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Clarifications, puzzlements and apologies…

Clarifications, puzzlements and apologies… August 20, 2012

I am still mulling over Bonchamps’ argument from last week, which says that with the advent of Obama’s naked war of aggression against religious liberty which specifically targets the Catholic Church for persecution (and, I would add, their incredibly dangerous attempt to insert themselves into who Lutherans can and cannot ordain which, thanks be to God, received an overwhelming 9-0 smackdown from SCOTUS), a new element of overt ideologically-driven state hostility to the Church has been introduced into our political life by Obama that makes a vote for Romney/Ryan justified by proportionality.

Recall that my reason for not voting for either candidate has been simple: They both advocate grave intrinsic evil and I could not give a proportional reason to vote for one over the other. If there is a proportional reason to vote for Romney, I will. (indeed, if there were a proportional reason to vote for Obama, I would, with, I might add, the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI.) But hitherto, I could find no proportional reason.

My complaint here has primarily boiled down to the fact that the arguments put forward for proportionality often seem to me to be rubbish that boil down to “opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world”. Indeed, many “Catholic” argument of the “Shut up and vote GOP” variety seem to me to only drive home the fact that the Catholic nuptials between the Thing that Used to be Conservatism and Catholic faith boil down to an abusive relationship in which Catholics must perpetually sacrifice their Church’s teaching in order to fit the demands of the Party. It has even seemed to me to induce Stockholm Syndrome since I have witnessed over the years countless Catholics right here in my comboxes willingly sneering at Catholic teaching as “liberal” or wussy or whatnot in order to be More Conservative, rather than holding the human tradition of conservatism up to the light of Catholic teaching. The embarrassing spectable of “conservative” Catholics eagerly defending GOP torture enthusiasm is the most egregious example of this, but there are many other examples.

And so I have been highly skeptical of the Get On Board demands for Romney/Ryan, because they pay almost no attention to the reality of the Romney ticket’s near-indistinguishability from Obama on many issues of grave evil and instead try to pretend we are looking at some clearly superior and Deeply Catholic choice, instead of the Sucks Less ticket. In the process, they ignore Romney’s extremely clear record on abortion (and, by the way, the ticket just clarified that in a contest between Ryan’s admirable opposition to abortion in cases of rape and Romney’s standard GOP boilerplate, Romney wins), his record on gay “marriage” (summary: meh–and Boy Scouts should have gay scoutmasters), his use of torture as a surefire applause-getter with the Rubber Hose Right, his surrounding himself with the same cadre of fools who cheer-ed for the Iraq war, his fundraisers at the home of the guy who makes the morning after pills and (what is germane here) his ordering Catholic hospitals to dispense contraceptives like the morning after pill exactly like the HHS mandate orders them to do.

I get, as I say, the Sucks Less argument. And I am inclined to think that Romney is such an unprincipled cynic that, since he knows the US is not Massachusetts, he no longer thinks it politically advantageous to stand atop a mound of dead babies and ask for our vote or strongarm Catholics into knuckling under to the HHS mandate. I get the principle: “Better a jerk who doesn’t care about you than an enemy who hates you.” But I’m also not particularly sure that this will lead to the desired result of at least breaking off the attack on the Church. In the case of the HHS mandate, I think it is an even guess as to whether Romney would rescind it to secure his base (my hesitant bet is yes) or whether he would see how popular free contraceptive candy is with the general population and go ahead and keep it in place with a lot of rhetoric about rights and the need for Catholics to be pluralistic Americans in a diverse society, blah blah (frosted with something something wrestling with my conscience something something).

In short, apart from the main issue most Americans are actually thinking about with respect to these candidates (namely, money, money, and money and the economy and jobs and money) I have only the shakiest confidence that in one very narrow area of grave and intrinsic moral evil–the war on the Church and religious liberty–Romney is better than Obama. My guess is that he will be, and that may tip the scales for me. But then, a reader writes:

First, let’s assume Romney is going to do anything about Obamacare. (He’s not, it will remain the same — HHS mandate included). But let’s assume he will try and get a Democrat House and Senate to do something about it. Fine, 20% less evil than the other lizard. I get it.

But how is ordering Catholics to perpetrate torture somehow less evil than ordering Catholics to pay for condoms? I know the SS would often informally allow men who were too “weak” to serve in concentration camps to opt out (provided they paid the price in terms of 0 career advancement and unpleasant reassignments). I’m not aware that Catholics in the US military have the same option. Is participating in “rendition” leading to torture material cooperation with evil? Is guarding a camp where torture is performed material cooperation with evil? Since Romney believes that torture is not torture, what protection will Romney give the Church when its members join the military and are ordered to administer “officially non-torture” torture?

….and I’m back to my puzzlement. For my *main* point all along has been that the overwhelming impact a vote has is not on the outcome of an election (mathematical reality: you vote has the same impact on the outcome of the election that the movement of a molecule in a freight train has on the outcome of an imminent train wreck), but on the soul of the voter. And the massive amount of rationalizing grave evil, calling evil good (in the case of Catholic torture apologetics) and attempts to paint enemy of God Ayn Rand as some sort of Aristotle only serves to fill my heart with deep foreboding that this is the best way to evaluate voting in this or any election. So I’m still between two stools. I may vote for Romney on the thin proportional argument that Obama’s war on religious liberty is a game changer (since a culture that have moved from mere passive hostility to an active war of legalized destruction of the Church is a much worse culture). But I won’t pretend that the way in which the GOP subverts and undermines Catholic obedience to the Church is not also a dangerous and sinister thing. With enemies, you know where you stand. With pretending friends such as Romney, there is always the danger that conscience will be subverted “for fellowship” (as, for instance. Ryan’s newfound approval for abortion in cases of rape).

By the way, my apologies for being so snippy about all this political stuff. A number of readers have remarked on the tone of my commentary and they are right. This stuff brings out the worst in me. I will try to do better–and I will try to find other things to talk about. The world is a lot bigger and more beautiful that the stifling world of American national politics. So: mea culpa.


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