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Friday, August 07 2015 08:51

Already, several people have declared their candidacy for president. Contrary to what I would wish (and American history used to expect), they are running very early, almost two years before the election. 

They will give us plenty to talk about.

One aspect that interests me is the role that religion will play in the contest. A fairly recent report from the Pew Research Center states: “The share of Americans who say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political issues is up 6 points since the 2010 midterm elections (from 43% to 49%).”

More surprisingly, “a growing minority of Americans (32%) think churches should endorse candidates for political office.” It ‘s a view that does not seem to find much support in Massachusetts.

In my view, much depends on what your religion considers vitally important. For example, most American Catholics consider contraception to be a marginal teaching. They are generally startled when leaders cite it as a campaign issue.

My own Catholic faith continues to be vital to me. However, I resent the introduction of doubtful doctrine into political races. This practice diminishes the credibility of religious teaching and leadership.

At the same time, I am glad when my church speaks out on matters of great importance. For example, I welcome its opposition to capital punishment and unjustifiable wars.

And I am delighted when Pope Francis calls on the church and the world to reach out to the poor and marginalized.

Should politicians themselves express their faith and religious practices? According to the Pew study, many religiously committed Americans think they should.

 But the study found a widening divide between those affiliated with religion and those who are called “nones.” The latter expression is used by some social scientists to indicate those who are not involved in religion at all.  People in this group do not welcome any mixture of religion with politics.

What political groups are sympathetic to religion itself?  The research discussed here discovered that almost fifty percent of Republicans showed themselves favorable toward religion. By contrast, only some twenty percent of Democrats were interested.

I am a member of-that twenty percent—something that may explain my being connected with a little-known organization.  It’s called Catholic Democrats, and aims at members who wish to connect their faith with political principles.

When I was a teenager, it seemed to me that being a Catholic meant being a Democrat. My father embodied that ideal for me, at least until the early 1950s when he turned toward Senator Joe McCarthy.

This political shift led to something of a break between us. My absence from home, and his early death, meant that we had no chance to straighten things out.

The failure to have come closer to my father, and perhaps repair some of the damage, is something I still regret. He was the first person who taught me about politics..

After my first year in college, he took me to Philadelphia for the 1948 Republican convention, which he was covering for the Boston Post.  I remember watching the struggle between Dewey and Taft.  But given my politics I would not have voted for either of them.

My voting for Democrats has been consistent through the years. There were one or two exceptions, as when I rejected John Silber as candidate for governor of Massachusetts. And –who knows?-- maybe I should have rejected Adlai Stevenson in favor of Dwight Eisenhower as president.

But generally I felt a harmony between my religious faith and my political party that suited me well. And, granted good health, I expect to apply it in the forthcoming presidential election.