Those Damn Republicans
I had said in an earlier commentary article that, ultimately, those Catholics who want to vote pro-choice will justify it by citing any available reason, no matter how trivial. (See Defending Ourselves Against the Absolute.) Since then, users have acquainted me with several more of these straws at which so many people grasp. The winning excuse was: “Obama will make other nations like us better.”
But for every Catholic who really doesn’t understand the moral and political obligation to put the right to life first, there are others who will vote for the party whose platform calls for the end of abortion, and against the party fielding the most pro-abortion candidate we’ve ever had, but they will be gritting their teeth at the polls and wishing mightily that they had a better choice.
I’ve always maintained that most of the other issues—immigration, health care, assistance to the poor, tax structures, environmental concerns, etc.—largely involve proposed policies about which good people can disagree. Nor do I assume that mere rhetoric tells us which policies are best: The party that claims to be most concerned about issue X is not necessarily the party with either the best grasp of issue X or the most effective policies for dealing with it. Nonetheless, no party in America is right about everything, and neither Republicans nor Democrats attempt to develop cohesive platforms based on Catholic social theory. Catholicism always transcends the dialectic of left and right. The bottom line for committed Catholics is that no matter which party they vote for, it will align them with some policies which are either ill-advised, or selfish, or both.
Often people blame the Republicans for this state of affairs. Why can’t the Republican Party—which is far closer to the Church on the fundamental issue of the right to life—do more to embrace Catholic social theory in other areas? Many sound Christian commentators in recent years have argued that a party which would consistently articulate Catholic social teaching in religiously-neutral language could, over time, significantly alter the balance of the American two-party system. As the Democrats become quite literally the party of death, one wishes the Republicans would get on the ball.
But this is hardly the fault of the Republicans alone. Because of the serious and fundamental evils continuously advocated by the Democratic Party (abortion and gay marriage to mention the two most obvious), a person of good will is forced into the position of saying: “Look, I just can’t work with you on the things you’ve got right until we eliminate the far more important things you’ve got wrong.” We are in a position eerily analogous to abolitionists before the Civil War, who simply could not work with a pro-slavery party no matter what lesser policies they may have found congenial.
When issues as big as abortion and slavery are at stake, the hard truth is that other things simply have to wait. That’s frustrating. It’s also morally correct.
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