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Government and Politics

Catholic voters wait and see ahead of primary
Long-time Catholic, social conservative and GOP  frontrunner, has sold out the Summit County Lincoln Day dinner Saturday night.
This story is part of a special series.

Kabir Bhatia
In The Region:
In the swing state of Ohio, Catholic voters make up a huge part of the swing vote.

Rick Santorum is a long-time Catholic, social conservative and current GOP presidential frontrunner. He’s sold out the Summit County Lincoln Day dinner Saturday night, and arrives with a stump speech that embraces the Catholic bishops’ objections to birth control in the federal health-care mandate.

But as WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports, Ohio Catholics are not necessarily aligned with their church’s official position – or with Santorum – in the voting booth.
Catholic voters wait and see ahead of primary

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The debate over the birth-control mandate has been news during much of the time that Rick Santorum has been surging in the GOP polls and delivering stump speeches that focus in a big way on religious freedom.But the bump may have more to do with persistence than theology, according to John Green, director of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

“A week or so ago he had some real success, he won three contests on a single night. He won the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses. He won the Missouri primary. Now one of the reasons he won those is the other candidates didn’t compete real hard in those states cause there were very few delegates at stake. (But) primary campaigns are not just about delegates. They’re also about momentum. And Sen. Santorum was able to demonstrate to a lot of people that he was a potentially viable candidate. There’s a group of voters looking for an alternative and all of a sudden, here’s an alternative.”

What they’re looking for is an alternative to Mitt Romney, whom Green says many Republican voters consider too moderate. But Green, who has studied religion and politics for more than a decade, says Ohio’s often-Democratic Catholics face a dilemma this year.

“Many of those voters are conflicted from a religious point of view when they look at the two major parties. On social welfare issues, they find the Democrats and President Obama much more attractive. But on social issues, and sometimes on foreign policy issues, they find the Republicans more attractive.”

Religion probably won’t win – or lose -- votes for Romney and Santorum around St. Barnabas Catholic Church in Northfield. Joe Pekarek of Northfield Center echoed many of his fellow parishioners as they left Sunday morning Mass. He’s concerned about the economy. And disgusted with the state of politics in general.

“Pekarek: I am so fed up with politicians. They don’t do their jobs. They tell us one thing here and then they do one thing in Washington. 
KB: Rick Santorum’s Catholic; doesn’t that help?
Pekarek: It’s irrelevant. He’s part of the political establishment. And their only job is to reimburse themselves and to get re-elected. And that’s it. And that’s a fact.”

Rev. Edward Janoch of St. Barnabas has tried to avoid politicizing the contraception issue. And he feels that parishioners are probably taking a “wait-and-see” attitude on the candidates.

“Like any election year, I think some people promise things and they don’t come about. Or, they just come to realize that maybe what they thought was gonna be is not. So, we’ll see. I don’t think that, just because one person is one faith or another, should play a part in it. At the same time, some people will vote, maybe, for that person because they are they’re faith. Then some may not vote for them because they don’t think he represents the teaching of the Church of what they think it is. So again, that’s the beauty of this democratic republic that we have.”

Polls show a slim majority of all Catholics support employers – including religious institutions – supplying birth control coverage as part of their health insurance. And studies show roughly 9 out of 10 Catholic women who are sexually active and of child-bearing age use contraception.

Sally Riede of Cuyahoga Falls is a woman; she’s Catholic and she is co-founder of the First Friday Club of Akron, a speaker series rooted in Catholic perspectives. For her, the crucial issues go well beyond contraceptives.

“We are looking in a broader perspective than the contraceptives. And we’re talking about modern Catholic thought on, many times, the social agenda, the theological agenda, and how things are being interpreted at the present time.”

Riede finds Santorum a bit too conservative and sees the contraception controversy as a kind of distraction timed badly for President Obama.

“Riede: I’m surprised he brought it up at this time. But he certainly has touched a sensitive chord. I don’t see how the Catholic institutions are going to be able to abide by what they’re saying we should do now. I’m sure they’re going to try and work it out.
KB: This will be over by the conventions, don’t you think?
Riede: Oh, I hope so! (laughs)”

Riede, a volunteer with a background in medical lab work, says she’s most concerned with a candidate’s social and economic welfare agenda. And she feels President Obama has done well enough on that count to deserve a second term.

Related Links & Resources
Study on contraceptives and religion

Listener Comments:

"Riede, a volunteer with a background in medical lab work, says she’s most concerned with a candidate’s social and economic welfare agenda. And she feels President Obama has done well enough on that count to deserve a second term."
It's painfully obvious this administration is killing a once free country - Lord help us.
Search government corruption - Obama has more socialists and radicals "serving" him than many dictatorships. Why won't Attorney General Eric Holder file racketeering charges Obama Nominee Donald Berwick’s Radical Agenda May 12 2010 - “Any health care funding plan that is just equitable civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.” - **Donald Berwick (Obama administration nominee to run Medicare and Medicaid).

Posted by: The Emperor has no clothes on March 3, 2012 2:03AM
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