For those of us from a liberal-left background, who are also drawn to Catholic faith, the increasingly close association between Catholicism and political conservatism, especially in the United States, is a cause for concern and even bewilderment. I’m a great fan of Michael Sean Winters, and enjoyed his book Left at the Altar, which charts the great falling-out between the Church and the Democratic Party who, Winters believes, should be natural allies – and were so in the past, for example at the time of the New Deal.

But just because you’re disillusioned with some aspects of Democratic policy, doesn’t mean you have automatically to embrace the political and cultural conservatism of the religious Right. More and more, Catholic political commentators and pundits seem indistinguishable from their rabidly fundamentalist Evangelical counterparts. For those who remember how the Evangelicals feared Kennedy’s election (see Shaun Casey’s book The Making of a Catholic President), it’s astonishing to see their modern successors anoint the Catholic Rick Santorum as their preferred presidential candidate.

Howard Schweber wrote an interesting piece for Huffington Post last week, in which he discussed what he calls ‘the Catholicisation of the American Right’. Some of us, however, are more worried by the ‘conservatisation’ of American Catholicism: the identification of the institutional Church, and a vast swathe of militant Catholic commentators, with the Republican Party. The Catholic blogosphere, particularly in America, is seething with red-hot culture warriors, with very few dissenting voices to be heard.

Andrew Sullivan, famously Catholic, gay, formerly pro-Republican but now pro-Obama, also posted an article this week – at The Daily Beast – commenting on Santorum’s recent vilification of JFK, and contrasting the very different Catholicisms represented by the two politicians. Now Kennedy was no paragon of Catholic virtue, though surely the civil rights reforms he set in train were one of the great moral victories of our age, but I think Sullivan is spot-on here:

Kennedy was a Catholic of another era, unafraid of modernity, interested in other paths to God, publicly humble and cheerful, privately devout and deeply connected to others of all faiths and none. Santorum is of a different kind: authoritarian, deeply suspicious of freedom when it leads to disobedience of the Papacy’s diktats, and publicly embracing a religious identity as his core political one.

Given the politically-conservative tenor of the Catholic blogosphere, I anticipate that not many people who find their way to this blog will agree with this view. But take it from me, the reactionary ‘Christianism’ (as Sullivan calls it) represented by Santorum et al is a huge turn-off for those of us who seek a way of reconciling Catholicism with modernity, and our deep yearning for faith with our belief in an open, plural and tolerant society.

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