Journal Article

The Catholic “Consistent Life Ethic” and Attitudes toward Capital Punishment and Welfare Reform

Paul Perl and Jamie S. McClintock

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 62, issue 3, pages 275-299
Published in print January 2001 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2001 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
The Catholic “Consistent Life Ethic” and Attitudes toward Capital Punishment and Welfare Reform

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American Catholic Bishops have advocated a combination of issue positions that is unique within American political culture. The “consistent life ethic” combines opposition to abortion with liberal stances on other issues conceptualized as life-affirming. Based on evidence that very few people hold this combination of attitudes, previous researchers have concluded that the Bishops' advocacy has had little or no success (Kenski and Lockwood 1988; Cleghom 1986; Jelen 1990). We argue, however , that success of consistent life advocacy is best evaluated in terms of the strength of association between attitudes toward abortion and other issues. Furthermore, most previous research has failed to analyze Catholics separately from other Americans, even though lay Catholics are the advocacy's central target. Using data from the 1996 National Election Studies, we analyze the relationship between attitudes on abortion and two other issues: capital punishment and welfare reform. We find that abortion opposition strongly predicts capital punishment opposition among Catholics, but also among Mainline Protestants. Among Catholics, this relationship is strongest for frequent Mass attendees. Abortion opposition among frequently-attending Catholics also predicts opposition to the welfare “child cap.” Contrary to most other scholars, but in accord with Kelly and Kudlac (2000), we conclude it is likely that consistent life advocacy has affected attitudes of some Catholics.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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