Knights of Columbus

Did America just undergo a massive pro-life lurch? Reporters should interpret polls carefully

Did America just undergo a massive pro-life lurch? Reporters should interpret polls carefully

Axios, always atop breaking news trends, posted a bold headline Feb. 24 that announced “New Poll Finds ‘Dramatic Shift’ on Abortion Attitudes.”

The February poll showed Americans are evenly split between those identifying as “pro-choice” and as “pro-life,” tied at 47 percent, while only a month before the same pollster reported pro-choicers outnumbered pro-lifers, 55 percent to 38 percent.  

The Axios article recycled a press release from the polls’ sponsor, the Knights of Columbus, that proclaimed "in just one month Americans have made a sudden and dramatic shift away from the prochoice position and toward a pro-life stance.” See January release here and February release here.

Abortion attitudes remain as politically and religiously potent today as they’ve been the past 46 years, so reporters are ever alert to trends. But should the media be reporting that thinking across the fruited plain lurched from a big gap to a tie between Jan. 8-10 and Feb. 12-17, the survey dates? 

What are the odds? Democrats’ recent advocacy for unpopular late-term abortions alongside intimations of infanticide might be driving a modest pro-life uptick, but 17 points? 

With polls, journalists always need to be careful and assess the full context. The Religion Guy’s hunch here is that the fat abortion-rights majority in January was an outlier, and the February tie is pretty much representative of American thinking.  Why? See below. 

Preliminaries: The Knights, who paid for both the January and February polls, are ardently pro-life Catholics. However, they hired the well-regarded Marist Poll to run the survey and crunch the numbers. Despite its Catholic name and origin, sponsoring Marist College is officially non-sectarian. Technical note: the Knights did not reveal the polls’ response rates, an all-important factor. 

The Religion Guy maintains that February’s 47-47 tie is interesting but not the big news as trumpeted.

Enter the Gallup Poll, journalists’ invaluable gold standard for asking consistent religious and moral questions across many years. 

Gallup’s comprehensive compilation on abortion attitudes shows this version of the Marist question, asked 32 times since 1995: “Would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?”

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Sen. Kamala Harris begins White House campaign: Maybe her 'Knights of Columbus' views are relevant?

Sen. Kamala Harris begins White House campaign: Maybe her 'Knights of Columbus' views are relevant?

There’s quite a bit of mythology surrounding the term “Catholic vote,” whenever journalists discuss American politics.

First of all, there’s no such thing as a typical American “Catholic voter.” At the very least, journalists have to probe the sharp divisions between “cultural” Catholics and those who attend Mass on a regular basis.

In the past, I have shared a “Catholic voters” typology that I learned from an elderly priest who had decades of experience in Washington, D.C. I have edited this a bit:

* Ex-Catholics. Solid for Democrats. Cultural conservatives have no chance.

* Cultural Catholics who go to church a few times a year. This may be an "undecided voters" niche, depending on the economy, foreign policy issues, etc. Leans to Democrats.

* Sunday-morning American Catholics. Regulars in the pew and they may fill some parish leadership roles. This is the key “Catholic,” swing voter candidates are chasing.

* “Sweats the details" Catholics who go to confession, are active in full sacramental life of the church and back Catechism on matters of faith and practice. This is a small slice of “Catholic voters.” Solid for GOP.

All of this matters because Catholics, of one kind or another, are 21 percent of the U.S. population and their votes are crucial in swing states such as Ohio and Florida. In the past, Catholics were a crucial part of coalitions that led the Democratic Party.

This brings us to a Washington Post political-desk report about Sen. Kamala Harris throwing her hat into the already crowded field of Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination. The headline: “Sen. Kamala Harris formally opens her presidential campaign with a mix of unity and blunt talk about race.”

This is one of those stories in which it is hard to discuss its religion-news contents, because the story contains a large religion-shaped hole, one of special interest to many Catholics. In particular, it is interesting that the story does not contain these words — “Knights of Columbus.” Hold that thought:

OAKLAND, Calif. — Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Sunday formally announced her presidential campaign, merging lofty and unifying lines aimed at a restive Democratic electorate with a blunt discussion of racism, police shootings and the impact of police brutality.

Harris announced on Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, that she would seek the presidency. Her appearance in her hometown on Sunday was the ceremonial start, and it became the highest-profile address yet by any presidential candidate.

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CNN on Tulsi Gabbard: Some candidates' LGBTQ policy ghosts are more relevant than others

CNN on Tulsi Gabbard: Some candidates' LGBTQ policy ghosts are more relevant than others

It’s pretty easy to see where the Rep. Tulsi Gabbard story is going for the new CNN.

I think the heart of the story can be expressed this way: Are you now, or have you ever been a … conservative Democrat (or related, by blood, to one)?

Gabbard recently declared that she is one of the legions of Democrats who plan to seek the party’s presidential nomination. She is the first Hindu (a somewhat controversial convert, no less) to take that step.

However, she also created a mini-media storm with an op-ed in The Hill in which (trigger warning) she took an old-school liberal stand on a key religious liberty issue, affirming Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, which bans any form of “religious test” for those seeking public office.

Yes, we’re talking about the Knights of Columbus wars. Gabbard wrote:

While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus. If Buescher is “unqualified” because of his Catholicism and affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, then President John F. Kennedy, and the 'liberal lion of the Senate' Ted Kennedy would have been “unqualified” for the same reasons.

Wait for it. Here is the language that probably put a millstone around her neck.

No American should be told that his or her public service is unwelcome because “the dogma lives loudly within you” as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said to Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings in 2017 to serve as U.S. Circuit Court judge in the 7th Circuit. …

The party that worked so hard to convince people that Catholics and Knights of Columbus like Al Smith and John F. Kennedy could be both good Catholics and good public servants shows an alarming disregard of its own history in making such attacks today.

We must call this out for what it is – religious bigotry.

The reactions were fierce, to say the least.

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Friday Five: What Wuerl knew, Opus Dei, Tim Tebow fiancee, Cyntoia Brown, Knights of Columbus

Friday Five: What Wuerl knew, Opus Dei, Tim Tebow fiancee, Cyntoia Brown, Knights of Columbus

Once again, the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal dominates the headlines.

From the Washington Post to the New York Times to Commonwealth, the story that won't go away keeps making mainstream news.

And yes, various angles show up in this week's Friday Five.

Let's dive right in:

1. Religion story of the week: The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein reported Thursday that despite past denials, D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl knew of sexual misconduct allegations against ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick and reported them to the Vatican.

Catholic News Agency, which broke the news, includes a name that is crucial to the wider story: Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

Look for more GetReligion analysis of this important development in the coming days.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Yet another Washington Post story on a major angle in the scandal was the focus of our No. 1 most-clicked commentary of the week.

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Your weekend think piece: So is Crux officially a 'Catholic publication' these days?

Your weekend think piece: So is Crux officially a 'Catholic publication' these days?

Your GetReligionistas were exchanging emails the other day, just talking shop, and I suggesting taking a look at a news feature that had just gone online at Crux. One of the gang responded by asking this question: Do we still view Crux as a mainstream or "secular" news outlet, as opposed to being part of the world of official and semi-official Catholic news and commentary publications?

In other words, is Crux still a publication striving to use the American model of the press -- with a commitment to balance, fairness and accuracy -- or is it now an advocacy publication covering news from a distinctively Catholic point of view? After all, it used to be part of the Boston Globe operation and now it's a nonprofit publication linked, financially, to the Knights of Columbus.

These days, Crux runs copy from all over the place, including Catholic wire services as well as mainstream news from Religion News Service, the Associated Press and its own veteran scribes. Of course, there's lots of clearly-labeled commentary and op-ed work, as well.

As you would expect, the head man at Crux has been asked that question plenty of times, including by yours truly in an interview for a Universal syndicate column. Now John L. Allen, Jr., has written an "Editor’s note on Crux redesign and vision" to update his readers.

So what does he have to say?

First, here is what Allen told me several months ago, after "Crux 2.0" opened on April 1. This was a crucial test case for the whole "nonprofit journalism" model that is becoming so common today in this tense, troubled age for independent journalism. During its Globe run, Crux had plenty of readers, but the digital advertising dollars were not adding up. Thus, goal in this new nonprofit hybrid model:

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Crux rescued by Knights partnership; yes, major LGBT Catholic group is worried

Crux rescued by Knights partnership; yes, major LGBT Catholic group is worried

For those of you who were out of the loop at the end of this past week, there was a second major election about the Crux website. Check here to see round one: "To be or not to be -- What will become of Crux after that Boston Globe tie is cut?"

It didn't take long for the next shoe to drop, in the form of a second major announcement at the website: "Crux will continue with the Knights of Columbus as its partner."

Key parts of that short text include:

Veteran Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr., associate editor of Crux, and the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, have announced that they will enter into a partnership in which Crux will remain an independent news outlet headed by Allen and Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín.
Allen said the joint project is designed to make one of the world’s best known Catholic news platforms even stronger. The partnership will combine the Knights’ resources and spirit of service with the journalistic experience and commitment of Crux.
As part of the project, Catholic Pulse, a news and commentary website operated by the Knights of Columbus, will merge with Crux, adding its resources to Crux’s blend of staff-generated reporting and analysis with pieces by respected guest contributors. The Crux website will feature the tagline: “Keeping its finger on the Catholic Pulse.”

Allen and Co. will retain their deep online archives, which is crucial to the coverage of ongoing news and controversies. And what about the size of the new editorial team? It will be smaller, but some freelance scribes may be added in the future.

But, wait. Aren't the Knights, uh, rather doctrinally conservative?

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The New York Times (surprise) offers saint-free coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston

The New York Times (surprise) offers saint-free coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston

If you have, through the years, followed the legal and cultural wars about gay rights and the New York City and Boston St. Patrick's Day parades, you know that these battles have often included discussions of a very interesting question.

That would be this question: Do these St. Patrick's Day events have anything to do with one of the greatest missionary saints in Christian history, the bishop now called St. Patrick? The saint associated with these words:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

As is often the case, fair-minded journalists should note that this is an emotional story about a debate that has, at the very least, two sides.

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