To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or ‘abortion rights’ when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and therefore morally impermissible. (Joint Statement issued by Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas and Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, Oct. 8, 2008)
We forget how precious a gift it is to live in this country, what a privilege it is. And we also forget the importance of voting in this country. For many reasons, this will be the first time I vote and I continue to be awed that I will do so at all and on such an important occasion. This is a momentous election – life and death are in combat and our individual votes have become immensely important. If that were not true, there would not be American brownshirts harassing voters, or voter fraud in several states, or intimidation all over the place.
When I learned about his experience as a POW during the Vietnam war, I decided I’d probably vote for John McCain. A man who would stay with his men struck me as a man I would trust to lead this country. Of course he would make mistakes but we would be able to count on him not the least because he has learned to follow, he has learned obedience and he has put his body on the line for this country. I know that voting is not just a matter of good feelings or even prudence, not for a Catholic who desires to be faithful. Voting is also and especially a time to be a disciple, to adhere to Church teaching.
To form my conscience, I read the applicable sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, read the pastoral document, Faithful Citizenship from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, many the Holy Father’s writings on the Church in the public arena as well as other pastoral documents provided by the magisterium. They don’t give a great deal of attention to the economy or the war or immigration reform or taxes or the many other issues that fill the MSM or that we discuss over and over and over. The Church doesn’t spend much time worrying about whether I’m comfortable or like a candidate or believe he’s erudite or looks good on the cover of GQ. They don’t even care if my favourite candidate can take down a moose. The first and most important issue the Church cares about is a candidate's stand on intrinsic evils, on those things that are always and everywhere and on every occasion evil:
Now, it must be admitted that not every moral evil is equally grave (CCC 1852-1854). Some issues have little effect beyond themselves; some touch on a few related issues; some are foundational to the whole structure of politics and society. The issues which have been labeled as “non-negotiable Catholic issues” are the most grave, because they are at the foundation of all our rights and responsibilities. These are, namely, the “life issues” of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning; and the fundamental social issue of the family, which in this country today mostly means the definition of marriage. These issues are “non-negotiable” because, if the fundamental right to life is not secure, no rights are ultimately secure. If existence is contingent upon the will of others, so too is every other human right contingent. (See also Faithful Citizenship.)
Because of his pro-life position and support, I had few doubts about John McCain. But because voting is such a serious undertaking, I knew I must actually research his positions, especially when I read that he had voted to fund destructive human embryonic stem cell research (DHESCR). At the same time, I decided I should research Barack Obama. The Church sets forth certain non-negotiables and I wanted to know how each candidate stands in relation to them.
A candidate’s position is so much more than what he says or even what others say about him. Candidates want to win and they will try to convince as many people to vote for them as possible. Elected officials may not tell us the truth but who they are will become apparent in their voting history, actions, endorsements (both received and given), party affiliations and platforms and those with whom a candidate has associated both now and in the past. As a writer and student of theology, I’ve learned history sees beyond advertising.
I reviewed voting records at the Pew Forum and The Washington Post.
Endorsements occur at all sorts of levels so there were web searches, attention to neighbourhood sign boards, commercials and comments from friends who teach or work in other areas that are unionized. I found congressional endorsements here.
Each party’s platform may be found at The American Presidency Project.
Finally, I surveyed copious articles and documents in both the MSM and non-MSM news sources for information about each candidate's actions throughout his life and his associates. Blogs often gave me links and information to conduct web searches. I wanted to know what each candidate’s supporters as well as his detractors had to say and mostly, I wanted to read official records and documents. Unfortunately, many major news sources, including Catholic ones, cannot be trusted. Fortunately, there are some trustworthy ones including Zenit and EWTN. And, a number of friends sent me news links and made my research so much easier and pleasant.
I didn’t expect an unblemished, untarnished history. People change. But change must be more than talk. There must be action. It’s not enough that a candidate become silent on some past activity. Silence often has more to do with the desire to be elected than actual change.
Associates helped complete the picture. They shed powerful light on what a man really believes and values. Who he spends his time with, where he gives his money, what he works and fights for, especially when he’s not being paid, indicates what really matters to a man.
Diligence was required. Diligence was rewarded. Pictures of each candidate began to emerge.
It very quickly became apparent that Obama delights in death as do many of his associates. His motto might easily be: “It’s alive! Quick! Kill it!” I have wondered what he and his wife will say to their daughters when they ask if they are punishment. I also quickly realized that Obama is the way my foster-father became after my foster-mother’s death, is like so many other "snake-oil touting faith healers” – black, white and Hispanic – whom he sought out in an attempt to save his wife as she was dying of cancer.
They spoke well and said absolutely nothing. They were angry. Enraged. Pretended their anger was against sin. In reality, they were angry with life. Angry that religion did not give them a magic code which gave them control. Angry that God asked for faithfulness on the via crucis: they insisted Easter must come without Good Friday. Instinctively I’ve always recoiled from Obama, he reminds me of an inflatable plastic skeleton: Barackacide offers death as a brand name – slickly tasty, slickly attractive, slickly deadly. It's no surprise he associates with terrorists such as Ayers and others who are known to be enemies of this country.
The picture of John McCain is pretty solid: he’s pro-life, in fact he’s terrific on all the non-negotiables except DHESCR. He has voted to fund some form of it twice in the past five years or so. DHESCR is an intrinsic evil and so that should eliminate McCain. But voting in accordance with Church teaching is not a game of bingo wherein we match each candidate’s positions on a playing card with bright plastic markers and gleefully vote for the one who allows us to make the right picture. Being Catholic is not so easy.
In all honesty, the more I looked into the man and his actions and his associations, I did not get a clear picture on DHESCR – the Republican party platform and his VP choice are totally against it, he surrounds himself with people such as Sam Brownback who are also firmly against it. McCain has, in fact, voted against funding certain types of DHESCR during the past five years.
Faithful Citizenship, all of the Church’s pastoral documents, my local bishops, bishops from other dioceses as well as those the church has specifically authorized to teach (and I have intentionally attended my diocese’s conferences on voting) have clarified two important points:
1 - The importance of voting to limit evil.
2 - Researching each candidate is vital because, the party-platform and running mates and associates and life history inform us whether or not a candidate’s position on an intrinsic evil can in fact be changed, limited or nullified.
In charity and based on his pro-life actions but only after listening to my bishops and those they authorized to present Church teaching, I determined it is faithful to believe that McCain is struggling with DHESCR and that voting for him is actually voting to limit evil and the one morally acceptable alternative we've been given.
I personally know or am acquainted with those who say, ‘My vote doesn’t matter.’ Or, those who throw up their hands in disgust and decide that nothing is getting better so they won’t vote. Or, who have decided to technically vote by writing-in some candidate dredged up from the bowels of the internet or created as a joke. They tell me they desire to avoid evil but what I hear is hopelessness and fear.
As Catholics, voting is a matter of discipleship. It is a moral responsibility. It’s serious. The act of voting involves our salvation. It requires making choices and getting involved in the messiness of life – but so does waking up each morning – life with all its messiness is the grace we have been given. And we are only allowed to sit out the vote when “all candidates hold a position in favour of an intrinsic evil” – but we had better be certain they do, we had better do the work and find evidence. To fail to do so is to fail in charity, it is to be terribly dishonest, to indulge in lame excuses for being hopeless and afraid.
This truly is a cosmic election and we really are presented with a choice between life and death. This is a rare country – we are not coerced into self-destruction, at least not yet. And we must either value our freedom or we will lose it. In fact, we must value it so much that we will give up something for it so that self-destruction may not become our governing principle – that something may well be our hopelessness or our pride.
Originally, I wanted to walk the fine line between telling others how to vote and making it clear that only one viable candidate exists. Then Dawn Eden sent me the Texas Bishop’s joint pastoral letter and Fallen Sparrow kept saying to me what I have been saying to so many others: this is a matter of life and death and we had better get busy. In reworking this piece, I’ve gone so far over that fine line I can’t even see it any longer but every year we murder nearly 1.5 million babies and that’s unspeakably self-destructive and unspeakably evil and if we don’t know it, we have become utter fools. It's evil we must at least limit because if we don't, we cannot hope to limit any other evil, particularly not when we face someone who deals in such thuggery.
It becomes clearer and clearer to me, we must not let ourselves be distracted by the din and fear. “[We] did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but [we] have received the spirit of sonship.” (Rom 8:15) We are incredibly powerful. We can storm heaven with prayer and sacrifice. We can blog and talk to others and tell McCain and Palin that while we are thrilled with and support their pro-life positions, DHESCR is never acceptable and we will not rest until they both repudiate it. And we can vote (at least for now) for the only morally acceptable candidate available, we can reject the death that so many foolishly welcome. (When the slick “faith healers” left town with all the money they had collected, it didn’t take long for their followers to denounce them – but that was after the fact.)
Our Lady of Victory won at Lepanto. We are Her children. Is She any less powerful today? Our Lord conquered death at Calvary. Do we not participate in His victory? Has He become weak as time passes? We trust a God who called Abraham to follow Him and created of him the people Israel that His glory might be known, that through them He might come into the world. Has He become impotent? Is He not able to fight for us today as He has fought for His people in the past?
We have work to do and we had best be very, very busy. First, doing what we can to defeat the Barackacide (prayer, sacrifice, especially the Mass, voting and anything else God has given us to do) and then reaching out to those who clamour after him. They are in desperate need and though some, possibly many, will reject Him, it is our business to share with them the One who can actually respond to their longings and truly fulfill their desires – the real One, Jesus Christ.
* And do pray for the Barackacide's children. Pray very hard that Our Mother will be their mother too and protect their hearts and minds from the ugliness they are being exposed to. In fact, pray for the entire family - Obama and his wife as well as the children. More than anyone, they need our prayers.