Resolved: No Catholic, in good conscience, can or should support Donald Trump for president.
I started this post last week—I wish I had posted it then since I would have been ahead of the curve!
My reasoning in support of this resolution goes like this: Catholics are called to support the common good. This must be done prudentially, and Catholics may legitimately disagree, within the broad parameters of Catholic teaching, on which approach is best and, therefore, on which candidate for a given office will best serve the common good.
Some candidates, however, may hold positions that the Catholic Church believes are morally wrong. Abortion, of course, is the touchstone for this, but there are in actuality many others–torture was frequently discussed on Vox Nova in the past (e.g. see here, here or here). No Catholic may vote for a candidate because of his/her position if it is contrary to Catholic teaching, but may vote for the candidate despite his/her position if, after careful consideration, believes the reasons for doing so sufficiently strong. Again, this is often used to justify voting for pro-choice Democrats, but there are (or should be) lots of other applications of this principle.
It seems to me, however, that implicit in this principle is that there must be some balance being struck, with the sense that the potential harm that could be caused by the candidate must be outweighed by the positive contributions that the candidate could make in other areas. This is messy, but this is the nature of politics. As the old saying goes, “Laws and sausages: if you like either, do not look too closely at how they are made.”
However, at some point the potential for harm is so great, or the countervailing positives are so limited, that this kind of prudential argument cannot be legitimately made. And it seems to me that in the case of Donald Trump, we are at that point. I have never made the argument in such stark terms for any other candidate. I disagree, strongly, with the positions other candidates hold, and argued that others should not vote for them. But in those cases by “should” I meant in that the best or most prudential course was to vote otherwise.
But here, for Donald Trump, I am arguing more: there are no legitimate grounds for voting for Trump and the only moral conclusion that a Catholic can draw is that he/she should vote against him and otherwise oppose his candidacy. Trump has staked out a series of positions that are morally reprehensible: the forcible rounding up and deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants; the banning of Muslims from the US; the suggestion that all Muslims be registered in some fashion. It is impossible to find anything that can balance out these positions in a moral reckoning.
In the past week or so the word “fascist” has entered mainstream discourse on Trump: see for instance Ross Douthat’s column (and this one) disputing this terminology. He makes reference to an article (pdf file) by Umberto Eco attempting to define fascism; if you have not read it, I strongly urge you to, as it gives a nuanced definition that lifts the word out of political insult into an actual political category. Except for the fact that there is no “Trump militia” (e.g. brown shirts, black shirts or any of the various armed groups of thugs that appeared in Eastern Europe in the 20s and 30s) I am more inclined than Douthat to call him a fascist.
But terminology is secondary: Trump has staked out positions that are grave moral evils and because of this I believe he must be opposed by all Catholics on moral grounds.