This was written (with one noted exception) right before the presidential election of 2008; hence the many references to President Obama. The moral reasoning remains exactly as valid as it was in 2008.
My wife has a good friend who is inexplicably voting for Obama. For a Catholic to do that is absolutely against Catholic moral principles. For a morally conservative evangelical Protestant (my wife’s friend) to do so is also against their own ostensible principles (assuming there is any attempt to consciously be consistent and principled).
How does one explain or deal with these things? Here is how I do it, because if I didn’t have some explanation I would go absolutely nuts too, dealing with it (I’m not an overly emotional type, but I am very passionate indeed about principles and ideals and consistency, and moral reform of society):
1) Failure to integrate faith into a consistent view of all of life, and compartmentalization of religion and other aspects of life.
Thus, people (even good, committed Catholics and other Christians) don’t seem to see a connection between what their faith holds and how they apply it to life, or politics in particular. They also compartmentalize economics from religion and faith. If they think one candidate will help the economy, then they’ll vote for them, no matter what he thinks on the pro-life issue. In effect, money becomes more important than human life. But they don’t think of it in those terms, because they never get that deep in reflecting upon it. They’re simply operating on the basis of the notions above.
2) Antipathy to one individual incumbent or candidate causes them to vote for the other guy, no matter what he believes, or how it violates Christian / Catholic principles.
This is a variation of #1. The basis of this decision is not moral principle, but more so a matter of taste or style. One chooses a President in the same way that they choose a dress or suit coat, or a flavor of ice cream, or style of living room. Obama has a certain appeal or charisma or he’s good-looking, etc. That’s enough. The pro-life cause be damned (which they are not consciously thinking, but it is the effect nonetheless).
3) The counsel of despair.
Pro-life can’t prevail anyway (abortion has been legal for 35 years), so why even bother anymore? Therefore, we’ll vote for the guy who isn’t pro-life, but has some other good ideas.
4) Denial of the reality of pro-life gains.
President Bush and the Republicans in Congress have done nothing, etc. Poppycock. Bush signed bills prohibiting partial-birth abortion (infanticide) and put in two great pro-life Justices onto the Supreme Court (Roberts and Alito). But let’s deny all that and pretend that nothing is any different with a Democratic President, who will put in ultra-liberal Justices and hundreds of other lesser judges who want to make law rather than interpret it, and who believe in a goofy progressivist legal philosophy, whereby the Constitution can change according to present whims and fashions. The Supreme Court now has four solid pro-life Justices (Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia). Justice Kennedy sometimes votes against extreme pro-abortion practices (e.g., partial-birth infanticide). Justice Stevens is 88 years old. If he retires and a pro-life Justice is appointed, then the Justices are 5-4 pro-life. If a second liberal Justice retires or dies, then it’ll be 6-3 pro-life, assuming McCain picks a good pro-lifer (and that he or she doesn’t flip-flop like Kennedy mostly did). That is the stakes of this election. But throw all that out the window, because Obama is more appealing than McCain and the economy is struggling? . . . Let’s snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after 35 years of solid pro-life activism . . .
5) Buying the pro-abortion lie of “imposing my values . . .”
The propaganda of the last 40 years would have us believe that life of the preborn child is not something that society should protect, and that to think so is unduly imposing personal opinions on a society. Funny, then, that the same people think it is fine and dandy that homosexual values can be forced upon everyone, on pain of charges of extreme intolerance. Thus, any sexual practice is fair game, while human life is simply a “personal issue.”
6) Religion has nothing to do with society.
Variation of #1. This buys the secularist lie that religion is merely a private affair. So if anyone expresses a religious view in the larger society, it is a naughty no-no, according to what our secularist overlords (who run education, academia, the media, the entertainment industry, etc.) want us to believe and how we should behave. Just keep it in the church . . .
7) The one-issue voter canard.
This is utterly ridiculous, but not given to short summary. The war in Iraq is often brought in here, as a supposed “equivalence” issue to abortion. But of course, there is no equivalence. Wars can be argued pro and con, but abortion goes on day in and day out. Every day in America about 4000 babies are butchered (about the amount of all casualties in the present war). Abortion is intrinsically immoral, while any given war (like any instance of capital punishment, or police use of force) may be justified or not. Abortion is a deal-breaker. Anyone who favors it accepts things that are absolutely incompatible with Christian, biblical morality.
8) Acceptance of the pessimistic view that a Christian cannot positively affect government and society.
The government is too far gone and cannot be Christianised anyway. This is a variant of #3 and the flip-side of #6. We can’t do anything about an inevitable increasing secularization, so who cares who we vote for? Put in the “new guy.”
9) The two parties are exactly the same anyway.
Variant of #4. The person who thinks like this, or who adopts a “third-party” / libertarian approach, is operating outside of the practical reality of politics. The fact is, that there are major differences between the parties. Republicans aren’t perfect, by any means, and are increasingly influenced by secularism and libertarianism themselves, but to not see any major differences is really dull thinking (to put it mildly).
[the original #10 applied only to the situation in 2008 (first black President), so I will add two of my central arguments along these lines (written on 9-28-20) that are never ever dealt with by “new pro-lifers” / Catholic Democrats. So this section isn’t a reason why leftist pro-lifers vote for pro-aborts, but rather, why they shouldn’t.]
Would a “new pro-life” Catholic vote for a Klansman who thought it was fine and dandy to kill black people; thought slavery and Jim Crow were great, etc.? This fact in and of itself would not immediately disqualify the candidate? That is the strength and force of the analogy. I say that no one not insane would do so. And if they wouldn’t do that, I don’t see why they think they could vote for a Democrat childkilling advocate. There is zero ethical difference.
The following are brief exchanges on the CHNI forum with a Christian (possibly soon a Catholic) who did vote for Obama. I had written, in another recent paper:
The lousy catechesis, due to the modernist, liberal crisis in the Church in the last 50 years, has decimated catechetics, evangelism, and apologetics. Catholic schools were taken over by the liberals, so that Catholics got an education almost as secularized and stripped of distinctive Catholic elements, as the public schools were offering. So all those Catholics, if they didn’t make any individual effort otherwise, came out as good liberals, devoid of a Catholic identity and worldview (so that half of them at the moment see no incredible disconnect in voting for Obama, and see no conflict between that act and the moral and social principles of their faith).
What do you mean by this statement Dave A. Can you briefly clarify?
The briefest clarification is to say that no Christian can vote to sanction childkilling, by voting for a person who will promote and sustain it (when there is a clear pro-life alternative, as there is in this election).
I know there are conservative Christians in both camps (RC and Protestant) who will vote for Obama rather than McCain in the upcoming election.
Of course. And they have insufficiently harmonized their faith with their vote. Someone disagrees? Let them come present their case. I say that they have none.
Just how far should our personal “faith” beliefs (e.g. pro life) bleed into the secular world in which we live and affect the decisions that have to be made in that realm?
Jesus is Lord of all of life. There is no part of life that our faith shouldn’t affect, for the Christian. Otherwise, we are making idols of those parts of life that we try to deliberately separate from our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Transformer of Culture (lots of people do this regarding sexual issues, of course).
What does this all mean for Roman Catholics going to the polls – particularly those tired of the issues associated with the Bush Administration and Republican leadership as a whole?
It means that the choice is clear: no traditional Christian who accepts traditional Christian morality can sensibly, consistently vote for Obama, since there is a solid pro-life alternative in McCain. Abortion is the leading issue of our time, by far.
Didn’t mean to get too political on the forum – just looking for some good ol’, down home clarification.
Why should any pro-lifer or Christian vote for a rabidly pro-abortion candidate? How can they justify voting for a man who thought children born alive after botched abortions, should be killed (this is a matter of record), and who agrees with partial-birth abortion (also a matter of voting record), where a child is delivered (head only), then has his or her skull pierced by scissors, and brains sucked out? Would YOU vote for such a person who believes these things, gillert? What is so difficult to understand about this (all of you out there who want to vote for Obama)?
Those who vote for people who support such abominations have blood on their hands and will stand accountable. Legal abortion exists in America mainly because we Christians have been compromised and a bunch of wimps, that we let it stand without doing anything about it. Voting is the most painless way we can use to end legal abortion, but we can’t even do that, because so many of us vote for things we don’t even believe in ourselves. Lord help us.
So are you saying – Dave A. – the only election issue that a Christian need worry about is abortion/pro-life?
McCain is divorced and remarried and not a Roman Catholic. Rudy Giuliani is a Roman Catholic and is divorced (not certain if he remarried). Both are Republicans and both are pro life – yet from a Roman Catholic perspective they have a sinful record. Is the voting Christian then to dismiss one sin simply in favor of a pro life stance?
George Bush is an evangelical, pro life Christian – but his social policies leave a good Roman Catholic and some evangelical Christians wanting. By and large – Republicans are pro-life but lack greatly in the area of social justice and welfare – two things which are very important in Roman Catholic teaching. How does the Roman Catholic voter reconcile these issues?
I’ll come clean – I voted for Obama – and I struggled greatly over the decision – as I consider myself to be a conservative, pro-life Christian – but when I considered the other candidate and his questionable moral background – not to mention his desire to continue the social administration (or lack thereof) of George Bush – I found him to not compare to the other. Obama seems to be addressing the great social needs of the U.S. – he seems prepared to improve the U.S.’s international image – he seems able to help solve the most pressing issues facing the country – even if he is not pro-life.
Also – how has the government changed anything over the years for those of us in the pro life camp? Year after year Republicans with a pro life record are elected and year after year they fail to make abortion (under most or all circumstances) illegal. Wouldn’t it be better to vote for a politician who seems to be best prepared to deal with the issues at hand – even if he or she is pro choice – while putting resources into the local level – on a person to person level – trying to get women to make decisions about life that are most in line with what God wants?
It seems largely naive and compartmentalized when only one issue drives the ethos of the Christian vote when there are so many other issues that are very important to God. If I become a Roman Catholic again – must I vote pro life or face a mortal sin? Does the RCC allow abortion in any/some circumstances?
Go ahead Dave….slaughter me…..I’m ready…… !
So what about the social issues that are largely ignored by Republican candidates?
Where does it Scripturally tell us that a pro life stance is to be held above all other moral and social commands of God?
I’ve thoroughly dealt with all this fallacious moral reasoning in justification of voting for childkillers in many papers: some mentioned above (especially the “one-issue” one), and others, listed on my Life Issues page. I’m not gonna go over old ground (in terms of what I have already argued at length). If someone truly wants to grapple with the critique of this “de facto pro-abortion position” then they can read those papers. Such a vote cannot be justified on Catholic principles, as is increasingly being stated with more and more forcefulness by Catholic bishops.
Millions of Christians who say they are pro-life will vote for Obama, while the oldest liberal Justice on the Supreme Court (John Paul Stevens) is 88 years old. If Christian pro-lifers would simply vote consistently with their stated beliefs, we would have a great chance to put in a pro-lifer, which would make the Court 5-4 solidly in favor of life (and Kennedy a swing vote on some extreme abortion laws), for the first time since abortion was legalized.
Instead, Obama will put in a fervent pro-abortionist who will sit on the court for 20-30 years. That is one major thing that is at stake in this election. I always reiterate that legal abortion is here primarily because Christians (and particularly Catholics) have insufficiently incorporated their faith into their lives, with regard to how they vote. They talk pro-life but vote for the guy who favors childkilling (they don’t “walk the walk”), and this is the reason it continues: good people who do nothing about it because of this absurd disconnect of their rhetoric and their act of voting.
God is watching . . . there will be a ton of reckoning on Judgment Day over this issue.
I made the following reply to a letter from a Catholic pro-lifer who is seriously considering voting for Obama:
Thanks for your letter and for giving me a chance to express my opinion on this gravely important matter.
I’d say that it is impossible for an orthodox Catholic to justify a vote for Obama.
Bottom line (I would say) is that a Catholic can’t justify (on essentially utilitarian or pragmatic grounds) a vote for a pro-abortion political candidate when a pro-life candidate is available, because abortion is intrinsically evil in a way that war, etc., is not. It’s a non-negotiable and a deal-breaker. It’s true that abortions have declined in recent years, but that is certainly not because of the policies that have been pursued by pro-abortion Democrats and Republicans who agree with them. It is because of things like abstinence education, sensible alternatives (adoption; crisis pregnancy centers) and because of ceaseless pro-life activism.
The factors that have reduced abortions would continue just as much under McCain, because many people agree about those things (that less abortions are better; adoption is preferable; more informed choices, etc.). Therefore, if the two candidates are arguably equal in their effect on that plane, it stands to reason that a pro-lifer should support the man who thinks Roe was bad law and who would put pro-life Justices on the Supreme Court. The stakes are very high.
If a person like you votes for Obama, in effect you are sanctioning his approval of things like FOCA, killing a child who was intended to be aborted and survived, partial-birth abortion, etc. It is those positive evils that you are also supporting; not just an overall scenario that you feel will reduce abortions. A Catholic cannot support a thing that is intrinsically evil, and candidates who favor these evils, and you’ll be doing that with Obama, but not with McCain.
Please seriously consider your vote in this regard. I hope I have been able to persuade you to continue to vote for the pro-life candidate, and to not be taken in by fallacious reasoning that a so-called pro-choice candidate will cause less abortions than a pro-life candidate.
The likelihood is that things will stay pretty much the same no matter who is elected (because the evil is so entrenched in society and law and the public is radically divided), but that is beside the present point, which is one of civic duty from a Catholic perspective, and moral principle, in line with Catholic teaching. Moral principles are not circumstance-relative.
“Lessen Evil” Votes for Hillary? (vs. Mark Shea) [4-7-17]
Simcha Fisher’s “New” Pro-Life Critique of “Old” Pro-Lifers [Simcha did vote for Hillary Clinton] (+ vigorous Facebook discussion) [8-2-17]
Are “Old” Pro-Lifers Racists & “Anti-Woman”? (vs. John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe) [8-30-17]
“New” vs. “Old” Pro-Life Strategies (vs. John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe) [8-31-17]
On Being a So-Called “Single-Issue” Pro-Lifer [National Catholic Register, 1-25-18]
Do Democratic Presidents Cause Fewer Abortions to Occur? [National Catholic Register, 2-28-18]
Dialogue: Christian Witness, Trump, & Prudential Voting (vs. Deacon Steven D. Greydanus) [5-10-19]
Photo credit: “piepie” [public domain / Pixabay]