For the past two years, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has been on the warpath against the Obama administration. The bishops have lashed out at the White House for requiring employers to give workers with insurance health plans that provides free contraception. (Catholic institutions including Notre Dame have filed suit against the mandate.) The bishops have also fumed over the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision not to renew its contract with the USCCB to provide services to the victims of human trafficking. The bishops had refused to allow its subcontractors to provide abortion or contraception counseling or referrals, even when it was clear that many of the victims they served really needed those services.
These fights prompted the bishops to mobilize during the presidential campaign. They staged a two-week “religious freedom” campaign over the summer that was only a thinly veiled attack on Obama. Throughout the election season, priests across the country were heard urging their congregations to vote against Obama.
Despite all the protests and occasional polls suggesting that Catholics would vote against Obama by a 3 to 1 margin, American Catholics ended up supporting Obama over Mitt Romney by two percent, according to exit polls analyzed by the nonprofit Faith in Public Life. Obama did see a drop in his share of Catholic supporters, but mostly among those who also fall into the “white male” category that represented Romney’s strongest base.
“A diverse coalition of social justice Catholics, especially Latinos, helped tip the scales this year,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life in a release. “While bishops doubled down against same sex marriage and demonized President Obama as an enemy of religious liberty, they were clearly out of touch with many Catholics. If the GOP has some reflecting to do about its inability to reach an increasingly multicultural country, Catholic leaders could benefit from similar soul searching when it comes to their own diverse flock.”