John Gehring on President Trump’s Reelection Appeal to Catholics

President Donald Trump speaks at a March for Life rally, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, on the National Mall in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life Action and author of “The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church.” The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.


President Trump’s appearance at the annual March for Life in Washington on Friday (Jan. 24) — the first time any president has spoken in person at the event — shows how central the issue of abortion is for his reelection prospects. It also reflects how important Catholic voters will be this fall.

The March for Life is officially non-religious, but the most sizable contingent of marchers will be thousands of Catholics from across the country. This year’s march takes place at a time when the Trump campaign is expected to launch a “Catholics for Trump” coalition in the coming months, which, according to media reports, will include making his first appearance at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington in the spring.

While Trump has a seemingly immovable base with white evangelicals, his re-election prospects will hinge on key battleground states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where strong support from white Catholics powered his 2016 victory.

And despite consistent polling that shows that most Catholics broadly support reproductive rights, the thorny politics of abortion are particularly charged at the moment, as Roe v. Wade is more threatened than at any time since the Supreme Court ruling legalized abortion in 1973.

“We are at a unique moment with the upcoming election cycle to make a real challenge to Roe v. Wade, given the possible changes to the Supreme Court,” Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample said recently, in a de facto endorsement that is surely welcomed by Trump’s campaign.

A Tennessee Catholic bishop also described impeachment as “a waste of time” this week and stated he is comfortable with President Trump getting re-elected because the president is “fighting for religious liberty and against abortion.” (The bishop later took his tweet down.)

In November, the American Catholic bishops met to discuss the non-partisan voter reflection guide their conference issues every four years. The hierarchy overwhelmingly approved a document that highlighted abortion as the “preeminent priority” for Catholics.

But being “pro-life” is never a single-issue cause. Several bishops at the November meeting objected to the focus on abortion, citing the more expansive justice framework articulated by Pope Francis, who teaches on climate change, opposition to the death penalty, economic inequality and care for migrants as life issues with much the same urgency as abortion.

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Source: Religion News Service