What Should Catholics Look for at Political Conventions?


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Although other stories are often in the forefront of the news cycle these days — the coronavirus pandemic still rages on, civil unrest is spreading and protests about racial injustice continue — we now find ourselves less than 100 days away from the 2020 presidential election.

This period marks a crucial phase of the election season and includes the Republican and Democratic political conventions, albeit scaled back for safety this year.

As each of the two major political parties prepare to hold conventions in some form this month, Catholics should be especially attuned to both the candidates and the party platforms — and the ways in which they align or diverge from what we believe.  

Political conventions are an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to showcase their nominees and their ideas for the American people. As Catholics, we should carefully scrutinize both the candidates and the platforms as we think ahead to November.

This can help us ensure that our votes align with our well-formed consciences and with our faith.

We are called to practice faithful citizenship when we vote. Many issues will vie for our attention, but as Catholics, our primary concern should center on issues of human dignity.

I would urge Catholics to remember that faithful citizenship requires us to consider the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death when we cast a ballot. And perhaps nowhere is this of greater import than the issue of abortion.

Sometimes conventions can be quite telling. You might recall that, in 2016, the Democratic Party enshrined the “right to safe and legal abortion” in its party platform — and also booed God — at its convention. This same convention also occurred during the second term of President Barack Obama, whose administration tried to force EWTN and an order of Catholic nuns, among others, to provide artificial contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs in employee health-care plans.

It hasn’t always been this way. As recently as the 1970s, neither party supported abortion in its platform. And if all Catholics were to insist on life as the preeminent issue, it could be that way again.

Quite simply, I believe the issue of life — especially for the uniquely vulnerable unborn — is a bigger issue than party loyalty. So did Mother Angelica, so do the U.S. bishops and so does Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, who has rightfully acknowledged the need for Catholics to consider many issues at the ballot box, recently called abortion the “preeminent issue.” The Pope has also described abortion as “the murder of children” and has compared it to Nazi atrocities, “but with white gloves.”

Following the Pope’s lead, the U.S. bishops have also labeled abortion as “preeminent.”

The reasons are many. As the Pope told several American bishops, without the right to life, there are no other rights.

There is also no other group in our country today that is dying in anywhere near the same numbers as unborn children — about 1 million killed each year in abortions. This is far more than the number of deaths from COVID-19 in this country.

EWTN foundress Mother Angelica also warned that Catholics must be very careful when we vote, and she herself prioritized life over every other consideration.

“I am not gonna vote for candidates,” she said just prior to the 2000 election.

“I vote for life … because it’s an abomination to God, the culture of death. … And I cannot vote for death. I vote for life.”

The guidance Mother Angelica offers us is still true today. No candidate or party platform will align perfectly with our values as Catholics, but if we vote for life, we can give priority to the most pressing — and deadly — issue of our time.

I hope that as Catholics all of us will place principles — especially the principle of the right to life — above personalities and parties.

As we watch the conventions in August, let us see who embraces our preeminent values and who does not. And when we vote in November, let us vote for life in every race, local, state or national, regardless of party. This would be truly faithful citizenship.

God bless you!