Catholics for McCain?

Catholics for McCain? January 4, 2008

Jay Anderson has a post on what is, to me, a surprising development in the 2008 presidential race. Senator Sam Brownback, a darling among many conservative-minded Catholics, has thrown his support behind Republican candidate John McCain. Brownback stated:

“As Catholics, we are proud to announce our support for John McCain, a genuine American hero with a conservative record who has what it takes to lead this country,” Brownback said in a statement.

As Catholics?!? Perhaps I am ill-informed–and this occurs often–but McCain is a supporter of embryonic stem cell research. According to the Pew Forum, while McCain does not back stem cell research on cloned human embryos, he does support research on embryos from fertility clinics that are “left-over” and set to be destroyed. I presume that McCain’s rationale is that human life should not be brought forth deliberately for death through research, but that it is ethically licit to bring death through research to those embryos that will be killed anyway.

John McCain also advocates access to abortion in at least the case of rape. When asked how an alleged rape could be verified, he replied, “I think that I would give the benefit of the doubt to the person who alleges that.”

To me, it sounds like Brownback has taken two of those “non-negotiable” issues and made them negotiable, despite the fact that there are more consistently pro-life candidates among the Republicans. Life of the Party seems to be seeing the same thing. I may be wrong here, so please tell me your thoughts.

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  • Verity

    Just who is Brownback speaking for with the “As Catholics” remark? Himself and his wife? Himself and Fr. Frank? This was nothing more than a feeble attempt to steer the supposedly monolithic Catholic vote to McCain who has never been liked or trusted by religious conservatives. McCain’s a secular conservative who can barely conceal his contempt for mixing politics & religion even as he panders at Liberty U, changes his affiliation from Episcopal to Baptist or whatever. As the year unfolds we will see many non negotiables become negotiable under the “lesser of 2 evils” premise. With candidates like these what else can you do?

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  • back in June I blogged a post on “Fr. Pavone, Senator Brownback and Rudy Giuliani” exploring what might compel Catholics to vote for a less-than-desirable candidate. Here is the reasoning of Fr. Pavone and Catholic Answers’:

    In some political races, each candidate takes a wrong position on one or more issues involving non-negotiable moral principles. In such a case you may vote for the candidate who takes the fewest such positions or who seems least likely to be able to advance immoral legislation, or you may choose to vote for no one.

    A vote cast in such a situation is not morally the same as a positive endorsement for candidates, laws, or programs that promote intrinsic evils: It is only tolerating a lesser evil to avoid an even greater evil. As Pope John Paul II indicated regarding a situation where it is not possible to overturn or completely defeat a law allowing abortion, “an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”(EV 73; also CPL 4).

    Catholics must strive to put in place candidates, laws, and political programs that are in full accord with non-negotiable moral values. Where a perfect candidate, law, or program is not on the table, we are to choose the best option, the one that promotes the greatest good and entails the least evil. Not voting may sometimes be the only moral course of action, but we must consider whether not voting actually promotes good and limits evil in a specific instance. The role of citizens and elected officials is to promote intrinsic moral values as much as possible today while continuing to work toward better candidates, laws, and programs in the future.

    I disagree with Brownback that McCain best represents Catholic teaching (I’m not sure any GOP candidate completely does) but I could see myself voting for McCain if it came down to it, and especially to prevent four years under a militantly pro-choice Democrat who would assuredly do more harm. (Giuliani on the other hand . . . *sigh*)

  • jh

    I respect what Brownback is doing. I say that as a Huckabee supporter. It is a difficult line here. Plus Brownback is being loyal to a collegue that at least is acceptable on most fronts. Also McCain I feel was a very Catholic friendly voice of reason on immigration. I hate to say Huckabee has moved to the right a tad on that but Looking as his statements as a whole it appears to me that he will moderate it back. I least I hope so.

    Anyway, John McCain might be the opnly option left if Huckaee does not make it for many of us or at least for me 🙂

  • Jonathan

    McCain is not Catholic, and may not be Christian, so he has done well despite his lack of the normative influence of the Magisterium.

  • Policraticus

    Christopher,

    Fr. Frank’s analysis (which is, in the end, a concession that there really are no non-negotiables in politics) does not apply to Brownback’s endorsement of McCain. There are other, more consistent pro-life candidates among the Republicans currently (e.g., Huckabee, Thompson, Paul). Brownback endorsed a Republican candidate who supports embryonic stem cell research and restricted abortion. Brownback is a disappointment as a Catholic politician and has no credibility among those of us who are really pro-life. His allegience is more directed toward politics, not to the person.

    JH,

    Loyalty to human life is much more admirable than loyalty to a colleague. Had Brownback withheld his endorsement of McCain until McCain were the Republican nominee, I would be more sympathetic. But as it stands, the darling of conservative Catholics in America has cast his vote for the culture of death. For what? Hope for a spot on the McCain ticket?

    It seems to me that the pro-life cause among conservative Catholics is beginning to falter.

  • ben

    Before you all jump on McCain as being impossible for catholics to support, I would point out that the Missionaries of Charity thought well enough of him to entrust his family with a child. And I think we all know that they don’t do politics.

  • But as it stands, the darling of conservative Catholics in America has cast his vote for the culture of death. For what? Hope for a spot on the McCain ticket?

    It seems to me that the pro-life cause among conservative Catholics is beginning to falter.

    Oh, my goodness. Can we skip the histrionics?

    If one wanted to, one could come up with a number of questions as to how consistently pro-life Huckabee, Paul and Thompson are — in addition to the trouble that Paul appears to be nuts and Huckabee it at least a bit nutty.

    Would be be appropriate to say that McCain is the only option for Catholics? Of course not.

    Is he the best option? Quite possibly not. (It seems to me that the McCain is so ennamoured of compromise that he might well give us another Anthony Kennedy type justice.)

    But he is solidly anti-torture, temperate on immigration, and fairly pro-life. Given the other candidates in the field, I can see why Brownback would endorse him.

    [Removed by request of the author, Darwin that is.]

  • Policraticus

    Before you all jump on McCain as being impossible for catholics to support, I would point out that the Missionaries of Charity thought well enough of him to entrust his family with a child. And I think we all know that they don’t do politics.

    Entrusting a child to a family is hardly a political endorsement. But my point is not so much that I am stating that McCain is “impossible for Catholics to support,” but that the “non-negotiable” crowds of conservative Catholics are not as supportive of pro-life causes as they claim to be.

    DarwinCatholic,

    It’s quite easy to sheepishly dismiss someone’s point of view by labelling it “histrionics.” The real question is why influential, conservative, self-described pro-life Catholics are beginning to look past the issues of embryonic stem cell research and abortion for the sake of electibility, viability and partisanship. Huckabee, Thompson and Paul are opposed to abortion under all circumstances. McCain does not want to outlaw abortion, but only restrict it to cases of rape. That means that the great “non-negotiable” is, in the end, negotiable for Brownback. If you are satisfied with “fairly pro-life,” then by all means have it your way. My problem is with individuals such as Brownback and groups like Priests for Life who take abortion as “non-negotiable” as long as their favorite political party or candidate agrees. But if the party or candidate does not, suddenly all that sanctimonious rhetoric on how abortion is the single biggest issue in contemporary politics and morality ceases.

  • My problem is with individuals such as Brownback and groups like Priests for Life who take abortion as “non-negotiable” as long as their favorite political party or candidate agrees. But if the party or candidate does not, suddenly all that sanctimonious rhetoric on how abortion is the single biggest issue in contemporary politics and morality ceases.

    Perhaps this has a lot to do with what one thinks the moral act of voting to be.

    It’s true that McCain is not fully pro-life. If one counts the rape exception to be “not pro-life” then most pro-life candidated aren’t pro-life. That is very bad, because the rape exception makes the whole pro-life stance deeply incoherant.

    I did actually once have another Catholic argue to me that it was immoral to support any limitation on abortion (such as the partial birth abortion ban) other than a complete ban, since any partial ban or restriction implied that the rest were okay. It’s a consistent position, but it’s rather unhelpful. (Some, I think, consider the impracticality of a position to prove its purity.)

    I suspect that the reason Brownback is supporting McCain is because he believes that McCain can win and that if we got so far in the process of abolishing legalized abortion that we ran into McCain’s hold ups (i.e. all abortions other than in cases of rape were banned) we’d have already made phenominal progress.

    I don’t know that I’m prepared to be that optimistic about McCain’s pro-life convictions, but I can see where Brownback is coming from and I don’t think it’s a “vote for the culture of death” position as you’re suggesting.

    A vote for McCain would be a vote for incremental pro-life advancement, and I don’t know that that’s an impossible moral stance. A vote for Giuliani or any of the Democrats would, on the other hand, be a vote against any pro-life progress at all.

  • I can understand Michael Joseph’s criticism of the incoherent phrasing of Fr. Pavone’s voting guide, where it begins with

    Any candidate who says abortion should be kept legal disqualifies him/herself from public service. We need look no further; we need pay no attention to what that candidate says on other issues. Support for abortion is enough for us to decide not to vote for such a person.

    but goes on (later) to specify exactly why between two less than desirable candidates it is possible, where given the choice between two less-than-satisfactory candidates, one may vote for the one who “does less harm”:

    is either of the candidates willing at least to ban partial-birth abortion? Is either of them willing to put up some roadblocks to free and easy abortion? Will either support parental notification, or parental consent, or waiting periods? Has either of them expressed a desire to ban late-term abortion, or to support pregnancy assistance centers? How about stricter regulation of abortion facilities? Has either candidate expressed support for that idea? Nobody is saying that’s the final goal. But ask these questions just to see whether you can see any benefit of one of the candidates above the other.

    Likewise Catholic Answers’ voting guide follows the same procedure by suggesting “where every candidate endorses positions contrary to non-negotiable principles. choose the candidate likely to do the least bit harm”.

    To be fair, I’ve not kept up with Brownback’s campaign speeches and I’m uncertain if he has ever framed matters in ‘non negotiable’ terms in the same manner Catholic Answers has.

    While I’m still weighing between candidates (with a preference for Thompson), I think Brownback decided that McCain stands a better chance than Huckabee (who despite his victory in IA may have a tougher battle in New Hampshire and elsewhere).

    That said, I am disappointed that those who spoke with McCain personally (Deal Hudson in his interview on InsideCatholic.com for instance) didn’t press further in challenging the deficiencies in McCain’s pro-life record.

  • I may be wrong, but the McCain position on use of “left-over” embryos is the same as the current position of George W. Bush. President Bush drew the line at creating new embryo lines for stem cell research in the summer of 2001, as I recall.

    As to the rape exception for abortion, McCain’s campaign website says that his goal is to get Roe v. Wade overturned so that the abortion issue is returned to the individual states–the state legislators and governors and we as voters in each state will be the ones to decide on the exceptions issue, not the President regardless of his personal preference.

    In addition, I see no other Republican who can beat Obama or Clinton in November. Surely, McCain is better than either Obama or Clinton on the life and marriage issues.
    I don’t think Brownback has made these issues negotiable. Rather, Brownback, like me, likely wants to see the entire abortion issue sent back to the individual states where these issues will be fought over. The stem cell issue is more of a federal issue given the research money. There the battle has to continue on the federal level; but, as I recall, the McCain policy is the same as the current George W. Bush policy and will be far better than the Obama or Clinton policy; and I, like many other conservative Catholics, voted for George W. Bush in 2004.Thank you for raising these issues. We have to hash them out, however difficult they may be, in deciding whom to vote for in 2008. I urge you and all your readers to visit the official McCain Campaign website (click “Issues,” then click “Human Dignity”) to make an independent, unfiltered evaluation of what McCain actually says. Nice blog!

  • Policraticus

    I may be wrong, but the McCain position on use of “left-over” embryos is the same as the current position of George W. Bush. President Bush drew the line at creating new embryo lines for stem cell research in the summer of 2001, as I recall.

    You are wrong; they’re not the same at all. Bush’s “left-over” embryos are existing lines only. McCain’s position is the continual use of embryos “left-over” from fertility clinics, which would be an indefinite and growing supply. Given the amount of “left-over” embryos from procedures such as in-vitro fertilization, we are talking about countless deaths under McCain’s plan.

    In addition, I see no other Republican who can beat Obama or Clinton in November. Surely, McCain is better than either Obama or Clinton on the life and marriage issues.

    So I suppose you are canonizing “electability” as a non-negotiable, one that actually trumps those other “non-negotiables” like abortion and embryonic stem cell research. But seriously, a vote for a lesser evil is still a vote for evil. Leave that sort of voting option to the world. The Gospel demands a lot more from Christians.

    Rather, Brownback, like me, likely wants to see the entire abortion issue sent back to the individual states where these issues will be fought over.

    A false victory there. The majority of states would uphold the legality of abortion, and without a federal blanket law, the abortion war would be virtually lost for the pro-life movement. Simple politics.

    There the battle has to continue on the federal level; but, as I recall, the McCain policy is the same as the current George W. Bush policy and will be far better than the Obama or Clinton policy; and I, like many other conservative Catholics, voted for George W. Bush in 2004.

    Your understanding of McCain’s and Bush’s respective positions on life does not correspond to their records or statements. I invite you and all Catholics to look into these matters more deeply.

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  • sean leslie

    “If you continue in my word, then ye shall be my disciples indeed!” I would invite Catholics to consider their assumptions by digging deeper. Mr McCain’s faith goes at least as far back as when, with honor i might add, he declined the offer of freedom as a POW in favor of those taken prisoner before he was. His Prolife stand goes back 24 years unchanged. I would further remind you to not incur our Lord’s displeasure by not ‘straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel.’ Pakistan, it has just been discovered, has islamofascists deep within the military and intelligence services; they may get their hands on nukes any day or hour. You must balance someone who for 98% points has been Pro-Life for 24 years with other equally grave and prescient issues that also are high on the list of the Catholic hierarchy of truths. A man who day in and day out has suffered a tremendous amount of unjust calumny, yet has the support of 400 generals and admirals, several former secretaries of state and national security advisors, because he is the only candidate who has served his country in uniform, been decorated with the Bronze Star, Silver Star, Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross, etc (i have not exhausted the list, including other countries), and dedicated his honor ever since Annapolis to delivering to others the unvarnished truth. That, my brother and sister catholics, is a record as Christian as your ever going to get. He has attended North Phoenix Baptist Church for years, and who would not, when his native Episcopalian Church got swallowed up by liberalism? The man has been consistently sincere Christian, though he claims to be trying, humbly, to become a better one – and he does not wear, unlike some candidates and other congressmen, his faith on his sleeve or show off. As a Canadian Conservative and Catholic who did correspond with Mother Teresa, with no dog in this fight, I decided to look up hundreds of pages from out of his past, and ever since I graduated from Stanford, I have never encountered a public figure in these thoroughly corrupt times more akin to a genuine hero like Churchill,than John McCain, and I pray to Our Blessed Lord that you other Catholics will see it. Come on aboard!

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