Should Catholics Be More Involved In Politics?

Is a lack of Catholic political involvement really the problem?

(photo: Pixabay/CC0)

Last week, I wrote a blog which noted that political shows were partially responsible for anger between friends, an overall lack of Christian civility, and a lack of serious political principle. Thus, I offered the suggestion that “the best resolution some people can make for 2019 is to give up watching political shows altogether (emphasis added).” I concluded that “if we devote the year of 2019 to reading [the classic political works] instead of binge watching, we might come into 2020 with more insights in how to vote and about how politics is supposed to be.” Many objections followed, the most common one being that we need Catholics to be more politically involved, not less. Though I emphasized the duty to vote and never suggested that a single Catholic give up political participation altogether, perhaps people reacted solely to the title of the blog rather than its substance. Still, the question arises: Is the lack of Catholic political involvement the problem?

Let’s investigate.

Catholic justices are not new to the Supreme Court (currently holding five of the nine seats) but some of them over the years have become increasingly inebriated with the idea that Roe v. Wade is not only “settled,” but sacrosanct. On the level of jurisprudence alone, this is bizarre. After all, in its clear overreach of claiming law-making-powers reserved to Congress, the Roe decision treated the first three separation of power articles of the Constitution like a game of Three Card Monte. Even many lawyers who are in favor of legalized abortion—including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg—recognize Roe as a terrible legal decision.

With all of its Constitutional errors, not to mention its anachronistic references to fetal quickening, its insulting and misinformed reference to Saint Thomas Aquinas (which implied that Aquinas might morally allow abortion), and its complete disregard of then-existing ultrasound technology, you would think well-versed Catholic legal minds on the Supreme Court since 1973 would have overturned this national embarrassment.

But rather than being overturned by Catholic justices, it is often defended by them by reason of stare decisis, a Latin term translated as “Let the decision stand” but in the case of Roe would be more accurately translated as “We did something foolish and irresponsible yesterday, so today, we’ll do something even more foolish and irresponsible.”

If Roe is going to be overturned—in effect—it will take an act of Congress.

There are plenty of Catholics in Congress; in fact, between the House and Senate, there are 163 Catholic lawmakers in this new Congress. How do they feel about Roe? We might begin by observing that the majority of Catholic senators and representatives belong to a party that is now officially pro-abortion.

That leaves the Catholic Republicans, many of whom are also in favor of legalized abortion, irrespective of party stance. In fact, they often grandstand about their pro-abortion beliefs when given the chance.

Senator Susan Collins, who identifies as Catholic, comes to mind. Most Americans were unfamiliar with Senator Collins until the waning moments of the Kavanaugh show trial when she appeared on a Friday afternoon to announce her intention to vote in favor of his nomination. Although most Americans likely turned the channel before the completion of her four-thousand-word address (which was three times longer than John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech), she assured the remaining audience that her decision to vote in favor of Kavanaugh was largely contingent upon the assurance that he would not overturn Roe:

There has also been considerable focus on the future of abortion rights based on the concern that Judge Kavanaugh would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. Protecting this right is important to me.

Regarding Republican Catholics being in favor of legalized abortion, one could provide hundreds—if not thousands—of examples just like this one.

The main problem is not that we lack Catholics in the public square; the problem is that many Catholic politicians vote in violation of dogmatic teachings and magisterial pronouncements of their own Church. Sadly, millions of Catholics vote in just the same fashion.

Those who criticized my blog last week might say that not only do we need more knowledgeable and faithful Catholics involved in politics; ideally, we need all Catholics to be well-versed in their own faith—and in how that faith applies to politics and citizenship—before they vote.

If so, we agree. In fact, that’s exactly the point I was making.

We Catholics need to understand what the purpose of government actually is—which is why I recommended reading Aristotle’s Politics. We need to understand the purpose of law—which is why I recommended reading Thomas’ Treatise on Law. We need to understand the rights and duties of Christian citizenship—which is why I recommended Tertullian’s Apology. We need to understand the meaning of terms like conservatism, common good, republic, liberty, state, rights, justice, and prudence. We need to understand why there is not only a duty to vote, but a moral duty to vote for the proper candidate. And, especially in times like these, we need the ability to explain transcendental truths to others without resorting to invective and name-calling.

It is fair to say, however, that you’re not likely to get answers to questions of politics vis-à-vis Catholicism on commercial-network political shows—whether it’s FoxNews, MSNBC, or CNN. But if someone has a clip of Tomi Lahren or Sean Hannity clearly explaining Aquinas’ treatment of virtue, please send it along to me.

I’ll be sure to watch.

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