The Catholic Vote and Following Christ.

One in four American voters is Catholic. That makes us an important block of votes.

The Church has consistently been nuanced and honest in its teaching about elections and civic responsibility. Despite pressure from more-Catholic-than-the-Popes on one side and holier-than-Christs on the other, the Church has refused to repudiate any part of the Gospels of Christ.

Social Justice Catholics and Pro Life Catholics are both right in advocating for their causes. They are both wrong, grievously so, in claiming that it is holy to ignore the plain call of Christ to support life AND social justice, not one or the other. These ridiculous assertions are nothing more than attempts at self-justification and dishonest claims of righteousness vis a vis their political opponents.

Those who claim that Jesus loves the poor and supports killing innocent people are liars. Those who claim that Jesus opposes killing the unborn but supports corporatism and the economic enslavement of whole populations are liars. They are both trying to re-create Jesus in their own image. They are demanding that the Lord follow them, rather than following Him.

One message of Public Catholic is that we should follow Jesus Christ, not the phony christs of public manipulation.

The easiest way to do that is to follow the teachings of the Church. Our great Church suffers the slings and arrows of both sides of this political divide and steadfastly continues to call us to the totality of the Gospels and the true holiness of following Christ. The Church asks us to choose Christ, and Him alone in the face of partisan pressures.

I am proud of my Church. I am proud of our bishops. I support them absolutely in their fight for religious freedom, to save the family, protect the sanctity of human life and work for a human-being-supporting economy. Unlike a lot of Catholics, I have already taken my turn at trying to decide for myself what is right and wrong. I laid waste my own conscience in the process.

I urge everyone to follow the Church, stand with Jesus and to lean not on your own understanding with these great moral issues. I know from experience that being your own god only leads to regret.

One downside of a Church that teaches the whole Gospel rather than a cherry-picked version of the gospels that has been trimmed to fit a partisan pattern is that the Church does not give us a cooking-recipe set of instructions on how to vote. Even though we follow Christ, believe His Church and try to adhere to her teachings, we still have to think for ourselves.

God gave us minds as well as souls and it our responsibility before God to use them for the elevation of humankind. That’s a tough bogie when we are confronted with candidates who each have such deep, deep flaws. I have felt all along that what we have is a choice between bad and worse.

I originally thought that I would not vote in the presidential election. I planned to confine my choices to further down the ballot and leave the boxes unchecked beside both these two men. But I had a dream the night before I voted, a dream so compelling that I wonder if it wasn’t more than just a dream. Then, when I had the ballot in one hand and the pen in the other, I knew that I would vote for one of the two men on the presidential ballot. The Holy Spirit touched me, and I knew.

It’s happened to me before, these unbidden moments of clarity that I knew were from the Holy Spirit. But the other times it was votes I cast as an elected representative. This is the first time it has ever happened with my private vote as an American citizen.

Based on my own experience, I am asking each of you to pray before you vote. Give your vote to God. Then, do your best to pick the bad instead of worse when you have that ballot in your hand. I believe that God will guide you.

  • Dave

    That’s very interesting, Rebecca! I also have been undecided for months over whether to vote for Romney or a 3rd party candidate, and just recently came to peace over the matter, though not as dramatically. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten enough voters so that the group of candidates that will be humble and open enough to lead our country to a better future will be elected.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Amen Dave.

  • Dominic

    Rebecca how sad this makes me! The gospel of life and the social gospel consist of one gospel only but constitute 2 distinct though not unrelated elements of that gospel, but these 2 distinct elements are not of the same weight or importance as distinct aspects of the one gospel. The right to innocent human life always takes precedence, which is why there are numerous bishops lately who unabashedly, even urgently, have told us to “vote pro-life”in the upcoming election. And to vote this way is the ONLY WAY to vote as a faithful Catholic given the unavoidable facts of the current political landscape with the parties, platforms, and candidates we actually have, no matter how much we would wish for a candidate or party who allowed us to defend innocent human life at the same time we helped the poor for example. That option at the level of up-ticket is simply not available. One could fondly hope the dream moved you gently away from your natural inclinations, but I fear — with good reason I think — the opposite.

    Admitting the lack of perfect or ideal candidates will not excuse us nor exonerate us. Just as with the German citizens who supported Hitler despite knowing of his death camps (“It’s an unfortunate part of his policies but he will build the infrastructure that will raise us all up as germans and make future economic and national scapegoats like these unnecessary in the future”, they famously said).

    No my dear friend Rebecca, it is not really possible to craft a sustainable Catholic pro-Obama statement that remains faithful to our apostolic faith. Sometimes we have to simply accept the practical limitations of the actual situation, regardless of our ideal preferences. And since this is the clear implication also of the statements of our own archbishop (“..what reason could be so weighty that it can offset the evil of abortion?”) and many other bishops, such an argument should be crafted publicly so it may be exposed to rational criticism.

    Should we pray before voting? Absolutely! But Heaven forbid we should ever allow praying to become a pretext for avoiding the clear verdict of both faith and reason!

    As they say, “Come on man!”

    Voting for the pro-abortion president (let’s face it saying they are both deply flawed is like saying humanity is flawed — it severely misses the point)

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Dom, read this blog. All of it. And let’s have that lunch.

    • Ted Seeber

      I can replace Obama with Romney in what you wrote, and it will all still be very true. That’s the problem.

  • Peg

    Pray for me as I haven’t hit the polls yet. Thus far I have not been inspired to waver from a third party prolife vote for all the reasons Rebecca has stated above. Dominic I respectfully agree and disagree with your points and I think you have misread Rebecca. ALL life is sacred and vulnerable. From these blogs you can see one who walks closely with Christ and modeling from him . All these errors of ours, grievously so as Rebecca noted come from a lack of truth or love. We have to start coming together as Catholics to a full unity of truth and love to truly elevate humankind rather than being manipulated by political parties and idealogies. What strength and change we could make then and how proud Christ would be!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      You are in my prayers Peg.

  • vickie

    Yes Rebecca. Protecting innocent unborn life is a priority but that does not mean there are not other sins that cry up to heaven. Maybe if we can jettison the tribal thinking that has led to tunnel vision all around we can find a more comprehensive way forward.

    • Ted Seeber

      I, for one, have learned that there are potentially FIVE sins that cry to heaven for Vengence- and I can no longer support any form of any of them. Not murder. Not rape. Not slavery. Not oppression of the poor. Not defrauding the laborer of his wages.

      The economy of the United States, our very standard of living, are built on these 5. I for one say no more, and not only in the polling booth, but I’m already taking action to modify my purchasing behavior to my dollar vote as well.

      • vickie

        Have you read JPII’s “Gospel of Life”? He talks about the importance of keeping Man at the center our earthly endeveors. Maybe this is a good place for Catholics to start.

        • Ted Seeber

          It’s from the Gospel of Life that started me down this road to scrupulosity in these subjects. All 5 of the sins that cry out for vengeance are discussed in great detail in that wonderful work.

          • vickie

            So maybe if Catholics ground themselves in the entire body of Catholic social teaching we will stop being used and abused by various political factions. And where we do compromise we will be doing it with soft heart but sharp mind.

  • neenergyobserver

    And that is as good a description of how to decide as I have ever heard. I made my choice long ago but, my outlook is somewhat different, I did not have the experience you did, Rebecca, but there was a lot of prayerful consideration involved, and I am completely at peace with the answer.

    And thank you for this testimony, if we listen to God, he will speak to us.

  • Grace

    These people who say that they are voting for a 3rd person canditate are giving another vote for Obama. Wake up, Guys!
    This election is a no brainer for Catholics.
    Abortion is an evil .
    Fact: When Obama was in The Illinois congress, he was one of the few who voted not to help a baby when he or she survived an abortion and was separated from his or her mother. Listen to nurses describe how they had to stand by while the babies died in agony.
    Talk about social justice. Is it social justice for people to be forced to take handouts because they can’t find a job?
    Blame Bush. The last 2 yrs of his presidency were run by Democrats who controlled both houses.
    Obama has placed mandates against our church.If you’re truly a Catholic, how can you let this go?
    Romney and us have more in common that Obama and us who sat in and accepted Rev. Wright’s rantings for 20 years. Imagine that guys! 20 years and never told his pastor that we didn’t deserve 9/11

  • Peg

    Thanks. I didn’t have a dream but an experience. I have prayed for two years and had long discussions with my spiritual director, a holy opus dei priest. He shared my quandary and concerns regarding this election. I cared deeply about all 5 of Ted’s list of sins. The thought of voting for Romney made me queasy and Obama was out of the question. I thought I found a third party answer and yet struggled and prayed on even harder today.

    Then while sitting in a catholic hospital waiting room-for a diagnostic mammogram-that my friends and I wish would have free coverage rather than the pill-I heard the holy spirit through Fr. Pacwas homily on EWTN. It all seemed too clear. This time the stakes were too great-the assault on religious liberty too fierce. I pulled right…still not a fan but not queasy. I don’t desire to tell others how to vote but rather wish to keep praying and working toward a greater unity fo all life and respect…with great appreciation for the discussions here. Peace

  • Katherine

    Just as with the German citizens who supported Hitler despite knowing of his death camps (“It’s an unfortunate part of his policies but he will build the infrastructure that will raise us all up as germans and make future economic and national scapegoats like these unnecessary in the future”, they famously said).

    No one ever said that. The death camps came only after free elections had been abolished by the Nazis.

    But even without death camps, the Right-Wing agenda was too much for the Catholic Church in Germany. The Catholic party formed an alliance with the liberal party and the pro-abortion Socialist Party against the Nazis, which governed through most of the Weimer period. The Catholics showed that even with difficult differences like abortion policy, some dangers were even more severe. They had great foresight even though Hitler’s future evils had not yet been committed.

  • Steven Jeffries

    You know, Rebecca, something occured to me yesterday. I’ve listened to almost every pundit on the planet it seems. They all want to talk about how Republicans lost the handle on the voting demographics. It seems the “Spanish-Americans,” and the “African,(black),-Americans,” and the “pro-choice” women voters, were largely responsible for returning Mr. Obama to the Presidency. In contrast, Romney and the Republicans coundn’t “connect” with these groups.

    It then occured to me. If the demographics are changing to favor those of the hispanic, black, female, and even gay rights groups, and the white, spiritual voter group continues to shrink, no one with anything but a liberal agenda will ever win political power again!

    So why even bother to vote if one is somewhere in that latter group? I refuse to vote for the things which go against my beliefs. And if that kind of resolve is becoming “outdated” in this changing landscape of society, the outlook for people like me in this country seems very dismal indeed!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      FWIW Steven, I think most of the analysis you’re reading and seeing is largely apolitical political science classroom type stuff. Yes, President Obama was able to create wedge issues which energized segments of the population that are numerous in battleground states. Yes, he targeted his race around the electoral college. But another factor is that Governor Romney was not at all appealing to the base that normally supports Republicans. Most of the people I know who voted for him did so only with the greatest reluctance. One major difference in this race is that Obama’s base was excited about him and Romney had no base; just people who didn’t want Obama. Don’t fall off the cliff over all this new demographics chatter.

  • Teresa Rice

    I agree with you that we are called to support both causes – social justice and pro-life. Although I would prefer to call what the Church calls “social justice” as merely justice. The primary problem is that many, probably even a majority, of social justice Catholics have perverted the term to mean showing disdain for profits, advocating for equality of income or equality of outcome, and socialism (sometimes Communism) when that isn’t what the term means. In addition standing up for the vulnerable, the unborn, is a social justice issue also. I need to look further into what the difference between justice and social justice is. It seems to me that the term justice does at least a good of a job or even better job of defending or advocating for the less fortunate, those who are victims of crime and so forth. I’m not sure of the origin of the term “social justice” so I need to do some research on it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I agree with you Teresa. The way to handle all this is to ignore the ways in which people have mis-used these terms to advance their own agendas and simply do what’s right.