Catholics and Politics: The Dynamic Tension between Faith and Power

By Kristin E. Heyer; Mark J. Rozell et al. | Go to book overview

8
CATHOLICISM, ABORTION,
AND THE EMERGENCE OF
THE “CULTURE WARS” IN
THE U.S. CONGRESS,
1971–2006

WILLIAM V. D'ANTONIO, STEVEN A. TUCH, AND IOHN KENNETH WHITE

MUCH SCHOLARLY ATTENTION has been devoted in recent years to the polarization resulting from the so-called culture wars that have wracked American society during the latter part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.1 According to proponents of the culture wars thesis, conflict over social and moral issues such as abortion, homosexuality, affirmative action, and school prayer is so divisive and intractable that compromise is rendered difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. As groups lacking the common ground necessary for consensus stake out increasingly polar positions, the argument goes, the stability of the two-party political system is threatened.

What is the source of this conflict? lames Davidson Hunter has argued that the divisions reflect opposing ideological visions of the “good society.”2 For some, the good society is grounded in an orthodox, transcendent understanding of the world, based on God-ordained, fundamental beliefs, values, and norms. With regard to abortion, those who hold this vision of the good society see life as sacred from conception; human beings are not free to undo what God has wrought. The Catholic bishops, Christian Right, other Protestants, Mormon leaders, and pro-life (anti-abortion) groups have taken an absolutist stand against abortion as intrinsically evil.

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