Catholic Church and politics

Catholic Church and politics aims to cover subjects of where the Catholic Church and politics share common ground.


According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "the separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life."[1]

19th century

As a program and a movement, political Catholicism - a political and cultural conception which promotes the ideas and social teaching of the Catholic Church (Catholic social teaching) in public life through government action - was started by Prussian Catholics in the second half of the 19th century, as a response to secular social concepts. The main reason were the measures by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to limit the influence of Catholic Church, first in Prussia, and then in united Germany. That struggle is known in history as the Kulturkampf.

From Germany, political Catholic social movements spread in Austria-Hungary, especially in today's Austria, Ukraine, Slovenia and Croatia. Catholic Action was the name of many groups of lay Catholics who were attempting to encourage a Catholic influence on political society.

After the 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum (Of New Things) by Pope Leo XIII, political Catholic movements got a new impulse for development, and they spread the area of their involvement. With this encyclical, the Catholic Church expanded its interest in social, economical, political and cultural issues, and it called for a drastic conversion of Western society in the 19th century in the face of capitalist influences. Following the release of the document, the labour movement which had previously floundered began to flourish in Europe and later in North America. Mary Harris Jones, better known as "Mother Jones", and the National Catholic Welfare Council were central in the campaign to end child labour in the United States during the early 20th century.

Catholic movements in the 20th century

In the 20th century, Catholic political movements became very strong in Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Ireland, France and Latin America. What these movements had in common was a defense of the acquired rights of the Catholic Church (attacked by anticlerical politicians) and a defense of Christian faith and moral values (threatened by increasing secularization). Members of opposing schools of thought called such attempts clericalism.

These Catholic movements developed various forms of Christian democratic ideology, generally promoting a morally and socially conservative agenda whilst supporting a middle ground third way between unrestrained capitalism and state socialism. Freemasons were seen mainly as enemies and vehement opponents of political Catholicism. A special situation occurred in Mexico, where an atheistic president ruled in the 1920s and oppressed the Church and Catholics. This led to the open Christian revolution of 1926 to 1929, known as the Cristero War.

Some of the earliest important political parties were:

Most of these parties in Europe joined together in White International (1922). Franco's mixture of Catholicism and nationalism received its own brand of National Catholicism and it inspired similar movements throughout Europe.[2]

In addition to political parties, Catholic/Christian trade unions were created, which fought for worker's rights: the earliest include:

After World War II, more unions were formed, including:

Until the Second Vatican Council, the Church did not always accept the model of modern democracy and its expansion into social and economic realms because it was wary of anticlerical socialistic tendencies. When Catholic social activists were perceived to be too extreme in social conflicts, the Church hierarchy tried to stop their excesses; occasions of this included the Worker-priest movement in France in the 1940s and 1950s, and liberation theology in Latin America in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. But some movements were strongly supported by the Church - in Australia the Catholic Social Studies Movement during the 1940s and 1950s, from which the National Civic Council has developed.

Catholic clergy and lay activists sometimes tended to support far-right leaders such Francisco Franco and António de Oliveira Salazar, as well as the military regimes in Latin America. As a result, many workers involved in the labor movement joined social democratic and communist parties, which were sometimes secular and called for revolution against old values, which included religion and the Church.

In recent times, after the Second World War, Christian engagement in politics became weaker and even "Demo-Christian" parties by name lost some of their Christianity. Stronger Christian involvement in Europe on the beginning of the 21st century has produced some new small parties, for example those joined in the European Christian Political Movement. According to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, part of the younger generation of Catholics are now showing a renewed interest in forms of political Catholicism such as a revived Catholic Integralism or Tradinista! socialism.[3]


Catholics are called to participate in the political process, be informed voters, and to encourage elected officials to act on behalf of the common good. There are limits to official Catholic Church political activity. The Church engages in issue-related activity, not partisan political candidate activities. This restriction does not apply to individuals or group provided they do not represent themselves as acting in an official Church capacity.[4]

Every two years the USCCB produces "Faithful Citizenship" guides, to provide guidelines and explanations of Catholic teaching to Catholic voters.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Catholics in Political Life", United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  2. ^ Stanley G. Payne (1984). Spanish Catholicism: An Historical Overview. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-299-09804-9.
  3. ^ Douthat, Ross (October 8, 2016). Among the Post-Liberals. The New York Times. Retrieved July 17, 2017
  4. ^ "Guidelines for Parish and Church Organization Political Activity", Minnesota Catholic Conference, July 2018
  5. ^ "The Catholic Church in US Politics", Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs - Georgetown University


  • Boyer, John W. (2001), "Catholics, Christians, and the Challenges of Democracy: The Heritage of the Nineteenth Century", Christian Democracy in 20th Century Europe, Böhlau Verlag, ISBN 3-205-99360-8
  • Cary, Noel D. (1996). The Path to Christian Democracy: German Catholics and the Party System from Windthorst to Adenauer. Harvard University Press.
  • Conway, Martin (1997). Catholic politics in Europe, 1918-1945. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06401-5.
  • Kaiser, Wolfram; Wohnout, Helmut, eds. (2004). Political Catholicism in Europe 1918-45. Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-5650-X.
  • Lovell Evans, Ellen (1999). The Cross and the Ballot: Catholic Political Parties in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and The Netherlands, 1785–1985. Humanities Press.
Canon 915

Canon 915, one of the canons in the current Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, forbids the administration of Holy Communion to those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared or who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin:

Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

The corresponding canon in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which binds members of the Eastern Catholic Churches, reads, "The publicly unworthy are to be kept from the reception of the Divine Eucharist". is a conservative, non-profit political advocacy group based in the United States. While the organization acknowledges the authority of the Magisterium, it is independent of the Catholic Church. It had a stated a goal of "electing new pro-life and pro-family candidates to Congress and, of course, electing a pro-life candidate to the Presidency in 2012."

Catholic Action

Catholic Action was the name of many groups of lay Catholics who were attempting to encourage a Catholic influence on society.

They were especially active in the nineteenth century in historically Catholic countries that fell under anti-clerical regimes such as Spain, Italy, Bavaria, France, and Belgium. Adolf Hitler ordered the murder of Erich Klausener, head of a Catholic Action group in Nazi Germany, during the Night of the Long Knives.

Catholic Action is not a political party, although in many times and places this distinction became blurred. Since World War II the concept has often been eclipsed by Christian Democrat parties that were organised to combat Communist parties and promote Catholic social justice principles in places such as Italy and West Germany.Catholic Action generally included various subgroups for youth, women, workers, etc. In the postwar period, the various national Catholic Action organizations for workers formed the World Movement of Christian Workers which remains highly active today as a voice within the Church and in society for working class Catholics.

Catholic Church and politics in the United States

Members of the Catholic Church have been active in the elections of the United States since the mid 19th century. The United States has never had religious parties (unlike much of the world, especially in Europe and Latin America). There has never been an American Catholic religious party, either local, state or national.

In 1776 Catholics comprised less than 1% of the population of the new nation, but their presence grew rapidly after 1840 with immigration from Germany, Ireland, and later from Italy, Poland and elsewhere in Catholic Europe from 1840 to 1914, and also from Latin America in the 20th and 21st centuries. Catholics now comprise 25% to 27% of the national vote, with over 68 million members today. 85% of today's Catholics report their faith to be "somewhat" to "very important" to them. From the mid-19th century down to 1964 Catholics were solidly Democratic, sometimes at the 80–90% level. From the 1930s to the 1950s Catholics formed a core part of the New Deal Coalition, with overlapping memberships in the church, labor unions, big city machines, and the working class, all of which promoted liberal policy positions in domestic affairs and anti-communism during the Cold War.

Since the election of a Catholic President in 1960, Catholics have split about 50–50 between the two major parties in national elections. With the decline of unions and big city machines, and with upward mobility into the middle classes, Catholics have drifted away from liberalism and toward conservatism on economic issues (such as taxes). Since the end of the Cold War, their strong anti-Communism has faded in importance. On social issues the Catholic Church takes strong positions against abortion and same-sex marriage and has formed coalitions with Protestant evangelicals. In 2015 Pope Francis declared that man-made climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels. The Pope stated the warming of the planet is rooted in a throwaway culture and the developed world's indifference to the destruction of the planet as it pursues short-term economic gains. However, the Pope's statements on climate change were generally met with indifference among Catholics while Catholic commentaries ranged from praise to dismissal, with some stating that it was not binding or magisterial due to its scientific nature. The Pope's statements on these issues were most prominently laid out in encyclical Laudato si'. The publication by Francis had put pressure on Catholics seeking the Republican Party nomination for president of the United States in 2016, including Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum, who "have questioned or denied the established science of human-caused climate change, and have harshly criticized policies designed to tax or regulate the burning of fossil fuels." Religious tensions were major issues in the presidential elections of 1928 when the Democrats nominated Al Smith, a Catholic who was defeated, and in 1960 when the Democrats nominated John F. Kennedy, a Catholic who was elected. For the next three elections, a Catholic would be nominated for the vice presidency by one of the two major parties (Bill Miller in 1964, Ed Muskie in 1968, Tom Eagleton and then Sarge Shriver in 1972), but the ticket would lose. Geraldine Ferraro would continue the tradition in 1984, until it was broken in 2008. A Catholic, John Kerry, lost the 2004 election to incumbent George W. Bush, a Methodist, who may have won the majority of Catholic vote. 2012 was the first election where both major party vice presidential candidates were Catholic, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.

Currently there are 22 Catholics in the United States Senate, and 141 (out of 435) Catholics in the United States House of Representatives, including the current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. In 2008, Joe Biden became the first Catholic to be elected Vice President of the United States. His successor Mike Pence was raised Catholic but converted to Protestantism later in life.

Catholic Press Association

The Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada is an association of newspaper and media specialists specialized on reporting on the Roman Catholic Church. Founded in 1911, it has over 600 member organizations and reaches to over 26 million people.

Its stated purpose is to assist its members to serve effectively, through the medium of the printed word and electronic media, the social, intellectual and spiritual needs of the entire human family, and to spread and support the Kingdom of God.

Greg Erlandsen, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, is CPA's president. Robert DeFrancesco, Associate Publisher of The Catholic Sun, the diocesan newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, is the vice president. Matthew Schiller, Business/Advertising Manager at Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, is the Treasurer. Malea Hargett, Editor of the Arkansas Catholic, the diocesan newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, is the Secretary.

Christianity and politics

The relationship between Christianity and politics is a historically complex subject and a frequent source of disagreement throughout the history of Christianity, as well as in modern politics between the Christian right and Christian left. There have been a wide variety of ways in which thinkers have conceived of the relationship between Christianity and politics, with many arguing that Christianity directly supports a particular political ideology or philosophy. Along these lines, various thinkers have argued for Christian communism, Christian socialism, Christian anarchism, Christian libertarianism, or Christian democracy. Others believe that Christians should have little interest or participation in politics or government.

Dormant Beauty

Dormant Beauty (Italian: Bella addormentata) is a 2012 Italian drama film directed by Marco Bellocchio and starring Toni Servillo and Isabelle Huppert. The film was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival. For this film Maya Sansa won the David di Donatello for Best Supporting Actress.

Excommunication of Catholic politicians who support abortion

Because the Catholic Church opposes abortion as a matter of doctrine, some Catholic bishops have threatened (but not acted) to refuse communion or to impose excommunication upon Catholic politicians who support abortion. In some cases, officials have stated that the politicians should refrain from receiving communion ad normam canon 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law; in others, excommunication has been suggested.

History of the Catholic Church in the United States (disambiguation)

The history of the Catholic Church in the United States may refer to:

History of the Catholic Church in the United States

20th century history of the Catholic Church in the United States

19th century history of the Catholic Church in the United States

Catholic Church in the United States#History

Catholic Church and politics in the United States

History of Catholic education in the United States

Catholic sisters and nuns in the United States

History of religion in the United States#Roman Catholicism

Anti-Catholicism in the United States

Holy See–United States relations

United States–Holy See relations are bilateral relations between the United States and the Holy See. The principal U.S. official is Ambassador Callista Gingrich. The Holy See is represented by its Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who assumed office on April 12, 2016. The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is located in Rome, in the Villa Domiziana. The Nunciature to the United States is located in Washington, D.C., at 3339 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

Index of Catholic Church articles

See also: Catholic Church, Glossary of the Catholic Church, Outline of Catholicism, Timeline of the Catholic Church, Index of Vatican City-related articles

This page is a list of Catholic Church topics. Portals and navigation boxes are at the bottom of the page. For a listing of Catholic Church articles by category, see Category:Catholic Church (and its various subcategories and pages) at the bottom of the page.

For various lists, see "L" (below)

Liberation theology

Liberation theology is a synthesis of Christian theology and Marxist socio-economic analyses that emphasizes social concern for the poor and the political liberation for oppressed peoples. In the 1950s and the 1960s, liberation theology was the political praxis of Latin American theologians, such as Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay, and Jon Sobrino of Spain, who popularized the phrase "Preferential option for the poor".

The Latin American context also produced Evangelical advocates of liberation theology, such as C. René Padilla of Ecuador, Samuel Escobar of Peru, and Orlando E. Costas of Puerto Rico, who, in the 1970s, called for integral mission, emphasizing evangelism and social responsibility.

Theologies of liberation have developed in other parts of the world such as Black theology in the United States and South Africa, Palestinian liberation theology, Dalit theology in India, and Minjung theology in South Korea.

List of Catholic bishops in the United States

The following is a list of bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States, including its five overseas dependencies. The U.S. Catholic Church comprises 177 Latin Church dioceses and 18 Eastern Catholic eparchies (led by diocesan bishops or eparchs), the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. (If the Personal Ordinary is not a bishop, he is the equivalent of a diocesan bishop in canon law.)

The 177 Latin dioceses are divided into 32 ecclesiastical provinces. Each province has a metropolitan archdiocese led by an archbishop, and at least one suffragan diocese. In some cases, a titular archbishop is named diocesan bishop of a diocese that is not a metropolitan archdiocese, for example, Archbishop Celestine Damiano, Bishop of Camden (New Jersey). In most archdioceses and some large dioceses, one or more auxiliary bishops serve in association with the diocesan bishop. There are also two Eastern Catholic metropoliae. The four Byzantine Catholic eparchies constitute one metropolia, with Pittsburgh as the metropolitan see, led by a metropolitan archbishop. Similarly, the four Ukrainian Catholic eparchies constitute one metropolia, with Philadelphia as the metropolitan see. (One archbishop—that of the Archdiocese for the Military Services—is not a metropolitan.) As of October 2018, five of these metropolitans are cardinals of the Catholic Church: Boston (Seán O'Malley), Chicago (Blase Cupich), Galveston-Houston (Daniel DiNardo), Newark (Joseph Tobin), and New York (Timothy Dolan). Four archdioceses have retired archbishops who served as cardinal-archbishop of their diocese: Detroit (Adam Maida), Los Angeles (Roger Mahony), Philadelphia (Justin Rigali), and Washington (Donald Wuerl). Four archdioceses have former archbishops who were created cardinal after they completed their tenure as diocesan archbishop: Baltimore (Edwin O'Brien), Denver (James Stafford), San Francisco (William Levada), and St. Louis (Raymond Burke).

All active and retired bishops in the United States and the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands—diocesan, coadjutor, and auxiliary—are members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In addition to the 195 dioceses, one military archdiocese, and one personal ordinariate, there are several dioceses in the nation's other four overseas dependencies. In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the bishops in the six dioceses (one metropolitan archdiocese and five suffragan dioceses) form their own episcopal conference, the Conferencia Episcopal Puertorriqueña. The bishops in U.S. insular areas in the Pacific Ocean—the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Territory of American Samoa, and the Territory of Guam—are members of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific.

Parliamentary Christian Fellowship

The Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, also known as the Parliamentary prayer group, is a gathering of Christian politicians in the Australian parliament, who hold prayer sessions on Monday nights in Parliament House, Canberra.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark

The Archdiocese of Newark is an archdiocese of the Catholic Church in northeastern New Jersey, United States. Its ecclesiastic territory includes all of the Catholic parishes and schools in the New Jersey counties of Bergen, Union, Hudson and Essex (where the city of Newark is located).

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in southeastern Pennsylvania, in the United States. It covers the City and County of Philadelphia as well as Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. The diocese was erected by Pope Pius VII on April 8, 1808, from territories of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Originally the diocese included all of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and seven counties and parts of three counties in New Jersey. The diocese was raised to the dignity of a metropolitan archdiocese on February 12, 1875. The seat of the archbishop is the Cathedral-Basilica of Ss. Peter & Paul.

It is also the Metropolitan See of the Ecclesiastical Province of Philadelphia, which includes the suffragan episcopal sees of Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. The territory of the province is coextensive with the state of Pennsylvania.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (Latin: Archidioecesis Paulopolitana et Minneapolitana) is a diocese of the Catholic Church in the United States. It is led by an archbishop who administers the archdiocese from the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. The archbishop has both a cathedral and co-cathedral: the mother church, the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Saint Paul and the co-cathedral, the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis.

The archdiocese has 188 parish churches in twelve counties of Minnesota. It counts in its membership an approximate total of 750,000 people. It has two seminaries, the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity and Saint John Vianney College Seminary. Its official newspaper is The Catholic Spirit.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne (Latin: Dioecesis Cheyennensis) is a Roman Catholic Latin rite suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of Denver.

The cathedral and mother church is St. Mary's Cathedral, located in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is the episcopal conference of the Catholic Church in the United States. Founded in 1966 as the joint National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and United States Catholic Conference (USCC), it is composed of all active and retired members of the Catholic hierarchy (i.e., diocesan, coadjutor, and auxiliary bishops and the ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter) in the United States and the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the bishops in the six dioceses form their own episcopal conference, the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference. The bishops in U.S. insular areas in the Pacific Ocean – the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Territory of American Samoa, and the Territory of Guam – are members of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific.

The USCCB adopted its current name in July 2001. The organization is a registered corporation based in Washington, D.C. As with all bishops' conferences, certain decisions and acts of the USCCB must receive the recognitio, or approval of the Roman dicasteries, which are subject to the immediate and absolute authority of the Pope.

The current president is Galveston–Houston's archbishop, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. The current vice president is Los Angeles's archbishop, Archbishop José Horacio Gómez.

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