A Catholic Vote 2016

1976: Little Sisters of the Poor vote - via LA Times

This is a private opinion blog of one Catholic. On this blog, I don't represent the opinion of any diocese, jurisdiction or parish. I just represent one opinion -- my own. The title of this essay is "A Catholic Vote" not "The Catholic Vote" because I speak from the Catholic community not for it. Nevertheless, my voice has just as much a right to be heard as anyone.

Truth be told, there is no such thing as "THE Catholic Vote," because "THE Catholic Vote" has been so divided for a generation now. The truth is, most Catholic Americans vote right along with the general public, split almost to the same proportion, and in my opinion, that is an indictment and nothing to brag about. It means that rather than the Church influencing the culture, the culture has influenced the Church, and most dioceses across the United States have become little more than public institutions that reflect popular opinions on politics, rather than Catholic teaching.

The problem ultimately goes up the ladder and straight up to the bishops. "The buck stops with them." In the Catholic Church, it ALWAYS DOES. If it doesn't stop with them, then they're not doing their jobs as bishops. Each and every bishop in America must take responsibility for the way the majority of active Catholics in his diocese votes. That's the cold, hard truth about the job. If a bishop's faithful are voting for candidates and issues that are at odds with what the Church teaches, than he (the bishop) is responsible for that. I'm not trying to be uncharitable here. I don't envy them. It's lonely at the top, and they have all of my empathy. I wouldn't want their job in a million years! Yet this is the job Christ has called them to. It is their vocation, and they are responsible for it.

Here are the statistics among religious voters in the last four presidential elections from the Pew Research Center...

When we examine the Catholic vote, we see that it's basically divided between "White Catholics" and "Hispanic Catholics." It appears that White Catholics vote Republican by a narrow margin, while Hispanic Catholics vote for Democrats by a very large margin. These results are revealing on one level. When it comes to social issues concerning the Pro-Life cause, America's Catholic bishops have been negligent in getting the message out to Hispanic Catholics. It would seem there is a real gospel deficit here. The problem is already bad among White Catholics, but Hispanic Catholics are twice as likely to vote for a pro-abortion (pro-death) candidate than White Catholics are. I'm sorry to be so blunt on the racial divide in the US Catholic Church here, but I didn't create the statistics. The Pew Research Center did. If you don't like these statistics, don't shoot the messenger. Take it up with them please.

My main concern is this. Why are Hispanic Catholics so much less likely to vote according to the teachings of the Church, especially on issues concerning life? Again, I don't blame Hispanics, because you see, as I said above, the Catholic Church is a hierarchical system, so the buck doesn't stop with them. It stops with the US Catholic Bishops. If Hispanic Catholics are more likely to vote in favour of abortion, euthanasia, baby-harvesting, and anti-family issues, then we must ask why? Why are the bishops not teaching them the same gospel values as White Catholics? How come White Catholics are more likely to vote for Pro-Life candidates and Hispanic Catholics are not? Obviously being White doesn't automatically make one more Pro-Life. So it has to be something else. It seems that in America anyway, Hispanic Catholics vote against the teachings of the Church far more often than White Catholics do. So if that is the case, somebody somewhere is dropping the ball when it comes to teaching Hispanic Catholics the unconditional Pro-Life value of Catholic Social Teaching. Now I would say somebody is dropping the ball with White Catholics too, but I think the case is much worse with Hispanic Catholics.

Again, the buck stops with the US Catholic Bishops. It always does.

Personally, I think the problem is a lack of clarity from the US Catholic Bishops. It has to be. It seems that if 40% to 45% of White Catholics think voting for a Pro-Abortion candidate is "okay" then our bishops have failed to make their message clear to 40% to 45% of White Catholics. Meanwhile, if 65% to 75% of Hispanic Catholics think that voting for a Pro-Abortion candidate is "okay" then our bishops have failed to make their message clear to 65% to 75% of Hispanic Catholics. That is an EPIC FAILURE. It's bad on the White Catholic side. It's horrendous on the Hispanic Catholic side. So what's the problem here? Are there not enough Spanish-speaking bishops? Actually, I think the problem isn't that simple.

I'm sure there are enough Spanish-speaking bishops to get the message out, and besides that, most Hispanic Catholics in the USA speak perfect English anyway. I think the problem is message not language. Every year since I became a Catholic in 2000, I have read the bishops' voters guide, and every year I have found it to be confusing, contradicting, and poorly organised. It's gotten so bad I don't even bother to read it anymore. The US Catholic Bishops have failed to get their message across, because it seems, they themselves don't even know what their message is. Confusion at the top results in confusion all the way down the ladder, and so it seems, in the USA anyway, it is the Hispanic Catholics who are being deprived the most when it comes to the Gospel of Life.

So now that I've given you my analysis of the problem, I'll present my own understanding of American politics from a Catholic perspective. This is not THE Catholic perspective. It is "A" Catholic perspective, because you see, I am not a bishop, nor am I even a priest. I am a laymen. I speak from the Church and not for it. Nevertheless, I have taken the time to study the Church's Social Teaching myself, and this is how I interpret it...
  1. PRO-LIFE: The Gospel of Life is the most pressing issue facing our American culture today. A society that accepts the wholesale murder of unborn children does not value life at all. It is the same society that will go to war at the drop of a hat, support violent revolutionaries in other countries without thinking twice about it, and help big business deprive workers of rights and fair compensation for their labour. A failure to support the Gospel of Life results in a failure of everything else. A nation without a Pro-Life ethic has NOTHING, and everything else is just an illusion. Therefore this is a non-negotiable issue. Catholics are morally obligated to vote for the most Pro-Life candidate in any election.
  2. PRO-FAMILY: The traditional family is the cornerstone of civilisation. Any society that undermines the traditional family is in the process of committing slow social suicide. Same-sex "marriage," along with easy "no-fault" divorce, legalised prostitution, public nudity and indecency all work toward destroying the traditional family. They are means of slow social suicide and every Catholic is morally obligated to vote for candidates that oppose them.
  3. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Christian religion, particularly Catholic religion, is essential to the survival of Western civilisation. Catholics are always morally obligated to support candidates that fight for religious freedom and protection of personal conscience. Any candidate that wouldn't do this is a potential tyrant that might persecute the Church, if it became politically expedient to do so.
  4. PRUDENTIAL MATTERS: All other matters, such as immigration, healthcare, minimum wage, gun control, foreign policy, etc., are called "prudential matters," which means that while the Church may hold to a "preferred" position on each one, Catholics are free to vote their conscience, assuming their conscience is well informed. It is possible for Catholics to hold a good-faith position on multiple sides of these matters, because they are prudential, which means they relate to good judgement. They are not essential. Issues one through three are essential. 
So if a candidate happens to hold a favoured position on some prudential matters, but then violates one of the three essentials above, that candidate disqualifies himself from consideration, because he violated an essential. The only time a Catholic may vote for a candidate who violates one of the three essential matters above, is if his opposing candidate violates the same essential even more so. For example; let's say Candidate A believes abortion is okay in the first trimester of pregnancy. That would be a violation of the number one essential (Pro-Life) issue, and would normally disqualify that candidate. However, if Candidate B (his main opposition) believes that abortion is okay all the way up until birth, than that would be worse than Candidate A. So in order to stop Candidate B from getting into office, it would be morally licit to vote for Candidate A.

So now, to make this extra CLEAR, for the sake of CLARITY, I am going to apply this principle to the 2016 presidential election.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has stated that he supports abortion in some cases, and that he supports the work of Planned Parenthood on some things. This would normally disqualify him from a Catholic vote based on Catholic moral teaching. However, he has also vowed to nominate Pro-Life judges and he's selected a strongly Pro-Life vice presidential running mate Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has stated that she supports abortion in all cases, all the time, even into the third trimester (which is infanticide), and even killing a baby the day before it's due to be born. She has vowed to support Planned Parenthood unconditionally in all cases. She has received ample endorsements from Pro-Abortion organisations, and wants to make abortion an unchangeable "right" for all women. This position is considerably worse than Donald Trump's position from a Catholic perspective. So in order to stop Hillary Clinton from getting elected, it would be morally licit for a Catholic to choose the "lesser of two evils" and vote for Donald Trump.

Of course, if a Catholic cannot stomach voting for either one of them, there are some smaller third-party candidates running, and a couple of them are okay from a Pro-Life Catholic perspective. These include...
  1. Mike Maturen of the Solidarity Party (read more here)
  2. Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (read more here)
Catholics would likely find more in common with the Solidarity Party ticket, while Evangelicals might prefer the Constitution Party ticket. If a Catholic wants to support either one of these candidates instead, for the sake of political purity, they would be morally justified. At the same time however, Catholics can also support the lesser of two evils by voting for Trump / Pence over Hillary Clinton.

Now some people are asking how I, as a devoted Catholic, could vote for Donald Trump for president. Here is my answer.

Yes, I'm Catholic. I vote for the candidate who is Pro-Life, or at least more Pro-Life than the other candidate. It really is that simple. This election is a super easy choice for me. I don't vote for candidates I love. I vote for candidates I hate the least. Since we are currently living through the greatest Holocaust (of unborn children) in all of human history, voting is fairly easy. I vote Pro-Life, so I always vote for the most viable candidate who is more Pro-Life than the other.

That being said, I'm going to vote for Trump / Pence in the November 2016 election, not because I like Donald Trump. Truth be told, I like Mike Maturen a lot more. But Mike Maturen (as much as I love and respect him) cannot beat Hillary Clinton in November, and Donald Trump possibly can. So in the name of stopping Hillary Clinton, I will vote for Donald Trump, and as a Catholic it is MORALLY LICIT for me to do so.

You see, if I lived in Germany in 1932, I would have voted for the guy who hated Jews the least and didn't want to kill them. Maybe I would have had to settle for a guy who still hated Jews, but if he hated them less than Hitler, and didn't want to kill them, that would be an improvement. Granted it's not perfect, but it would be better than Hitler. So you see, some issues are far more important than others. I would vote to stop Hitler in 1932, just like I will vote to stop Hillary in 2016. I hope I've made myself perfectly clear on this.

I would appreciate similar clarity from our US Catholic Bishops. I understand they cannot endorse particular candidates, and I don't want them to. What I do want is crystal clarity on the Pro-Life issue, if nothing else, because I think it's a travesty that so many White Catholics in the US are not being reached with this message. As bad as that is, I think its a crime that so many Hispanic Catholics in the US are being left out of the message entirely. I hope our bishops will learn how to communicate with White Catholics better, but I sincerely hope they will learn how to START communicating with Hispanic Catholics in the first place.


Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.

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Pair O' Dimes said…
If you are convinced that there is a significant discrepancy between Trump and Hillary on the abortion issue, and this is in fact Catholic teaching (its being morally licit to vote for the lesser evil if there is a significant discrepancy), then I'm willing to agree to disagree. I'm just concerned about what seems to be Trump-worship among those who are angry with the politically correct establishment, and I appreciate your making your position clear.

I am glad, however, that you also mentioned alternative morally licit options. I'm already ashamed of myself for having voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008, and I'm not even sure how right it was for me to have voted for Virgil Goode in 2012. I don't want the same thing to happen, especially when one vote doesn't make much difference.

I just don't think I could look myself in the face if I voted for Donald Trump, not even for the sake of blocking Hillary. I'm not really comparing the two, just trying better to illustrate my point, but I wouldn't vote for the ISIS "caliph", not even to block a Jewish false Messiah just because Islam portrays Jesus positively (though redefining Him) where a Jewish false Messiah would necessarily have only negative things to say about Our Savior.

I'm not trying to get you to change your mind, just to give an idea of how I feel on the matter, and my own conscience. I just feel that too much of these elections is a combination of 1) fearmongering, and 2) flattery--both of which being from the Devil. And I don't want to fall for that, especially since both sides do it.

At the moment I'm most concerned about the Republican Party's platform and how it's going to be revised this week--in particular, that it may not sacrifice its positions on the essential moral issues.

Anyway, God bless you and be with you in everything you do.
Lawborn said…
I do not think it's the Bishops. It's the laity. They don't listen to the Bishops or the Priests anymore. They have allowed themselves to be caught up in the culture and allowed it to influence their thinking. There is only so much the bishops can do with a laity that absolutely does not care what the bishops have to say. Haven't you heard Catholics talk smack about their own Church? It's a constant thing.
Also, it's very hard to vote for either party. The republican party only pretends to be pro-life. They might be anti-abortion but, they are not pro-life. I used to call myself a republican until my eyes opened up to the true nature of the party. Not a good party to vote for at all. No, I am not a democrat either.
It might be time for Catholics to create their own party. Something new that actually represents their own interests.
Shane Schaetzel said…
Lawborn, we Catholics have done just that. Working with other Christians we just created our own political party. It's call the American Solidarity Party. Click Here to Learn More.
OK: As a professional historian and an "anglo" Catholic, I will submit my opinion on the issue of Hispanic non-compliance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
1. THE CULTURE OF CORRUPTION. For almost 400 years, the entire area south of the Rio Grande was cursed with a political system which had very little self-government. Almost all important decisions were made in Spain. Local elites, however could engage in "passive aggression," or, "I obey, but I do not execute." As a result, things "got done" in Hispanic America by means of social pressure, economic influence, and outright bribery and corruption. As an example, although I would do well financially by retiring in a Latin American country, I do not trust their governments to protect my rights. This is a cultural, NOT a racial issue.
2. THE COMPARTMENTALIZING OF MORALITY. Or, to put it in current terms, if you "talk the talk" you do NOT have to "walk the walk." To take the most obvious example: "I am pro-life, but Hillary Clinton will allow Uncle Jose to immigrate (illegally) to the United States. So, I will support both a culture of lawlessness and a pro-abortion presidential candidate."
3. THE SUPERFICIALITY OR "ROMANCE" CHRISTIANITY. Having grown up in the Ozarks, Mr. Schaetzel is not as familiar as I am with "immigrant" Catholicism, specifically, the Catholicism of southern Europe. Again, in this ideology, as long as you "talk the talk" and perform the rituals(including the most bizarre renditions of the sign of the cross) your behavior is not bound by the values to which you claim to adhere. The most notorious illustration of this is the competition on the East coast to have expensive First Communion parties, followed by voting the dominant culture. New York state, and New Jersey are prime examples of this "Shinto Catholicism." As proof I offer the following: Cuomo, Guiliani, little Cuomo, Molinari, Lazio, Torricelli, De Blasio, etc. As a further example, Mr. Schaetzel might remember that Pope Paul's birth control commission advised a CHANGE in the Church's teaching by a vote of 64 to 4! The four theologians who DEFENDED the traditional teaching were of the following heritages: French, Belgian, Irish, and Irish. I refer to these as the cultures of "intellectual consistency."
4.THE COMING IRRELEVANCE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. If I were the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, I would support the immigration of as MANY Hispanics as possible to the United States(especially Mexicans and Puerto Ricans). Why? To effectively neutralize the Catholic Church in America! Hillary Clinton has already said that the Churches must be forced to change their teachings on abortion and homosexuality. If any reader of this comment believes Hispanic Catholics would turn on the Democratic Party, even if it actively persecuted the Church, you are engaging in wishful thinking. In 2012, Hispanic Americans supported the pro-abortion Barack Obama at a higher rate than the American Jewish community (never shy about ITS "pro-choice" credentials). The American Civil Liberties Union has repeatedly tried to use the legal system to FORCE Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. Do you really think Hispanic Americans would launch a "Cristero" insurgency to protect the Church? Don't hold your breath. What we are not willing to admit is that, at least in America, Hispanic Culture has lost its moral, ethical, and intellectual compass; frankly, it is dysfunctional. As for this old white guy, when the Catholic hospitals are shut down, and when priests are taken away for not officiating at "same sex marriages," I will just stand by silently and watch. After all, I KNOW there will be no support from American Hispanics. My days of being valiant are long gone.
FWIW, Dr. Amir Azarvan has dropped out of the race, and now Mike Maturen is the American Solidarity Party's candidate.

I was seriously considering Azarvan, and I may consider Maturen, but I live in a state that is going to overwhelmingly vote for Trump. Given that, I have the luxary, and maybe even a bit of a duty, to register a moral protest vote. In a state where the race was closer, I wouldn't have that ability and would likely have hold my nose and vote for Trump. Having said all of that, I'm sure the race is basically over at this point and Clinton has one, which will make for the cementing of a scary social transformation in this country over the next four years.
On how we ended up in this lamentable situation, i.e., there being no real "Catholic Vote", I'd go back to the election of John F. Kennedy, the most lamentable and so far only Catholic President. In his campaign he made it quite clear that he was going to be a Sunday morning in the pews Catholic and not let this Catholicity otherwise really impact his decisions, therefore making him palatable to Evangelical Protestants at a time when merely being a Catholic raised questions.

JFK's election was celebrated by Catholics and, oddly enough, it still is, even though the details of his personal life have come out and he would hardly seem to be the standard bearer we'd dare want. But, having watched him distance himself from his Faith for his goal, the message was pretty clear. We can all do it. So moral compromise came right on it and its stayed.

And, partially due to his election, but partially due to other reasons as well (including the widespread increase of education following WWII) we exited the Catholic Ghetto at about the same time and became Americans, as opposed to Catholic Americans. I suppose that at the time the negative impact of all of this was not capable of being discerned, but there it is none the less.

Regarding Hispanics, what we have to keep in mind is that Hispanics of 2016 are basically where Italian Americans were in 1916. That is, they are ethnically distinct, come in burdened with poverty, and heavily identify with their group. Unlike Italian Americans of a century ago, however, they also have the burden of a massive anti Catholic campaign (assuming that we're speaking of those of Mexican heritage) in the early 20th Century. That damaged their relationship with the Faith as the Church was so oppressed in Mexico. Nonetheless, I think they retain their Catholicity, although not always in a strong form. The challenge is overcoming the identity politics that the Democratic Party has always been good at so as to give them a party that seems to appreciate their social situation and which also gives moral options at the ballot box.