Michael Gerson, former Bush speechwriter turned op-ed columnist for The Washington Post and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes on the growing and potentially fatal rift between Catholics and the Obama led Democrat Party.

After discussing the Notre Dame scandal and offering silly support for Notre Dame saying that “If you cannot honor the man, then honor the office. If you cannot honor the office, then one more democratic bond has been severed,” Gerson writes about the growing disaffection among Catholics for Obama.

But the controversy surrounding the Notre Dame invitation highlights growing strains in an important political relationship. In the last election, while evangelical Christians generally remained loyal to the Republican nominee, Catholics decisively shifted their votes toward Obama. In 2004, George W. Bush won the Catholic vote by five percentage points. Obama carried it by nine points in 2008. A number of Catholic thinkers set out a “pro-life, pro-Obama” position — disagreeing with Obama’s pro-choice views but trusting in his moderate instincts and conciliatory temperament.

So far, Obama has done little to justify this faith. His initial actions on life issues — funding overseas abortion providers, removing restrictions from federally funded medical experimentation on human embryos, revisiting conscience protections for pro-life health-care professionals — have ranged from conventional to radical. And this may be one reason Obama’s support among Catholics has eroded. According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who disapprove of Obama’s job performance increased by nine points from February to March. Among Catholics as a whole, his disapproval rating jumped 14 points. And among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, the figure doubled — from 20 percent to 41 percent.

Catholics are having second thoughts, but it could get much worse. If the president and Congress are not careful on several issues, these concerns could open a major rift between the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party.

He lists the following issues as potential deal breakers for pro-Democrat Catholics.

  • Removing the right of conscience for Christian health care workers.
  • Reversing the Hyde amendment and thus using Medicaid dollars to pay for abortion.
  • Covering abortion in Obama’s new Gov’t run universal(ly bad) health care plan.

It is an interesting theory and I wish it were true, but I think that it is not. Obama’s falling numbers among Catholics, notably among white, non-Hispanic Catholics probably has more to to with concern over out-of-control spending than abortion or the right of conscience.

The bottom line is that those Catholics who performed mental gymnastics to justify support of Obama are few and far between. The vast majority of “Catholics” who support Obama and the Democrat party just do not care about these issues. If they did, they would not have voted for him in the first place. If the economy turns around so will Obama’s numbers among Catholics, unfortunately.

The only thing that can cause a rift between Catholics and the Democrat party is nominal Catholic opposition to tyrannical socialism. On this point, there still may be hope.