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The Black Catholic Dilemma: How Would Jesus Vote?

10/31/2012, 1:37 p.m.

"As they meet," CARA said, "the 'Catholic vote' is back to 'too close to call' with President Obama leading among all Catholic registered voters (49 percent Obama to 45 percent Romney) and Gov. Romney leading among all likely Catholic voters (50 percent Romney to 44 percent Obama)."

These figures indicate Catholic followers do not always side with the church's positions. In August, the Obama campaign unveiled its "Catholics for Obama" team, a 21-member group of prominent Catholics that includes Sister Jamie T. Phelps, a professor of systematic theology and director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans. As such, she is probably one of the most visible, respected black Catholic leaders in the United States.

Some black protestant leaders have urged their constituents to stay home on Election Day, largely because of the same-sex marriage issue. In contrast, at a national gathering of black Catholics this summer, a prominent black bishop warned 3,000 of the faithful not to abandon their "essential participation in democracy and become a part of the sad statistic of nearly 45 percent of Americans who are eligible to vote in a presidential election and abdicate this important civic and Christian duty."

"No matter how flawed you may think the candidates are, you have an obligation to participate," Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., said at the opening Mass of the 11th National Black Catholic Congress on July 19 in Indianapolis, Ind.

"Both candidates are imperfect human beings," he said. "The American political system does not produce saviors for the nation or knights in shining armor who fulfill all of our hopes and expectations. Neither President Obama nor former Governor Romney espouses positions consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church on important moral, social, and economic issues."

Angela P. Dodson, a freelance editor and consultant in New Jersey, is the host for a radio program, "Black Catholics, Yes!"