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Can a Catholic Be a Democrat? - How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion

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Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?

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Average Rating: This item received 4 stars overall.

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David Carlin


When author David Carlin was a young man, it was scandalous for a good Catholic to be anything but a good Democrat. In the pews, pubs, and union halls of America’s cities, millions of poor European immigrants and their children pledged allegiance to the Church of Rome and the party of FDR.

All that changed in the 1960s, with the rise of a new kind of Democrat: wealthy, secular, ideological. Even as Carlin served the party he loved — twelve years as a Rhode Island state senator and once a candidate for Congress — he could only watch in dismay as its national leaders abandoned their blue-collar, pro-life, and religious constituencies and took up with NOW, Hollywood, and the abortion lobby.

So complete has been this transformation that we no longer speak of a natural alliance between Catholics and the Democratic Party. Indeed, Carlin here asks whether today it’s even possible to be both a faithful Catholic and a Democratic true believer.

A veteran sociologist, philosophy professor, and author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America, Carlin shows how his party and his religion have taken opposite sides in the Culture War. On issues of human life, sex, faith, morality, suffering — and the public policies that stem from them — the modern, secularist Democratic Party has become the enemy of Catholicism; indeed, of all traditional religions.

Carlin shatters the excuses that Catholic Democratic politicians employ in a vain attempt to reconcile their faith and their votes, and then, with what he calls the “political equivalent of a broken heart,” he examines his own political conscience. As a faithful Catholic and a Democrat approaching his seventieth year, must he now leave the party he’s called home since birth?

David Carlin’s arguments challenge all religious Democrats to ask themselves the same question.

Publisher's Note

A few months ago, I mentioned to a conservative Catholic friend that we planned to entitle this book Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?

My friend shot back, "Can a Catholic be a Republican?"

That's a fair question, but it's the subject of a different book. For our purpose here is not to endorse particular candidates, affect elections, or even support a particular party. (Like most Catholics today, we don't agree completely with any of them — and we don't even agree with all of our author’s political assumptions.)

Our effort transcends prudential judgments about war and peace, wealth and taxes, and the persons vying for office today; it's deeper than any particular issue, contest, or political philosophy.

In a word, in publishing this book our purpose is Catholic. We hope by means of it to help Catholics see clearly the political choices they face, so that they can prudently work for policies consistent with the fundamental truths of the Catholic Faith.


As this book goes to press, we hear reports of shifts in the electorate. Stalwart conservatives and even many Republican moderates have begun to question their allegiance to the GOP; lifelong Democrats find it ever harder to vote Democratic. Catholics in both parties have wandering eyes and are open to being courted by political parties they might never have supported before.

To help them choose, and to help the parties themselves understand Catholics better and win their votes, author David Carlin here shows what it means to be Catholic in the public square. He explains the fundamental policies that Catholics must support and identifies ones that Catholics will never abide. His arguments might not lead you to a more Catholic party, but they will help you make your party less hostile to the beliefs of Catholics.

And -- whether you’re Catholic or not -- if you seek to win elections, you need to do just that. For in many elections, Catholics are the swing voters who determine the outcome.

The party that hears Carlin's voice today will win elections tomorrow.


How I Lost My Faith (in the Democratic Party)

Part I:
What the Democratic Party Has Become

1. The Great Transformation, Part 1: Demise of the Political Machines

2. The Great Transformation, Part 2: Rise of the Ideologues

3. America's Anti-Christian Party

Part II:
The Party and the Church Are Irreconcilable

4. The Catholic-Secularist Abyss

5. Catholic Excuses

6. The Political Future of Catholics and the Democratic Party

My Own Political Future

I. An Expanded Definition of Secularism
II. The History of American Secularism
III. Liberal Christianity, Fellow-Traveler of Secularism
IV. The Father of Catholic Excuses: Mario Cuomo at Notre Dame
V. American Jews and the Culture War

Biographical Note:
David R. Carlin


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Review Provided By - THE Catholic Book Review Site

This item received 4 stars overall. A Well-Researched Book on the Evolution of the Democratic Party

Lest anyone think this is an apologetic for the Republican Party, I should clarify that the author does not call all Catholics to be Republicans. Becoming Republican is not the proposed solution to the problem explored in this work. Rather, David Carlin leaves the solution to his readers. Carlin himself has not switched parties and states clearly in the introduction, "I expect to die a Democrat, albeit a very unhappy one." He writes not as a hostile outsider, but rather—as one reader observed—as a wounded lover betrayed by his beloved.

A lifelong Democrat, Carlin entered professional politics and became the majority leader of the Rhode Island State Senate. Born in 1938 into an Irish Catholic working-class family, Carlin remembers his father telling him, "We’re Democrats because Democrats are the party of the poor people; the Republicans are the party of the rich." He believes no political party in modern times has had a program a Full Review...

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