Mark Stricherz wrote in the April 6 issue that the soul of the Democratic Party is still secular, which was news to millions of faith-filled Democrats as well as those of us working at the Democratic National Committee’s Faith in Action office.
Democrats have been and continue to be people of faith. Not only do more than 80% of Democrats identify themselves as people of faith, but the party is open and welcoming to people of all faith traditions.
The core values of the Democratic Party are in line with key Catholic teachings — creating a society that meets the needs of the poor, caring for the sick, supporting families, promoting peace and sustaining our environment for the health and life of us all.
Stricherz’s attempt to reduce the values and concerns of people of faith down to only a few issues is part of a dwindling movement to use religion to divide voters. People of faith are consistently rejecting this approach because we care about a broad set of issues.
The Democratic Party realizes that life does not end at birth and must be supported and nurtured through a society built on the common good. This is why the traditional voting bloc of Catholics and other people of faith are returning in droves to the Democratic Party — a trend we saw in 2006 and expect to continue. The ethnic Catholics of the ’60s and previous generations, referred to by Stricherz, were Democrats because they believed in economic and social justice — and in the common good for all.
Those same concerns ring true today with people of faith. As the gap between the super-rich and everyone else widens, Catholics are concerned that today’s economy is benefiting the few while neglecting the many. People are working harder, making less and seeing everything from gasoline to the price of milk go up and up.
Catholics, like most Americans, feel deeply that America’s economy should benefit everyone and all families should have a chance to succeed.
The Corporal Works of Mercy teach us, among other things, to feed the hungry and to visit and care for the sick, beliefs easily traced back to Matthew 25. But our current health care system is broken, leaving millions uninsured, which puts a tremendous financial pressure on Catholic hospitals. Democrats are the champions of caring for the sick and are fighting for health-care coverage for all Americans. This will not go unnoticed by Catholic voters.
While the Republican Party supports a continuation of the Bush doctrine of occupation and preemptive war, Catholics feel deeply that we cannot stay in Iraq for another 100 years and need to find a responsible transition out of Iraq. And Catholics are supporting Democratic approaches to global citizenship based on diplomacy and believe, as many Americans do, that we need to restore our moral authority in the world.
Democrats are leading the charge to protect our environment. Catholics also recognize the importance of being good stewards of the earth. And as our U.S. Catholic community celebrated Pope Benedict’s visit, the Vatican continues to move forward on installing solar panels and going carbon neutral — a clear sign of Catholic commitment to this issue.
Stricherz can lament that the Democratic Party has not gone far enough and fast enough. He can downplay the efforts of Democrats to enact policies to reduce the number of abortions and the party’s embrace of candidates like Sen. Bob Casey Jr. He can pretend that people of faith do not thrive outside the narrow-mindedness of the conservative culture war, ignoring the fact that the Democratic Party is truly a big tent party respecting all faith traditions.
But as the bishops remind us in their document on faithful citizenship, no candidate or political party completely embodies our teachings, and we are each called to take up the work to continue to transform our political system and parties.
We know that Catholics and other people of faith are returning home because it is the Democratic Party that is working on behalf of the common good, and we will leave a light on for Mr. Stricherz.
John Kelly is the Catholic Outreach Liaison for the Democratic National Committee.