Catholic by Choice

Catholic by Choice

A Catholic Activist Looks at the US Presidential Campaign of 2012 and the ‘Catholic Vote’

After Labor Day, the US Presidential campaign of 2012 will move into high gear. Clearly, this is one of the most important elections of my lifetime.  The economy is in a free fall and the sense of fear in the United States is palpable. A majority of people have lost confidence in our elected leaders. The moral decline in the Nation is obvious to anyone who has any moral compass left – after decades of such a decline. the connection between our economic and our moral decline is similarly obvious to anyone who understands the integrated human person and the social order.


As a Catholic Christian who has labored side by side for decades in building alliances with protestant evangelicals, other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will on the issues and concerns which matter most, I know that this is the time the pundits begin to specualte about the “Catholic Vote” and which candidate will secure such a vote. I have written for many years as to whether such a “Catholic vote”, in the sense of a discernible “bloc” of voters, actually even exists. The fact is Catholics are very diverse in many political matters which call for prudential judgement. However, with the growing renewal in the faith of many Catholics and the consequential growing awareness of what their Church actually teaches, we may be reaching a point where such a ‘Catholic Vote” is becoming discernible.


Given their numbers, U.S. Catholics can determine the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election in the United States. That is if we act in a manner which, in the words of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is “morally coherent.”  That phrase was used in an instruction released in 2002 entitled a “Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life”. It was directed to “the Bishops of the Catholic Church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies.”

The teaching in the instruction informs another important work of great importance to understanding the catholic way of viewing many policy and political issues entitled the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”. In particular, the sections pertaining to the political participation of Catholics. (See, e.g. #565-574) Anyone who thinks the teachers of the Catholic Church are not clear on the duty to vote in a manner which is morally coherent has not read Catholic teaching. Here is an excerpt:


“The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. It is a question of the lay Catholic’s duty to be morally coherent, found within one’s conscience, which is one and indivisible. ‘There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual life’, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity.

“In fact, every area of the lay faithful’s lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the ‘places in time’ where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others.  Living and acting in conformity with one’s own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of ‘confessionalism’, but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person.”


That is NOT to say that the Catholic Church ever endorses a specific candidate. However, the Church does call all of her members to inform their conscience and then exercise their citizenship. I write this article as a private citizen. I cannot and will not remain silent as the Nation I love continues down the wrong path. I believe that the American founders got it right in that Declaration and there are Truths which can be held and rights which are inalienable.


Our insistence as Catholic citizens upon recognition in the positive law of the fundamental Human Right to Life is not about one political issue; it is about the very foundation of freedom itself. Human rights – such as the Natural Law Right to Life – and human freedoms such as the freedom to be born – are goods of human persons. When there is no human person to exercise them all the rhetoric extolling them is nothing but empty air and sloganeering.

Nor is our Pro-Life position simply a matter of our adherence to our “religious” beliefs. It is a response to the truth revealed by the Natural Law and confirmed by medical science. The Child in the womb is our neighbor. It is always and everywhere wrong to take innocent human life. The child in the womb is innocent human life. It is thus wrong to intentionally kill him or her through procured abortion.


Our faith gives us further insights into that truth and calls us to a greater obligation to insist upon the role of the Natural Law in the formation of the positive law. It also calls us to active participation on the political process.  Rights are not ethereal concepts floating around in the cosmos somewhere. Rights are endowed by a Creator not conferred by the State. They are goods of the human person. Our opposition to the judicial manufacture of a “right” to take innocent human life in the womb must never take a back seat to any other concern in the public policy arena. Freedom must be exercised with reference to what is true and good in any just and moral society.

Abortion, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, is only the “cutting edge of the culture of death.” Any time human persons are treated as “products” to be used, aborted, discarded, manipulated, enslaved, traded, made a means rather than an end.. there we find the “culture of death.” We must expose, oppose and replace it. Catholics will be judged the most severely if we fail to act. The Biblical adage should echo in our ears, “To those, to whom much is given, much more will be required!” Catholics, I mean really faithful catholics, are Pro-Life-Period.


In addition, faithful catholics defend true and authentic marriage and the family and society founded upon it. Marriage, a lifelong union between one man and one woman open to the bearing and raising of children, is accepted across cultures.The effort to give an enforced legal equivalency to non-marital relations and force all of us to call what can never be a marriage to be a marriage, such as homosexual partnerships, is unjust. It can never serve the true common good.

The defense of marriage is also a defense of the blueprint for a just, healthy and happy society where children’s rights are also respected. Marriage – and the family founded upon it- is the first government, first hospital, first economy, first school, first mediating institution and the foundation of our life together as a truly free people. Our insistence upon defending the institution of marriage is also not only because of our religious faith.  Yes, for those of us who have faith, our faith informs our position. However, the truth about marriage is also confirmed in the Natural Law which is written on every human heart and knowable through the exercise of reason.


We are living under what Pope Benedict XVI called a “Dictatorship of Relativism” in the West. The culture stumbles, drunken on the false notion of freedom as giving some people a “right” to kill the innocent, divorced from norms to guide the exercise of human choice and govern our behavior. When there is a wholesale effort to deny the existence of anything objectively true which can be known by all and form the basis of our common life, then there is no real freedom. Instead, we teeter on the brink of anarchy.

September 12, 2011 will mark the fifty-first anniversary of John F Kennedy’s address to the Houston Ministerial alliance. In that speech he opened the door to moral incoherence by “privatizing” the truths informed by faith and failing to acknowledge the existence of a Natural Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason. In the wake of his catastrophic mistake too many Catholics in public life, like Esau of the Old Testament, have sold their birthrights for a bowl of porridge and helped to construct the current culture of death. Morally coherent Catholics are the ones who must now expose their errors and replace them in office.


We were never comfortable in what was once called the “religious right”, although we are less comfortable in what masquerades as “liberal” or “progressive” these days. However, though those who understand the principle of subsidiarity certainly respect the American founders’ vision of a limited government, most of us get very concerned when candidates start misreading the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution and talk “States Rights”. We do not want to see States which “allow” the killing of children in the womb as some sort of “right”. The Right to life is a non-negotiable.

Similarly we get very concerned when candidates seem to endorse an approach to marriage which would allow for a patchwork approach, allowing States to decide how to define it. Marriage and the family are not some social construct which can be changed by cultural revolutionaries. The family is the first church, the first school, the first economy, the first hospital, the first government and the first mediating institution.


Catholics are not one more “interest group” which can be polled, pandered to and bought. Our social obligation is to promote the true common good, not just use the slogan to sound “catholic” as happened in the last political cycle. Our political participation will be committed to human life and dignity, marriage and the family, authentic human freedom, and solidarity directed by the application of the principle of subsidiarity, which presents a bottom up approach to governance, beginning with the family and moving out from there to mediating associations and then higher forms of governance.

Catholics are emerging as a very important segment of the voting public in the 2012 US Presidential election.

Comments read comments(13)
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Robert Helfman

posted August 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

This is very disappointing. The same logic was used to convey the idea that “good Catholics” vote for George Bush because he is against abortion. Meanwhile, this man authorized torture and a fiscal policy that led to the financial collapse, among other things.
Furthermore, the attempt to galvanize a “Catholic” vote is a blatant attempt to manipulate using moral sloganeering and a specious reference to Church teaching and Catholics, some of whom have not forgotten that they have a right to exercise their consciences on matters political and religious.

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posted August 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

The author seems to say that Catholics must vote Republican, as Republicans tend to oppose abortion and gay marriage and Democrats tend to favor these things.

However, real life is a bit more nuanced than that. Republicans don’t seem to favor policies that help the woman after her child is born. Their interest in a right to life seems to wane after the birth of the child.

Obama favors abortion where John McCain opposes it. I voted for Obama, as I ultimately believed (and still do) that he was the better man for the job.

As for gay marriage, homosexuals have been with us for centuries. Wishing that people weren’t gay won’t make it so. The term “Defense of Marriage” is a misnomer. I am a married man with children. If a gay couple marry, how does that marriage threaten my marriage? Obviously, it does not.

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Deacon Keith Fournier

posted August 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm

This is “the author” and I do not favor Republicans over Democrats, contrary to the two comments from Barry and Robert.

What I was doing in this article was stating the objective truths concerning the Right to Life and the nature of true Marriage and family which know of know partisan limitations.

Truths such as the fundamental right to life for all – at every age and stage- from conception throughout all of life to natural death; and the truth that marriage is – ontologically – between a man and a women, intended for life, and open to children. It forms the family which is the first society and the foundation of all society.

This way of viewing life and society, this worldview, characterized Christians for almost two millennia. In fact, it was the message we proclaimed which overcame pagan societies and civioklized them.

It has only been within the last decade that any Christian body- no matter whether Catholic, Orthodox or members of any of the protestant communities – would have held any different position.

In fact, these truths led to the shedding of Christian blood throughout history. They helped to inform Western civilization.

Of course there has been a failure to care for women after birth…but that does not mean we should “legalize” allow the intentional killing of our youngest neighbors and call it a “right”.

Of course people with homosexual tendencies have been with us for centuries…but that does not mean we change the truth about marriage and pretend that relationships incapable of forming a marriage are the moral or legal equivalent of a marriage.

What is happening within the Christian community is not some kind of “liberation” but actually a loss of the very orthodoxy and which gives any of our communities the very right to bear the name “Christian”.

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Katie Angel

posted August 31, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Although I agree with the positions listed, I am troubled by the authors narrow focus. Being Catholic, and being Pro-Life, cannot and should not stop with concern about just these two issues. A truly morally coherent position must also include issues of economic equity, sufficiency of food and shelter for all our citizens, racial and religious tolerance, social justice, euthanasia and the death penalty. Yet, the people who speak for our faith rarely address these issues.

If we truly value the human person, then all these things are important and require our active support. Unfortunately, too frequently the only things on which the Church focuses are abortion and marriage – leading those in the world to see us as a political organization rather than a religious one. The more time in the public arena that we spend focusing only on issues that are adhered to by one political party, the more this pereception grows. If, as the author says, we wsnt our social doctrine to be understood and not political, we need to stop choosing to spend the vast majority of our focus on positions that are advocated by only one political party.

Catholics do and should care about how the poor are treated, the economic disparities created by the current tax structure and all the other ways that human dignity is denied to our citizens – not just two hot-button issues that, in the long run, don’t impact that high a percentage of our population. These issues ARE important but our leaders’s excessive focus gives ammunition to those who claim our positions are political rather htan moral.

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Michael Minikel

posted September 1, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Deacon Fourner has written one of the finest and truest statements on the state of America today. A voice of truth that is rarely heard these days. We as catholics truly have a moral obligation to our selves and this country to make a difference and be living testimony to the true teachings of Jesus and the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Thank you.
God Bless

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William J Barnes

posted September 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm

please don’t people realize that Pres. O.
is trying to clean up past pres. messes.
There is a big change going on I have a great
faith in all knowing my Lord my God will guide
Us have faith History is repeating.

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Nora Reilly

posted September 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm

“A truly morally coherent position must also include issues of economic equity, sufficiency of food and shelter for all our citizens, racial and religious tolerance, social justice, euthanasia and the death penalty. Yet, the people who speak for our faith rarely address these issues.”

Here, here, Katie Angel. My sentiments exactly. And, I would add, the people of our faith who do want to talk about these things rarely get a platform from which to do so.

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Deacon Keith Fournier

posted September 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Here is the problem….I have spent decades presenting the entire whole life, pro-life,pro-marriage,pro-family,pro-freedom,pro-poor agenda.

I am a Catholic BY CHOICE. I have not responded to these “all you talk about is abortion” comments because they are silly. There is a hierarchy of values. Killing innocent human persons, our youngest neighbors, is the most important.

Yes, I oppose capital punishment, always have, for several reasons. First, because I was a prosecuting attorney and know that innocent people ARE wrongly executed.

Then, as a Catholic Christian, because I believe it can no lomger be justified in the West. There are bloodless alternatives to protect the common good and mercy should trump strict justice.

However, the Catholic opposition to capital punishment is very different than the opposition to abortion. Abortion is INTINSICALLY EVIL. It is always and everywhere wrong to kill the innocent neighbor.

I will write more about this now that I realize the moral relativists are clearly at work on Beliefnet’s comments section.This “opposing abortion is not the only issue” is a fraudulent trojan horse intended to keep the culture of death advancing.

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posted September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am

I would suggest Barry and the rest of the liberal Catholics I have just read join the Episcopalian Church. They endorse homo marriage and murdering the unborn. You shoud feel right at home. Anyone that voted for the most pro-abortion candidate in US presidential history in Obama, should not call themselves Catholic. You can’t be for abortion and be Catholic. Impossible. Amen.

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posted October 19, 2011 at 3:44 am

She started a game of cat and mouse game lasting several years. Napoleon outmaneuvered every moment frequented by humble, old pope, who was steadfast in its activities, despite the threat of French troops. In the end patience is exhausted dictator. In February 1808, he won it in Rome, arrested many of the cardinals, the pope imprisoned in the Quirinale in Rome. Pius VII broke off diplomatic relations with Napoleon, and in response to the dictator took the Papal States, and one morning the Romans saw the tricolor French flag waving over the palace of San Angelo.

The next day, the pope made ??his move. In the Eternal City appeared in thousands of leaflets with the news that Pope Pius VII excommunicated all persons involved in the annexation of the Vatican, including Napoleon. (Although, to bear witness to historical truth, it should be noted that it was not mentioned by name). Hearing that he was excommunicated, Napoleon had to declare that “the old priest apparently lost his mind” and ordered the arrest of the pope. Sixth June 1809 the French army and kidnapped Pius VII had led to Savona, between Nice and Genoa.

Since then, Pius was a prisoner, separated from his advisers and staff. Napoleon, of course, did not realize fully the case, that the pope was never really alone, and with each new wave of indignation against the emperor’s deeds committed against the Church, the power of the monk, who became the successor of St. Peter seemed to be constantly growing.

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Tom Diorio

posted December 29, 2011 at 10:49 am

The Beautiful Catholic Church. A gift to mankind from God Almighty through his only begotten son.

You cannot know truth until you know Truth.

Being a Catholic Christian is a lifelong vocation. It is pursued out of love; for God and of God; our love of God and Gods love for us.

We must be prayerful and vigilant with a purposeful desire for Truth. Truth motivates and animates and informs the conscience of those who who seek him. It is an at of love.

You will find that the more you learn, the more you learn here is more to learn. You cannot out learn God.

I don’t know why I posted this except that it came to my mind.

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posted February 7, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Dear Msng. Barr:

“Countdown” guest host Bill Press and Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, discuss Catholic Church leaders’ outrage at the Obama administration for a recent federal rule requiring all faith-based schools, hospitals and charities to pay for contraceptive services under their health-care coverage beginning next year. Smeal decries Catholic bishops for their campaign against contraception, saying, “This has been a part of our program since about 1972. It’s supported by Republicans and Democrats. Suddenly the [Catholic] Church is pushing this line that is saying ‘no birth control’ — and they’re trying to treat it like abortion.”

The church needs to get out of the helthcare field. It is a government function and the church needs to remember the seperation between church and state.

David Reinert

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posted May 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Wow. Most of these comments just go to show that society’s priorities are way out of line. So many people think jobs are a more important issue than life. Of course we all care about more issues than abortion and homosexual marriage. If all the candidates were pro-life and opposed gay marriage, we would have to look at the rest of the big issues in descending order. As this is not the case, Catholics have the obligation to rule out anyone whose first priority is anything but that most basic – the right to life. However, it’s important to make sure that it’s not just a tactic – someone saying he’s pro-life in order to get our vote but has never acted that way.

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