A recent exchange on Facebook about Donald Trump helped me clarify a few things for myself about the upcoming elections.
Names changed below:
KARIN (X): -(Trump) is the ONLY candidate who is truly an AMERICAN, he is not beholden to any lobbyists or any other group, he speaks OUR language and says what needs to be done – and I TRUST him to doit (sic). because he is DONALD TRUMP. if you want to lose to the liar hil vote for somebody else. your choice. BUT NOT MYINE (sic). DONALD TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT.
ME: Karin: …You claim that Trump is not ‘beholden’ to lobbyists or any other group. This is false. No one can be elected without being beholden to one group or another, by ideology and votes if not by money.
I do think it’s good that Trump has brought issues like immigration to the front burner of the national conversation, while the other candidates wanted to treat them like hot potatoes. However, immigration is not as important an issue as others. If indeed Trump is “free,” and you knowingly help put him in a place where he will use that freedom to inflict evil policies upon the American populace, you will be held accountable for your vote in the hereafter.
The protection of dignity of human life is the first principle in Catholic social teaching. As such, the primary issues voters should judge their candidates upon are those of human life concerns. Immigration and the language forms Mr. Trump uses to do so are irrelevant by comparison. Will this president enact policies that will stop or expand abortion, euthanasia, and other crimes against humanity in this country? Trump only became pro-life recently, after many years of supporting abortion and those politicians who were unwavering in their support of it. As such, I remain unconvinced of his sincerity.
Plus, he has made it clear he will use your money and mine to fund these atrocities through Planned Parenthood. If your vote puts him there, you will be held to account for it.
Let us also look at the current rash of bullying by the LGBT lobby, insisting that those who believe in authentic marriage (that is, as being between one man and one woman) participate in and make possible “weddings” they do not wish any involvement in. Glaring violations of the First Amendment aside, I cannot see a Trump administration being sympathetic to those whose religious or philosophical backgrounds would necessitate their non-participation. When his policies have been held up for scrutiny, for example, Mr. Trump typically increases his aggressive stance against those who oppose him rather than give justifications for his actions. When told, for example, that the Mexican government had stated they would not, in fact, pay for a wall to keep illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.A., Mr. Trump responded that the wall “Just got ten feet taller.”
A man who responds to opposition with further aggression sounds cheerworthy at first, until it is you, I, or the Little Sisters of the Poor who are the ones challenging the status quo held by those in authority. The Obama administration has proven itself the adversary of Catholic social teaching in multiple moral arenas in the past eight years, even willing to drag elderly nuns into court to make them bend to the will of the man in the White House. I cannot see Mr. Trump being anything other than more zealous in his ire if he senses opposition to his will.
If he is elected, he will be my president, since I am an American. But if he does ascend to the Oval Office, he will do so without my vote. I have enough things I will have to go through purgatory for; I won’t add more so I can have a fantasy of punching the liberal elite in the face…
After the exchange was over, I began to think a bit about the Trump supporters I knew. Only one was a practicing, pro-life Catholic from my college days at Franciscan University. Other than that, no devout Catholics I knew supported him. Human life issues motivated them, and they believed Trump did not speak for them here, his recent public statements notwithstanding. While this does not mean no “true” Catholic can support Trump, I do think a Trump candidacy raises issues that a member of Christ’s only Church should consider when they approach the ballot box.
The Principles at Stake
First: As Catholics, we are not going to be “let off the hook” for whatever vote we make. We are held to account for every action we freely choose to make. This includes the actions we choose to take in the voting booth.
If we know that a candidate can and will in fact affect issues of human life, we are obligated to vote for the candidate that will do the most to stop the war against the unborn, before we look at other issues like aid to the poor and the wars in far-off lands. Protecting the existence of life ought to be a far greater priority over quality of life. What good is it to support a candidate who touts ‘aid’ for children, if the same candidate is in favor of a child’s death by “choice”?
Solidarity with the poor should extend towards eliminating a barbaric practice like abortion, in which the number of children of the poor are targeted and killed in numbers which dwarf those of other socio-economic classes.
What to do, then, when none of the candidates are pro-life? What to do when both candidates have, for the sake of argument, demonstrated a belief that a tree ought to be given more legal protection than a pre-born child?
Pope St. John Paul II addressed this best in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), when he wrote:
When it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects (paragraph 73).
From this, some commentators, like EWTN’s Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, PhD, have extrapolated that just as a politician may support an imperfect law that only limits rather than removes abortion outright, a voter may choose a politician whom they are confident will at least limit abortion rather than do their best to eliminate it as well. While a devil’s advocate might suggest that Trump would thus be an acceptable candidate for his pro-life statements, other statements supporting Planned Parenthood and putting a Supreme Court justice on the bench who supported partial birth abortion strongly suggest otherwise; recall that virtually every pro-abortion choice politician uses similar rhetoric when they call for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare,” while keeping both legal, deadly, and the most common form of “surgery” in America.
The good news is this: Even if neither candidate appears to be acceptable from any of the major parties, America is a nation in which new political parties can and do spring up all the time. Students of history know that the Republican party sprang up on the single issue of the abolition of slavery, in opposition to the pro-slavery Democratic party. Numerous other candidates, parties and options exist for the American voter who does not find himself or herself adequately represented in the current political landscape. Far from “throwing your vote away,” voting for a different political party or writing in another candidate sends a message that your vote cannot be taken for granted by any party or group, and can be a good means to ensure that your conscience can remain clear.
For those interested in learning more regarding the Catholic position of voting for pro-abortion choice politicians vs. other issues (e.g. conscience, capital punishment, the poor, etc.), an excellent voter’s guide exists online that may be referred to (please click on the link below):
This guide does not list specific persons for whom one ought to vote. Rather, it applies existing principles of Catholic thought to provide a framework, one that may be used to deduce what candidates ought to be supported by a Catholic wishing to be consistent with Catholic belief and teaching.