Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Catholic Case for President

Once again I am wading into the storm of politics with only my words to shield me. I know I keep claiming caution in speaking, and yet here we are. I have been thinking a lot about the presidential election, which is not surprising since we are smack dab in the middle of 2 conventions.  

We could argue tax policy or foreign relations and the like. These are legitimate issues, but what good does that do me, specifically as a Catholic? Democrats claim that we have a responsibility to take care of the poor as Christ commanded, thus expanding social services and raising taxes on the wealthiest 1%. 

 Republicans will say that the best way to serve the poor is to create the economic conditions necessary for them to work and thrive, which would involve tax cuts on job creators and shrinking government. I can see two equally devout Catholics coming to either conclusion based on their judgment of the evidence.

And you don't want to mix legitimate political differences with the certainty that comes with faith.  When we do that we turn city halls into temples of bureaucracy and preacher pulpits into presidential podiums.

So what is a Catholic to do?

As a theologian, I find many of these questions unhelpful, not because they are unimportant, but because there is nothing for Catholics to rally behind. What are Catholics fighting for this election? On what criteria should we base our vote, especially for president?

I have decided that we should limit our discussion to the 5 non-negotiables. These are the 5 areas (according to groups like Catholic Answers) that in modern American politics where all Catholics should stand with one voice and should not waiver. Unlike so many other political issues, in these 5 areas we have a clear moral course and well delineated division so that we know what side of the line we are crossing.  Our consciences should hold us and set our resolve to stand on the side of the Church. The 5 non-negotiables are:

  1. Abortion
  2. Euthanasia
  3. Fetal Stem Cell Research
  4. Human Cloning
  5. “Gay Marriage”

In addition to this, I will add one more that list, but I will do so at the end.

In the rest of this article, I will make the argument against and for each presidential candidate in light of these specific issues.

I will write an upcoming article about why abortion is the central political problem that it is. Suffice to say that the Catholic Church is the most visible and vocal institution to stand in defense of all unborn life.

photo by Pete Souza
AGAINST-President Obama has a 100% approval rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood. He supports all types of abortion and voted against the Infants Born Alive Act, which would make killing a baby who survived an abortion illegal. As a candidate he supported the Freedom of Choice Act which would make abortion a basic right, thus requiring all hospitals, including Catholic ones, to perform abortions or lose their accreditation As president he overturned the “Mexico City Policy” and allowed federal tax dollars to be sent to foreign countries to fund abortions.
FOR- He has not signed the Freedom of Choice Act into law.


photo by Gage Skidmore
AGAINST- He has been pro-choice in the past. And he does not have a 100% pro-life philosophy. He supports abortion in the cases of rape and incest. He fundraises with pharmaceutical producers of Plan-B, which is meant as a contraceptive but can act as an abortafacient.

FOR- He has promised to stop sending federal money to Planned Parenthood. He has publicly stated his commitment against Roe vs. Wade.

While there are some life issues that have small exceptions, there are no exceptions to the Church's prohibition on killing the sick. There is never a case where this is morally acceptable.

AGAINST- He did say that Oregon was serving the country by having their assisted suicide law
FOR- He has not publicly supported a federal law allowing it.

AGAINST- Regarding Terri Schiavo, he did not think that congress should have gotten involved but that this should be a private matter for the family.
FOR- He has not publicly supported a federal law allowing it.

The Church does not oppose stem cell research per se. What the Church opposes is Embryonic Stem Cell Research for one very important reason: harvesting stem cells for research from an embryo destroys that embryo Hence we are killing human life in order to further scientific inquiry

AGAINST-One of his first executive orders was to remove federal barriers to funding embryonic stem cell research

AGAINST- He does not oppose doing embryonic stem cell research on embryos that are scheduled for destruction.
FOR- He opposes federal funds to be used for ESCR. As governor of Massachusetts, he vetoed a bill that would allow state funding (this is also where he claimed he moved from pro-choice to pro-life). He opposes the creation of embryos for the purpose of medical research

Human life is not a disposable commodity. Every human being has the right to be conceived in dignity, not to be owned like property for research and commerce

FOR- He has said that human cloning is dangerous and wrong

Against- None
FOR- He opposes the creation of human embryos through cloning

The most fundamental unit of society is the family, which is built upon the God-given design of a mother and a father. While there have been many things that have weakened the stability of marriage like the prevalence of divorce and cohabitating couples, recognizing “gay marriage” would hasten the disintegration of the family.

AGAINST- In recent months he has stated his support for “gay marriage”
FOR- He does not support a federal re-definition

AGAINST- As Governor he issued licenses to same-sex couples (though he was forced to by the state supreme court), and he backed a civil union recognition bill.
FOR- He supports an amendment to the US Constitution defining marriage to be between one man and one woman.

So there you have the score card on the non-negotiables. But there is one more: Religious Freedom.

The Catholic Church must be free from persecution. We must be free to follow Christ and His church. We cannot be compelled by Caesar to render to him that which does not belong to him: our conscience. Any law that would have the Catholic bow their knee to the state is an unconscionable attack on the most basic right we have from our God-given nature.

Any leader that mandates that a Catholic choose between the allegiance to God OR country is giving us the same choice the ancient martyrs had in Nero's bloody circus. And we know the choice we should make.

We know the choice we MUST make.

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