My Final Word Before You Vote

My Final Word Before You Vote October 30, 2020


I have said again and again that I don’t like writing about politics.

This is the worst part about being a blogger. I take a few hours to write something I think is really important and beautiful, and I get a few sincere compliments for what a poet I am, and I love those. I write an angry response to something I shouldn’t have to respond to in the first place because in a better world it wouldn’t be happening, and the post goes viral and people come out of the woodwork to tell me I’m in mortal sin. This happens a lot. I truly believe there are much better things we ought to do with our time than obsess over politics. Oh, we ought to vote and let our conscience inform that vote. That’s necessary. But our kingdom is not of this world, and our salvation is not going to come through politicians. You should vote, and then you should spend the other 525599 minutes of your year doing other things that will help your neighbor more efficiently.

Now, that said, we’re staring a presidential election in the face. Many people have already voted early or absentee, which is safe and secure. But I need to talk just one more time before Tuesday to everybody who hasn’t voted yet– particularly my fellow Catholics.

The first thing I want to say is that it’s not a sin to vote Republican, and it’s not a sin to vote Democrat, and it’s not a sin to vote third party, and it’s not a sin to decline to vote– depending on your reason. You may not vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic wrong, BECAUSE of the wrong that the candidate supports. To do so would be a sin. But it’s not a sin to vote for that candidate because of some good they’ll do, IN SPITE OF that intrinsic wrong. And the fact is, every candidate who stand’s a snowball’s chance at the presidency supports at least one intrinsic wrong. If you vote for them anyway because you think that doing so will mitigate some even worse evil, you’re not in sin. If you can’t stand to vote for any of them because you honestly believe they’re all the same, that’s not a sin either. You can be factually correct or incorrect, but it’s not a sin. And it’s not just me the crazy woman blogger saying that. It’s Pope Emeritus Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, speaking for the CDF:

N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

If you in conscience discern a proportionate reason to vote the way you do, you’re not sinning. Of course, I think it’s implied by the Pope’s words that you are responsible to fight that candidate on any evil he does try to do if he does get elected. Don’t ever join a candidate’s cult of personality. Do what you have to do, and then be prepared for to fight to mitigate evil anyway.

So that’s the first thing I want to say. Don’t listen to people who tell you you’ll go to hell if you don’t vote the way they want you to. Those people are spiritually abusing you and misrepresenting the faith.

The next things I’m going to tell you are not the teaching of the Catholic Church, they’re just my assessment of what is going on in our country and what could best mitigate all the death, destruction and suffering we’re witnessing. Someone once angrily wrote to me “You should make it clear that these blog posts are just your opinion!” and I thought that was a weird thing to say. I’m a blogger. I write opinion pieces. That’s what I do. That doesn’t mean my opinion can’t be badly informed or well informed, or that my guesses as to what might happen can be proven right or wrong. I try to have the most informed opinion I can, and to communicate what is my opinion and what’s actual church teaching. We are all responsible for being wise as serpents while innocent as doves: for being as informed and clever as we can be so that we can make morally good choices. This blog represents my informed opinions on how best to be good.

I want to point out to you, first of all, that Donald Trump cannot and will not make abortion go away, even if he wanted to. In fact, he’s making it worse.

Trump’s Supreme Court appointees might reverse Roe versus Wade, though personally I doubt that they will. After all, Republican justices ruled on Roe versus Wade in the first place, and Republican justices upheld the ruling in Planned Parenthood versus Casey. But I could be wrong. If they do reverse Roe, that will not make abortion go away. Abortion was legal in twenty US states plus the military before Roe, and was available in some form at the right price in all of them. If abortion is made illegal in some states, we have good reason to expect based on real evidence gathered from how women responded to the temporary COVID-19 restrictions on elective procedures like abortions, that the abortion rates won’t drop. Instead, women will just go elsewhere for their abortions or get them in a different way. That’s tragic and horrible, but that’s what will happen. My evidence and reasoning on that can be found in this post. And anyway, if you only voted for Trump to get that conservative majority on the Supreme Court, you already have it. That reason’s gone now. You’ll have to look at everything else he’s likely to do to make your choice.

We can also observe in real time that abortion rates are going up under Trump. The total number won’t be known for some time. But the Heritage Foundation, which is certainly not a left-wing propaganda organization, has noted that Planned Parenthood had their highest abortion rates ever recorded during the Trump administration– and that’s before COVID-19 and the stock market crash. That’s what was happening the first two years. Also, we have the evidence I linked to in the article I mentioned above: COVID-19 itself is driving abortion rates through the roof. This is happening right now. The clinics themselves have been nearly overwhelmed. Women who might have re-thought abortion before, and even women who wanted to be pregnant, are going through with abortions now. The reasons they give for their abortion, are directly to do with the pandemic. A candidate who takes the pandemic seriously and works as hard as he can to combat it rather than being in denial about it could put that particular genie back into the bottle, no matter how that candidate feels about abortion.

So, we have before us one candidate that will keep abortion legal but might cause it to happen less often in practice or maybe not. We have one candidate who won’t be able to ban abortion at a national level and on whose watch the abortion rates are going way up. That’s the choice you have, as far as abortion. Two bad options and one might be worse, but we’re not going to be able to make abortion go away.

Now, let me draw attention to some other human lives worthy of our concern.

For years now, we’ve watched President Trump’s barbaric and inhumane practices at the Southern border, removing children from their families and keeping immigrants in unsanitary and inhumane conditions.  Some of those children died. All were traumatized. We’re now being told that there are 525 children still in detention whose parents simply can’t be found– 525 families broken, perhaps permanently.  Trump’s supporters have said that this isn’t his fault, that the children were actually saved from danger rather than being put in it, and that this is Obama’s fault for building the cages anyway. So please read this warts-and-all explanation of what’s going on, written by my friend who works in an immigration law firm:

Family immigration detention (for a period of 20 days) has been around since 2011, often using existing federal detention facilities that were used for other types of “offenders” before being privatized and used to profit off of asylum-seeking families. “Catch and release” refers to detaining these families for 20 days to begin to “process” them (this dehumanizing language is just part of it all, but I chafe at normalizing it) before being paroled or released with ankle monitors and given check-in dates as well as a first master calendar hearing date to determine how the immigrant respondents would plead and what form of immigration relief they would be seeking in their proceedings.
Minor-only detention facilities with chain-link (“the perreras,” or the cages referenced in the infamous “kids in cages” line) were established hastily around 2014 to handle a sudden crush of unaccompanied minors at the border. I don’t like this solution, but it’s a fact that it was not equivalent to what came later.
“Zero-tolerance” intentional separation of parents or caregivers and their minor children or loved ones was a deterrence policy established by the Trump administration, piloted in 2017 and expanded in 2018 before a federal judge ended it. Some sophistry rose up around the idea, with various pundits and Trump surrogates claiming it was necessary in order to determine whether a minor was being trafficked, but this was not the design. The design, as we know from lots and lots of investigative reporting verified many times over, was to send a message to would-be asylum-seekers that they would lose their children if they attempted to enter the country without authorization, or even if they attempted to enter at a Port of Entry and announce their intention to seek asylum.
The 525 children who are still under the charge of HHS, whose parents were deported without them, were part of that initial 2017 quiet pilot of the Zero-Tolerance enforcement initiative. They were not, as PragerU and others have claimed, trafficked by “coyotes” or people pretending to be their parents. (It’s also not at all uncommon for Central American families to be raising nieces, nephews, younger cousins, or grandchildren without a formal adoption agreement, and these cases are often misidentified as “trafficking.”)
Ultimately, detaining parents or one parent while paroling children is family separation, too. Deportation is family separation, too. Detaining families together is still unjust, no matter how “clean” the facility, and forcing them through any kind of expedited removal proceeding is a violation of due process. We have to reimagine what immigration is going to look like, beyond the “enforcement” model, because
P E O P L E M I G R A T E.
Migration isn’t going away.
 Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have their hands clean on this issue, and that’s a fact. But Trump absolutely did make it worse for the migrants, and especially their children, on purpose in order to look tough. He is the one responsible for those 525 currently stranded children, and for all the additional trauma and horror that those thousands of children suffered. He did it because he wanted to. Yesterday, Joe Biden proposed a task force to reunite the 525 stranded children with their families, if he’s elected. I don’t know if he’ll be able to do that, but he promised to try. I realize that’s cold comfort considering there’s so much more he could have done, but at least he wants to help now. Trump does not.
I also would like you to watch this informative video. I know John Oliver isn’t to everybody’s taste, I’m sorry for the swearing, and I do disagree with him on many things, but listen to what he has to say on asylum seekers trapped at the Southern border. Look at their faces. Listen to their fears.

Asylum seekers are being sent to their deaths. Not scary gangsters, but children and mothers and grandmothers. No matter how well they behave, or how scrupulously they obey the United States’ immigration laws, they’re being treated worse than animals. The Trump administration has deliberately made it as difficult and painful as possible for them, when it was extremely difficult in the first place. Biden has promised to at least reverse the most draconian restrictions Trump put in place.

It’s not enough, but it’s far more than nothing.

Here are some actual, concrete people we stand a chance of helping. Here are some people who need us, and our vote makes a difference for them.

I don’t like Joe Biden for a number of reasons. As a Catholic, I find him less than adequate on many issues. But I don’t believe him to be a sadistic sociopath, and watching how President Trump has treated immigrants I can’t say the same for him. I believe that Biden is going to do something to mitigate the horrendous suffering of these refugees who came to us for help, and he might be influenced to do more if we hold him to it. I think Trump will only continue to get worse.

And I have similar beliefs about Trump and Biden, when it comes to other vulnerable people such as those on Medicaid and on EBT benefits. Trump not only doesn’t seem to care about poor Americans, he seems to relish their suffering. Biden seems to not want to make matters worse. Climate change is another thing that will disproportionately effect the poor and vulnerable. Trump does not seem to believe that man-made climate change exists and Biden does, and has some plans that will mitigate it at least to an extent. Those could prevent more deaths and human suffering. Trump seems to regard racism and police violence as something to be egged on in the name of Law and Order, and Biden does not think that way– though I don’t think he understands the problem, at least he doesn’t like it.

I don’t think we can stop abortion, which is just as well because the supposed pro-life candidate is only driving abortion rates up. I think we can save quite a few lives, born and unborn, and undo some of the horrendous suffering that’s been caused, and prevent some future horrendous suffering as well.

That’s why, as a Catholic, I voted for Joe Biden last week. That’s why, as a Catholic blogger, I’m asking you to do the same. I’m not claiming it’s a sin if you don’t, because that’s not for me to say. I’m just putting it out there one more time: this seems to me to be the best way to save lives, and that’s something you ought to care about.

And please, however you vote, spend the rest of your year helping people. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.


Image via Pixabay.

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.

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