Two weeks ago, our country elected a new President. Since I have a political blog (http://politicaldiatribes.wordpress.com) I will probably be venting over there on a number of issues relating to this historical event. My comments here will relate to the issues in light of the response from Catholic voters.
This new President, Barack Obama, made history as the first black man or woman to be elected to the highest political office of the land. He had already made history when he was nominated by his party. Likewise, Sarah Palin joined Geraldine Ferraro this year as only the second female nominee as part of the ticket, and would have likewise made history had the McCain/Palin ticket prevailed.
In this respect, we can acknowledge the great message of opportunity this displays in our wonderful country. Every man and woman is equally bestowed with human dignity, and as such, it is with great pride that we can see the political process play out in a way where things that were once stumbling blocks are now considered secondary. In fact, it can be argued that Obama’s race was actually a positive for him, as many (not just blacks, but other races as well) admit to supporting him at least in part due to the message it would send around the world in the name of diversity.
I join in acknowledging his equality. It is in that spirit that I will treat him like any other man or woman, and not a bit different. The things I say about his stated policies and past actions on certain issues will be no different than if I were addressing these same issues about your run-of-the-mill middle-aged white guy.
And his stand on the issues that should be of utmost importance to Catholic voters is, in a word, appalling.
As much as the diversity card makes for nice pomp and circumstance, and as feel-good as his election is to many of us on one level, it is an utter embarrassment to see the Catholic vote as it relates to Obama.
I guess I should have warned you that you may get ticked off as a reader here. I personally know a number of regularly church-going Catholics who are not “Catholic in Name Only” who voted for Obama. And I say here what I would say to each and every one of their faces: it was absolutely wrong.
So, let me be straight. I’m angry. I am NOT angry at people who call themselves Catholic but haven’t been to church in years. I am not expecting such people to be concerned about faithfulness to the magesterial guidance of the church. I am not even angry at those who call themselves Catholic and show up twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. I certainly am not angry about those who proclaim no particular faith – whether it be atheist or agnostic. I don’t expect them to be all that interested in Papal teachings and letters from our Bishops.
No, I am angry at the Catholics who should know better, and indeed – in my opinion – do know better.
Let me explain why I am angry. Because that anger differs by the reasons for voting Obama:
- The Ignorant: While perhaps either confused, unaware, uneducated, or disinterested, these people should not vote. If they do vote, they should educate themselves. I do not accept ignorance as an excuse. This was the longest campaign in history, and we live in an age where information is readily available to all of us. If they sat in the pews, they may not have specifically heard “don’t vote for Obama,” but they most likely heard that one candidate favored abortion rights and the other didn’t. If you are not concerned enough to investigate at that point, then you are culpable for your own ignorance.
- The Rationalizer: “I’m a Pro-Life Democrat.” I am sorry if this offends anyone, but this excuse for voting for Obama is absolutely ridiculous, and dare I say, stupid. You know what? I personally vote Republican most of the time. But I don’t vote Republican because “I’m a Republican.” I vote for Republicans because they are most in line with my thinking on the most important issues. To a Catholic, there can be no more important issues than Life Issues: Abortion, Cloning, Embryonic Stem-Cell Research, Marriage between one man-one woman, and Euthanasia. On every single one of these issues, even with imperfect candidates, the Republican Party lines up much better than the Democratic Party. No Catholic, in my opinion, should ever identify themselves with either party. A Catholic saying he or she is a Pro-Life Democrat and then votes for a pro-choice Democrat has just put Party above principle and church. I am Pro-Life. I am conservative. The day the Republicans cease to be my advocate on these issues is the day I tell them to go pound sand while I go vote for someone who will. And Democratic Catholics should have done this long ago. The rationalizer will say that they are pro-life and donate money to pro-life causes, but at every turn they find a new excuse for why they vote for a pro-choice Democrat rather than a pro-life Republican. One time it will be “social justice” (as if there is some doctrinal position that government involvement and programs are the only moral approach to social justice – which also ticks me off). Another time it will be the economy. For others it will be their Union affiliation. They all have something in common: they have some other interest that they are putting ahead of the issue of the decimation of thousands of innocent babies every single day. Unions before innocent lives. Race before abortion. Gender before abortion. Social Security before abortion. “Social Justice, Democrat Style” before abortion. I am sorry, but if and when the Freedom of Choice Act gets passed, and when Catholic hospitals are threatened with removal of exemption from performing abortions, and when Supreme Court Justices get appointed that set the Pro-Life movement back 30 years, then you will have real culpability before God, and it will be up to you to explain to Him why these other things were more important.
- The Defier: Some people, by the way, fall into more than one category. It is one thing to privately vote for Obama with little public fanfare. It’s still wrong, but not as wrong as publicly supporting him. I am sorry, but the Papal Encyclicals on the subject of our obligations when it comes to elections make the primacy of certain issues quite clear. The USCCB (often somewhat spineless in many regards) actually put a document together about our responsibilities that – with careful reading – does make it clear that life issues are primary. While I know this is not true everywhere, I do know of many Bishops and Priests who sent letters to be read in their dioceses or made clear public statements. Others may not have, or may have even contributed to confusion. They will have their own answers to give. But for those who heard clearly directed messages and chose to not only ignore them, but then publicly and openly support a pro-abortion candidate, this is scandal. It is divisive. It promotes confusion. My pastoral council President did this. His excuse? He’s not a “yes” man. Now, by all other accounts, I have worked with him on many committees and he is a hard worker for the church and has a strong heart for social justice. But he is horribly misguided here, and I think deep in his heart he knows it. But he’s also stubborn and won’t be told what to do by any Bishop or Priest.
Collectively, the reason I am angry is because these Catholics are really quite spineless. If every single Catholic who truly cared – or said they cared – about abortion and the other primary issues of importance would make it very clear to their chosen Democratic Party that they will not stand for being presented with a “Pro-Choice” candidate then this issue would be gone in a very minimal number of elections. You Catholic Democrats not only have the responsibility to “try and change the party from within” (which I really question just how many actually try and push their Congressperson on this issue) but to stand up to your own party’s evil pursuits. Make it very clear that a Pro-Life Democrat has your vote, but a Pro-Choice candidate does not. Then, whether it means not voting, voting for the Republican, or voting for a third party, you DO NOT VOTE FOR THE PRO-CHOICE CANDIDATE.
It is estimated that 25% of the U.S. is Catholic. That is about 75 million people. Let’s say a third are non-practicing. Let’s say a third are semi-practicing, and then the other third are “devout.” About 50% of Catholics voted for Obama. I’m not sure how those groups break out, exactly, but even if only a third of the lower group votes against Obama, and the middle group splits, if the top tier all votes for the Pro-Life candidate, then this election easily goes to McCain. Pure and simple. And knowing that Catholics hold this potential and we do not use it for good ticks me off. We will pay for it, trust me.
Now, before I end my rant, let me be clear about a couple things:
- I am in no way saying McCain was a perfect candidate. And I am not even saying he was perfect on all five of those issues (embryonic stem-cell research was a question). But he very clearly, to any thinking person, lined up dramatically more on these key issues than Obama/Biden did.
- I have used some very harsh and critical language above. I don’t take it lightly, and perhaps I am still too emotional about this (it’s a good thing I didn’t type this up immediately after the election). In doing so, I may come across as judgmental. Perhaps I am, but this whole “Thou shall not judge” line is the most misapplied line of the gospel. I cannot judge someone’s heart, but we are called to judge actions. I realize I probably come close to doing the former, but I stand by the comments. Also, I fully understand that there is a “lest you be judged” element to this. Believe me, I will be the first to say loudly that I humbly accept that I have my share of sins to be accountable for. I am not perfect, and I can only pray that my destination is Purgatory! So I acknowledge that I am a sinner and that I will be rightly judged for all my indiscretions. So I do see the plank in my eye. And by my reading, having observed that, I can follow the example of St. Paul and call out my fellow Christians when I see grave error being perpetrated.
- I realize there are other “life” issues of concern. Capital Punishment and the War in Iraq come to mind. Whatever your thoughts are on these, using this as a trump to the other issues I listed are still cop-outs. Perhaps I can be more forgiving on these, but you are still wrong, and still culpable. The bishops have made it very clear that these issues, as important as they are, are debatable issues among Catholics in good conscience, and simply cannot and do not carry the same weight as the other issues. Whether this is simply ignored or you are ill-informed, that is the reality.
Well, there. I’ve done it. I am sick to death of seeing Catholics who agree with me being afraid to say these things. So I did it for them. I am tired of hearing chuckled comments from Catholic Obama supporters, as if their defiance of the Bishop is some kind of an amusing joke. I am sick of saying nothing while the emboldened defiers feel as if they speak for everyone around them and that everyone who is really enlightened can see their point of view.
I’m sick of all of it. It is time for those who wish to stand on firm Catholic teaching to stand up to these people and their comments. I have vowed to – as charitably as possible, but firmly and clearly – stand my ground to all such Catholics who have in the past been so bold. It is a scandal, and it must end.
I’d end with “before it’s too late,” but I have a nagging suspicion it may already be too late.