A few weeks ago, Katerina ran an interesting little informal poll, posing the question: if abortion was off the table, who would you vote for? I must admit, cynical as I am, that I was somewhat surprised by the results, which showed an almost 2-1 bias in favor of McCain. Basically, all those who claimed to pick McCain over Obama because of the abortion issue also picked McCain over Obama in the hpothetical situation where abortion was not an issue. Now, while I am not even remotely trying to lecture Catholics on who they should vote for, I still find this somewhat disturbing, as it leads me to question the centrality of abortion in this moral calculus, raising questions of whether it is really the defining issue that many claim it to be. To put it bluntly, I fear abortion is being used as a political tool.
This debate came back to me when I read a recent article by David Carlin, explaining why he was supporting McCain rather than Obama. Carlin is the author of the thought-provoking book Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?, in which he argues that the Democratic party has abandoned its roots by many wrong turns over the past few decades, none worse than the championing of so-called abortion rights. I have much sympathy with this thesis. But here is the problem: in the referenced article, Carlin makes all of these points. But then he starts getting into territory that– to say the least– led to raise my eyebrows. For in supporting McCain, Carlin jumps deftly from abortion (“the single biggest issue”) to the Iraq war where, when he declares that the 2003 invasion and occupation was justified. Quite frankly, I found this to be staggering.Nowhere does he mention the opposition of the universal Church, including two pontiffs, to this wrong-headed and tragic adventure. Nowhere does he mention the consistent ethic of life, which Catholics should wear as a badge of honor in the current atmosphere of partisan poison. And, incredibly, Carlin goes on to argue that “the United States cannot afford to be defeated in Iraq”, making some silly reference to Al Qaeda, and none at all to the hundreds of thousands of suffering and dead Iraqis needed to score a victory against the latest incarnation of the “demonized other” in American politics. And nowhere does he mention the legalized torture and the spike in hatred of the United States brought about the perpetrators of this war.
Thus my feeling: Carlin seems more influenced by blinkered American partisan politics than the full scope of Catholic church teaching, underpinned by the dignity of every human person, and utterly opposed to any consequentialist calculus. Thus my fear.