Here we are, in the midst of a presidential election pitting an avowed abortion advocate against an avowed pro-life candidate. Making the choice between them more stark, Hillary Clinton has chosen a pro-abortion Catholic, Sen. Tim Kaine, while Donald Trump picked pro-life Gov. Mike Pence.
To make matters even more stark, Hillary Clinton has made the support of Planned Parenthood, the proven seller of infant body parts, part of her political platform, while the platform of her Democratic Party has announced a more extreme pro-abortion clause than in previous elections. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has promised to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood and has published a list of potential Supreme Court nominees all in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
What do we hear from the leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States? There has been one helpful blip, that I know of, on the bishop’s radar:
Bishop Tobin of Providence, RI, in a post on Facebook asked aloud, if Tim Kaine was a Catholic?, and concluded that Kaine’s support for abortion, among other things, “are clearly contrary to well-established Catholic teachings . . . . apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life.”
On the other hand one bishop who has supported pro-life causes for his entire career has written a strange and surprising column. Philadelphia’s Archbishop Chaput wrote on the Archdiocesan website, “Some personal thoughts on the months ahead.” He writes that between, “both major candidates . . . that neither is clearly better than the other.” The reasons given by the Archbishop begin with the income of the candidates, both are multi-millionaires, and he argues:
“The median U.S. income is about $56,000. Neither major candidate lives anywhere near the solar system of where most Americans live, work, and raise families. Nonetheless, we are asked to trust them.”
I wonder what the multi-millionaire donors to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia feel about that?
The Archbishop’s next argument cites the “defective ethics, “buffoonery,” and “bombast” that “make him [Trump] inconceivable as president.” Really? The only pro-life candidate is “inconceivable” as President?
Let’s turn to what the Archbishop says about the pro-abortion Hillary Clinton: “in the view of a lot of people – [Clinton] should be under criminal indictment. The fact that she’s not – again, in the view of a lot of people — proves Orwell’s Animal Farm principle that ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.'” Fair enough, but there’s no mention of her being “inconceivable” as president.
For Archbishop Chaput, Clinton is conceivable and Trump is not. Thus, I wrote the headline above: The Catholic Church Doesn’t Care About Abortion.” But there is more.
Archbishop Chaput, a man I have greatly respected for many years, goes on to remind Catholics that God does not prefer one political party over another, “But God, by his nature, is always concerned with good and evil and the choices we make between the two.” Yet, the Archbishop himself began his critique of the candidates with the the amount of their personal wealth, followed by a listing of their personal flaws, finding the flaws of only one candidate made him “inconceivable” as President, but makes no mention of the evil of abortion.
Next, the Archbishop reminds Catholics that not “all pressing issues [are] equal in foundational importance or gravity. The right to life undergirds all other rights and all genuine social progress.” Why did he make no mention of the issue of “foundational importance” in relation to the candidates or their running mates? If the abortion issue possesses so much moral “gravity” why are the candidates not evaluated in that light?
Rather than informing Catholics on where the Clinton/Kaine ticket stands on abortion, the Archbishop warns Catholics against the “mobocracy” of social media and advises clarity of thought and prayer, as well as reading the bishop’s own “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” and their 1998 Pastoral Letter, “Living the Gospel of Life.” Well, OK, let’s read it. Here is what the bishops wrote in 1998:
Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God’s children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable. (Paragraph 33; Emphasis added)
This is not what I read in Archbishop Chaput’s “personal thoughts.” Perhaps no bishop of the present generation has supported the pro-life cause more consistently and ably than the Archbishop of Philadelphia. Why not mention here? It’s not as if the position of either candidate is a secret. In the case of Hillary Clinton, her passionate support of abortion-on-demand is both a matter of public record and expressed conviction. What we have from Donald Trump are promises, since he has never held public office, but they are convictions that go back years before this election campaign.
As someone who has worked in five presidential elections, trying to convince Catholics to vote for pro-life candidates, I have experienced the resistance, and outright hostility, of Catholic bishops, priests, and other leadership to the pro-life political message. I’ve shared the essentials of that experience and predicted it would be multiplied exponentially in this election, which it has.
I will offer one, very telling, example. I’ve been tracking the various conferences being offered by dioceses around the country before the election, such as the 2016 State Respect Life Conference to be held October 14-15, 2016 at Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Winter Park, Florida. This event is being hosted by the Diocese of Orlando’s Office of Advocacy and Justice. In addition to this, the Office of Advocacy and Justice will be hosting “Faithful Citizenship Workshops” in other parishes. The Office makes use of “Candidate Forums” and offers a link to the USCCB website, “Tips For Conducting Candidate Forums.” Click on this link and you will find the following advice:
Cover a broad range of issues: Focusing on one issue will create the appearance of endorsing some candidates over others. A broader focus will more effectively educate voters and will avoid any appearance of bias.
The USCCB is arguing that those who focus on abortion, the “one issue,” will appear to be “endorsing some candidates over another.” Really? What is the practical consequence of this “tip”? It means that any person or group that focuses on the abortion issue of political candidates and parties is to be considered as partisan, that is, endorsing a candidate. As a consequence, Catholic pro-life advocates cannot be included in forums and conferences sponsored by Catholic organizations such as the “Office of Advocacy and Justice,” and most other Catholic organizations whose social justice convictions don’t include the protection of innocent life.
I wonder if the same rule would apply to a group whose mission was to support candidates who want open borders that will “welcome the stranger” and conferring of U.S. citizenship on illegal immigrants? Doubtful.
Pro-life Catholics need to wake up and realize that most of the “officialdom” of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is already rolling out a national campaign that is virtually an arm of the Democratic Party. If you don’t believe me, start tracking the various conferences and forums being offered in your diocese, drill down to look at the host organization, the speakers, and their topics. Better yet, attend one and publicly voice your pro-life preferences and see what happens.
I do not include Archbishop Chaput in this at all. But his “personal thoughts” do nothing to give second thoughts to those Catholics who are part of this rollout, whereas reading his 2009 book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, just might.
“When Catholics oppose abortion, they do so not because of some special Catholic religious doctrine or simply because the church says so. Rather, the church teaches abortion is wrong because it already is. Abortion violates the universal natural law by abusing the inherent human rights of the unborn child. The injustice of genocide, oppressing the poor, the killing unborn children is not a matter of religious doctrine. It’s a matter of natural law” (p.83).