National Catholic Register


The Year Ahead

BY The Editors

November 15-21, 2009 Issue | Posted 11/9/09 at 12:11 AM


Catholics and people anxious to see a strengthening of endangered values in our society can point to signs of hope in the off-year election.

Just one year after the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, the 2009 vote seemed to send a warning to the administration and Congress of increasing discontent: If they ignore the values most Americans cherish, the dominant party in Washington could suffer major losses in next year’s midterm elections.

Americans, we are told, voted for “change” last November. Here is a representative sampling of what they got:

• Yet another overturning of the pro-life Mexico City Policy first instituted by Ronald Reagan, and restoration of U.S. funding of the U.N. Population Fund.

• Health-care reform that may force Americans to pay for women to kill their own offspring.

• Overturning of rules limiting federal money used for human embryonic stem-cell research.

• Repeal of a conscience rule protecting health-care workers who refuse to participate in abortions or other immoral practices.

• Administration appointments of such people as pro-abortion Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius or Kevin Jennings, the “safe-schools czar,” who as a high school teacher encouraged a 15-year-old homosexual student to continue having sex with an older man he met in a bus station bathroom.

Apparently, enough Americans disagree with this agenda to cause significant rumblings around the nation. Maine voters, for example, repealed a state law allowing men to marry men and women to marry women. That brings to 31 the number of states that have protected marriage from modern redefinition, a healthy majority. The Maine plebiscite reminded Americans that nearly every time the question of same-sex “marriage” is put to voters, the people demonstrate the common sense that many courts and legislatures seem to have lost.

It was a “commonsense” approach Portland Bishop Richard Malone and other traditional marriage advocates sought to use in a state that has become more secular over the years. Brian Souchet of Stand for Marriage Maine participated in debates that showcased the importance of natural-law arguments. “We say that kids need moms and dads,” Souchet told the Register. “We speak about practicalities. The opposition argues that marriage is just a benefits package.”

That, of course, isn’t what marriage is. Rather, it is the best environment for having and rearing children. It’s the best guarantee of our future. And Americans know that.

A healthy 53% of Maine voters responded to the message, “vetoing” the same-sex “marriage” law.

Pro-life and traditional family-values advocates were encouraged, too, by the election of pro-life governors in New Jersey and Virginia, Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell. They both happened to be Republican.

While voters no doubt were motivated by their economic messages in these tough times — both men focused on pocketbook, rather than social, issues — they also had no problem rejecting two pro-abortion, pro-same-sex “marriage” proponents in an age when America, according to the Planned Parenthood slogan, “stands for choice.” New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine’s views are well known. And Creigh Deeds, the Democrat in the Virginia governor’s race, once opposed partial-birth abortion but later switched to favor it. He also said he was opposed to same-sex “marriage” but then campaigned against a state constitutional amendment to ban it.

McDonnell, on the other hand, had a clear record of trying to advance curbs on abortion as a state legislator.

Though both governors-elect are Catholic, they clearly are politicians, not evangelists. But they bring to their careers a desire to work for the common good — and that is certainly a Catholic concern. If they heed the social teaching of the Church, Christie and McDonnell will work to restore a sense that social problems are often best solved by those who are directly affected by them. That’s called the principle of subsidiarity: When at all possible, let lower-level groups take care of the needs of individuals who are hurting — families and neighborhood and church groups rather than a government bureaucracy that has little sense of the real lives of people.

“I pledge to you that we will honor the words of Thomas Jefferson to keep a ‘wise and frugal government’... so that freedom can grow,” McDonnell said in a victory speech with abundant references to God. “I pledge to you that we will honor the words of George Washington to honor ‘the eternal rules of order and right’ by protecting life and liberty and property in the pursuit of happiness.”

Of course, there was a setback for traditional values in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, where Doug Hoffman, a pro-life, pro-marriage third-party candidate lost after the Republican candidate withdrew and threw her support to the Democrat. But Hoffman lost with 45.2% of the vote, unusually high for a third-party candidate. The strong support he received shows that voters still take a stand for principles and traditional values. And the whole debacle — set off when the GOP put up a pro-abortion, pro-same-sex “marriage” candidate — energized the conservative wing of the party.

With the momentum generated by this year’s surprising victories, traditional-values voters have even more of a reason to look forward to change in 2010.