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Conscience Magazine

A Catholic Presidency and the Dignity of the Marginalized

By Natalia Imperatori-Lee, PH.D. May 6, 2021

I READ WITH INTEREST YOUR survey analysis “How Catholics Voted” by Karl Agne (Dec. 18, 2020). The findings include items of political, demographic and even theological import.

Politically, we have known for some time that the “Catholic vote” is an elusive category. As (white, Euro-American) Catholics have moved up the socioeconomic ladder in this country, their voting patterns have reflected the priorities of their economic class status more than any prevailing religious motivations. That is, middle-class Catholics tend to vote like middle-class Protestants, Jews and agnostics.

In terms of demographics, I was overjoyed and not terribly surprised to find that Latinas, so often cited by prominent Catholics within and outside the magisterium as the “future” of the church in the U.S., overwhelmingly support the second Catholic president. Might this be because of President Biden’s commitment to overhaul the immigration and deportation systems that have plagued Latinx communities in the last few decades? Or because of his administration’s focus on the dignity of the working class—where so many Latinas find themselves— and ensuring fair treatment—including a living wage—for workers? Moreover, it’s striking that despite the Latinx community’s role in buoying the numbers of Catholics in this country as more and more young people disaffiliate from the institutional church, the media narrative around Catholic views consistently centers on issues like abortion, homosexuality and Communion eligibility.

Your study shows that all of these were far from the minds of this influential sector of Latinx Catholics. In my work as a theologian, I have written about the importance of storytelling in discerning the sense of the faithful. It has been my contention that the people of God, and their intuition of faith, can be overheard if we pay attention to the grace of their everyday lives. Your survey reveals, to my mind, that Latinas especially are once again showing that the Holy Spirit enlivens their concern for a consistent ethic of prioritizing the life and dignity of the marginalized. Like Pope Francis, Latinas know that single issue voting is a mirage. Access to health care, decent wages, dignity in retirement and old age—all of these are important to poor and working- class Latinx. The only question that remains is: Will the bishops listen?


Natalia Imperatori-Lee, PH.D.

PH.D. associate professor of religious studies at Manhattan College and author of “Cuéntame: Narrative in the Ecclesial Present”