Friday, October 29, 2010

Elections and Catholic citizenship -

It's election time in America again. As a Catholic, I always am a bit apprehensive about this time of year. It is always brought into the press reports of one or more Bishops making a pronouncement that any Catholic who votes for a "pro-choice" candidate should not present themselves for Communion, or even call themselves Catholic. That because of its moral gravity, a candidate's position on abortion trumps all other issues.

This makes me angry for several reasons. First of all, I don't like anyone telling me how to exercise my right to vote. I mean, my wife and I vote differently on most matters - WE don't even listen to each other on how to cast our votes! Secondly, while pro-life/pro-choice positions of candidates rightly ought to be given great moral consideration (even more) than many other issues, I refuse to be a single issue voter, particularly if a) I abhor the candidates other positions, and b)I don't believe that said candidate can or will act on their stated pro-life stance.

I am of the 'seamless garment' pro-life school. No abortion...and no death penalty, no preemptive wars, no slavery/human trafficking, no euthanasia. Pro-life...means ALL life. Protect the unborn, AND the "born"; including the guy on death row, the kids in sweatshops around the world, the collateral damage victims of our wars, the women who keep their babies, and the women who've made the somber decision to abort. "From conception to natural death" is what the Church teaches, it doesn't end in the womb.

In this article on Catholic citizenship from America magazine, I was particularly taken with one of the comments on the article, by a Catholic Deacon. It sums up my views on this, perhaps better than I could:

"Surely no one votes for a candidate based on what that candidate says they will do; that would be gullibility in the extreme. Rather one votes based on what one foresees the candidate can or will deliver. There is a personal prognostication that enters into the decision. To illustrate the same point slightly differently: how am I as a faithful Catholic to vote when I judge that the pro-life candidate is unlikely to be able to deliver much of anything in the way of a reduction of abortion (I may even be convinced that they are cynical in their pro-life stance) whereas the pro-choice candidate is almost certain to deliver a significant advance on the social justice front while in no way likely to exacerbate the abortion rate (if that is even possible)? One cannot simply say that abortion as the greatest of all evils trumps every other consideration and therefore I must vote for the self-styled pro-life candidate. Surely for myself as a moral individual the primary consideration is my own judgement of the good or evil that will actually result from my vote."

Thanks go to the Rev. Mr. Carroll!

Whatever your position, VOTE. It is one of our most precious rights as American citizens that we sometimes take for granted (particularly in non-Presidential election years).


Daily Mass Readings
Phillippians 1:1-11
Psalm 111:1-6
Luke 14:1-6

1 comment:

  1. I can remember being a single-issue voter. It was 1972, I was 18, and in my first vote-casting I voted for George McGovern because of his stand on the Vietnam war. Fortuitously, I didn't like *anything* about Nixon, so the choice wasn't too hard. Things have gotten more complicated since then - in large part, because I'm not 18 anymore - but from that experience I can somewhat understand the fervor of the single-issue voter, even though I'm not one anymore.

    Your point about not voting on the basis of what candidates say about what they believe and what they'll do is an important one. A lot of people voted for Nixon because they thought he actually had a plan for ending the war. Earlier, a lot of people had voted for Johnson against Goldwater because Johnson said he wasn't going to expand the war (while he was already making plans to do just that). When it comes to pro-life, the "poster child" for this is probably Ronald Reagan, who used the religious right to get himself elected but didn't do much if anything to further their social agenda. I think huge consideration has to be given to whether you can trust the candidate. Especially when it comes to the Presidency (and to a certain extent to the Senate), I try to vote for who I want making decisions three years down the road when something comes up that none of us foresees. That can be more important than what a candidate claims to believe about current issues.