This post is a part of the Patheos Catholic Channel series, “Catholicity:Identity and Its Discontents.” Read more here.
It’s true. I do it all the time. I do it openly, and I don’t feel guilty about it. Oddly enough, I still manage to make it through the doors of my parish without catching fire. Can ya believe it?
For the record, I am fully aware that the Party supports issues that are directly opposed to Church teaching, and on those issues, I side with the Church (both personally AND politically, mind you). But just because I’m not 100% on board with *everything* the Democratic Party stands for doesn’t mean I’m going to scurry off to GOP—quite the opposite in fact.
The truth is, involvement with any political entity is going to present some spiritual challenges. But there’s this thing called “perspective” which is where you take a step back and look at the big picture instead of just a fraction. And when I look at the big picture, I land on the left. And if you’re wondering how I come to that conclusion, here’s why.
1: The Death Penalty
For the first time in history, 2016 Democratic Platform is calling for an end to the death penalty.
“We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment.” — 2016 Democratic National Platform, Reforming the Criminal Justice System
This is an issue that I’m extremely passionate about, both as a Catholic and a pro-lifer. The United States is one of the last remaining world powers that continues to execute, and there’s really no reason for it. Aside from being fiscally wasteful and completely ineffective as a deterrent, we have the means to protect society from violent criminals without resorting to capital punishment. At the end of the day, we’re just killing in return for killing. That’s not justice. It’s vengeance. And the rule of law does not operate on vengeance.
2: Higher wages
Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. 2016 Democratic National Platform, Raising Workers Wages
Even here in Alabama where the cost of living is pretty damn low, $7.25/hour is hardly enough to live on. In fact, you’d need to make $13.66 an hour in order to comfortably afford a 2 bedroom apartment.
Despite this, the Republican government that runs my state has bent over backwards blocking minimum wage increases, and if the GOP gets their way in 2016, there won’t be any movement on the federal level either.
“Minimum wage is an issue that should be handled at the state and local level.” – 2016 Republican Platform.
This isn’t a radical concept, and I refuse to accept the idea that fast food and retail workers don’t deserve to make a living wage simply because of the nature of their job. That’s unjust. It’s also doesn’t comply with Catholic teaching. If you get up and go to work every day, you get to make enough money to be self-sufficient.
“A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice” – Catholic Catechism 2424
3: Paid Paternity Leave
Democrats will make sure that the United States finally enacts national paid family and medical leave by passing a family and medical leave act that would provide all workers at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member’s serious health issue. — 2016 Democratic National Platform, Supporting Working Families
We are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate paid paternity leave. This is a pro-life issue.
Two of the main reasons women constantly give for terminating a pregnancy are: 1. A negative impact on life (including a loss of job) and 2: Financial instability. Oddly enough, these are two things that paid paternity leave would actually help alleviate.
You’d think the Republicans would be a little more willing to address these issues—being the “party of life” and all. But they’re not. In fact, they don’t seem to be too concerned with anything that doesn’t directly involve the birth.
Honestly, the Democrats are doing more to fight abortion than anyone else, and I don’t even think they realize it.
Democrats will empower the states, which are the true laboratories of democracy, to use innovation waivers under the ACA to develop unique locally tailored approaches to health coverage. This will include removing barriers to states which seek to experiment with plans to ensure universal health care to every person in their state. — 2016 Democratic National Platform, Securing Universal Healthcare
To be completely honest, the language in the platform surrounding healthcare doesn’t go far enough.
Personally, I find the concept of health insurance to be incredibly immoral. Healthcare is not a product, commodity, or something to be exploited for profit. It is a right that should be guaranteed to all Americans, regardless of their job or income level. And while the insurance industry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, the Democrats are the only ones moving in the right direction.
Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance. — Catechism of the Catholic church, 2288
But What About Abortion?
I could name plenty more issues—such as gun violence, education, criminal justice reform, immigration, the environment, wall street reform, systemic racism, and affordable housing—that pull me to the left.
That said, I know that widespread Democratic support for abortion presents a problem. So what do I do?
I advocate for the Democrats for Life of America. I support pro-life Democratic candidates when I can. I write about being pro-life and Democrat. I engage other Democrats on the issue. I travel the state and speak to groups of college Democrats about being pro-life. I don’t waiver from the pro-life belief, but I don’t abandon the party either. Despite what some might tell you, it IS possible to do both. You just have to put in a little extra effort.
For anyone who is interested in learning more about Democrats for Life of America, check out www.democratsforlife.org.