To Care About Life Is To Care About Everything
Our first response to the column in the Register by Omar Gutierrez, “A Catholic Vision for Faith and Politics” (In Depth, Sept. 25), is to ask, “Why persist in repeating the myth of the single-issue voter?” We don’t know any such voters. This amounts to nothing more than a straw-man argument that does not do justice to the thousands of Catholics and other voters who consider abortion the dominant issue in politics.
Indeed, the pro-life vision of politics starts with the mysterious gift of life and expands to encompass all aspects of society that bear on human well-being.
It’s clear, however, from his column, that Gutierrez is well-intentioned, but the kind of argument he makes can be easily twisted to support pro-abortion politicians and for not holding Catholic politicians accountable for voting against the settled issues of our Church.
Gutierrez attempts to ground his argument in the bishops’ most recent version of “Faithful Citizenship,” a guide to “forming consciences” for political participation. He notes the bishops themselves remark in “Faithful Citizenship” that “Catholics are not single-issue voters.”
The bishops are right, but not because anyone tries to be a single-issue voter and needs to be persuaded not to be. As a matter of fact, faithful Catholic voters are persons who care about all the factors impacting children and families, such as the issues of marriage, education, health care and the economy.
However, the accusation of “single-issue” voters has now become accepted parlance among political commentators; thus, it’s natural to repeat it without realizing it has become a cudgel for self-proclaimed moderates and liberals to beat pro-lifers into submission. Single-issue politics, the received wisdom goes, is bad politics because it’s divisive, extreme and ineffective.
So-called single-issue voters should more accurately be termed dominant-issue voters, because that’s what they are — voters who track a variety of political issues, but one of them — or the group often called “life issues” — is dominant when it comes to casting a ballot.
Even described in this manner, pro-life voters will still be found guilty of allowing their concern for innocent life to carry more weight than any other issue. In other words, a pro-life voter may in fact decide to vote, or not to vote, for a particular candidate primarily for that consideration alone.
As Gutierrez points out, the bishops in the 2007 version of “Faithful Citizenship” seem to teach that Catholics are obliged not to vote for a politician who supports an intrinsic evil. But then Gutierrez begins to note the various qualifications found in the “Faithful Citizenship” document itself, and the original, principled point gets lost with assertions like “The Catholic voter is not allowed to ignore the rest of a candidate’s platform as though voting against something is the sum total of political life.”
That’s precisely what a Catholic voter is free to do, and the bishops themselves commend that decision. The flaws in Gutierrez’s article stem from the ambiguity in “Faithful Citizenship” itself, a fact pointed out by numerous bishops in the 2008 campaign.
In addition to intrinsic evils, the bishops encourage the consideration of other prudential factors in selecting a candidate to support. But pro-life voters who rule out voting for a pro-abortion politician certainly are not required, as Gutierrez writes, to “work with the remaining candidates and parties to make them better meet the needs of the sick, the stranger, the prisoner and the widow.”
First of all, not voting for a pro-abortion candidate does not mean a person stops working with political parties; it means only a single candidate does not receive a vote. Faithful Catholics, in fact, have worked diligently inside political parties to produce more candidates who oppose abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
More importantly, Gutierrez leaps over the issue of where the other candidates stand on the dominant issue that all pro-lifers ask. If the other candidates are pro-abortion, there is no obligation to “work with” them, much less vote for them.
Bishops Kevin Vann and Kevin Farrell pointed out the limits of prudential considerations by insisting there are no “‘truly grave moral’ or ‘proportionate’ reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.” And Bishop Robert Vasa asserted that support for a pro-abortion candidate is never justified when the opponent is pro-life.
Gutierrez seems troubled by the prospect of pro-life voters not voting: “Christ shall judge us according to how well we fed and clothed and visited, and less according to how many votes we didn’t cast.”
In the vast majority of cases, pro-life voters will have the choice of a pro-life candidate, so the likelihood of any sizable number of pro-lifers staying home on Election Day is nil, especially with a national election coming up that will feature a pro-abortion president against a pro-life challenger.
Will it be “contentious and heated,” as Gutierrez predicts? Absolutely! So what? But the entire discourse surrounding the election would be better served if the straw-man arguments were thrown out and we recognize the pro-life vision and the Catholic vision of politics are one and the same.
Deal Hudson was chairman of Catholic outreach for the
Republican National Committee.
He is president of Catholic Advocate
in Washington, D.C.
Matt Smith, vice president of Catholic
Advocate, was associate director of public
liaison responsible for Catholic outreach under
President George W. Bush.
Following the Catechism
I believe that St. Paul in Romans says, in effect, that loving one another fulfills the Law, as Jesus preached the Law. St. Augustine reinforces this by stating, “Love and do what you will.”
Contrast this with Joseph Christianson’s letter (“Lying and Forgiveness,” Aug. 28), where he clearly states that lying is always immoral, even “in order to save someone’s life,” adding that lying is always a violation of conscience and “an affront and insult to God.”
Any example of a Holocaust survivor indebted to brave souls willing to lie to the Nazis serves to highlight the inconsistency of Christianson’s opinion with the commandment to love one another. That someone would not lie to save a life is a clear violation of the Second Great Commandment, despite erudite academic justifications.
If the Catechism is to be a guide, let it be from Article 6 (Moral Conscience): “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions … especially in religious matters.”
That one would tell the literal truth so as to condemn someone to a death camp is an outrage against the conscience of any reasonable individual.
San Luis Obispo, California
Welfare for the Wealthy
If we ever become serious about “Dealing With Debt” (Aug. 28), we’ll have to deal with welfare for the wealthy.
Originally, Social Security, under FDR, was a program to encourage the elderly to retire from their jobs so that the young could find jobs during the Depression — if you made more than so much you were off Social Security. But Bill Clinton (working with a Republican Congress) removed the cap on how much money you could make and still collect welfare from Social Security and Medicare (but not the cap on how much of your money that Social Security could tax). George W. Bush added a drug plan; the Democrats gained control of Congress in 2008 by complaining that Medicare didn’t spend enough. (And did you notice all those ads on TV promising that you could get goodies “at no cost to you” if you were on Medicare?)
According to the Heritage Foundation, between 1965 and 2025 Social Security and Medicare will jump from 13% to 36% of the federal budget; but did you notice that the people who complain the most about the national debt also shout “Hands off my socialism”?