This article, excerpted here, makes a good case for the Catholic whose life revolves around the dogma of the social teaching being “politically homeless”.
The reality is that if you place the weight on the social teaching it demands, particularly towards the primary teaching—protection of the life of the unborn—then political partisanship is relatively easy for many Catholic voters as the Republicans are the only party with a pro-life platform.
However, perhaps the soundest political stance is non-partisan, remaining independent, and with Catholic social teaching and your own reflection as your guide, vote and act upon those social and political issues as your faith, good sense, and the common good lead you.
To give a sense of how the two parties feel on the primary life issue of the Church, here are excerpts from their party platforms.
“We will defend the dignity of all Americans against those who would undermine it.
Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.”
(Strong at Home, Respected in the World: The 2004 Democratic National Platform for America p. 42)
And for the Republicans
“As a country, we must keep our pledge to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence. That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
(2004 Republican Party Platform: A Safer World and a More Hopeful America, p. 84)
To reaffirm the centrality of the pro life position in the social teaching, the Catechism notes:
“2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.
“This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.
“Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
“You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.
“God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves.
“Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.
“2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.
“The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.
“A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” “by the very commission of the offense,” and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.
“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy.
“Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”
And this from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae“:
“Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
“The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. “Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action”.
“As far as the right to life is concerned, every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others. This equality is the basis of all authentic social relationships which, to be truly such, can only be founded on truth and justice, recognizing and protecting every man and woman as a person and not as an object to be used. Before the moral norm which prohibits the direct taking of the life of an innocent human being “there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the ‘poorest of the poor’ on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal”.
(Pope John Paul II (1995) Evangelium Vitae #57)
Social Ministry Day Two: Catholics ‘politically homeless,’ bishops’ staffer says
By John L Allen Jr Daily
Created Feb 25 2008 – 10:25
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
American Catholics are often “politically homeless,” according to the U.S. bishops’ top officer for social action, given that neither of the two major parties fully embrace the church’s social teaching – from opposition to abortion, for example, to support for health care and an end to the war in Iraq.
“We don’t fit with the right or the left, with Democrats or Republicans,” said John Carr, who directs the office for Justice, Peace and Human Development.
Referring to the annual Social Ministry Gathering, Carr said, “I sometimes think of us as a self-help group for the politically incorrect, for people who insist on standing both with the unborn and the undocumented.”
Nevertheless, Carr said this morning, this makes it “a great time to be a Catholic preacher, teacher or leader, because no one can accuse us of being shills for a partisan position.”
Carr, a veteran staffer of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, argued that a genuinely Catholic approach to politics cannot “cherry-pick” or be “selective.”
“Catholic progressives ought to be measured by how they stand up for human life,” he said, “and Catholic conservatives by how they defend human dignity.” The “consistent ethic of life,” Carr said, “doesn’t give any of us a free pass.”
Describing the political context for Catholic social ministry, Carr spoke of tremendous polarization in Washington.
“The debate used to be within the 40-yard-lines,” Carr said. “Today everybody’s in the end zones.”
Carr related, for example, that when the U.S. bishops were recently asked to meet with members of Congress to discuss the war on Iraq, they requested that the session be bipartisan – only to be told, Carr said, “that’s not how we do things here.”
Carr described a sort of hyper-individualism on both the political right and left that both obstruct compassionate social policy.
“On the right, there’s the individualism of the market,” he said. “On the left, there’s lifestyle individualism, so that choice becomes the defining virtue of public life.”