Saturday, May 7, 2016

Catholic America: Civil War

20 You sit and speak against your brother, 

slandering your mother’s son. 

21 When you do these things should I be silent? 

Do you think that I am like you? 

I accuse you, I lay out the matter before your eyes.  (Ps 50:20–21).

My policy on this blog and the attached Facebook page is I won’t write articles promoting my personal political preferences. I have this policy because I don’t want people to think I am portraying my personal preferences as official Church Teaching. Sure, maybe I’ll get careless and someone will deduce my political positions from the evidence I let slip by. But the point is, I believe that a blog aimed at promoting the Catholic perspective should not pervert that perspective with personal political preferences.  Other Catholics who blog may have a different focus, and will advocate their political positions. That’s their call, and I won’t say they do wrong, so long as they make clear that these are opinions, not Church teaching.

But there is a civil war going on between two factions of Catholics I find on the internet. One favors voting for Donald Trump as the least evil choice for 2016. The other believes one can only justify a third party vote. (See HERE for my pre-primary evaluation of the pitfalls of major party vs. third party). Both groups agree that the Democrats running for office openly embrace intrinsic evil and they cannot support such a candidate. But where they disagree is over whether Trump is equally as bad.

These two groups are battling on Facebook, forums and blogs, accusing each other of bad will, even to the point of denying the other is “really” Catholic. That is harmful and usurps the teaching authority of the Church. I say harmful because both groups are seeking the best way to be Catholic. I say “usurps” because such people make a declaration which the Church has not made. The end result is turning Catholics against each other when they should instead be uncovering the truths we must consider to make a good Catholic decision. When you see one faction accusing pro-life organizations “selling their souls to Trump” on one hand and another faction accuse people who can’t support Trump in good conscience as “really being pro-Hillary,” you know Catholic factions have replaced being "co-workers in the truth” (3 John 1:8) with savaging each other.  

I believe before these factions continue to bash each other, we should consider something Archbishop Chaput wrote in 2008 when Catholics were making their decisions on that election:

Finally, here’s the third question. What if Catholics face an election where both major candidates are “pro-choice”? What should they do then? Here’s the answer: They should remember that the “perfect” can easily become the enemy of the “good.”

The fact that no ideal or even normally acceptable candidate exists in an election does not absolve us from taking part in it. As Catholic citizens, we need to work for the greatest good. The purpose of cultivating a life of prayer, a relationship with Jesus Christ, and a love for the church is to grow as a Christian disciple— to become the kind of Catholic adult who can properly exercise conscience and good sense in exactly such circumstances. There isn’t one “right” answer here. Committed Catholics can make very different but equally valid choices: to vote for the major candidate who most closely fits the moral ideal, to vote for an acceptable third-party candidate who is unlikely to win, or to not vote at all. All of these choices can be legitimate. This is a matter for personal decision, not church policy.

Chaput, Charles J. (2008-08-12). Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (pp. 230-231). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Between now and November, Catholics will be trying to decide what is the best choice they can make. In doing so, we need to remember that the Church clearly teaches that we cannot sacrifice a graver issue for a lesser one. As St. John Paul II wrote:

38. In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of the rights of the human person. It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change—let alone eliminate—them because such rights find their source in God himself.

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

 John Paul II, Christifideles Laici (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1988).

If two Catholics with this proper understanding of Catholic teaching, in good faith discern two different decisions on the best way to apply Catholic teaching on voting, one cannot say the other is doing evil in such a case. Each Catholic might be sincere in thinking their way is the best way, but there is a point where we have no perfect choice and we have to make a decision which is one of several possible in being faithful to Church teaching. When that happens, we have no right to question the other’s fidelity.

Let us keep this in mind for the coming months that our actions and our reasoning may be just and charitable, avoiding treating each others as heretics over political opinions.

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