Article written by 2010 DPDF After Secularization: New Approaches to Religion and Modernity Fellow David T. Buckley, featured in The Forum, Volume 11, No. 4:
Has the Catholic preferential option for the poor become an optional preference in contemporary American Catholic advocacy? If so, why? Commentators on both the left and the right agree that the “culture wars,” particularly over abortion access, have come to trump economic advocacy among American Catholics. In the following, I refine this claim, testing several mechanisms by which the culture wars could have influenced Catholic economic advocacy. Evidence is strongest that the culture wars have mattered in three ways: shaping organizational politics within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, driving polarization among Catholic civil society organizations, and generating blowback among Catholics in the pews to the infusion of religion into politics. However, the culture wars have not fundamentally changed Catholic theology of the economy or eliminated traditional Catholic advocates for progressive economic policy. After documenting evidence of these effects, the piece closes with implications for the likelihood of a “Francis effect” on American Catholic economic advocacy.