Secular Right | Reality & Reason



Who are the cafeteria Catholics?

I was curious as to the effect of Catholicism, especially when it comes to “life” issues. The GSS has a range of questions on capital punishment and abortion. I looked at ABRAPE, which basically asks if you think abortion should be legal in the case of rape, and CAPPUN, which asks if you think that those convicted of murder should be subject to capital punishment. If you accept the seamless garment model then it should be “no” to both.

Below I limited the sample to 1998-2008, and broke it down by ideology and political party. I’ve also shown you in the first table what you would expect if attitudes toward abortion & capital punishment were independent, and the real distribution. There is it seems a small, but significant, seamless garment effect.

Assume Independence of Views

Liberals Conservatives Democrats Republicans
Pro-death penalty, pro-abortion 50% 49% 50% 52%
Pro-death penalty, anti-abortion 11% 24% 15% 23%
Anti-death penalty, pro-abortion 32% 18% 27% 17%
Anti-death penalty, anti-abortion 7% 9% 8% 8%
Real Views
Liberals Conservatives Democrats Republicans
Pro-death penalty, pro-abortion 53% 55% 55% 58%
Pro-death penalty, anti-abortion 8% 17% 10% 17%
Anti-death penalty, pro-abortion 28% 12% 22% 11%
Anti-death penalty, anti-abortion 11% 16% 13% 14%



  • Aristotle · September 30, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Your post’s headline is inaccurate, insofar as Cafeteria Catholic refers to those who pick and choose which dogmatic, maditory teachings to adhere to. It does not refer to those who differ with the opinions of particular popes on matters of opinion. As you probably know, the Catholic Church does not forbid the death penalty. It does forbid abortion. So those who are “anti-abortion” and “pro-death penalty” can be wholly consistent with Church teaching.

    Besides, it’s possible to reject abortion and approve of the death penalty based on the principle of justice, rather than the sanctity of life, which I would argue is an ancillary concern regarding the death penalty.

  • Don Kenner · October 1, 2009 at 4:29 am

    Aristotle said it well. There’s no “seamless garment” dogma in the Catholic Church. The Church has supported the death penalty for over 1500 years. It has NEVER officially changed this position. Recently, however, Catholics have chosen (to their intellectual disgrace) to pretend that the Church is against the death penalty. This began in earnest with the embarrassing rewrite of the capital punishment section in the Catechism, and continues with embarrassing theological gymnastics: “We have never been at war with Oceania; we have always been at war with Eurasia.”

    If the CC wants to change it, she should change it. But man-up and do so; enough with the intellectual cowardice.

  • Polichinello · October 1, 2009 at 9:39 am

    IIRC, I also think the Catholic hierarchy’s opinion still allows theoretically for the death penalty in some extreme cases–like, say, a Hitler or a Stalin.



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