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American Politics | Catholic Studies | Political Theory | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Nickolas Becker, Theology; Claire Haeg, Political Science; Scott Johnson, Political Science


This thesis is composed of two primary parts, each involving discussion of Catholicism and political life. Part I critiques Thomas Aquinas’ theory of government in light of his theory of nature, with an emphasis on original sin as a defining attribute of the human person. The section concludes with an argument in favor of democracy rooted in Aquinas’s theory of human nature, as well as an understanding of the role of the Catholic Church in light of the claims made in this part of the thesis. Part II contains a political science study assessing factors that contribute to party identification among American Catholics. Pew Forum’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study provides a foundation with which to test theories of Catholic partisanship rooted in religiosity and practice, religious belief, political ideology, and demographic change. After reviewing the data, it appears that Mass attendance, traditionalism, departure from Catholic orthodoxy, political attitudes, and several demographic categories are accurate predictors of party identification, while other measures tested are less effective predictors. Though some religious variables appear to have an impact on identification, non-religious factors seem to have a larger effect. A short conclusion ties the two parts together, making normative claims about the practice of Catholic faith in the public sphere.