15, 2012

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THE re-election of Barack Obama as president of the United States of America is being hailed around the world. Many local commentators have opined that Obama's victory will not impact positively or negatively on our economic woes in Jamaica and they may be right.

But in terms of the need of black people whose ancestors were enslaved to know that a black person can hold the most powerful office in the world should be good for Africans everywhere, particularly those in the diaspora. Had Obama won only one term it would have been seen as an experiment that failed. Now that he has won a second term, many will take Obama more seriously.

Barack Obama got more than 50 per cent of the Roman Catholic vote in the election for US president. In 2008 the Roman Catholic vote for Obama was 53 per cent but it dropped this time to less than 51 per cent. Part of the reason for the decrease is that Obama embraced the pro-choice people (read abortion on demand) and also came out in favour of homosexual marriage, which the Roman Catholic Church officially abhors despite the scandals some years ago. You know that I am Roman Catholic and I fully endorse the Roman Catholic stance on these issues.

The US Catholic bishops were faced with a dilemma in how to handle Obama’s political position on these issues. Should they say nothing and simply wait until after the election and take the fight to Congress? That route might have confused Catholics as to the position of the church on these issues. So the bishops made their statements reminding the Roman Catholic fold about the teachings of the church.

I would have preferred if they had waited until after the election and taken the fight to the US Congress, even if some Roman Catholic Americans complained that the church took too long to speak. Obama is a black man and the majority of the Catholic bishops in the USA are still white. It is not what was said, but what people saw. All they saw, especially those who conveniently refuse to listen, were some white Roman Catholics speaking against a black man.

And it is not as if that was the only way to achieve the goal. The president by himself does not make laws. Both Congress and the president can veto each other. And who is to say whether Mitt Romney would have changed his mind and gone pro-choice had he won? That would be one more reason to wait until after the election.

Similarly, it is possible that Obama will abandon the prochoice and the pro-gay marriage stance, now that he has achieved his objective and will not face the electorate again due to the two-term limit. But after the bishops spoke, very few will remember that the Roman Catholic Church teaches against prejudice in any form and even fewer will remember that on both occasions when Obama ran for the presidency, he got a majority of the Catholic vote.

Here in Jamaica, Roman Catholic deacon, Francis Tulloch, has once again spoken out in favour of casino gambling just as he did years ago while being a minister of government. And this time around Deacon Tulloch explains that his position is based on the fact that for most of the year the hotels on the hip strip in Montego Bay are empty.

As we all know, Jamaica is in dire need of foreign exchange and Deacon Tulloch, like the rest of us, is most concerned about it. There is nothing in Roman Catholic teaching or canon law that prevents Deacon Tulloch from airing such an opinion, although it differs from mine .

Article 2413 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that (sic) "Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary for his needs and the needs of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant."

I believe that a better strategy than Deacon Tulloch’s is to go into ecology, history, sports, conference and prayer tourism to fill the hotels all year round, in addition to the traditional sun and sea tourism. If we flooded Jamaica with Roman Catholic tourists coming to do novenas and to pray the rosary, Jamaica would be rich. And that would not bring the trouble that casinos bring.

A hearty thanks to all who offered corrections to my piece last week. There is still a cadre of volunteers in the USA – we used to call them that here also – who work on election day to bring out the voters.

There so much talk that volunteerism is dead that I really thought that in the US volunteerism was as absent as it is here. And there are two states of the US, not one as I wrote last week, that are smaller than Jamaica. Some of my media colleagues do not think that they should ever be corrected, so I hope that I have set a good example to them. "Go thou and do likewise."





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