Now that we are seeing some declarations of candidacy for the presidency of the United States, I offer these ten questions that Catholics should be asking those who would lead our Still Influential But Slipping World Power.
The next presidency could be the administration that oversees the United States dropping to second place as an economic power as China continues to get its act together. But we still do have 4½ percent of the world's population as well as something like 23 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product (just behind the European Union's 25 percent, though these figures are disputed) and we account for 43 percent of the world's spending on military (according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). So our patterns of consumption, our economy, and our military efforts still have repercussions for our own citizens and for the entire human family. In addition, though, there are broadly cultural questions that shape minds and hearts here and across the world, especially with the rise of English as the primary international language and the global imitation of American pop culture.
The following, therefore, is an incomplete list of significant issues that any candidate will face, with particular focus on questions that might be of interest to Catholics, who comprise about 24 percent of the United States population (at least on paper).
- Abortion. Since there seems to be evidence that links frequency of abortion to economic conditions, what specific economic policies might help decrease the number of those seeking abortion? Will you support efforts to eliminate federal funding of abortion, and end subsidies to Planned Parenthood? How will you push for the outlawing of abortion?
- Abortion is still the human rights issue par excellence. Liberals rightly point out that economic conditions can contribute to the desperation that leads some to choose abortion, but conservatives rightly point out that it is still homicide, which in a compassionate civilization must be proscribed by law.
- Indiana's new law to repeal funding to Planned Parenthood is one of many states' challenges to abortion.
- Poverty. What is the proper role of the federal government in addressing systemic poverty in the U.S?. Will you support policies that recognize the principle of subsidiarity (the idea that problems are better solved at the local level than in vast bureaucracies)?
- If indeed "it's the economy, stupid," then the angle that corresponds to Catholic Social Teaching is that bad economies lead to poverty, and so good economies allow for just work and a market unencumbered by bureaucracy, yet organized in such a way that the good of persons is above the good of the market itself. John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus Annus, written twenty years ago last month, addresses this delicate balance.
- Immigration. How will you push for just policies for immigrants? How will you deal with illegal immigrants? Will you support religious groups who work on behalf of basic human rights of immigrants, like nourishment and health care, even if they are in the country illegally?
- Many Catholic organizations (example) deal with families touched by immigration. Their concern to offer pastoral help to these families can be compromised by unjust legislation.
- Marriage. Will you support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?
- Marriage ought to be understood as a state's legal effort to insure that all children have a legally bound mother and a father. Other relationships, even if benefitting adults, do not evince a compelling state interest for the same legal protection.
- Environment. Will you support policies that aim to curb greenhouse gas emissions and other policies that help the environment?
- The "green" Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized the need to protect the environment on many occasions, in large part because environmental issues are transnational and many nations cannot see past their own limited interests.
- Military. What will you do to end the war in Afghanistan and bring all troops home?
- Education. Do you support school vouchers or other initiatives that allow parents choices over their children's education? Will you protect Catholic colleges' and universities' religious liberty?
- Health care. How will your plan help all Americans, especially the poor, to have adequate access to health care? What will you do to insure conscience protections of health care workers and institutions in matters such as refusal to perform abortions, or refusal to prescribe birth control (or refusal to include it in institutional health care plans)?
- Religious liberty. Will you protect social service agencies such as adoption agencies so that they are not forced to close for violations of their principles?
- Labor. How will you create jobs and help to secure a just wage for laborers?