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Cut to the Chase

October 28, AD2016

new york, statue of liberty, freedomLately, at Mass, at least some of our bishops and priests have told us to go home, pray and form our conscience, then vote accordingly this November. That’s fine as far as it goes. The problem, as some of the concerned laity see it, is that it does not go far enough. In fact, the clergy simply have not been as direct in their messages regarding voting as people would like to see. There is too much waffling and obfuscation from the ambo. There’s a sense that many Catholics are not being made aware of the gravity of the situation we’re facing this election cycle.

Non-Negotiables

The people in the pews have not been hearing a consistent message making the point that we face some NON-NEGOTIABLE issues here, including:

  • The dignity of life and right to life from conception to natural death
  • Embryonic stem cell research and human cloning
  • Recognition of marriage and the family as a union between one man and one woman

To the official list of non-negotiables, I would add religious liberty as well.

  • The dignity of life and protection of life means NO abortion, and NO euthanasia–both are considered grave moral evils. To support someone who is pushing them is itself a grave, moral evil. The Democrats’ platform supports abortion. Their candidate for the presidency said, during a televised interview, that unborn persons have no rights.
  • Marriage is an institution from God for the union of one man and one woman–to promote otherwise is also morally incorrect. Which party is pushing a redefinition of marriage in a way that asks for “tolerance” from Christians but won’t tolerate Christian bakers, photographers, etc. who don’t want to partake in these affairs because of their religious beliefs? Which Vice Presidential candidate believes that the Church’s teaching on this is wrong and will change with the times?
  • Religious liberty is at stake not only in undeveloped or middle Eastern countries but right here in the United States of America. Which presidential candidate has stated that Christians need to get with the times and change their beliefs to those of the secular world–and which party has attempted to change the Catholic Church from within to meet its ideology? Who has been behind the HHS mandate and its encroachment on Catholic institutions such as the Little Sisters of the Poor and Catholic hospital systems? Will diminishing Catholic health care services help the down and out of this country?

As a notable Catholic television personality is fond of saying, immigration reform, welfare reform, health care, unemployment, etc. are all important issues, but if you’re dead, they don’t really matter.  Isn’t that really the bottom line here?

The Supreme Court

This election is not only about the presidency.  It also concerns who will be appointed to take Justice Scalia’s position and to replace a couple of 80-somethings who still sit on the bench.  The Supreme Court has become an activist arm of the government, pushing the secular agenda.  The replacements for these lifetime positions will change this country forever.

Some well-meaning Christians have said that they can’t, in good conscience, support either candidate for president because of the immorality and flaws of the candidates. I get that—totally.  No sincere Christian can honestly say that either candidate represents his or her moral beliefs.  People hold some very strong, negative opinions about either or both of the two candidates. An acquaintance told me just the other day that, in spite of the compelling arguments about religious liberty, a culture of life, the Supreme Court, and the Church’s teachings, etc., Trump is not qualified to lead this country. At the same time, others feel pretty much the same way about Clinton. They both stink.

I was shocked recently to read a young columnist’s opinion something along the lines of how “freeing” it is to know that one can simply sidestep voting in this year’s election or vote for a third-party candidate. Really? With all that’s at stake, it is “liberating” to just walk away from it all? Actually, as others have more eloquently stated than I, not voting or voting for other than a mainline party is pretty much the same as casting a vote for the person you’d least like to see win. With so much at risk here, can we continue to go along with electoral business as usual? Venerable Fulton Sheen said it well: “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

It’s a Fine Mess

To borrow a line from the old Laurel and Hardy films, “it’s a fine mess we’ve gotten into.” A fine mess indeed—BUT—simply opting out of our responsibility as Christian voters by throwing away our vote this year is NOT a viable option. That is, unless one is are eagerly looking forward to the prospects of a full-blown culture of death and all-out religious persecution.

There is a lot of uncertainty about this year’s election outcomes, but there is some certainty of how the Johnson Amendment can be used against churches if it is believed that the churches are engaging in partisan politics.  That alone, not to mention offertory worries, may be why so many clergy are taking a low profile approach to all of this. That being said, however, it is encouraging to see that the Colorado bishops just recently released this video, which goes a long way toward saying what needs to be said for their flocks. As well, I don’t have a problem saying these things—unlike the priests, bishops and cardinals, I don’t have a tax-exempt status to lose and I already pay too much in taxes.

God bless us all and God bless America.  Pray for our country.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Dom is a Benedictine-educated cradle Catholic, and something of a revert to the faith. In addition to consulting to management in the CPA profession and elsewhere, he and his wife of 40 years attempt to live according to the three pillars of Church authority--Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. They are both active at their parish where he is an Instituted Acolyte and a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus.

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  • Zeke Clinton

    Personal reservations, policy support. I’m in for Trump.

  • Macmia

    Don’t forget the party that facilitates self determination over the reality of natural law. Lies to self, lies to others, rejection of what God has wrought (gender identity).

  • Tom Mazanec

    If there were a third party candidate who reflected my Catholic views, I would likely vote for him/her, even if there were no chance of winning. But there is not, so I will reluctantly vote for Trump.

    • Dom C

      With the current state of our culture, I don’t think we’ll see any candidate whose position reflects the Catholic view, unfortunately

    • Howard

      I’ll be voting for Darrell Castle from the Constitution Party. No political party is perfect, but the Constitution Party mostly says the right things and, unlike the Republicans, seems sincere.

      Several months ago, I contacted the Republican senator from my state to complain about the GOP-led Senate attempting to require women to register for the draft. As a result of those votes, of the answers I received from my state’s senator, and of the general state of corruption in the GOP in this state, as long as I am in this state I will no longer consider a candidate from either the Democrats or the Republicans for office, any more than I would consider a member of the KKK. Any candidate who chooses to associate with such an organization has shown himself to be unworthy of office, no matter what else he might say or how many photos of his smiling family he plasters on billboards. The House blocked the measure, which is why I will reconsider if I move to a different state. However, the GOP seems to be on a trajectory that will ultimately cause me to reject it permanently and irrevocably.

      As it is, there is a candidate from my district running on the Libertarian ticket who says all the right things about abortion and the role of religion in society. Yes, I know that the Libertarian Party, as a party, has no interest in these issue. On the other hand, the Libertarian Party, as a party, has not been lying to me my entire adult life, and had stooges telling me that no matter how many lies they’ve told in the past, this time they’re telling the truth, and it is probably a mortal sin not to disregard their past lies and hope that for once they really do mean what they say with their campaign promises. (These same stooges are also baffled about why this voting strategy has not won the Culture Wars — not that those could ultimately be won by voting anyhow.)

    • Macmia

      I respect your right to vote as you will. I will choose one of the two candidates likely to win and make policy. He/she will directly and indirectly affect me and those I love. This is the only way I see my vote having any impact at all.

    • Howard

      First of all, choosing the lesser of two evils is akin to choosing the higher of two circles of Hell. Is that the best choice available?

      Secondly, are there really two competing candidates who are both likely to win? More likely, you do not know what the word “likely” means. Donald Trump will almost certainly win my state; Hillary Clinton will almost certainly win the national election; which ever one wins will almost certainly be a disastrous president; both of them certainly (not “almost” this time) are unworthy of my vote.

      As for your voting strategy — with all due respect, it makes no sense. As a voter, the only leverage you have here is your vote. Are you willing to pledge your complete support to any Republican candidate as long as he is infinitesimally better than the Democratic candidate? If you do, you should understand that you will get what you pay for — a candidate only infinitesimally better than the competition, while the competition is more than infinitesimally worse than OK.

      More fundamentally, though, I see a vote as a question of basic honesty. Can you honestly endorse the candidate for whom you are voting, or do you rationalize a lie because you hope it will give you a tiny, tiny taste of power? If you can honestly endorse your candidate, fair enough, but if not, you have sold your birthright not for a mess of pottage, but for the dirty dish once the pottage has been eaten.

    • Michael

      Howard, I am curious about your thought process. Could you articulate the difference between Hillary and Donald on their stated positions regarding:
      1. Pro-life issues especially abortion
      2. The type of Supreme Court judges they will be nominating

    • Howard

      Ah yes, the “stated positions”. This is the card used by Trump supporters to avoid answering questions about why his whole life should be ignored and his miraculous conversion to a True Conservative (TM) should be accepted as gospel truth. I’m not interested in playing that game, particularly by the ridiculous rules you want.

    • Michael

      So have you made a comparison between Trump’s whole life and Hillary’s?
      Have you found the 3rd party candidate who is a truer conservative than Trump?
      Peace be with you Howard.

    • Macmia

      I’m an Independent voter; so I’ll give my vote to the candidate that I think will cause less harm, and/or allow the possibility for more good. Isn’t it wonderful that we can each vote as we see fit?

    • Howard

      I’m not so sure. A system like the one we have can only work if the majority of people make honest, rational choices for the public good. Both the main parties expect and count on the majority of voters to make irrational decisions (based on, for example, how often they see campaign ads) and to make them for their own private (often economic) interests rather than for the public good. These selfish and/or irrational choices are then obscured by deliberate dishonesty. Is anything about that really “wonderful”?

    • Dom C

      Howard, you obviously feel strongly about all of this. The system is broken, and has been for sometime. Your vote for any but a major party candidate, in this broken system, is an exercise in futility and is the same as voting for whoever is going to get the majority of the rest of the votes. Neither major party candidate is candidate is going to be a role model for a virtuous life, but one major party is for a culture of death and oppression of religious liberty. Whoever wins the election picks SCOTUS judges that can change things for the better or the worse. We can rail all we want against a system that we collectively have allowed to come to its current state, or we can make a practical decision to try to begin to make some changes in the right direction.

    • Howard

      Like many people, I live in a state in which one major party candidate leads by double digits — in fact by at least 20 percentage points. My vote for any candidate is an exercise in futility, if my aim is to affect the outcome of the race. Let’s pretend, though, that I live in a swing state like Florida. Then there is a tiny, tiny chance that my vote might actually determine who wins the state and who wins in the electoral college. Even then, voting for a major-party candidate would be an exercise in futility, if my aim is not just to change the name that future children will have to memorize in history class as the winner of the 2016 election, but rather to change the direction of the United States. What I have done — I have already voted — is to do something shocking, something that most people on CatholicStand seem to think is sinful: I have given a truthful answer to the question that was asked of me, which is, “Which of these 5 candidates, or any other that you might write in, is the best acceptable choice for president?”

      I can understand the lure of consequentialism, but really only in cases where there is a strong likelihood of an important difference in the consequences. In this case there is none. We know that Clinton would be a certain type of disaster, but we have no reason to think that Trump would be any different. It would not be enough for him to promise the right things, he must also be sufficiently trustworthy to make his promises credible. That gets into the issue of character, and no adult is capable of making quick changes in character absent some dramatic event; no dramatic event is evident in Trump’s life, so his character today is apt to be the same as it was twenty years ago. That’s the problem with him: he is a good-time Charlie who makes money off sleazy business deals in which others bear the risk and who has never served anyone but himself; he is also a narcissist with a bad temper.

      At this point, America’s downward spiral is probably irreversible by even the greatest president and all the justices he might appoint, but I can honestly think of nothing more futile than to vote for a man like Trump in the hope that he will somehow make America a place where decent people with traditional values can live their lives quietly and without harassment. He does not share our beliefs and cannot be trusted to even try to defend them.

    • Dom C

      I will be the first to admit that it’s a pretty ugly situation we’re facing no matter who is elected, but given what I perceive to be a somewhat fatalistic view on your part, what do you plan on doing next–after one of the major party candidates gets elected, what will you do?

    • Howard

      So let me get this straight: If I refuse to vote for a man who has bragged about groping women, who has taken advantage of his position as owner of a beauty pageant to walk in on naked contestants, who is on his third wife (so far), who has (at the very least) lent his name to a fraud of a “university”, and who has indicated that he does not really know of anything he needed to repent of, in the expectation that he will now be a defender of Catholic values, obviously it’s because I am a fatalist. A realist would no doubt expect him to be the next Pope and be the first living person named Doctor of the Catholic Church, no doubt.

      Stop sniffing glue.

    • Dom C

      Rather than insulting me, why don’t you answer my question. When the election’s over and one of the major party candidates wins, what’s next?

    • Howard

      So calling me a fatalist was not an insult?
      No, I’d rather insult you and be honest about it, whereas you prefer to give an insult and then pretend to be innocent. Honesty does not seem important to the likes of you.

    • Dom C

      My apologies if you took my comment as an insult. Not intended as such. So what’s next, once the election’s over, to get back to the topic.

    • Howard

      “If you took my comment as such”. Well, after the election, I’ll go back to telling people where they can shove their phony apologies for things they don’t admit to.

    • Howard

      Oh, there’s one more thing you should be aware of. I am within a whisker’s breadth of firmly swearing to never vote for any Republican again, at any time, in any place, for any position, under any circumstances. If you think my vote is really unimportant, you have no reason to keep ticking me off. If you think my vote is really important, don’t blow it for your party.

    • Dom C

      As I said, you obviously feel very strongly about all of this. And many of us have disowned the Republican party already because of its ineptitude and complicity in all that we see at this point.

      But, besides more vitriol and threats, once the election is over and one of the major party candidates wins, what will you be doing besides telling people to shove it, etc., that is practical and can make a difference for this country?

    • Howard

      Actually, it’s not so much a threat. I’ve already decided never to vote for any Republican (or Democrat) in this state. For now I’m leaving the window open should I move to a different state in the future. I think that is only delaying the inevitable, though. I do not think that either of those parties can be redeemed.

      What I will be doing is what I can do, which is to possibly have an affect on those I actually interact with. It is a popular myth in this country that by wearing the right hat or shirt, a fan can make his team win a game being played hundreds of miles away, or that flying a flag from car in the middle of Texas somehow sends shivers up the spines of al Qaeda terrorists, or that voting in a presidential election has to be “practical” regardless of the absence of practical effects. That has not been and will not be my way of thinking. I am responsible for my little piece of the battlefield and how I deal with it, and nothing more. That will be enough. I fully expect to lose my job for failure to support the lies of the left, and I expect that to happen whether Clinton OR Trump wins.

      That’s the last I have to say to you.