Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

The Feast of Christ the King

Monday, November 1st, 2010

On this Sunday before Election Day, we celebrate the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time in the new calendar.  But in the traditional calendar, which is used for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the Traditional Latin Mass), today is the Feast of Christ the King.

This is no coincidence.  One of the chief dangers of the modern world, in my opinion, is the excessive emphasis on politics and the government as the focus of all our attention, as if they are the answer to all our problems and aspirations.  This can turn into a dangerous form of idolatry — “statolatry”, if you will.

The Feast of Christ the King is a healthy reminder to us Christians that we cannot fall into this way of thinking.  Pope Benedict, in his book Church, Ecumenism and Politics, had this to say about the early Christians, who faced the “statolatry” of Rome, but the situation in many ways equally applies to our times:

The state is not the whole of human existence and does not encompass all human hope. Man and what he hopes for extend beyond the framework of the state and beyond the sphere of political action. This is true not only for a state like Babylon, but for every state. The state is not the totality; this unburdens the politician and at the same time opens up for him the path of reasonable politics. The Roman state was wrong and anti-Christian precisely because it wanted to be the totality of human possibilities and hopes. A state that makes such claims cannot fulfill its promises; it thereby falsifies and diminishes man. Through the totalitarian lie it becomes demonic and tyrannical.

The world-view of Christians instead holds up authentic hope for man, and allows us to be authentically human and to live in a good way in this world.  As Pope Benedict says:

The Christian faith destroyed the myth of the divine state, the myth of the earthly paradise or utopian state and of a society without rule. In its place it put the objectivity of reason… True human objectivity involves humanity, and humanity involves God. True human reason involves morality, which lives on God’s commandments. This morality is not a private matter; it has public significance. Without the good of being good and of good action, there can be no good politics. What the persecuted Church prescribed for Christians as the core of their political ethos must also be the core of an active Christian politics: only where good is done and is recognized as good can people live together well in a thriving community. Demonstrating the practical importance of the moral dimension, the dimension of God’s commandments — publicly as well — must be the center of responsible political action.

And so, as we Americans are about to head to the polls at the end of a seemingly all-consuming political campaign, the traditional liturgical calendar reminds us of the larger picture.  We cannot find our ultimate hope and fulfillment in politics, in who rules us, or what laws are passed.

The real ruler of the world and our lives is not the temporary office holder who happens to inhabit the White House or the Governor’s mansion, a seat in the Senate or the House, or any other position of secular power.

The real ruler of our world is Christ the King, and we are his subjects.  It is in Him, and only Him, in whom we can find authentic hope and fulfillment.

Viva Cristo Rey!

How Will I Vote?

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

In my last post, I outlined the teaching of the Church in regard to voting — the formation of conscience, and which issues to consider.

To illustrate how this works in practice, let me describe how I will apply these principles in my own voting decision.  Now, I’m not telling anyone how to vote.  I’m just saying this is the way that I’ve worked this decision through for myself.

(Important Note: I have to repeat again what is said in the disclaimer on the side of this blog — the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone, they do not in any way reflect an official position of the Archdiocese, nor should they be considered an endorsement of any candidate by the Archdiocese.)

To me, the fundamental issue is whether a particular candidate has the basic qualifications to hold public office. This is not just a question about their education, experience, and character. It also involves whether this candidate is willing to respect and defend the fundamental principles of our society, that all people are created equal, and that all have “inalienable rights”, most especially the right to life.

Cardinal Egan once spoke very clearly and bluntly about the qualifications of our elected officials:

“Anyone who dares to defend that [an unborn child] may be legitimately killed because another human being ‘chooses’ to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.”

This boils down to a very simple test, that I try to adhere to, as best I can: If you think that killing unborn children should be legal, then I won’t vote for you. You haven’t earned my vote.  In my opinion, you’re not qualified to hold public office.  I just won’t vote for someone who will promote or permit grave evil.  I don’t subscribe to the principle of the “lesser of two evils”.  All that means is I’m voting for evil, and it still produces evil in the end.  If there’s nobody in a race that fits my standards, I’ll leave the line blank or write in a name.

When I pick up my ballot on Tuesday, I will see a stark choice between candidates who are pro-abortion, and others who are pro-life.  In fact, several of the pro-abortion candidates are not just mouthing the old “personally opposed but…” sham, but are instead ardent promoters and defenders of the legalized killing of unborn children, and they have strongly campaigned on the issue.  If they are elected, there is a grave danger that the evil Reproductive Health Act will be pushed forward, as well as the legalization of same-sex “marriage”.

I cannot see how I as a Catholic could vote for such persons.  So for me, the choice is easy — I will vote only for the pro-life candidates.

I have thought about how to vote very carefully, not just in preparation for this election but over many years.  As I have said, to me the key thing is to vote as a Catholic, to act according to a well-formed Catholic conscience, and to take seriously my duties to the least among us — particularly to the defenseless unborn.

That’s what I’m going to do.  What about you?

Voting as a Catholic

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Once again, Election Day approaches.  At times like these, I am frequently asked how people can do the right thing as voters, as citizens, and as Catholics.

According to the teachings of our Church — our Holy Father and our bishops — there are several critical questions involved here.

The first is the formation of my conscience.  Our bishops have said quite clearly that

“Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere ‘feeling’ about what we should or should not do.” (Faithful Citizenship 17)

A good, Catholic conscience is obedient to the teachings of the Church, and open to hearing the voice of God.  It considers God’s will more important than any partisan interest that I may have.  It always directs me to do good and avoid evil, and in the case of voting,

“A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, The Participation of Catholics in Political Life 4)

Building on the proper formation of conscience, we can then turn to the issues and the candidates.  One thing is crystal clear at this point:  all the issues are not the same, and the defense of human life is the paramount issue for Catholics to consider.  As the United States Bishops have said,

“This exercise of conscience begins with outright opposition to laws and other policies that violate human life or weaken its protection.” (Faithful Citizenship 31).

“The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” (Faithful Citizenship 28)

This means that in evaluating a candidate, we must consider, first and foremost, their position on the defense of human life.  As the U.S. Bishops have said:

“As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.” (Faithful Citizenship 42)

Our New York Bishops have said the same:

“The inalienable right to right of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.” (New York State Bishops, Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty)

Cardinal Egan once confronted us, in language as plain as possible,with the choice of conscience and discipleship that we face when going into the voting booth:

Look [at the pictures of unborn children] and decide with honesty and decency what the Lord expects of you and me as the horror of ‘legalized’ abortion continues to erode the honor of our nation. Look, and do not absolve yourself if you refuse to act.”

The teaching of our Church is clear:  we must vote pro-life.

(For more information about voting, including statements by the Archdiocese, the New York Bishops, and the United States Bishops, click here.  For information about the positions of candidates running for office, click here.)


Friday, October 29th, 2010

The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which  I send out to some of my friends and contacts:

  • The headline says it all: “Pope says bishops must educate faithful to vote against abortion”.  The Holy Father went on to describe legalized abortion as a betrayal of democracy at its foundation.  Spread this word far and wide.
  • Watch this great new video from — “We are the Catholic Vote“.
  • A short overview of the recent Princeton conference, at which pro-life and “pro-choice” philosophers met.  For a flavor of what was said, see this excellent piece on the “moral status of the fetus” from Catholic philosopher John Finnis.
  • Rather than make a decision to stop a dangerous practice, the Iowa medical board has deferred decision on the so-called “Telemed” abortions, where the only contact a woman has with a doctor prior to being given the abortion drug is a video hookup.  Just keep repeating to yourself: “it’s all about women’s health”.
  • A panel of our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers has let stand a resolution by City Council of San Francisco that denounced Church teaching on homsexuality as “hateful”, “insulting”, and “discriminatory” and implicitly threatened to de-fund Catholic charitable agencies unless they defy Church teaching.  Funny how the Establishment Clause doesn’t seem to apply in the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals, which seems to be channeling Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer.  Meanwhile, another Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Ruler has decided that the First Amendment doesn’t apply in Ohio, by refusing to stop the Ohio Election Commission’s effort to suppress the speech of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List PAC.
  • A valuable and important point by Wesley Smith about the ineffectiveness of graphic images in advocacy, including pictures of aborted children.  I whole-heartedly agree.
  • Someone has apparently reminded the President that our human rights come from God, and so he has begun to quote the Declaration of Independence correctly.
  • Meanwhile, the President says that his position on same-sex “marriage” is “evolving” (guess in which direction?).  Not surprising, since he openly stated he was in favor of re-defining marriage back when he was an obscure politician in Illinois.
  • The Temple of Moloch, er, I mean Planned Parenthood, is suing Montana to force the state to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives — for kids.
  • Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review reports on the Minnesota Democratic Party’s side of the story about that anti-Catholic ad from Minnesota.  It’s not a very convincing excuse.  They meant to attack an evangelical preacher who’s running for office — by printing a picture of a guy in a Roman collar.  Oh, so basically you didn’t mean to unfairly attack us, because you were busy unfairly attacking another clergyman.  Thanks.
  • Okaaaaaay.  Has the Times become the Onion?  Exhibit One: Here’s what they consider to be such a significant political trend that it’s worthy of attention one week before Election Day:  the role of transgendered candidates.  Exhibit Two: A “fit to print” op-ed by two “social scientists” in the Times explains that conservative political views stem from a feeling of disgust of germs.  Their “proof”?  People who stand near disinfectant dispensers are more likely to express conservative views.  You just can’t make this stuff up.
  • We talk a lot about politics, these days, but this puts it all in perspective — an awesome video of the ordination of priests in Milwaukee earlier this year.
  • Varia

    Friday, October 22nd, 2010

    The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which  I send out to some of my friends and contacts:

  • The Daily News editorialized against the discriminatory bill in the New York City Council that targets crisis pregnancy centers by violating their First Amendment rights.
  • The other day, there was a debate among the candidates for New York’s governorship. One of the minor party candidates was a woman who advocated legalizing prostitution. It would be easy to dismiss her as a joke, except for the horrors of the life of prostitution and human sexual slavery. If you have a strong heart, read this account by a psychologist who has worked with prostitutes for years (warning about some strong language). Please pray for all those caught in this terrible life.
  • Another step into the Brave New World — scientists have developed an “artificial ovary”. Fr. Thomas Berg explains the science and the ethics.
  • Fascinating analysis of poll data about Catholics’ belief in — and knowledge about — the doctrine of the Real Presence. What’s remarkable is how many Protestants believe in the Real Presence, too.  As always, the Body of Christ is a source of unity.
  • Dr. Mildred Jefferson, a pro-life stalwart and pioneer, has passed away. May God receive this heroic woman into His arms.
  • Andrew Cuomo showed his true colors once again, trumpeting his support for the legalized killing of unborn children, which appears to be a centerpiece of his agenda.
  • An interesting poll that shows significant shifts in political views among Catholics. There’s a bit too much emphasis on race in the report, and not enough on Church attendance, which I suspect is a more significant factor, but it’s still illuminating.
  • A frightening overview of the grave threat of low birth rates and the aging of the population worldwide.
  • More studies showing the increased risk of breast cancer among women who have had abortions.  You’d never know this by reading the regular media, which ignores this evidence.
  • Last Saturday was the anniversary of the day in 1898 that former fetus William O. Douglas emerged from the emanations and penumbras of his mother’s right to privacy and became a person whose Constitutional rights we are bound to respect. Douglas went on to become one of our worst Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Supreme Court, including writing the abominable Griswold decision (with its infamous “emanations” and “penumbras” and its “right to privacy”) and joining the Roe v. Wade and Doe v.  Bolton majorities, thereby dooming millions of unborn children to un-personhood and death.
  • Varia

    Saturday, October 16th, 2010

    Pretty much every morning of the work week, I send out to my friends and contacts an email entitled “Varia”.  It’s basically a morning briefing, based on my review of what’s going on in the world that affects the Culture of Life.   It usually consists of a link to an article or blog, plus a pithy comment or two by me.

    I thought it might be handy to occasionally post here the highlights of those daily mailings.

  • The appalling New York City Council, having solved all problems facing the City, has now turned their attention to singling out crisis pregnancy centers for burdensome regulations — in other words, acting at the behest of the abortion industry to intimidate a bunch of volunteers who help pregnant women.  Here’s the story and an excellent critique.
  • Msgr. Charles Pope of Washington points out that, according to a recent survey, only 30% of Catholics who attend Mass regularly agree that pre-marital sex is always morally wrong (only 14% of all Catholics believe that). The numbers for our Protestant brethren are much better.  We have a lot of work to do.
  • When all else fails, the powers-that-be resort to censoring pro-life views, in this case an Ohio elections commission ordering the Susan B. Anthony List to take down billboards because the incumbent Congressman thinks they’re false.  Funny, I thought the First Amendment applied to Ohio.
  • Interesting polling numbers about religious people and their political preferences in the upcoming elections.  Strong trend towards the GOP among Catholics, especially among churchgoers. Protestant churchgoers trend GOP even more strongly.
  • From Australia, a blood-chilling story about babies who survive late-term abortions but are being left on shelves to die.  Now, explain to me again how we are any more civilized than the ancients who exposed or sacrificed unwanted children?
  • Freedom of conscience is frequently under severe attack in Europe, most recently in an attempt to eliminate the right of physicians and hospitals to refuse to participate in abortions. Fortunately, pro-lifers held firm and the Council of Europe instead re-affirmed the right to conscience.
  • I decline to link to the awful, but I couldn’t resist this. They asked a number of women to define who gets to be called a “feminist”. Here’s what director and writer Nora Ephron said: “I know that I’m supposed to write 500 words on this subject, but it seems much simpler: You can’t call yourself a feminist if you don’t believe in the right to abortion.” Yes, indeed, that pretty much says it all about the state of modern “feminism”.
  • (If anyone is interested in receiving the daily version of Varia, leave a comment with your email address and I’ll add you to the list).

    Keep Politics Out of the Church

    Friday, October 8th, 2010

    One of the modern forms of idolatry is to view everything through the prism of politics, and to treat all matters as if they were essentially matters of power and partisanship.  The result of this is the subordination of all things to politics — even those things that properly belong to God.

    Three recent news stories have brought this disturbing trend to my attention, and have gotten under my skin.

    Same-Sex “Marriage” Activists Attempt to Politicize the Eucharist.
    A group of students at a purportedly Catholic university (St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota) showed up at a Mass being celebrated at the school by their local ordinary, Archbishop Nienstedt.  They came adorned with a rainbow sash, a political symbol that conveys a very clear message:  “we reject the Church’s teaching on the morality of homosexual acts, we reject the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage, and we reject the Church’s authority to make public comments about moral matters that affect public policy”.  Despite wearing a badge that proclaims their breach of communion with the Church, these students presented themselves to receive the Eucharist.

    To his credit, Archbishop Nienstedt properly denied them Communion, since they were trying to make a political statement out of the central mystery of our faith.  The lesson taught by the good Archbishop is not difficult:  if you don’t believe what God teaches us through the Church, and if you have no intention of living as God desires as He has communicated to us through the Church, then you are not properly disposed to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  You need to make a choice: politics or God.

    Calls for a “Catholic Tea Party”.
    From another front, there have been calls for what one advocate terms a “Catholic Tea Party”, directed against some of our bishops, due to their alleged indifference towards heresy by some activist clergymen.  I certainly have no problem with people contacting their pastors about matters that concern their own spiritual good and the spiritual good of the Church as a whole.  The Code of Canon Law says that laypeople “have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” (Canon 212.3)

    I note especially that phrase, “with respect toward their pastors”.  In the case of a call to a “Tea Party”, I cannot see any way that this shows “respect towards their pastors”.  The original “Tea Party”, after all, was a (justified) violent rebellious act against an oppressive government.  Is that really the image we want to use when lay people address their pastors, especially when we address a bishop, who is a successor of the Apostles?

    No, just no.  The Church is not a political entity, but the Body and Bride of Christ.  If people believe that there is a problem within the Church, they need to address the matter in the appropriate way.  The Bride of Christ should not squabble and wrangle in public like a bunch of unruly delegates on the floor of a political convention.

    The Hypocrisy of the Media.
    Complaining about a double standard from the mainstream media has become a bit tiresome, because it is like constantly pointing out that 2+2=4.  But I have rarely seen such a clear example of it, centered on politics and churches.  Consider two cases: Case #1: Catholic bishops in Minnesota speak out to defend marriage and the media questions their “meddling” in politics. Case #2: New York politicians go into churches to make campaign speeches from the pulpit, and are given glowing, unquestioning profiles that talk as if this is just a nice bit of local curiosity.

    I don’t know how other Churches justify to themselves being used by politicians.  But Catholic churches cannot allow politicians into the sanctuary for a very simple reason.  Not just that it’s against the Internal Revenue Code (which it is, even if we’re the only ones who obey the law).  But there’s a deeper reason, and it’s the fundamental truth that lies beneath each of these recent stories.

    Polarizing secular politics have no place in the Church, particularly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  We need to recall that the Mass is not just a gathering of like-minded people, or just a group of voters.  The Mass is the assembly of the People of God, come into the presence of the King of Kings, whose eternal sacrifice on Calvary is being opened up for us anew for our participation.  We are there to worship and adore the Eternal One, and to grow in holiness and intimacy with Him, in an anticipation of the heavenly liturgy described in the Book of Revelation.

    With that awesome task on the agenda, you can see why I think there’s no room for politics in the Church.

    Are We Invited to the Tea Party?

    Saturday, September 18th, 2010

    If anything is clear at this point in the electoral season, it’s that the Tea Party movement is a significant force, and that anyone who hopes to understand American politics needs to understand it.

    My interest in the Tea Party comes from the policy issues that are my particular interest — the “Culture of Life” issues, primarily abortion and marriage. To me, these are the issues on which Catholics are called to devote their greatest energy.

    And I am wondering, as the Tea Party gets going, whether we’re invited.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I have to say that I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat.  No party really exists for me in the United States.  My politics tends to be closer to what in Europe and Latin America would be termed “Christian Democracy”.  So I don’t have a partisan interest in the outcome here.

    I also have to admit that, even though I am not a Tea Partier myself,  I am sympathetic to their general goals.  I tend to favor small, limited government solutions to problems, which is a practical application of the Catholic social teaching about subsidiarity.  I view with abhorrence the current culture of “honest graft” that is at the heart of modern American government, and which is so clearly typified by the mess of a State Legislature we have here in New York.  And I am very impressed by the citizen activism that the Tea Party has energized, and their effective viral style of non-organized organization.

    I have some reservations, though, because the Tea Party agenda is silent on Culture of Life issues, and because of the current state of thinking in the leadership of both major political parties.

    It’s sad to say, but with a few notable exceptions (State Sen. Ruben Diaz, for instance), the Democratic Party, its core of activists, and its leaders have become the enemies of the Culture of Life.  Name an anti-life, anti-marriage initiative and you’ll find it on the agenda of the Democratic Party.  Prospective Democratic candidates are told, sometimes implicitly and many times brutally frankly, that they cannot advance in office unless they are pro-abortion.  Once in office, they relentlessly appoint officials and promote activities that are destructive to the Culture of Life.  All this, from the party that professes to be looking out for the poor and powerless.  It has become quite clear that, at least as far as the national Democratic Party is concerned, people who are seriously committed to Culture of Life issues are not welcome at the festivities unless they are willing to overlook their principles.

    That leaves the other guys.  The Republican Party, at least nationally (and much less so here in New York), has been sympathetic to Culture of Life issues, and has given us some significant victories.  A pro-life position has certainly helped the GOP, giving it a clear electoral margin among those for whom the issue matters, and giving them access to an energetic base of religious-minded voters. But as Culture of Life voters become more and more associated with the GOP only, we increasingly run the risk of being taken for granted and shoved aside in favor of the flavor of the month.

    And that is precisely what is going on.  As GOP mandarins sense the possibility of large gains in the upcoming election thanks to the Tea Party movement, Culture of Life issues are being pushed to the back burner or even being dismissed outright.  For example, GOP Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana has suggested that we accept a “moratorium” on pressing for the defense of marriage and human life.  Sen. John Cornyn, the head of the GOP’s effort to re-take the US Senate, has openly suggested that the party’s position on abortion is alienating independents, and should be muted.

    The apparent advice from many in the GOP leadership to Culture of Life voters  is, “Sit down, be quiet, and help us win elections.  Then maybe we’ll talk.”  Some allies.

    But now there’s an alternative for us.  Each of the major Tea Party candidates who have won primaries recently appears to be pro-life, and that hasn’t seemed to hurt their electoral chances much.  Some of their candidates are eccentric, but after so many years of corrupt professionals, maybe eccentric amateurs are worth a try.  I suspect that most of the people who are active in the Tea Party movement are also Culture of Life supporters, but are just focusing their energies on fiscal issues right now.  And, in general, the kind of candidates being supported by the Tea Party appear to me to be likely to support Culture of Life issues, once they are in office.  Over the past few years, it has clearly been most helpful for our issues to support candidates who are more politically conservative across the board, and those are the kinds of people associated with the Tea Party.

    The reality is this.  It would be best if Culture of Life voters could find a home in both major parties.  But we have been effectively ejected from the Democratic Party, and we have been only grudgingly welcomed and suffered in the Republican Party.  The Tea Party seems to offer a new dynamic, presenting us with the possibility of an alliance with voters and candidates who are amenable to our positions and who may prove to be potent supporters.

    So, I’m not sure if we’ve been explicitly invited, but I also think they won’t mind too much if we cautiously crash the Tea Party and see what happens next.

    Vote According to a Good Catholic Conscience

    Monday, September 13th, 2010

    Tomorrow is Primary Day here in New York.

    There is no doubt that the political system in our state is deeply dysfunctional.  For virtually everyone living in the City of New York, and in many gerrymandered districts outside of the City, there is no functioning two-party system.  Instead, the results of the primary is tantamount to election to office, and nobody but a registered member of that party may participate.  Just to give you an idea of how that works in practice, it is unusual for more than 20,000 people to vote in primary elections for offices like State Senate or Assembly.  An alarming number of state legislators and Congressional representatives run for re-election without any opposition.  As a result, unsurprisingly, the re-election rate for members of the New York Legislature is well over 90% — most of our state legislators leave office only by dying or being convicted of a crime.

    Nevertheless, it is vitally important that people of principle get involved in electoral politics, at the very least by voting, but also by running for office.  Otherwise, we will only continue to get the same results that we have been seeing in the past few years.

    In that regard, it is essential that we form our consciences to vote as Catholics — we must bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the teachings of His Church, into the voting booth.

    Our bishops have provided us with guidance in this regard.  The Bishops of the United States have published several useful documents on voting,  and our New York State Bishops have also issued a valuable statement on elections.   Here are a few pertinent excerpts:

    “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” (United States Bishops, Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship 28)

    “Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care… But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community.“  (United States Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life 23)

    “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.” (New York State Bishops, Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty)

    “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” (Faithful Citizenship 35)

    “When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.” (Faithful Citizenship 36)

    “The right to life is the right through which all others flow. To the extent candidates reject this fundamental right by supporting an objective evil, such as legal abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research, Catholics should consider them less acceptable for public office.” (Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty)

    These statements, and other resources for voting, are available on the Family Life/Respect Life Office website.

    We must also remember that our voting decision has serious consequences, not all of which are political.  As the Bishops note, in Faithful Citizenship:

    It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual’s salvation.  Similarly, the kinds of laws and policies supported by public officials affect their spiritual well-being…

    Our obligation as disciples of Christ is clear — we must be His followers in our everyday lives, and we must be his followers when we are in the voting booth.

    Not a Cause for Rejoicing

    Thursday, January 21st, 2010

    One of my favorite websites is National Review Online.  Not only do they have top-notch political analysis, but they feature a number of excellent writers who are strongly pro-life and excellent promoters of Christianity and Catholicism in the public square, like Kathryn Jean Lopez.

    Unfortunately, some of their contributors have a significant blind spot when it comes to torture.  I’ve written a number of times now about torture, and its absolute immorality under all circumstances (see here, here, and here, for example).  I’m not going to re-hash the arguments once again.

    But now we have one of the leading defenders of the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, including waterboarding, saying this about the results in the Massachusetts special election for U.S. Senate:

    Scott Brown spoke out forcefully in favor of enhanced interrogation, and won — in Massachusetts. He said of waterboarding, “I do not believe it is torture. America does not torture . . . we used aggressive, enhanced interrogation techniques.” And his own top strategists say their polling shows his victory was not in spite of this public stance, but because of it…  [E]nhanced interrogation is not torture. It stopped terrorist attacks. And as Scott Brown’s election shows, Americans understand this — and rally to candidates who are willing to speak the truth.

    In support of this contention, he cites the distressing recent polls that show a majority of Americans, and a majority of Catholics, support the use of torture — flat out torture, not just “enhanced interrogation techniques” — against people we suspect of being involved in terrorism (see my comments on those polls here).

    It’s a tragedy that a majority of Americans, and perhaps now another United States Senator, think it’s a good idea to torture human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God, just because we suspect they might have knowledge of heinous acts.  That’s not a cause for rejoicing, it’s a cause for moral alarm.

    Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m happy that Mr. Brown’s victory kept an ardently pro-abortion politician out of the Senate (he’s “pro-choice”, but open to some pro-life bills).  It also makes it less likely that Congress will pass one of the gravely flawed health care reform bills.

    But if his victory demonstrates that Americans are even more pro-choice about torture than they are about abortion, and that politicians should take advantage of that when they campaign, then don’t expect me to show up at that victory party.