Posts Tagged ‘Elections’

Advice from General Grant

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

There’s no way to sugar-coat it.  The results of the election were very bad for those of us who are committed to pro-life, marriage and religious liberty:

  • The re-election of the President, who made his 100% anti-life agenda a centerpiece of his campaign, and who will now have no incentive to back away from his HSS mandate that violates our religious liberty.
  • Defeats for authentic marriage in four separate state ballot initiatives — with marriage being redefined in Maryland, Maine and Washington, and the defense of marriage defeated in Minnesota.
  • The defeat of two ballot initiatives in Florida — one to deny public funding for abortion and one to repeal a nineteenth century anti-Catholic provision (a so-called Blaine Amendment) in their state constitution.
  • There were, on the other hand, some signs of encouragement:

  • The people defeated (narrowly) an initiative in Massachusetts that would have legalized physician assisted suicide.
  • There remains a pro-life majority in the House of Representatives.
  • But on the whole, it was a bad evening for the causes that we hold most dear.

    Many people are reacting to this event with dismay and discouragement.  Blame is being freely thrown around, and people are even talking about giving up and abandoning the “social issues” in the public square.

    At times like these, I’m reminded of Gen. Ulysses Grant, after the Battle of Spotsylvania in May 1864.  He had recently taken over command of the Union armies, and they had just endured two grueling, bloody battles in northern Virginia.  The battles did not produce the decisive victory that Grant was hoping for, and there was sure to be political pressure on him as a result.  Union casualties were high, and everyone expected him to retreat and regroup.

    Instead, Grant gave the order to advance, and penned his famous line, “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer”.

    The battle of the Culture of Life against the Culture of Death is a long, twilight struggle that will go on for our entire lives.  It is fundamentally a spiritual battle (see Eph 6:12).  It is a contest for the hearts and souls of individuals, and thus our culture, and our laws.  It is not decided by one election, or one defeat, or even one victory.  There is no room for defeatism or despair.  We need to fight with confidence in the Holy Spirit, and determination to carry on, no matter what.

    Will you join me in taking General Grant’s advice?  Because I certainly propose to continue the fight.

    Dividing the Body

    Sunday, October 14th, 2012

    The hyper-partisan state of contemporary American politics poses a significant threat to the unity of the Church.  And we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that politics is inherently partisan.  That’s the nature of the animal.  Having clear distinctions between parties is in many ways a useful and efficient way to structure the public policy debate, and to organize a government.  Principled disagreement is a healthy way to carry on a constructive dialogue about policies.  And, certainly, no democracy can function without a healthy party system — just look at the deplorable state of politics in New York City.

    But the modern obsession with politics has gone beyond a healthy debate about which policies are to be preferred, and which will work better to address social problems.  During this hotly-contested election, it seems now that all issues and all relationships are being colored by whether one is a Republican or Democrat,  or whether one favors or opposes the re-election of the President.

    This partisanship, which was reserved to the political arena, has invaded private life, and is intruding upon the Church.  People are being drummed out of the Church as not “real Catholics” because they show insufficient partisan zeal, or because they propose showing civility to one candidate or another, or because they suggest that one can vote for a candidate other than a Republican or Democrat.  And that is very dangerous.

    Look, I know very well that there is a lot at stake in this election — and I’m not even talking about pragmatic issues like economic and foreign policy. The policies of the current Administration are deeply anti-life — they aggressively promote abortion at home and abroad, undermine the authentic definition of marriage, carry out a program of aggressive warfare that recklessly kills civilians, and are openly and actively hostile to religious liberty.  I cannot personally imagine any “proportional reason” that would justify voting in favor of a candidate who supports so many intrinsically evil policies. (Remember, this is my personal opinion, not an official statement of the Archdiocese)

    But, no matter how significant this election is, the winners and losers are all mere flashes in the pan, here today and gone tomorrow, and their platforms are passing ephemera that nobody will remember in a short time. There are few things as dated and time-bound as partisan politics.

    The Church, the Body of Christ, is an entirely different matter.  She is eternal, and her mission transcends any temporary partisan election that divides people.  The Church continues Christ mission of calling all people to himself in unity through the Holy Spirit.  Factionalism in the Church has been a problem from the earliest day — just read Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  But in any age, factions and divisions deeply wound the Church.

    I am a political wonk.  Election Day is my Super Bowl.  I read political news compulsively.  But I constantly have to remind myself that, as Pope Benedict once wrote:

    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.

    All people thirst for the divine, and politics cannot satisfy that need.  Only God, through the instrument of the Church, can provide the answer.  Before any political affiliation, electoral interest, or policy preference, we are Christians, members of Christ’s Body.  And we must never let any partisan politics divide the Church in any way that would diminish her ability to draw all people to God.

    Election Results

    Sunday, November 7th, 2010

    Gallons of ink, and millions of electrons, have been spilled on the results of last week’s election, and what it means for our nation, our state, the political fortunes of the President and a host of other presidential contenders, our new-fangled voting machines, etc.

    I’m more interested in real results.

    On the national level, the switch of control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans has brought with it a pro-life majority. The narrowing of the Democratic majority in the Senate also increases the chances for some pro-life legislation. These election results present new opportunities for real gains on Culture of Life issues.

    The top priority has to be passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Currently, restrictions on public funding for abortion comes through piecemeal amendments to the budget bills. This means that pro-lifers have to be vigilant about all the various ways that canny legislators and bureaucrats can find to promote abortion. So, the Hyde Amendment restricts funding through the Medicaid program, the Helms Amendment stops funding for oversees abortions, the Smith Amendment prevents federal employee health insurance plans from covering abortion, and the Weldon Amendment provides conscience protection to medical personnel. Each year, these amendments have to be passed against the opposition of pro-abortion members of Congress.

    This bill would take the provisions of these individual amendments, make them permanent law, and apply them across the entire federal budget. This would cure the major flaw in the health care reform law, as well as offer genuine and solid conscience protection for all medical personnel. This is a bill that would easily pass the House, and has a decent chance of passing the Senate — public funding for abortion is deeply unpopular.  It would be very interesting to see what our pro-abortion President would do if this bill appeared on his desk.

    That’s one result of the elections that we’re looking forward to.

    On the state level, the results of the election are not as positive. Our state has elected an ardently pro-abortion Governor and a radically pro-abortion Attorney General. Both men have committed to pressing for the passage of the extremist Reproductive Health Act. The chaos over the results of the elections for the State Senate (the final outcome is still in doubt) leaves Culture of Life supporters with a deep sense of uneasiness that the real result of the state elections could be very, very bad. So, we must remain vigilant in monitoring what goes on in Albany.

    Perhaps the most interesting result of the election is the continuing demonstration of the popularity of the pro-life position. Conventional “wisdom” characterizes a pro-life stand as an electoral loser, and encourages candidates to avoid it. Conventional wisdom is dead wrong.   Polls show that 30% of the voters in this election said that abortion “affected” their vote. But it’s the breakdown of that 30% that’s most interesting — 22% voted for pro-life candidates, while only 8% voted for pro-abortion candidates. That’s an advantage of almost three to one in favor of life.

    This reflects an on-going trend that I’ve written about but that continues to elude the mainstream media. Our culture is slowly changing towards greater respect for life, and a greater desire to promote life. The new pro-life majority in Congress is just one reflection of this trend. More will follow.

    That is a very encouraging result of the election.

    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.