This is a post speculating on the hypothetical situation “if Catholics were Catholic.” I know. It’s a crazy concept.
In many instances, this title could also be called a number of other things and make the same point, including “If Christians were Christian.” However, calling something “Christian” in our culture, unfortunately, has an increasingly vague and relativistic form of clarity that would make such speculation exponentially conjectural. On the other hand, talking in terms of the Catholic Church, we have the only Christians with a 2000 year consistent teaching that defines with clarity what it actually means to be “Christian” and “Catholic.” And it does so with a historical (and magisterial) authority to claim that word along with what it truly means.
The first topic in this category will be about shaping our political landscape. And the example I will use will be getting rid of pro-abortion politicians. I know we’ve had a lot of posts on abortion lately due to the election (I’m tired of talking about it too), but that’s because it is an issue that stands out in gravity among all present issues of our day. It deserves this kind of attention and demands personal, as well as political, action in order to correct this injustice.
And I know we are concerned about many other important issues as well. And that’s good. We should be and I want to talk more about those too. But how can we truly claim to love human life in any of its forms if we do not protect human life in its smallest, most defenseless and innocent form?
So while the election is still fresh on our minds, I want to offer a final few thoughts in regard to this issue that might help. I am still hopeful in our path forward.
Throughout all of the political campaigning this year we heard from many catholics who were confused as to whether or not they could support a “pro-choice” politician. Many of the bishops tried to clarify things, but yet we still had people so deeply conflicted and/or improperly catechized that the message seemed to fall on deaf ears.
And adding to the confusion were some high-profile catholics speaking out claiming that a catholic could indeed justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate even when a pro-life candidate was available. Today’s readings speak of people like this…something about a “millstone,” a “neck,” and “the sea.”
That may sound harsh, but they are either very confused or they are letting their political bias supersede the morals of their faith – and they are leading others astray as they do it.
The problem is this: They act like our political landscape is fixed. They accept that because a certain issue is in a party’s platform that we are forced to accept some things we don’t like. Well I don’t believe that is entirely true. And that’s why I think it is very disingenuous when someone feels the need to rationalize supporting a pro-choice candidate simply because they agree more with all the other (and lesser) things that candidate happens to stand for.
If catholics actually acted Catholic when we voted we could change the political landscape forever.
Catholics made up about 25% of the 123 million Americans that voted in the last presidential race – so about 30 million catholics voted (of which there are many more that did not vote). And for our purposes, McCain and Obama pretty much split the Catholic vote – so about 15 million catholics each. Obama won the popular vote by only about 8 million votes and it was even closer in battleground states.
In other words, for all practical purposes, catholics have the power to easily cover that gap and decide pretty much any election…if we chose to stick together and fight for truth. No other demographic can really compare in terms of unity in belief (not in America or even the entire world).
The problem is that 1) there are many catholics that claim to be Catholic but do not fully understand what that means and how it should affect their lives and voting, and 2) many Catholics believe they have to compromise on their values when it comes to politics. Basically, we need to catechize better and we need better Catholic political leadership to create a clear vision that unifies us.
Let’s be clear – it would take one election. In one election catholics could change the entire political landscape forever.
In the next election, we need to set an ultimatum. From now on we are only suporting pro-life candidates. If catholics did that and truly voted that way, no major party would ever run a pro-choice candidate again. Period. There would be no way they could win.
This should be the answer that these catholic commentators and leaders give when confronted with these political, moral dilemmas. But they don’t. Instead, we have people trying to confuse the issue even more for catholics and giving an erroneous impression that catholics can indeed rationalize supporting a pro-abortion candidate under some confusing circumstance.
On the other side, I think we still need more from our bishops and pastors than simply, “tough luck, there is no way to justify supporting abortion.” Those bishops are right, of course. But we need still better leadership than that. We need a proactive vision to be articulated that puts this to rest as a political issue. And we could do it in one election.
And then we could start discussing which party has better ideas on how to fix all of these other important issues. Catholics could have legitimate alternatives to choose from without compromising on issues as fundamental as abortion, a right to life, and some of these other pro-life issues.
One election is all it would take. This is how our country works. The political landscape is shaped by us – not by two political party platforms. But it only works if we come together and shape it instead of letting it shape us.
So when any high-profile Catholic comes forward and suggests that we must compromise on our core Catholic morals in order to vote, they are lying to you. They are portraying us as victims of our politics. They should be cast aside and sent back to Sunday school.
We need real leaders. Leaders that will address our two problems noted above – 1) proper catechization and 2) political leadership for catholics.
We need catholic, political leadership that will communicate a clear vision forward.
I know tackling those problems are much easier said than done, but the overall concept is the vision we need to have. Our political (and therefore social justice) strategy must span more than a single election period. It must get past “who can I vote for today?” It must also answer “who can we force onto the ballot tomorrow?”
With almost 70 million catholics in the United States, more than any other demographic we have the ability to shape our political landscape. We just need the faith and the leadership to do it. And we need catholics to be Catholic.