Catholic Moral Priorities, the Party Platforms and the Ballot: a Reflection – By: Br. Skip Thompson, MSA
Ordinary, faithful Catholic-Christians can do something about the direction of our nation. Each has a vote to cast – and each has a solid guide for discerning the way to vote, which is a well-formed moral conscience. Catholic moral teaching is the foundation for the Church’s social teaching because they are two sides of the same coin. We do not just pick and choose our pet issues and vote according to usual party loyalties. No political party has the corner on the market concerning the totality of Catholic-Christian moral and social concerns – so some discernment is in order to make a wise choice.
If you are confused by the attack ads and fluff pieces, just remember: every candidate is obliged to follow their party platform in Capitols and Congress (or they are replaced in the next primary). So, your vote for a candidate represents support for his party’s platform. Our challenge is to “connect the dots” between the priorities of our faith and the political parties’ positions. Check out the party websites and investigate for yourself, or you can look at what I gleaned here from both parties to save time. Please consider prayerfully what they portend for our nation and remember the following criteria…
Catholics have a duty to serve the poor AND our first priority is that the poor be alive. Issues like taxes, social programs, jobs, immigration, etc., touch on matters of social justice. And persons of goodwill may differ concerning the ways and means to best address these matters. But, as important as these issues are, they are not equal in weight with matters affecting the Moral Law because social programs do not involve an intrinsic evil as a policy option. Our Catholic conscience cannot compromise on the moral law.
That is why life is the sacred pillar upon which all other Catholic socio-political priorities are built – the right of innocent life to live is a grave matter, which means it is too serious to be compromised – regardless of campaign rhetoric. Along with life is the sacred institution of marriage between a man and woman who alone can, with God’s grace, give life. The family is the primordial social institution, where the first responsibility for the care and welfare of persons – young and old – reside. Government’s first obligation is to support the family – not reinvent it. Without the traditional family, children and the nation’s future are in jeopardy. Finally, the “freedom of religion,” safeguarded by our Constitution accords with Divine and Natural Moral Absolutes to do good and avoid evil, according to a well-formed conscience in daily life. The rights listed in our Declaration of Independence are called “inalienable,” because such rights are endowed by our Creator. A government that overrules rights of conscience gives up its legitimacy.
Some Catholics have acquiesced like Joe Biden, who stated in the VP debate that he “could not impose his beliefs on the rest of the country.”  This sounds magnanimous, but it is actually duplicitious because: 1) Legislators impose beliefs for a living, 2) Our opposition is imposing their beliefs due to our timidity. The nature of a Democracy is some beliefs in the public marketplace of ideas win, others lose. The bottom line is: will you stand for what is right? Because for evil to triumph, a good man need do nothing.
Two years ago Cardinal Francis Arinze spoke to us at Holy Apostles Seminary: “We need people in public office [and voters] who will say, I am a Catholic, therefore… not, I am a Catholic, but… His point was that our faith, which Jesus likens to the light of the world, must be advocated, not surrendered – i.e., we must act because of our faith, not in spite of it. This principle applies to office-holders in government who make and execute our laws, and to citizens who vote to select who those executives and legislators will be.
We are in a “values war” with two distinctly different political parties on each side of key moral issues. Catholics therefore are challenged as their first priority to vote consistent with the moral law of a well-formed Catholic-Christian conscience, which must always come before political party loyalty – because parties change and the moral law does not. First things must be first. To act or vote otherwise is to be, in Cardinal Arinze’s words, a Catholic but… For the sake of the nation that our veterans fought and died for, and that our children will inherit, we must do the right thing and vote according to your well-formed conscience.
Political Party Platforms: 2012 Actual Language
Democrats: Protecting A Woman’s Right to Choose. The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.
Republicans: The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life
Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life, which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations, which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions – gender discrimination in its most lethal form – and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.
Regarding the institution of marriage:
Democrats: Freedom to Marry. We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.
We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
Republicans: Preserving and Protecting Traditional Marriage (in 3 sections)
The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic well-being of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects. We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.
Republicans: Defending Marriage Against An Activist Judiciary
A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.
Republicans: A Sacred Contract: Defense of Marriage
That is why Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions. The current Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle – in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts – makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath. We commend the United States House of Representatives and State Attorneys General who have defended these laws when they have been attacked in the courts. We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States that have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other States to do so.
[These reflections are personally offered by Br. Jeffrey “Skip” Thompson, MSA, who worked as a politically neutral legislative advocate for 25 years. This writing is intended to challenge thinking about what it means to be both a faithful Catholic-Christian and an American citizen-voter. It has no approbation from his community or other Church authority. Nonetheless, the public comments of numerous bishops across the country give us ample moral direction and solid criteria to assist us our discernment of what to do.]
 Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan, We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences, ZE12091110 – 2012-09-11 Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-35507?l=english
 Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki,“Bishop Warns of Intrinsic Evils in… Party Platform, (CAN/EWTN News, Springfield, Ill., Sep 27, 2012 / 02:11 a.m.
 Lillian Kwon, VP Debate: Biden, Ryan Talk Catholic Faith, Abortion, Religious Liberties, Oct. 12, 2012. On-line: http://www.christianpost.com/news/vp-debate-biden-ryan-talk
 2012 Democratic National Platform, Greater Together: Protecting Rights and Freedom, http://www.democrats.org/democratic-national-platform#protecting-rights.
 GOP 2012 Republican Platform, We Believe in America: We the People…; http://www.gop.com/2012-republican-platform.