For the past 20 years, Dr. Matthew E. Bunson has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including: The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Day Two at the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland was dominated in the early going by the apparently unforced error by the Trump campaign in the drafting of Melania Trump’s speech on Monday night. The speech that sought to humanize her husband became ensnared in a media firestorm over what seemed to be a generous borrowing of lines from a speech by Michelle Obama in 2008.
As the day went on, however, the convention resumed its drive toward Donald Trump’s Thursday night acceptance speech. The party still seems to be adjusting to having such an unconventional candidate as its flag bearer. If managed properly, of course, the next two nights will assist in the process of unifying the party and heading into the general election with resolve.
As for the theme of the night, “Make America Work Again,” the speakers included a variety of business leaders. With the exception of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who made a prosecutor’s case against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s fitness for election, the most anticipated speeches were by two of his children, Donald Jr. and Tiffany. Both addresses seemed aimed at building on Melania’s effort to soften Trump’s hard-edged image and salvaging some political treasure from a bruising news cycle.
Among the collateral damage of the Melania uproar was the formal approval on Monday of the GOP platform for 2016. The media either ignored it or derided it as an extreme document—the New York Times characterized one of the platform contributors with the headline, “Kansas Zealot Helps Shape the GOP’s Right-Wing Platform”.
Traditionally, party platforms are anodyne instruments that serve up so many general principles that they are instantly forgettable. This GOP platform, however, is almost unique in politics for its specificity.
The Register will be looking much more closely at the platform in the coming days, but it is worth drawing attention to several key areas that will likely resonate deeply with those who advocate a Culture of Life. It starts with the question of life. Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser gave her assessment in a July 19 statement:
The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans. The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great. Firstly, it is reflective of Donald Trump’s pro-life policy commitments to appoint pro-life Justices, to advocate for and sign into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and to defund America’s largest abortion business Planned Parenthood.
The platform details all of the different bills and amendments that might protect the unborn and defend life from conception to natural death. It declares:
We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth. We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare…We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from individuals with disabilities, newborns, the elderly, or the infirm, just as we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide…We oppose federal funding for harvesting embryos and call for a ban on human cloning.
On marriage, the GOP reasserts:
Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values. We condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which wrongly removed the ability of Congress to define marriage policy in federal law. We also condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, was a ‘judicial Putsch’ — full of ‘silly extravagances’ — that reduced ‘the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Storey to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie.’ In Obergefell, five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Connected to marriage, of course, is religious liberty. Here the platform reads:
Ongoing attempts to compel individuals, businesses, and institutions of faith to transgress their beliefs are part of a misguided effort to undermine religion and drive it from the public square. As a result, many charitable religious institutions that have demonstrated great success in helping the needy have been barred from receiving government grants and contracts. Government officials threaten religious colleges and universities with massive fines and seek to control their personnel decisions. Places of worship for the first time in our history have reason to fear the loss of tax-exempt status merely for espousing and practicing traditional religious beliefs that have been held across the world for thousands of years, and for almost four centuries in America. We value the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith.
This is strong language, but more unanticipated are the sections on pornography and human trafficking:
The internet must not become a safe haven for predators,” the platform declares. “Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and well-being. We applaud the social networking sites that bar sex offenders from participation. We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography, which is closely linked to human trafficking.
Tying the plague of human trafficking to pornography is a realistic recognition of the direct link between the two pernicious industries, and the unwillingness of consumers of pornography to accept the role they play in perpetuating a 21st century slave trade is a bitter expression of what Pope Francis terms the “globalization of indifference.”
The Republican platform will probably not be a major part of any discussion during what is traditionally termed the “silly season.” That would be a great pity as its ideas could spark mature conversations at a time when the country needs them most.