|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...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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...
- Mike Maturen of the Solidarity Party (read more here)
- Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (read more here)
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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