Catholic America is in crisis right now, especially where abortion is concerned. It has long battled internally over how to deal with the politics of abortion, and Bishop Thomas Tobin's request that Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy not receive Holy Communion because of his abortion stance is neither unprecedented nor particularly scandalous.
But it should be yet another wakeup call for Catholics as they look ahead to the 2010 and 2012 elections. The only question is, is it too little, too late?
Dealing with the politics of right-to-life issues, which are paramount amongst most Catholics, has become an uneasy tightrope walk. When smaller churches tell their congregations not to cast their votes for candidates who support abortion, they are accused of muddying the separation of church and state, and, under pressure, the diocese typically comes down and rebukes them for it. But when churches remain silent and apolitical, the laity accuses them of going soft. Silence and inertia aren't spiritual leadership, especially in the hardest of times -- and Catholics know this. They are desperate for hard stances like Tobin's.
And now we have a president whose right-to-life record is the most liberal in history -- he has supported partial-birth abortion, and opposed born-alive protection for infants. He's overturned a ban on the use of embryonic stem cells and has appointed a presumably pro-choice judge to the Supreme Court.
And what's the Catholic Church done about it? Well, they wrote letters opposing his abortion stance. They released statements opposing the federal funding of abortion in the Democrats' health care bill. Pro-life activists protested the president's invitation to speak at Notre Dame University, a Catholic college. That's a whole lot of talk -- but that's about all they can do.
The real action comes at the voting booth -- and there is where Catholics have some explaining to do. Obama captured 53 percent of the Catholic vote in the 2008 presidential election, the largest advantage among Catholics for a Democrat since Bill Clinton. That's right, the candidate with the most liberal and radical stance on the most crucial and central Catholic tenet -- life -- didn't just manage to get some of the Catholic vote. He got more than half of it. How do Catholics explain that? And more, how do Catholics now explain their outrage over any of the right-to-life developments since then?
What other pro-choice candidates have Catholics supported in the past? How much of the Catholic vote did Rep. Patrick Kennedy get, I wonder? Time to ask the hard questions, Catholic America. What do you stand for and when do you make it count? It's one thing write a letter, release a statement, and stage a protest after the fact. But the voting booth is the place to put your money where your mouth is.
S.E. Cupp is a conservative commentator and co-author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right."