I’ve been watching a lot of West Wing lately which has gotten my political juices flowing. Which I think is making my husband want to run and hide every time I mention the words “election” or “government” and so I’ll take it out on you guys.
Back on Ash Wednesday, our priest gave an amazing homily, where he asked for forgiveness for the sins of those in the Church. One of the ones he mentioned was people being turned away from communion based on their political beliefs. Sadly, this is something we’ve seen in recent years where priests have decided to play judge and determine who is worthy and who is not. I’ve seen people say that a Catholic who has voted for a pro-choice candidate cannot present themselves for communion without going to confession first. I’ve been to a mass where the Knights of Columbus handed out flyers saying that Pres. Bush was the only acceptable candidate for a Catholic to vote for.
But is that true? What does the actual Church say about this?
To quote from the Catholic Democrats website,
In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops explicitly say:
1. “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters.” (#42)
2. A voter “should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.” (#37)
3. “A Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position [on abortion] may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.” (#35)
Quite simply, yes, Catholics are allowed to vote for pro-choice candidates.
So what is a “morally grave reason?”
Let’s think back to the 2008 election where health care was a central topic, and even today as well with presidential candidates vowing to repeal health care. The USCCB (United States Council of Catholic Bishops) has asserted that health care is a basic human right.
Our approach to health care is shaped by a simple but fundamental principle: “Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God.” Health care is more than a commodity; it is a basic human right, an essential safeguard of human life and dignity. We believe our people’s health care should not depend on where they work, how much their parents earn, or where they live.
For three quarters of a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for national action to assure decent health care for all Americans.
I want to point out a few things. This does not say “well it would be nice and all in a utopia, and everyone should theoretically have it but its just not going to happen but we can say we like the idea but we aren’t going to do it and that’s okay too.” It says it is a basic human right. Like food. Like water. Like life.
It does not say “if you live in a state that wants to have health care that’s fine but if other people in your state don’t want it then you don’t get it.” No. It says the right to health care does not depend on where you live. It is a national concern.
It does not say “it is a right as long as it doesn’t affect me and my paycheck in anyway. Those people should have just gotten better jobs that gave them health care. I don’t care that they are the ones picking my food or sewing my clothes. Their choice; tough luck.” Let us not forget that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Does that mean a little self sacrifice occasionally? Yes. Even if it’s just loving your neighbor .9 cents more on the dollar for your hospital insurance tax. But only if you make more than 200k a year. I guarantee it’s cheaper than loving your neighbor by going out and buying them a health insurance plan. But if you want to do that, more power to you.
What about other human rights like food? Supporting funding for programs like WIC? Is that a grave moral reason? What about right to life for people in prison? What about protecting the world God gave us?
You could argue that yes, these things are human rights, but they aren’t the government’s responsibility. That might be true. Maybe we should all get involved more, love more, care more, and end poverty and violence and injustice ourselves. But we haven’t yet. The private sector can get involved, but they haven’t solved poverty yet. Maybe they should try harder, but I am also going to guess that they can’t do it themselves or they would have already. Rights aren’t rights when we get around to establishing them. Rights exist now. And if the private sector can’t protect them, a government must step in.
You could argue that while those reasons are nice and all, abortion trumps all. But please remember, we are not single issue voters. We are called to protect life at all stages, those in and out of the womb as well.