The faces of American Catholicism have taken a rightward turn in the last few years, from Archbishop Timothy Dolan to Republican vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan.
But it doesn't have to be that way: Democrats are missing the chance to link themselves to a more liberal Catholicism that is in step with many of their values. Why the disconnect?
Molly Worthen, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, argues in the New York Times that Democrats are in danger of abdicating the Catholic vote -- often a swing vote -- to conservative Republicans.
She notes that, while Sr. Simone Campbell, director of the Catholic social justice organization NETWORK, spoke at the Democratic convention, Vice President Joe Biden all but ignored his Catholic background and values when he spoke in Charlotte.
Worthen goes on to say that liberal Cathlic thinking -- especially in the area of social justice -- can help provide a broad and deep vision for Democratic party initiatives that help the poor, the sick and the elderly, and seek to increase opportunity and economic equality.
She blames the party for still being shy when it comes to religious values, but she also bravely points a finger at the church itself. Worthen writes:
If liberal Catholics need to struggle to make themselves heard, so be it. Worthen is right, that the Democratic Party power structure still seems too reticient when it comes to speaking about its values in religious terms -- but liberal Catholics must not be.
Hiding out in academia and trying to live below the Vatican radar is no answer. Handing power and influence over to the right-wing only seems to make them press for more.